Disclaimer: I make no claim to ownership of anything related to
Farscape. The show, its characters and all related material are owned
by Henson, SciFi and various other people, none of whom are me. 

Archiving: Please email me first. 

Spoilers: Up to the end of season 2 

Feedback: Please. 

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Shipscat for being a one woman audience
while this thing was being written haphazardly, in fits and starts. 

Stargate Command, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado 

As they waited for Gen. Hammond to brief them on their upcoming
mission, the members of SG-1 were each occupied with their own
thoughts. Teal'c sat quietly, immersed in his own thoughts. Dr. Daniel
Jackson and Major Samantha Carter were, as usual, deeply absorbed in
their respective bits of arcana. Col. Jack O'Neill was bored. 

The General began the briefing in his usual direct and semi-formal

"SG-1 will be gating to P3X892 at 0900 hours. This is a first contact
situation, and the standard protocols are to be followed. The
inhabitants appear to have a rough technological parity with us and are
willing to consider a treaty and possible exchange of technology. Dr.
Jackson has been in contact with them over the past several days. Dr.

Jackson addressed his teammates. "The Sarini seem to have been isolated
from the rest of the Stargate network for some time. Stories of the
Goa'uld are almost apocryphal, and they viewed their gate as nothing
more than an archeological curiosity. Needless to say, they were a
little surprised when it suddenly came to life in a museum. I've had
some fascinating conversations with some of the museum staff and a few
government scientist. It seems that the Sarini are a matriarchal
society along the lines of certain Native American...." 

He was interrupted by O'Neill. "Daniel, could we just stick to the

"Sorry. As the General just said, the Sarini are at about our level of
technology. However, their material sciences appear to be a little
ahead of ours. They are at least willing to at least entertain the idea
of sharing." 

"And what exactly do they want in return?" asked O'Neill. 

"Basically, they want help with some reactor design issues. Sam knows
the details." 

"Well, sir, I've seen the reactor schematics they sent through in the
last transmission, and there are a number of improvements we can
suggest. They also have some problems with fuel extraction. We could do
some straight trading there. We might also consider sharing the
portable Naquadah reactor design, assuming relations with the Sarini
stabilize over time." 

Gen. Hammond ended the discussion there. "Those details will be worked
out in due course. Right now, we just want a friendly first contact.
Are there any other question?" 

"Seems straightforward enough, sir," said O'Neill. 

"Very well then. Dismissed." 

No sooner had Gen. Hammond ended the meeting than the familiar sound of
klaxons rang through the SGC. As quickly made their way to the control
room and saw a small gray figure standing before the Stargate. The
being stood motionless, oblivious to the marines who had trained their
M16's on him and to the two 50 caliber machine guns permanently
installed on either side of the gate. SG-1 and Gen. Hammond entered the
gate room and approached the silent figure. 

Col. O'Neill was the first to speak. "Thor, buddy, long time no see. I
don't suppose you decided to take me up on that fishing trip?" 

"No O'Neill, that is not my purpose here." 

"It's something bad, isn't it?" Turning to his teammates, he added,
"It's always something bad." 

The General spoke. "What can we do for you, Thor?" 

"I require assistance from O'Neill and his team. This is a matter of
concern not only for us but for you as well." 


Somewhere in the Uncharted Territories. 

"I still can't believe this frelling enormous stone wheel is a means of

"That's what our hosts seem to think, Aeryn, and I'm inclined to agree
with them. Every time they feed some power to this thing, they seem to
get some really weird quantum phenomena. You've seen the readouts. You
can't deny that they look an awful lot like what Pilot recorded when I
first got out here." 

"So this thing might be your way home." She said this quietly but
Crichton heard the apprehension in her voice. Aeryn no longer made any
attempt to put up the Peacekeeper facade when they were alone, but she
hoped that her insecurities weren't too obvious. John wrapped his arms
around Aeryn and pulled her close. She leaned into him without

"Aeryn, this may not be anything. Even if we get it working, I'm
certainly not about to step through into who knows what. I'm just
hoping to get some information. Maybe I can use something I learn here
to figure out how to make a wormhole back to Earth. And Aeryn, whatever
happens, you know I'm not going anywhere alone. Right?" 

He waited for her to response, and was rewarded after a few moments
with a barely perceptible nod of the head. Crichton knew that on some
basic level, Aeryn still didn't believe that he could give up a chance
to go home just for her. He had said it often enough, and she said she
believed him, but he knew that some part of her refused to accept that
she was worth the sacrifice. He just didn't know how to convince her. 

They had arrived on this planet a weeken earlier, had managed a few
useful trades, and had tried in vain to find some map fibers to their
respective homeworlds. It was just another stop in their ongoing
journey. That is until Crichton stumbled onto a conversation with a
local scientist a few arns before their intended departure. 

He learned that a strange artefact had recently been discovered at an
archeological dig. It resembled a device mentioned in local legends, a
portal that allowed instantaneous travel across the stars. Crichton was
immediately interested and managed after a while to convince his new
friend to give him access to the object. 

For once, they were relatively safe and he felt comfortable enough to
indulge his natural curiosity. The Peacekeepers, the Scarrens and the
Nebari were not an immediate problem. This planet was part of a small
alliance of a few dozen worlds which guarded its autonomy fiercely. The
region of space was of no strategic value to any of the larger powers,
and the alliance was just well enough armed to make conquest more of a
nuisance than it was worth. Crichton had called them the Balkans of the
Uncharted Territories, earning the usual looks from his shipmates.
Aeryn had asked about it later, as she often did nowadays whenever the
subject of Earth came up. Crichton hadn't failed to notice and was
thrilled that she might at least be thinking of Earth as part of her

Moya needed some simple repairs to her amnexus system, and Pilot had
informed them that the necessary resources were available on another
planet within the alliance about two weekens distant by conventional
Hetch drive travel. It was decided that the delay would be worth the
effort given the uncertainty associated with starburst. 

On returning to Moya, Crichton insisted that he wasn't needed for this
trip and that they could come back and pick him up in a few weekens. He
expected and got an argument but eventually won the others over, as he
usually did. More precisely, he won over everyone but Aeryn, who hadn't
needed much winning over in the first place. As expected, she had
insisted on staying with him. 

Ever since their relationship had taken the inevitable step forward,
Aeryn had learned to drop her guard with Crichton, but usually only in
private. When the others were around, she was sometimes as reserved as
when they had first met. He knew how much he loved her and was fairly
certain that she loved him just as much, but even after two cycles
together, there were still cultural gaps to overcome. Crichton accepted
this. He would not jeopardize the most important relationship of his
life by pushing her on matters that really didn't matter anyway. There
had been problems after Aeryn's "death", and they had been separated
for a time when Aeryn joined Crais on Talyn. Crichton tried not to
dwell on that, and he knew that Aeryn was uncomfortable discussing it
with him. She had said all that she needed to say just once upon her
return, and there was a silent agreement between them that the incident
was best left in the past. 

As he stood holding Aeryn in the chamber with the alien device, his new
friend, Celas, walked in on them. Aeryn pulled back a little, and
Crichton let her go. Celas was a likeable fellow. He was young and had
never been off world, and as Crichton realized within the first few
minutes of their first conversation, he was a brilliant. Between the
two of them, they rapidly came to a set of conclusions about the portal
that neither would likely have made alone in so short a time. 

"John, Aeryn, we're just about ready for the first test. Let's see if
your idea about the icons representing a coordinate system amounts to

"Have you picked an address from the list yet?", asked Crichton,
referring to the inscriptions found near the portal. 

"We're just going to start with the first and work our way down until
something happens." 

With that, they moved into the control chamber, powered up the portal
and began moving the circular device. All eyes were on the device as
the last symbol in the first address was entered. 

Absolutely nothing happened. 

"That was absolutely thrilling," Aeryn said with more than a hint of

This earned her a slight smile from Crichton and a collection of very
annoyed looks from everyone else. 

"What now?" Crichton asked Celas. 

He took a moment to look at some instrument readings. "We need to power
the device down for a few arns. The energy consumption was much higher
than we had expected. When we're ready, we'll try the next address and
keep going." 

"Aeryn and I are going to get something to eat. See you in a couple of

As they left the building, Aeryn hesitantly asked Crichton if he was

"Not really. Unlike our young friend in there, I wasn't expecting much
to happen. Besides, it takes a lot to disappoint me these days, now
that I've got you." With that, he pulled her into a kiss. 


Thor had accompanied Gen. Hammond and SG-1 to the conference room. 

"For the past several days, the Asgard have been detecting attempts to
open a wormhole from a location well outside the active gate network.
We have identified the planet of origin and our records indicate that
there is a Stargate present on this world. However, the race that
originally used the gate has long since died out." 

O'Neill spoke up. "So what's the problem. Somebody inherited the gate,
and they're trying to get it to work. That's what we did." 

"The problem, O'Neill, is the region of space in which this gate is
located. There are several hostile species in that area. None are as
technologically advanced as the Goa'uld, but what they lack in
sophistication, they make up for in organization and numbers, and
unlike the Goa'uld, none of them are crippled by factionalism." 

"You said that there was a threat to us? Lots of nasty folks have
Stargates, what's so special about these." 

"Approximately four years ago, we detected another wormhole with one
terminal point in this general region of space. The other terminal
point was Earth." 

"We've had our Stargate under constant observations for much longer
than that. There hasn't been any unaccounted gate activity." 

"That may be so, O'Neill, but this wormhole was not between two
Stargates. It was free standing." 

"Wait, that's impossible," said Carter. "Even if you could open a
wormhole without a Stargate, there would be no way to control the
endpoint. It could end up anywhere." 

"That is not quite true, Major Carter. However, neither you nor any of
the inhabitants of the region under question should have the ability to
create a controlled wormhole in this fashion. The power expenditure
associated with directing such a wormhole is well beyond your means and

The General spoke next. "But the coincidence is too much to ignore.
First an uncontrolled wormhole where there shouldn't be one, then gate
activity where it shouldn't exist, and Earth is tied in somehow. What
do you want from us, Thor?" 

"As you know, our resources are stretched to the limit. We also lack
practical experience in this sort of exploration. SG-1 does not. We
would like you to travel to this Stargate and attempt to assess the

"Sounds reasonable. You give us the address and off we go," said

"It is not quite that simple. As I said, the planet under question is
well outside the active gate network. It is within your galaxy, but you
must still enter more than seven gate symbols to activate the

"The last time we did something like that, we needed more power than we
can normally generate." 

"That is the case now as well, Major Carter. As such, I will supply you
with a device that will both power and dial your Stargate and enable
your return. It is likely that no one on the other side will be able to
generate the power to send you back to Earth. The device will only dial
between Earth and the other gate and you will only be supplied with
one. We wish to minimize the possibility of having this technology
compromised. Please keep in mind that in all likelihood, it is your
only way home." 

With that he handed Carter a small, crystalline device. 

"You're kidding. This thing generates more power than a Naquadah
reactor? What does it use as a power source." 

"It is something akin to what you call zero point energy. The details
are beyond your ability to understand." 

"Thanks a lot," said Carted under her breath. 

A few hours later SG-1 was properly equipped and ready to depart.
Carter touched the single mark on the device Thor had given them and
pointed it at the Stargate as instructed. The normal dialing procedure
was bypassed, and the wormhole just formed spontaneously. SG-1 stepped


Crichton and Aeryn were back in the portal chamber. Celas was taking
readings near the device when something quite unexpected happened. What
looked like a geyser shot out of disk and enveloped Celas. The geyser
receded and it looked as if a standing pool of water had formed inside
the ring. Nothing remained of Celas. 

Before anyone had a chance to react to that shock, four figures
suddenly stepped through the portal. Two pulse pistols instantly went
up, one slightly before the other. Almost as fast, a pair of identical
weapons and a third resembling a staff were leveled. 

"O.K. everyone, let's just stay calm. My name is Col. Jack O'Neill. We
are here on a peaceful mission. We are not a threat to you." 

Major Carter spoke next, and what she said came as a surprise to
everyone including herself. 

"John? John Crichton?" 

Crichton looked at the woman who had just addressed him, and
recognition dawned on him. 


All eyes were now on Crichton, whose face had taken on a look of utter
disbelief mixed with a trace of hope. 

If anyone had bothered to look at Aeryn before she had a chance to set
the mask firmly in place, they would have seen confusion, fear and
intense possessiveness. 


The two small parties remained staring at each other with weapons
drawn, oblivious to the local scientists running for cover and to the
alarm that one of them had had the presence of mind to sound. 

O'Neill broke the silence. "Carter, care to introduce us to your

"Sir, it looks like John Crichton," she said, the confusion evident in
her voice. 

"What, the astronaut who died in that accident? Don't mean to
contradict you, Carter, but he looks pretty lively for a corpse." 

"We were friends, sir. I know Crichton and that looks just like him." 

Aeryn glanced at Crichton and was worried by the look of shock on his
face. She spoke as much to snap him out of it as to assess the
situation. "Crichton, what the frell is going on? Do you know these

That brought him back to his senses, and he looked back at her. "I
don't know, Aeryn. They look and sound like they're from Earth, and the
woman looks like someone I knew, but I've been down that road before." 

"You think this is some sort of deception?" 

Ignoring Aeryn, Crichton addressed the familiar looking woman. "If
you're Samantha Carter, what's your father's first name, and what does
he do for a living? Who taught you QFT in grad. school?" 

Carter composed her thoughts for a moment before answering. 

"Jacob, he was an Air Force general the last time you saw him. We took
Fell's class together. He screwed up the derivation of Dirac's equation
and you called him on it. He made the rest of the semester a living
hell for you. John, is that really you? How can you be out here? You
were killed when the Farscape mission failed." 

Crichton refused to give in to hope just yet. After having more people
than he cared to count frell with his mind over the past four and a
half years, he knew that a disappointment of this magnitude would be

"I'll grant you this much. If you're a fake, you're a good one." 

Aeryn now addressed the group facing them. "Look, I don't know who the
frell you are, but if you don't mean us any harm, prove it. Lower your

The response was four sets of blank stares. 

"Uh...pardon me. What did she just say?" Jackson asked Crichton. 

"You heard her." 

"Yes, I heard her, but I didn't understand her. It sounds vaguely
Khoisan, but it's definitely not anything I've heard before. Teal'c?" 

"I too am unfamiliar with this language, Daniel Jackson." 

Now that he had fallen into a skeptical stance, Crichton wouldn't budge
easily. "Nice touch. Very well done. Whoever prepared you did a fine

O'Neill was starting to become frustrated. "Look no one prepared us for
anything. We're from Earth. I don't know if you're John Crichton or
not, but we are not a threat to you. So why don't we just..." 

Before he could complete the thought, several heavily armed local
troops stormed the portal chamber from both entrances. They quickly
took up position around Crichton, Aeryn and SG-1. The soldiers were
followed by someone in uniform who was evidently in charge. 

"You will all lower your weapons immediately and allow my men to disarm
you, or I will order them to open fire." 


"I don't know what he said, Jack, but I have a couple of guesses. I
think it might be a good idea to put the guns away." 

"I got that much myself. O.k. people, lower your weapons slowly. Let's
cooperate with the nice men with the big guns." 

Two of the soldiers advanced on SG-1 and took their weapons and
equipment. Another approached Crichton and Aeryn. Crichton handed over
his weapon without comment, but Aeryn looked ready for a fight. 

"Aeryn, don't. It won't do us any good. Please." The note of pleading
in his voice was clear to everyone who heard it. 

Aeryn hesitated for a moment then flipped her weapon around and let the
soldier take it. 

The man in charge spoke again. "I am Captain Tor Preval of the Brinisi
militia. You are all under arrest pending investigation of the death of
Head Researcher Ceral Kais and for unspecified threats to the Alliance
of Worlds." 

With that, he lead the group of six out of the building at gunpoint.
They were herded into a ground vehicle and taken to some sort of
military base. After what seemed to be the usual sort of bureaucratic
procedures common to all sentient species, they found themselves in a
sterile, gray chamber with benches attached to the floor serving as the
only furniture. The six immediately segregated themselves into two
groups of two and four. 

Crichton had become quiet and faced the wall at one corner of the cell,
refusing to look at SG-1. Aeryn stood close by, placing herself between
him and the others in a blatantly defensive posture. The remaining four
found themselves gathered in the opposite corner. They had learned of
Ceral's death from Crichton during their trip to the base, and were
quietly coming to terms with their inadvertent part in it. 


Security specialists interviewed the scientists and technicians who had
witnessed Ceral's death. No one paid much attention to one fairly
innocuous and heartbroken junior tech named Sa'di. Beyond the fact that
she had apparently been involved with Ceral, there was nothing to
distinguish her. She said she had seen nothing and was quickly
dismissed so that she might grieve in private. When it came to
security, Brinisa prided itself on it's paranoia, but not even their
well trained experts thought anything of the quiet tech. 

Later that evening, after making sure that she was unobserved, the
woman who called herself Sa'di made her way to a well-scouted clearing
outside the city limits. Had anyone attempted to follow her, they would
have been hard pressed to keep up with the circuitous route she took.
No one had any reason to try anyway. 

Following a quick reconnaissance of the area, she removed the heal from
her shoe and a pin from her hair. She placed the pin in the detached
heal and turned it. The device emitted a hissing noise and appeared to
do little else. However, she was now secure from electronic or audio
surveillance. The device would ignite and destroy itself in a few
microts so she had to act fast. She took a small knife, made a clean
incision in her left forearm and removed a small metal cylinder. The
liner implanted in her arm, in which the cylinder had been placed,
released an antibiotic agent which immediately sealed and cauterized
the wound, leaving a scar as if from a simple burn. 

The woman touched a button at the top of the cylinder and began to
speak into it. 

"Serina Calis, Disruptor, 12th Directorate, filing one time special
report. Mark for immediate attention: Weapons Research Division. Begin
report: The Brinisi have succeeded in activating the portal device and
have apparently opened a wormhole. Further, fugitive John Crichton is
directly involved. He and a group of off worlders who arrived via the
wormhole are under Brinisi custody. Recommendation: The presence of
this working device warrants a more aggressive attitude toward the
Brinisi. I maintain my cover and await further instructions." 

Calis touched a second button on the cylinder, and three small rods
protruded from one end, forming a tripod. She placed the device on the
ground, and walked away quickly. The cylinder shot straight up and
began to accelerate. It was too small and too well shielded for
detection by standard Brinisi scans. After escaping from the planet's
gravity well, the device would align itself and point at a small relay
satellite outside the Brinisi system. The short recorded message would
be relayed to the satellite by laser link, and the cylinder would then
explode, leaving no trace. 

She headed back to the city and tried to decide how best to proceed. If
she could get to him, she had at least one powerful weapon against
Crichton, her feigned grief. He was exactly the sort to let sympathy
blind him. Aeryn Sun was another matter, but Serina was confident that
she could deal with the former Peacekeeper. 


Detention Center, Brinisi Military Base 

John's initial shock had begun to wear off soon after their
incarceration, and his skepticism had started to recede as he listened
to their captors' questioning of SG-1. In his capacity as their
interpreter, he was present throughout. Still, he was not ready to take
the necessarily leap of faith and ignored any attempts by his fellow
humans to engage him in private. After Carter tried unsuccessfully to
talk to him a couple of times, Aeryn put an end to any further attempts
at communication. SG-1 couldn't understand her, but there was no doubt
about her intent when she planted herself firmly between Crichton and
the others and allowed no one to approach him. 

The two small groups remained separated for the rest of the night. 

"John, do you really think this is all a trick?" 

"I don't know, Aeryn. I don't know what to think. Everything seems so
right. It's not like what the ancients did, or that Scarren. I don't
think this is all in my head this time." 

"I'm not in your frelling head, Crichton," Aeryn said with mock

He smiled weakly at that. 

"Besides, I know Sam, and I don't know how anyone could get her so
close. Scorpy couldn't have pulled that much information on her out of
my head. She had no connection to what I knew about wormholes." 

Crichton was a little too focused on his hold on sanity to notice
Aeryn's distinct discomfort every time he mentioned Samantha Carter. 

" do you know this woman? I mean the real one, assuming that's
not her over there." 

Now it was Crichton's turn to be slightly uncomfortable. 

"Well, we were at MIT together for a while." Anticipating Aeryn's
question, he finished, "We did some of our scientific training
together. And we were... friends." 

Aeryn noticed his slight hesitation. "Friends? Just how friendly were

"Uh...we dated for a while. I explained what that means to you, right?"

"You and she were intimate?" 

Crichton had decided some time ago that he would never lie to Aeryn, at
least not if he could help it. Their relationship was complicated
enough with adding extra layers of complexity. So he answered as simply
as possible. "Yes." 

Aeryn took a few moments to absorb this new information. "How long were
you together?" 

"We were at school together for about a year...cycle. We were ....
together for maybe half that time." 

"Half a cycle?" Aeryn was suddenly grateful that the other humans could
not understand her, because she had said this loudly enough to draw all
eyes in the room to her. 

"Half a cycle." She repeated much more quietly. She knew about Alex,
but was unprepared for this new revelation, especially when the woman
in question was standing a few hentas away, still looking at her. Prior
to Crichton, Aeryn's idea of a long term relationship had been three or
four weekens, and she had only been involved in one of those. 

"Aeryn, it was a long time ago, and it ended a long time before I got
out here." He took her hand an pulled her a little closer. "I love you
and only you Aeryn. That's never going to change." 

Aeryn nodded her head but found that all the insecurities that she had
spent the past two cycles burying had suddenly roared back to life. For
a few microts, all she could think was, *Another frelling blonde*. 

For his part, Crichton was almost grateful that he had just been given
something other than his mental state to worry about. Almost. 


On the other side of the room, the members of SG-1 were engaged in
quiet conversation. 

"So you think that's really John Crichton," O'Neill asked Carter. 

"Yes, sir. We were at MIT together when I was finishing up my doctoral
work. We dated for a few months. If that's not him, it's a perfect

"So assuming it's really him, we need to get him to believe who we are.
Right now, he's our only way of communicating with the locals. Why is
that, anyway? Any ideas?" 

Daniel responded. "We know that most of the transplanted humans we
encounter have self-replicating nanites in the communication centers of
their brains. They allow some sort of action-at-a-distance, two-way
translation, even when only one person has them. Dr. Crichton mentioned
something about being injected with translator microbes when he first
arrived out here. I imagine they work the same way but in only one

"So how come Teal'c doesn't understand anyone either?" 

"I am at a loss, O'Neill. It may be that the nanotechnology that allows
me to communicate with you interacts in some unexpected way with these
translator microbes. Perhaps they are incompatible." 

"Jack, this brings up some interesting questions about this area of
space. The nanites predate the Goa'uld and seem to be everywhere. Why
not out here? Especially since it seems clear that humans have been
transplanted out here too. Just look at Crichton's friend." 

"She certainly seems territorial about him, doesn't she? " said Carter.

"Jack, this is a prime opportunity. We need to find out exactly how
these people got out here and what connection they have to the race
that used this planet's gate." 

"Later, Daniel. Our first priority is to convince these people we mean
no them harm. Well, aside from accidentally vaporizing one of their
scientists. We need to get our equipment back and get back to the

That effectively ended the conversation. The rest of the night passed
quietly, but no one got much sleep. 

By the following morning, the Brinisi security forces had finished
their preliminary investigation and concluded that Crichton and Aeryn
had played no part in the death of Ceral. They also realized that SG-
1's part in his death had been unintentional. However, they were not
yet ready to release any of them, partly because the sudden reality of
gate travel needed further consideration and partly because they needed
to better assess what threat, if any, Earth and humans posed. All six
remained in custody for the time being. 

With the morning came an abrupt change in John Crichton. He had gotten
over his hesitation and period of dazed introspection. He walked
straight up to SG-1, surprising Aeryn with the suddenness of his move,
and said, 

"O.k.. If you really are who you say you are, can you get me back to

The question was addressed to them all, but Crichton was staring
straight at Samantha Carter when he asked, almost daring her to end the
illusion and reveal herself as a fraud. However, it was O'Neill who

"Of course we can take you back, but we need your help first. We need
you to convince our hosts that we aren't a threat to them. Get our
equipment back for us, and we can take you home." 

Aeryn listened to this exchange with a totally blank expression, but
her eyes betrayed a deep sadness. For an instant, she thought that her
worst fear about John had just been realized, that when it came time to
choose he would abandon her for a chance to go home. He had told her
otherwise countless times, and the rational part of her trusted him,
but her thoughts at the moment were far from rational. Had they been,
she would have been at least a little better prepared for what he said

"What about Aeryn? I'm not going anywhere without her." 

She was grateful that everyone was focused on Crichton. It gave her the
time to hide the look of utter panic that she knew was on her face. At
the moment, she didn't know what to think. For someone who had spent
most of her life suppressing her emotions, the sudden onslaught was
nearly overwhelming. She was simultaneously overjoyed, terrified and a
little resentful that Crichton had presumed to include her in this
without asking first. She couldn't blame him for it. She knew that he
was going through his own set of conflicting and confusing feelings and
probably wasn't thinking all that clearly. 

"We can take her with us. She'll be confined to the base for a little
while, but I give you my word that she won't be harmed in any way." 

"I don't know you, and I don't know what your word means." This was
again said with an eye towards Carter. 

"The colonel is telling you the truth, John. You don't need to worry
about your friend. She'll be safe. Trust me." 

That sounded so much like the Samantha Carter he knew, that for the
first time since all this had started, Crichton was beginning to

"Is that really you, Sam?" 

She smiled at him. "It's me John. I can't believe I'm actually talking
to you." 

"You thought I was dead. Everyone thinks I'm dead." After a short
pause, he continued. "Do you know how my dad is doing?" 

"I called him after you were .... after we thought you were killed. He
took it really hard, John. I've been in touch with DK a couple of times
since then. It took him, your dad and your sisters a long time to get
over it." 

John shut his eyes trying to ignore the feelings of guilt. He knew that
he wasn't responsible for the pain he had caused his family and
friends, but that didn't help how he felt. He knew all about guilt. The
period immediately after Aeryn's revival over two years earlier had
been hard, and it had taken him a long time for him to forgive himself
for that. At least he was certain this wouldn't be as bad. 

"Well, maybe I can finally start to make it up to them." The look
Carter gave him was less than reassuring. "What's wrong? Are they

"Your family is fine, but there's a problem." She hesitated. 

O'Neill finished for her. "Crichton, the Stargate project is classified
at about as high a level as it gets. The whole world saw you die. We
can't just have you reappear without explaining how. There would be too
many people pushing too hard for information, and sooner or later,
someone would find it. I'm afraid you won't be allowed to have any
contact with anyone from your past." 

The disappointment Crichton was certain he would face if he started to
believe what his eyes were telling him was now replaced by a completely
different and unexpected sort of disappointment. 

"My dad's a retired Air Force colonel. He..." 

Carter cut him off. "It doesn't matter, John. The Stargate is a matter
of national .... worldwide security really. We have made some very
unpleasant enemies over the past few years, and we can't afford to take
any risks. Your dad isn't going to get clearance. Believe me, I know
from personal experience." 

Crichton didn't say another word. He just walked back to the corner of
the room where Aeryn was still standing. The others knew instinctively
that he needed time to absorb what he had just learned and that now was
not the time to approach him. 

Aeryn didn't know what to do or how to comfort him. So she just sat
close to him, with their shoulders touching, waiting for him to speak
and letting him know that she was there for him. It was more comfort
than she could have known. It always had been. They sat like that for
what seemed like arns, although Aeryn knew it couldn't have been that
long, when Crichton suddenly spoke. 

"What do you want to do?" 

"What do you mean?" 

"We could go to Earth, be safe. I think that's really Sam, and I trust
her. They won't hurt either of us." 

"It's what you've wanted for over four cycles, John." 

"I wanted to go home. Home is the people I left behind, the life I
knew. They're offering me the chance to go to Earth, not the chance to
go home."

Aeryn was silent. She thought she understood all this but only on an
intellectual level. Home for her had always been her current
assignment. There had never been permanency in her life of the type
Crichton missed. Although if she had thought just a little harder, she
would have realized that perhaps she understood better than she allowed
herself to believe. 

"So what do you want to do?" 

Almost without thinking, she said, "Would you be asking me that if you
could go back to your old life?" 

At the look of pain Crichton shot her, Aeryn immediately regretted her
words. After all, hadn't he just said that he wasn't leaving her before
learning about the conditions attached to a return to Earth? 

"I'm sorry, John. I just ..." She didn't know how to continue. 

Crichton took her hand in his. "I told you I would never leave you,
Aeryn. I meant it." 

Aeryn tried to lighten the mood. "How am I supposed to know what you
mean, human. I don't think even you understand half of what you say." 

To Aeryn's relief, It worked. It was a great comfort to Crichton that
regardless of whatever else happened, Aeryn was still Aeryn. 

He smiled at her. "That's just part of my charm. Besides, I thought you
liked listening to me babble." 

She smiled back, grateful that they could so easily fall back into
their usual pattern of give and take. They sat in silence for a while
longer, each thinking of the possibilities the four people sitting
across the room offered. 

"So, for the third time, what do you want to do?" 

"I think we should worry about our immediate problem for now. We need
to get out of here. Once we're no longer confined, we can talk about
our next move." 

She paused for a moment, searching for the right way to express her
next thought. "I won't lie to you, John. I have misgivings about
trusting these people, no matter how well you know that woman. Still, I
do want to see your Earth. You spend enough time talking about it. I
probably already know more about it than most humans." 

"Yeah, you're right. We should focus on getting out of here. So, Miss
Earth Expert, what do you know about ...." 


Samantha Carter got up from her seat at the opposite end of the cell
and approached Aeryn and Crichton. Aeryn immediately went into
Peacekeeper intimidation mode, but Carter put up her hands as if to
indicate that she meant no harm. She spoke to Crichton. 

"You feel like talking?" 

"Have a seat." he said, pointing to the bench opposite the one on which
he and Aeryn were sitting. "I guess we have some catching up to do." 

"We do at that. Aren't you going to introduce us?" Carter said,
indicating Aeryn. 

"Of course, where are my manners. Sam, meet Officer Aeryn Sun, formerly
of the Peacekeeper military. Aeryn, Samantha Carter, United States Air

He knew he was being a little obnoxious and that Sam had done nothing
to deserve it, but the events of the past day and a half had taken
their toll, and he wasn't about to censor himself now. Besides, there
was still the nagging insecurity about whether any of this was really
happening. Aeryn would pay him no mind, or so he thought, but Carter
was visibly taken aback. Her memories of John Crichton were over four
years old and more than a little out of synch with what events had made
him since then. 

Aeryn spoke to Crichton in a near whisper. "She's a soldier? I thought
she was a scientist like you." 

"She's both. Sam always was an overachiever." He glanced at Aeryn, and
noticed that she seemed a little troubled. He had gotten good at
reading her, but was at a loss this time. 

Carter smiled and nodded to Aeryn, who, rather than returning the
gesture, continued to glare at her. 

"Don't mind Aeryn, she doesn't make friends too easily." 

Carter decided to ignore the attitude from both of them and pressed on.
"How did you get out here, John? IASA lost track of your ship when it
went out of control during the slingshot. What happened." 

"The maneuver opened a wormhole somehow and I ended up here. Where is
here exactly? Any idea?" 

Carter answered Crichton's question almost absent-mindedly. "We're
almost exactly opposite our own spiral arm along a diameter through the
galactic center." She continued. "What do you mean your slingshot
maneuver opened a wormhole? Nothing on Farscape could have generated
that kind of power." 

"I don't know, Sam. It happened and here I am. What about you? How did
you get involved with this Stargate thing?" 

They spent the next quarter hour quickly summarizing for each other the
very strange direction each of their lives had taken. Each of them made
an effort to edit out certain items, neither completely ready to trust
the other just yet. Aeryn occasionally made a quiet comment or asked a
question of John, but for the most part, she remained silent. 

As the conversation continued and started to venture into topics about
which Aeryn knew nothing, she became increasingly ill at ease. Crichton
was too absorbed in talking to the first human he had seen in four
years, and a friend at that, to notice. Carter did notice. 

She had taken a fairly easy liking to Aeryn Sun. Even before John gave
her a brief rundown of how Aeryn came to be aboard Moya, it was evident
that she was not someone to be taken lightly. Carter knew instinctively
that Aeryn was capable of instant, cold-blooded violence. However, it
was obvious almost from the outset that she was more than a comrade or
friend to John, and Carter hadn't failed to notice how worried she
seemed about him and how protective of him she was. *At least his taste
is improving,* she thought. 

"So, did you go to my funeral?" It was a morbid question, but Crichton
was curious. 

"Yeah, I did. It was a pretty big deal. Twenty-one gun salute, F16's
flying the missing man formation, lots of brass, some politicians." 

Aeryn had no idea what any of that meant, but she understood that it
had to be fairly exceptional. "You never told me you were that
important on your world." 

"I'm not. There wasn't anything unusual about me, just the way I
'died'. I'll explain later." 

"What did Aeryn say?" 

"It doesn't matter." 

That was it. She had been feeling left out and ignored, but that was
her problem. She would not, however, be dismissed out of hand like
this. She elbowed Crichton hard. 

"Ow. What was that for?" 

Carter gave Aeryn a look of sympathy and said, "Nice to know some
things never change. I see he can still be a jackass sometimes." 

Aeryn almost gave in to the urge to smile but managed to contain
herself. She did, however, nod back at Carter. It was the first
meaningful communication she had had with any human beside John
Crichton. She decided then and there that this Major Carter might not
be so bad after all. 

"What did I do?" 

"Never mind. I'm sure Aeryn will explain to you later." 

"Yes. I most certainly will." 

Crichton looked a little bewildered, but he continued. "So you were
telling me about my funeral. Who else showed up?" 

"Well, your family and DK were there of course. Some friends of yours I
didn't know. Lots of people from IASA, NASA, JPL." She paused for a
second. "Alex was there too." 

Both Aeryn's and Crichton's heads snapped to attention at the mention
of that name. 

"Alex. I guess I should have expected her to show. How is she?" 

"Same as always. Even at your funeral, she had to be the center of
attention. She made a point of letting us all know how much more deeply
she felt your loss than any of the rest of us." 

"You never liked her." 

"I told you as much to your face once. I remember it almost wrecked our

Crichton nodded, not wanting to pursue the topic any further. Aeryn
decided that Major Carter definitely wasn't all that bad. 

"Sorry to interrupt, but we need to talk," said O'Neill who had walked
over from his seat on the far side of the room. 

"We need to decide what to tell the ... what are they called?" 

"Brinisi," three voices responded in chorus. 

"Yeah, whatever. You understand them. Where do we stand?" 

"I think they believe us," said Crichton. "At least I think they
believe that Aeryn and I had nothing to do with Ceral. They strike me
as pretty reasonable, at least by Uncharted Territories standards, so
I'm guessing they'll conclude the same about you guys." 

"O.k., but we need to be prepared in case things don't go our way.
Daniel, Teal'c, get over here. Let's see what we know." 


After checking the cell for surveillance devices and finding nothing
obvious, the next arn was spent in quickly and quietly reviewing their
position, what each of them had seen of the base, any tactical
advantages they might have and any weaknesses in Brinisi security or
procedures they had noticed. Aeryn was impressed. Four and a half
cycles with John Crichton had not prepared her for this level of
military professionalism from humans. Neither had her brief experience
on the false Earth. Of course, she knew that the soldiers she
encountered there were drawn from John's memories and impressions of
the military and didn't necessarily reflect reality. 

She felt a slight sense of nostalgia. It had been a long time since she
had participated in this sort of briefing. Still, this was different.
There was an ease among the four humans that she had never seen in any
Peacekeeper unit. She also noticed that the human in charge, Col.
O'Neill, managed to command respect without the bullying she was used
to from her own superiors. 

Late that afternoon, they were treated to another round of
interrogations, after which it seemed the Brinisi had finally satisfied
themselves. They appeared to accept that the best course of action was
to set the humans on their way and see to it that the Stargate was
sealed up. The humans had actually suggested burying it after their
departure to prevent any possible use. 

Prior to any release the Brinisi insisted that the members of SG-1
undergo medical examinations, DNA cataloguing and scans for possible
contaminants. This was standard procedure on this security conscious
world, and Crichton and Aeryn had already gone through it upon their
arrival. In the excitement and confusion following the unexpected gate
activation, no one had bothered to do the same with the others until

SG-1 had been taken to a medical facility on the base, and Crichton and
Aeryn found themselves alone for the first time in nearly two days. As
they waited for the return of their four cellmates, Crichton took the
opportunity afforded by their solitude to put his arm around Aeryn and
draw her close. She leaned her head against his shoulder, enjoying a
few moments of quiet closeness with him that hadn't been possible in
front of the other humans. 

John broke the silence. "It looks like the Brinisi are going to let us
go without any hassle. They seem pretty satisfied with what O'Neill and
his people said. Maybe we should talk about what to do next, before
they get back." 

He waited for Aeryn to say something, but she just kept leaning against
him and remained quiet. "Aeryn?" 

"You've been through a lot in two days, John. I just wish I could do
something to help .... to make this easier for you." 

"You're here? That's enough. Besides, this hasn't exactly been easy on
you. It's a lot to take in." He looked Aeryn in the eye and said with
as much confidence as he could muster, "You will fit in just fine on
Earth, Aeryn, and I'll be there with you every step of the way." 

"So you've decided? You want to go with them, even though you can never
see your father or your sisters or anyone from your old life?" 

"Well, there's always hope. Maybe they'll change their minds and at
least give my dad clearance. Or maybe I can find a way to contact him
or DK without them finding out. Even if I can't do any of that, at
least we'll be safe. No more running. No more Scorpius. But to answer
your question, no I haven't decided. It isn't my place to decide. We're
in this together. I want us to go with them, but we won't if you don't
want to risk it." 

Aeryn wasn't sure whether to be happy or angry. "So you're putting the
whole thing on me? What happens if I say no? You're going to resent me
for the rest of your life." 

"I know it's not fair, Aeryn, but that's the way it is, and I'm not
going to resent a thing. You're not forcing anything on me. I'm the one
forcing a decision on you. And I promise you that whatever you decide,
I'll be fine with it. All that matters is that we're together, on Earth
or out here or wherever." 

Aeryn could hear the unwavering certainty in what he said, but she
needed to know something else. "John, I asked you this before and I am
ashamed to ask you again, but I need an answer. What if you could go
back to your old life. Would you even be asking me what I want?" She
had expected to see the same hurt that she had seen the last time, but
instead he just smiled at her. 

"I won't deny that I'd probably be pushing a little, maybe a lot,
harder to convince you to go to Earth, but it wouldn't change anything
else. John Crichton has his priorities straight, and you, Miss Sun, are
at the head of the list. Nothing matters to me as much as you do,

For the first time out of the countless times he had said just that,
Aeryn really believed him. Finding herself suddenly speechless but
needing to express how much his words had meant to her, Aeryn leaned
forward and kissed him lightly. 

She broke the kiss and remained silent for a few moments before saying,
"So, Earth? I say we give it a try." Then she smirked at Crichton and
said, "If nothing else, the last two days have shown me that not all
human are like you. How bad could it be?" 

"Very funny," he said, then continued more seriously, "Are you sure,

Aeryn nodded, still smiling. "Yes, John. These people are nothing like
what I expected. They seem serious and competent. I had assumed that
all humans were overgrown children." 

"On behalf of overgrown children everywhere, I think I resent that." 

Aeryn's face took on a slightly different character as she continued.
"That woman...Major Carter. You said that you and she were ... close?" 

"Yeah, we were. A long time ago." Crichton waited, not at all sure
where this was going. 

"You told me your planet has a population of 6 billion. I assume half
of them are female. How the frell does the one woman to step through
that portal happen to be someone you were involved with?" 

"Well, it's not that unlikely if you think about it. There may be 3
billion or so women on Earth, but most of them aren't theoretical
astrophysicists. Basically, the reason we met in the first place is the
same reason she's on this Stargate project and I ended up out here." 

Aeryn had to accept that this made sense in terms of logic, but she
preferred to think that it was just the universe displaying a twisted
sense of humor at her expense. * What is it with Crichton and females?
Other females,* she amended. She didn't count, of course. 

"She doesn't seem so bad. What happened? You told me that humans try to
look for permanent relationships, lifelong mates. Why didn't it work
out between you two?" 

"It was never that serious, Aeryn. We were a little young for the
lifelong mates deal. Both of us were pretty focused on our work, and
our relationship was always more of a friendship than anything else,
even when things got a little more .... serious. Also, Sam was already
in the Air Force. When she finished her work at MIT, she was

At least Aeryn understood that last part, although from a different and
purely Peacekeeper perspective. "You remained friends?" 

"Yeah. We kept in touch over the years. We would call each other up
every once in a while .... uh that means we would talk over something
like comms." 

Aeryn still had some questions, but before she could pursue them, SG-1
was abruptly lead back into the cell. She pulled away from Crichton
just a little, and he removed the hand that had been around her waist.
Aeryn knew that this sort of reserve was unnatural for him and that he
had done it solely to put her at ease. She flashed him a brief smile of
gratitude before donning the neutral Peacekeeper mask. 

"I hate being poked and prodded. Fraser is bad enough, now I've got
alien doctors doing it." 

"It wasn't all that bad, Jack. It is interesting that they keep such
detailed records of off worlders. I imagine the political situation
with these Peacekeepers contributes to some of that, but you have to
wonder about the underlying sociological implications." Daniel Jackson
looked around to find five totally blank faces. "Apparently you don't
have to wonder about it that hard," he said under his breath. 

"Crichton, any idea what the situation is after that last Q&A session?"

"I think they're about ready to let us, all of us, go? What do you
think, Aeryn?" 

Only Crichton understood the response. "She thinks so too." 

"So I guess we just wait," said O'Neill. 

The next few hours were spent in casual conversation. Aeryn even joined
in a few times with Crichton as interpreter. Crichton had lots of
questions. Once he started, he found himself out of control, his mind
wandering randomly from topic to topic. 

"So who won the last four Superbowls?" 

Aeryn interrupted before anyone could answer. "You keep going on about
that. What the frell does it mean anyway?" 

"I thought I explained football to you." 

"You did, but it sounded ridiculous so I stopped paying attention." 

Crichton never did get his answer as the door to the cell opened and
Captain Preval entered. 

He addressed Crichton and Aeryn, since they were the only ones who
could understand him. "I have good news for you." 


Having discovered the cause of both the gate activity on Brinisa and
the unexplained free stranding wormholes, O'Neill concluded that there
was no immediate threat. The Peacekeepers might have discovered the
means to trigger a wormhole, courtesy of the chip extracted from
Crichton's brain, although even that was uncertain, but they definitely
had no way to control one. The gate itself was of little concern since
only a very limited force could be sent through at a time, and Earth's
gate was more than adequately defended against more serious threats
than posed by anyone in the vicinity of Brinisa. 

SG-1 would return to Earth via the Stargate, and the Brinisi would bury
the gate and destroy all records relating to its use. Crichton and his
alien friend would either accompany them to Earth or remain behind as
they chose. Since they were not due to return for four more days, and
after much prodding from both Carter and Jackson, O'Neill relayed a
request to the local authorities to do a bit of research. 

The Brinisi governing body decided that since the humans would have no
way to return, they could collect and take with them what data and
artifacts they wanted. Whatever was left behind would be destroyed
before the gate was moved to some suitably isolated and secret location
and permanently buried. The humans had explained that the gate itself
would be nearly impossible to destroy. 


The recent guests of Brinisi security were now housed in fairly
luxurious accommodations. Someone in the government had apparently
taken it upon himself to make up for the previous few days. Crichton
and Aeryn shared a room as always and were grateful for the opportunity
to spend some time alone after their recent incarceration. O'Neill and
Teal'c occupied themselves with exploring the city and at least trying
to lay the groundwork for possible future contact with some polite, but
very reluctant officials. After a fruitless day of this, O'Neill had
essentially shifted into tourist mode and Teal'c took to meditating.
Carter and Jackson spent almost all their time at the gate site. They
were sometimes joined by Crichton, who was torn between his natural
curiosity about the gate and a desire to make the most of some quiet
time with Aeryn. 

The day before their intended departure, Crichton woke next to a still
sleeping Aeryn. He paused for a moment to admire her beauty and to
thank who or whatever had brought them together. Getting to this point
had involved six kinds of hell, but he would do it all again for her. 

He kissed her on the cheek and gently nudged her shoulder. "Hey, rise
and shine, sleepyhead." 

It didn't take much. A lifetime of conditioning meant that when Aeryn
woke, she was instantly alert. 

"You feeling alright, sweetheart? You're usually up way before me." 

She smiled her most radiant smile at him. "I'm fine, John. Just
feeling, I don't know .... content. No one wants to kill us for a
change." Lifting herself up to rest on an elbow she continued, "and for
once, it feels safe enough that I'm not worried about you." She
punctuated that by gently poking him in the chest. 

He was about to lean in to kiss her and say something about not having
to worry about her either when the chime outside their door sounded.
They both got up and quickly threw something on. Crichton answered the
door and was surprised to find a shaken Sa'di standing before him. He
invited her in. 

"It's good to see you. I tried to contact you a couple of days ago, but
no one could find you. How are you holding up?" 

Her face looked ashen, as if she hadn't slept since the day Celas had
died. "I'm alright, John. It's just so hard to believe he's gone." 

Aeryn said nothing. She eyed Sa'di suspiciously, but didn't want to
make her uncomfortable. Something about the woman had always struck her
as wrong, but if she was mistaken, she didn't want to add to her
apparent distress. She knew how she would feel if she ever lost John,
although somehow, she also knew instinctively that what the woman
before her had felt for her dead companion was nothing like what she
shared with John. She couldn't quantify it further, but having seen the
two of them together, she knew that something just didn't feel right. 

She had shared her concern with John early on, but apparently he didn't
see it. Of course, even after everything he had been through, she knew
John was just a little too trusting. It could be inconvenient, but
Aeryn was actually grateful for it. That openness to others was a
quality he had lost for a time. It was a great relief to her that he
was beginning to find it again. 

"They won't even let me near the portal any longer. Those off worlder
scientists are the only ones allowed on site now. I thought maybe if
you said something to the authorities, or maybe you could let me come
along with you. I just want to see the portal again and take a little
something to remember Celas by." 

"That shouldn't be a problem, Sa'di. Aeryn and I were planning to head
out there in a little while anyway. Why don't you tag along. We're just
going to get some breakfast first. Meet us back here in about an arn
and we'll see what we can do." 

She smiled weakly. "Thank you, John, I'll be back in an arn. I knew I
could count on you." 

After showing her to the door, Crichton turned around to find a
scowling Aeryn Sun. 

"Crichton, sometimes you can still be a frelling idiot. The Brinisi
want everything connected with that gate destroyed after we leave. I
don't think they're going to appreciate that woman on site and taking
souvenirs. Remember that we are free and free to leave on their
sufferance only." 

"Come on, Aeryn. What could it hurt. She just wants to come to terms
with her loss." 

With an exasperated sigh, Aeryn just decided to let it drop. There was
no arguing with him about some things. 

"So, you want to head to that little cafe?" 

Instead of an answer, Crichton was greeted with a very mischievous
grin. "We have an arn, John, and I'm not really hungry anyway." 

He grinned back. "You know, I'm not very hungry either"..... 


Crichton somehow managed to talk Sa'di past the guards, not that it
really surprised Aeryn much, but she had been hoping that he might not
be able to pull it off. It wasn't just a matter of not trusting Sa'di.
After all, what could she do anyway? It was more a matter of not
offending the Brinisi, something John was blithely ignoring. 

When they joined Carter and Jackson in the gate chamber, they were
surprised to find the two humans in an absolute frenzy. 

"John, you are not going to believe this. Daniel and I were looking
through some of the records that were uncovered with this gate, and we
found something I'm still having trouble accepting." 

Jackson jumped in, "The Brinisi weren't able to translate any of the
material they found with the gate. You said that you and Celas
essentially guessed how the coordinate system worked. It turns out that
some of the oldest documents are in something similar to a variant
Goa'uld dialect I've studied, and I can make some of it out. One thing
in particular caught my attention. It was labeled...I think the closest
translation is 'Bringer of Death'. 

Carter continued, "The Brinisi scientists probably never noticed, but
some of the metallic disks they found have microscopic etchings on
them. The ones with the documents Daniel found have detailed schematics
for something. We've been pouring over it all morning, and I think I
know what it is." 

"I explained to you how the wormhole between two gates only operates in
one direction. Well, if this thing is accurate, there might be a way to
open a bi-directional wormhole between two gates that are in close
proximity to one another, and by close, I mean essentially in the same
room. We always assumed that if two gates were near each other, only
one could be used to dial out at one time, and one or the other would
activate by default if someone was dialing in. We have two gates on
Earth, and we've observed some strange interactions, but we never
guessed anything like this." 

There was silence. Carter and Jackson already knew where this was
going, and realization was beginning to dawn on Crichton. Sa'di, with
practiced ease, had managed to blend into the scenery, and no one took
notice of her. It was Aeryn who broke the silence. 

"Who the frell cares? What does it matter if you can open a two way
wormhole between two points in the same room?" 

"You can turn a system like that into a weapon, Aeryn." 

Carter smiled. He was obviously as quick as he had ever been. Aeryn
just looked at Crichton in confusion. 

"Sebaceans have had FTL drives for a while now, right?" 

"Yes. Millennia." 

"Well, the Hetch drive and Starburst allow you to travel faster than
light by taking an object out of normal space. You basically take a
shorter path through a higher dimensional space. Do you guys have
anything that can approach the speed of light by conventional means?
Just starting from a standstill and accelerating?" 

Aeryn thought about it for a moment and said, "No, I don't think so,
not without some ridiculous expenditure of energy." 

"Sam, I'm guessing you've got the details worked out. Care to give as a
quick rundown," John said. 

"If you can get a massive object, and it doesn't have to have much mass
at all, traveling at near the speed of light, and fire it at a target,
the destructive capacity would be unimaginable." 

She addressed Aeryn, "With your level of technology, or even the level
of the Goa'uld, or for all I know the Asgard, there's no way to produce
a practical relativistic projectile weapon. The problem is that you
need to keep feeding energy into the thing over a long distance to keep
it accelerating. You have the AG technology and even we have the
ability to produce a hard enough vacuum, but you can't accelerate the
projectile over a straight path for a long enough distance. Even if you
could get to a reasonable fraction of the speed of light, you would
need the projectile to be enormous to have any real effect. However,
kinetic energy blows up asymptotically as you approach the speed of
light. So if you can get to truly relativistic speeds, say greater than
.99c, you only need a small mass." 

Now Aeryn was beginning to see where this was going. Carter continued. 

"Suppose you have two gates aligned over a distance of a few feet and
can produce a bi-directional wormhole between the two. It would be easy
to encase the whole assembly in a gravity free vacuum using your level
of technology. You place a charged mass between the two gates and
create a strong magnetic field. The projectile accelerates, goes in one
gate, out the other then back into the first, ad infinitum. The
magnetic field only has to be maintained over a short distance, and you
have basically created an infinitely long 'barrel' for you projectile.
You can accelerate the projectile for as long as you need. The wormhole
physics dictate that you don't lose momentum as you enter or leave the
gate, but there is a 5 microsecond lag regardless of how fast something
is traveling into the gate. That means that when you're ready to fire
your projectile, you just turn off the forward facing gate." 

Aeryn was now visibly taken aback. "You could use a single ship to
devastate a planet from orbit with something like that." John
translated for the group. 

"Or defend against a space borne attack," said Carter. "We need to get
this back to Earth. It could just be the first effective weapon we've
had against the Goa'uld." 

"You're thinking of actually building this thing?" John was

"There's a real threat out there, John. We can't afford to be

Aeryn agreed instantly. "Your world has enemies, John. You know as well
as anyone what things are like out here. Something like this might make
all the difference." 

John simply nodded his head. He knew they were right, but he didn't
have to like it. 

No one noticed Sa'di listening quietly to the conversation. 


As he waited for the tech to replace his cooling rods, Scorpius
reflected on the precarious position in which he now found himself. He
had proved useful to High Command over the cycles, first as an
experiment, the first ever Scarren/Sebacean hybrid to survive infancy,
and then because of his unique scientific and organizational abilities.
Peacekeeper technology had stagnated over the centuries to the point
where a soldier plucked from half a millennium in the past would have
felt perfectly at home in the present. Scorpius had displayed the type
of novel thinking that might inject new life into the Peacekeeper
military and provide a much needed advantage in the escalating conflict
with the Scarrens and the nebulous but growing mess with the Nebari. 

It was his ability to innovate combined with a calculated ruthlessness
that had allowed him to survive and advance this far. Yet these were
exactly the qualities that had made him countless enemies over the
cycles. Most of these had been dealt with quickly and quietly, but
recent criticism had started to come from people who could not be
eliminated in such a cavalier fashion. High Command was not please with
his progress in wormhole research, and there were those who complained
that three full cycles and countless resources had been wasted on a

Scorpius knew that they were right. However, to admit it would be
tantamount to handing them his head on a platter. In the two and a half
cycles since he had obtained the theoretical information on wormholes
from Crichton's brain, he had come to realize that Peacekeeper
technology was very far indeed from being able to turn the equations
into anything practical. Yes, he could trigger a wormhole. That alone
had mollified High Command for a time and allowed him to keep his skin
intact. Controlling the endpoint was another matter altogether. 

The energy expenditure needed to do it was astronomical and well beyond
anything the Peacekeepers could generate. The hints had always been
there. When he had first extracted information on Crichton's meeting
with the Ancients over three cycles ago, he had learned that they only
had the energy reserves to create one more stable wormhole, hence the
deception to learn if Earth would be a suitable home for them. At the
time, Scorpius had no idea how much energy was involved, but now he
did. The past cycle and a half had simply been a series of holding
maneuvers to forestall his execution for just a little longer. 

That is until half a cycle ago, when word of the Brinisi portal device
had reached him. He knew it was unlikely in the extreme that such a
device could function, but he had managed to convince High Command
otherwise, and they had sent a disruptor to infiltrate the Brinisi team
working on the portal. A few days ago, everything had changed. Scorpius
had been informed of their agent's unexpected report of the Brinisi

Now he was in command of a task force approaching Brinisi space. The
Peacekeepers had avoided conflict with the Alliance to which the
Brinisi belonged simply as a matter of convenience. There was nothing
there worth the effort of taking. The existence of the working portal
changed everything. Scorpius was now in command of five carrier groups
with over 1000 prowlers and 100,000 assault troops. They expected heavy
losses during the initial attack, but that was inconsequential.
Scorpius had enough force under his command to overwhelm Brinisi
planetary defenses and take the capital city. He could prevent land
based reinforcement of the capital from space and by air. Conquest of
the planet wasn't an issue. He just needed to hold the capital city
until he had what he needed. 

The disruptor's report had also included an interesting extra detail.
Scorpius had an appointment with an old friend. 


All four members of SG-1 had gathered in Crichton and Aeryn's room to
discuss their unexpected windfall. It was decided that the information
on the weapon would not be shared with the Brinisi. They didn't need
anything complicating their departure and they needed to get the specs
back to Earth without delay. 

It was Aeryn who remarked that the six people gathered were not the
only ones who knew about the weapon. 

"We'll just have a talk with Sa'di in the morning. I'm sure we can
convince her to keep quiet about it for a while. By then, it won't
matter anyway." 

"This was a mistake, John. We should not have let her out of our sight
until we were ready to depart, no matter how unlikely it is that she
might cause a problem" 

"Aeryn, you saw how exhausted she was. She's not in any shape to do
anything even if she wanted to." 

"You two know, her. Do you trust her?" 

Crichton turned to O'Neill and repeated essentially what he had just
said to Aeryn. "She's harmless." 

O'Neill glanced at Aeryn and saw immediately that she wasn't quite so
ready to dismiss the threat posed by the Brinisi scientist. Still,
there was nothing to be done now. She had left the portal site,
apparently unobserved by anyone, before O'Neill and Teal'c had arrived.
That in itself was a little worrying. 

"Alright. We'll just hope for the best there. So, Dr. Crichton, have
you and Officer Sun decided whether to come with us tomorrow?" 

Crichton looked to Aeryn before answering. She had said yes, but he
wouldn't commit to anything without checking just one more time. Aeryn
responded with a slight nod of the head and the faintest trace of a

"Yeah, we're going with you." 

"You remember the conditions we outlined earlier? Those are not
negotiable. You also understand that with the Brinisi gate buried, this
is a one way trip?" 

He answered quietly, "Yes. Aeryn and I stay on your base for a while.
Then no contact with anyone from my past. I'm going to ask you again.
Do I have your word that Aeryn will be safe, that she won't be treated
as someone's science project?" 

"Don't worry, Crichton, contact with aliens is old hat to us now. I
guarantee you she'll be safe." 

Carter added, "He's telling you the truth, John." She turned to Aeryn
and continued, "You will both be safe. I promise you that." 

Carter's oath obviously meant something to Crichton, but Aeryn was
surprised to realize that it was starting to mean something to her as

With that, the four gate travelers left Crichton and Aeryn and returned
to their respective quarters. 

"I guess we need to leave word for the others when they get back. I
wish we had time to say goodbye." 

Aeryn laughed unexpectedly, "As strange as it sounds, I think I'm going
to miss Rygel and Chiana the most. They may get us into more trouble
than anyone else, but you always know where you stand with them. Then
there's Pilot ....," she trailed off. 

Crichton realized that in spite of her attempt to lighten the mood,
Aeryn was troubled. She was, after all, leaving the closest thing she
had ever known to a home. "Are you really sure about this, Aeryn." 

"I'm sure, John, and I am eager to see your Earth." 

"I really wish you could meet my dad. You would like him." 

Aeryn hesitated for an instant and then asked almost in a whisper, "Do
you think he would have liked me?" 

John put his arm around her and leaned his head against hers. "He would
have loved you. Just like me .... well, maybe not just like me." He was
quiet for a few microts then continued, "At least we won't have to
worry about him badgering us about grandkids. I remember what he put my
sister through when she got married." 

Aeryn instantly pulled away and looked at him wide-eyed. "Married ....
Children .... John, we never talked about anything .... I mean I always
assumed, but .... I ...." She was babbling now. 

Crichton shut her up with a quick kiss before continuing in a gentle
but serious tone. "If we're going to Earth, maybe we should start
talking about those things, don't you think?" 

That hadn't gone quite according to plan, and despite his calm
demeanor, Crichton was terrified as he waited for a response from
Aeryn. The word 'relief' didn't begin to describe what he felt as Aeryn
started to break into a conspiratorial smile. 

Before either of them could say anything further, they heard a series
of massive explosions. 


Aeryn and Crichton ran outside to find that they were among a large
crowd looking around in total confusion. There was a second and third
round of explosions from the direction of the city center and the local
military base, and this time Aeryn noticed the flash and streak that
preceded each. 

She turned to Crichton and said with preternatural calm, "John, those
are frag cannons. There's a Peacekeeper ship in orbit." 

He looked at her in confusion until the words sank in. Just when things
were beginning to look good and he was ready to drop his guard, they
were back. He should have expected it. It was almost too much to deal

Now wasn't the time to indulge in that sort of thinking, and Crichton
was trying his best to focus. They needed to act, but the only thing he
could think to ask Aeryn was, "Why?" 

"No frelling idea. They've never had any interest in the Alliance
before. It doesn't matter now. I recognize the pattern. The cannon fire
was directed at the military base, and probably power and
communications centers. That means they've already overwhelmed orbital
defenses. The next step is landing ground forces." 

No sooner had she said this than they saw at least 20 marauders with
prowler escorts beginning descent. 

Aeryn began explaining almost mechanically. 

"There should be at least five landing forces like that coming down at
various key points. They're going to keep doing that in rotation.
That's about 1000 Peacekeepers in each wave. I'm guessing they have
total air superiority already and the prowlers will keep the local
ground forces busy until they build up sufficient strength to start
moving. The Brinisi won't be prepared for something like this." 

She sounded like she was reciting from a manual, and Crichton simply
stared at her as if she had lost her mind. Aeryn broke from her reverie
long enough to get a good look at him. What she saw frightened her. He
had that haunted look again, the look she hadn't seen since Scorpius
had manipulated him through the chip. 

Aeryn was now furious, not at him but at the circumstances. She would
not allow him to go through that again. Pulling her after him, she
headed toward the quarters occupied by the other humans. 

"Come on, John. We need to get moving now." She knew from experience
that the best thing for him now was to force him to react to the

They were met halfway to their destination by SG-1 heading in the
opposite direction. 

"What the hell is going on?" 

Aeryn looked to Crichton and was relieved to see that he was starting
to come out of it. He answered O'Neill. "Peacekeepers. Aeryn says it's
an invasion." 

"Why now? I thought you said they didn't bother with this place." 

He got nothing from either Aeryn or Crichton. It was Jackson who
supplied a likely answer. "The gate. You don't suppose they found out
about the gate somehow?" 

They had no evidence to support it, but everyone knew that he had hit
upon the correct explanation. 

Crichton turned to Aeryn again, "Stargate .... wormhole .... that means
it's Scorpy up there." 

Aeryn now had a target for her rage, and found that it was accompanied
by an intense feeling of protectiveness for John. "Don't worry, John.
He won't get to you again. I'll see to that." 

"O.k., people, we can reminisce about old friends later. Right now, I
think it's time to move our timetable up. We head to the gate now." 

No one questioned O'Neill. 

As they made their way through the city to the sound of sporadic
weapons fire, Aeryn was again impressed by the humans. They moved
quickly and without breaking formation when no cover was present and
methodically from point to point when they had cover. When they
advanced in areas of likely contact with the Peacekeepers, they did so
in stages, always covering one another as they advanced. Weapons were
held at the ready, but there was none of the mindless swaggering that
she had so often observed even in Peacekeeper Commando troops. These
were professionals of a sort she had often wished as comrades in the
old days. Even the Archaeologist knew what he was doing. 

Aeryn and Crichton held back, keeping pace with the humans but trying
not to get in their way. As she occasionally glanced at him to mark his
progress, Aeryn smiled inwardly at that fact that she was impressed
with John too. He had certainly come a long way from the naive alien
she had met almost five cycles earlier. He didn't move like the humans
ahead of them, but he made a passable soldier now, and passable was all
she wanted. She never wanted him to become so immersed in the day to
day matter of survival that he lost some of those qualities that had
drawn her to him in the first place. 


Elsewhere, a lone Brinisi woman approached the temporary headquarters
the Peacekeepers had set up in what remained of the military base. She
walked up to the sentries without the slightest hesitation. The young
Peacekeeper in charge of the guard detachment started to speak. 

"You .... turn around before we decide ...." 

He was abruptly cut off. "Shut the frell up, boy, and address me as
Commander. I want to see your commanding officer. Now!" 


After what seemed like an eternity, and having avoided contact with the
Peacekeeper patrols that were probably scouring the city by now, Aeryn,
Crichton and SG-1 were almost at the gate site. It was then that they
encountered their first surprise of the evening. 

"Sa'di? What are you doing here?" 

"John! There are soldiers everywhere. They've been rounding people up,
anyone connected to the portal project. I thought you might be coming
here. I didn't know where else to go." 

"Do you know if they've captured the gate yet?" 

"No. Some of our security forces are still in the sector. They haven't
made it this far. John, if you're going to leave through the gate, take
me with you. I know I can never come back, but there's nothing for me
here anyway." 

Crichton turned to O'Neill. "She wants to go with us. She understands
that it's a one way trip." 

"Fine. We don't have time to discuss it now anyway. We keep moving." 

Aeryn said nothing. There was no time for an argument now. However, she
didn't take her eyes of Sa'di for an instant. 


As they approached the portal site, O'Neill was suspicious. Their
crossing through the city had gone far too easily. Part of that could
be attributed to the Peacekeepers themselves. They seemed to be
spreading through the city in a haphazard fashion and without any
really coherent plan. The squads were easily avoided, since they seemed
to expect little or no resistance and behaved accordingly. Still, they
had been far too lucky. 

The same thought occurred to Aeryn as she continued to watch Sa'di. As
they got closer to their objective, something else started to become
apparent . Sa'di was far more physically fit than her demeanor
indicated, and more suspiciously still, she moved like a soldier. At
least she did for a short time. At one point, she glanced at Aeryn and
smiled. After that, she began to stumble occasionally and hesitate as
they crossed open ground. Aeryn wasn't sure what was going on, but she
decided she would find out soon enough. 

The sounds of fighting were becoming more evident. The Brinisi had
apparently concentrated a defense in this region. As they approached
the temporary structure housing the portal, O'Neill and Teal'c made a
careful survey of their surroundings. They found nothing and decided to

Once inside the gate chamber, Carter and Jackson began collecting
everything they could find. Their first priority was to recover
everything relating to the relativistic weapon to supplement what they
had already gathered over the past few days. To their surprise, they
found most of those items missing. They searched frantically, but
failed to find anything new. Having little choice, they took as much of
the remaining material as they could carry, regardless of content. 

Aeryn had realized from the moment they entered the building that
something was wrong about Sa'di's behavior. Only now was she beginning
to see what it was. She had essentially attached herself to Jackson and
had, in turns, tried to remain close to John and Carter as well. This
train of thought had barely crystallized when Carter activated the
Asgard device, and the gate came to life. 

Just as they were about to make their escape, Aeryn saw Sa'di make an
unnatural twisting motion with her wrist and then heard a familiar
whine. She yelled for everyone to get down. Whether they understood the
words or not, they got the point and dropped. Two small explosive
devices at opposite ends of the room went off simultaneously, spraying
the room with miniature flechettes. 

Aeryn was the first to recover. She looked first for Crichton and then
around the room and was amazed to discover that no one had been
injured. A moment later, she also realized that they were not alone.
Two Peacekeeper commando teams had entered from opposite ends of the
chamber and had them covered. No one spoke until a familiar voice
sounded from the far entrance. 

"Hello, John. Have you missed me?" 

Aeryn recognized the speaker without needing to turn around. She
instinctively placed herself between Crichton and Scorpius. Before
anyone had a chance to do anything further, they were all surprised by
weapons fire coming from the opposite entrance. 

Captain Preval and a contingent of Brinisi security had appeared out of
nowhere and were firing at the Peacekeepers. Aeryn spun around to find
Crichton, but saw that Sa'di, who had been now placed herself between
him and Jackson and the rest of the group, had pushed him away from the
gate. She appeared to be pushing them out of the line of fire of the
Peacekeepers. She tried to get to John, but the gunfire separating them
intensified and effectively separated her, O'Neill, Carter and Teal'c
in front of the gate entrance from Crichton, Sa'di and Jackson. 

SG-1 fired back at the Peacekeepers separating their group, and killed
two, but they were outnumbered, and the Brinisi were clearly on the
losing end of the engagement. Sa'di urged Crichton and Jackson towards
the control room, which had its own exit. There was no choice left,
O'Neill ordered his people through the gate. Aeryn had no intention of
leaving Crichton behind, but she was given no choice as Teal'c and
Carter dragged her struggling towards the gate. The last thing she saw
was Crichton looking back at her from the control room. Jackson and
Sa'di had already exited and he was just about to follow. She had a
clear view of his face, and what she saw was fear. Not for himself, she
realized, but for her. 

She screamed his name before disappearing with the others through the


As they left the control room, Sa'di turned to the two humans and said,
"Follow me. I know a quick way out of the building. The Peacekeepers
won't have it covered, and the ones in the portal room are too busy to

Moments after their departure, all weapons fire in the control room
stopped. The dead 'Brinisi' and Peacekeepers, at least those who hadn't
been killed by the humans, got up and filed out of the chamber. Lt.
Braca escorted a frantic looking Captain Preval to Scorpius. 

Scorpius smiled his death's head smile. "Captain. Thank you for your
cooperation and for the use of the uniforms." 

"You said I could rejoin my family if I helped you. Take me to them." 

"Of course. You may join them now. Lieutenant." 

Braca stepped back a fraction, raised his pulse pistol and fired once
at the base of Preval's skull. 

"Sir, should we pursue Crichton and the others?" 

"Yes, Lieutenant, but stick to the plan. Send out a few units, make it
exciting for them, but make sure you don't catch anything. It shouldn't
be difficult to manage. Commander Calis is transmitting her position to
us continuously. I really had hoped to detain the other human
scientist, as well as capture the gate triggering device, but this
deception was a calculated risk, and we must make due with what we
have. Let us hope that Crichton will suffice and that Calis' plan
doesn't prove a complete waste of time." 



Aeryn found herself moving backwards through a long tunnel with
dimensions that seemed just beyond her perception. The slightly unreal
sensation lasted for only a moment until she was thrown onto her back,
staring at the portal. She jumped to her feet frantically looking for
the control room where she had just seen John. 

The room was not where it had been just microts earlier and as the
disorientation passed, she realized that she was no longer in the same
place. This must be Earth, and John was still on Brinisa. 

Aeryn was flanked by Carter and Teal'c with O'Neill slightly ahead, but
they were not alone. A half dozen soldiers dressed slightly differently
than the SG team had rifles trained on her. Two other soldiers were at
either side of the room, manning a pair of larger weapons. O'Neill
ordered them to stand down, and they lowered their weapons. 

As soon as she had her bearings, Aeryn walked up to O'Neill and began
demanding that the gate be reactivated and that they return to rescue
John. She didn't realize that she was screaming at him, but after a few
seconds, she did realize that he didn't understand her. Then it dawned
on her that no one would understand her, so she began gesturing towards
the gate trying to make her meaning as obvious as possible. 

O'Neill spoke to her evenly. "I know you want us to go back, but we
can't. They're going to have the other gate covered now. The Brinisi
were already losing the fight when we left. If we go back, we walk into
an ambush." 

Carter continued. "Aeryn, I know you're worried about John, but we saw
him escape. Don't forget we lost someone back there too. There's
nothing we can do just now, but we will figure something out." 

She saw the sense in what they were telling her, but she didn't have to
like it. Aeryn decided that panicking now would serve no purpose. Just
then, an older man with no hair approached them. 

"Colonel, you're a day early. Where is Dr. Jackson, and who is this?" 

"General, we ran into some trouble. Daniel's still on Brinisa, that's
what the locals call the planet we just left. This is Aeryn Sun; she's
a friend. It's a long story." 

The general looked appraisingly at Aeryn, nodded and turned back to

"Very well. Get cleaned up and have your team assemble in the
conference room in 30 minutes." Turning to Aeryn, he said, "Ms. Sun,
welcome to Earth. I look forward to hearing of the circumstances of
your arrival." 

Aeryn had come to attention almost by force of habit. She could only
manage, "Thank you, sir." There was nothing else to say. 

Hammond glanced at O'Neill for an explanation. 

"She understands us. We can't understand her. Part of the long story,
sir." Hammond just nodded again. The explanation would have to wait. 

"Ms. Sun, we're going to have to ask you to undergo a routine medical
examination." Noticing that Aeryn had tensed visibly and that she had
shifted her arm to allow ready access to the weapon she carried,
Hammond added, "You have our assurance that you will not be harmed in
any way. This is standard procedure and we guarantee your safety." 

Carter continued as casually as she dared, "You can trust us, Aeryn.
Come on, I'll take you to the medical bay. You won't need your

The look Aeryn gave her left no doubt as her opinion of that idea.
"It's standard procedure, Aeryn. We can't have unauthorized people
walking around the base armed." She still hesitated. 

"The faster we get all of this over with, the faster we can figure out
what to do about Daniel and John." Aeryn had no argument for that. She
would risk walking unarmed to her own dissection, but she wouldn't risk
allowing her hesitation to put John in any further danger. She handed
her pulse rifle and the pistol strapped to her thigh to one of the
soldiers who approached. Carter led the way, and Aeryn followed. 


Crichton and Jackson followed Sa'di as they made their way through one
of the more crowded quarters of the city. They had no idea how they had
managed to elude the Peacekeepers and assumed that it was just an
enormous bit of luck. Perhaps the Brinisi security forces had kept them
tied up in the portal chamber just long enough to let them escape. 

Sa'di turned to the two men and said, "We need to blend in better. You
two look totally out of place. I know a few people around here. I can
find us someplace to stay for the night, and I'll see to getting you
something else to wear." 

It didn't seem too strange to either human that the Brinisi woman had
essentially taken charge since their escape. After all, this was her
city and her people. Crichton did notice that she was far more
assertive than he had ever seen her, but he knew that people sometimes
reacted unexpectedly under pressure. He didn't dwell on this for long,
since his thoughts were elsewhere. 

In short order, Sa'di brought them to a small house near one of the
cheaper commercial districts. "I have some friends who live here. Wait
outside while I see if they can hide us for the night." She hesitated.
"These are good people. I don't like putting them in danger, but I
suppose we don't have a choice." 


She entered the small building while Crichton and Jackson hid in the
alley behind the house. The middle aged man and woman waiting inside
immediately stood at attention. She would have shot them on the spot
for conspicuous stupidity if she had had the luxury. These were
ordinary soldiers. There hadn't been time to plant anyone competent. 

She spoke in a whisper. "Sit down, you frelling idiots, and act casual.
It's lucky I didn't bring them in with me. Remember, you are to treat
me as a friend." As an afterthought, she added, "You will minimize
contact with the humans. Frell this up, and I'll have the two of you
begging for the living death before this is over." 

The two Peacekeepers who had been conscripted for this very strange
duty blanched but obeyed without question. Sa'di went back outside and
motioned for the two waiting humans to join her. 


While waiting to be examined, Aeryn took the opportunity to look over
the medical facility. She had often called Crichton and his people
primitive, in all seriousness in the early days, then only when she was
angry at him, and later mostly as a matter of playful teasing. This had
always been in light of his early unfamiliarity with her world and with
the limited exposure to his technology that Farscape 1 had afforded.
Now she was suffering from information overload. Part of her wanted to
shut it all out, and part wanted to absorb as much of John's world as
she could. 

The medical equipment told her a few things. She was hardly an expert,
but a number of things were obvious even to her. She knew from Crichton
that the Peacekeepers were far ahead of humans in many aspects of
medical technology. Disease was almost unknown and genetic screening
meant that the average Peacekeeper was more physically fit. However, it
was clear from her surroundings that humans were more interested in
treating the individual than in maintaining a healthy population.
Everything here was designed for the patient, a fact she noticed only
because it was at odds with her own experience of Peacekeeper medical
science. The welfare of the individual had never been a concern in her
old life. More than four years with John had changed her perspective on
that. It was reassuring to see that, at least where their own people
were concerned, other humans felt the same. 

Of course, she wasn't human, and she wasn't sure if those rules applied
to her. She was beginning to trust Carter, mostly because John had
trusted her, and she felt an affinity to O'Neill. He reminded her of
the one or two good commanding officers she had come across. Teal'c was
a mystery, but he claimed to be an alien, and that too was reassuring
in its own way. Still, she was fully prepared to be strapped down and
dissected at any moment, and her guard remained up. 

A woman wearing a white coat introduced herself. "Hello, you must be
our guest. I'm Dr. Fraser. We're just going to run a few routine tests.
Nothing to worry about." 

Carter said, "I'm going to get cleaned up. You'll be fine with Janet.
I'll be back in a bit to take you to the briefing." Not knowing what
else to do, Aeryn nodded nervously as she prepared to leave. She
noticed that the two armed guards who had escorted them here hadn't

She sat patiently through what seemed like a routine physical of the
sort she had been subjected to countless times as a soldier. She was
reluctant to have her blood drawn at first but relented once Fraser
explained what was involved. As a final step, she was asked to wear a
strange gown and placed inside a cylindrical machine for a few microts.

After the examination, Carter returned as promised to escort Aeryn to
the conference room where Hammond, O'Neill and Teal'c were waiting. 

"Major Carter, Officer Sun, please be seated. Colonel O'Neill has
already given me a brief overview of your mission. As I imagine you
already know, we cannot mount a direct rescue operation through the
Stargate. These Peacekeepers undoubtedly have the Brinisi gate under
heavy guard now." 

Aeryn started to protest immediately, insisting that they had to get to
John. It took her a few moments to realize that, once again, no one
understood her. 

"Officer Sun, I understand your concern for Dr. Crichton, but I will
not send my people on a suicide mission, not for him and not even for
Dr. Jackson. I assure you that we intend to do something about this
situation, but we need to do something rational." 

Aeryn was fighting an internal struggle on three fronts. First, there
was the increasing frustration of not being able to convey anything
beyond the level of "yes" and "no", then there was her natural
inclination to do something, anything right now, and finally, there was
an ingrained instinct to obey or at least listen to someone in
authority. Eventually, she gave in to the last and decided that it
would be best to listen for now. 

"Major Carter, this weapon the Colonel described. Can you give me a
threat assessment." 

"Sir, I don't know if the Peacekeepers can put the thing together in
the first place. For one thing, I brought some of the schematics with
me so whatever they have is incomplete, and we know that they have no
experience with gate technology. Even if they can get it working, I
suspect it poses no immediate threat to us, since they have no way of
getting to us. However, there are a few other factors to consider. The
existence of such a weapon may attract the attention of the Goa'uld. We
don't know if they have any presence in this region of space, but we
can't exclude the possibility. We also need to consider what it would
mean for us if we could get our hands on this technology. This might be
our first effective weapon against Goa'uld." 

"Thank you, Major." He turned to O'Neill. "Colonel?" 

"Sir, I think we need to find a way to get back there and get whatever
Carter needs to build this thing. Barring that, we need to make sure no
one else gets their hands on it. And while we're at it, we find some
way to get Daniel and Crichton back." 

The last sentence was the only thing that interested Aeryn. The small
part of her that wasn't consumed with worry about John was analyzing
what she had just witnessed. These people were like John, but also
quite different. They were practical in a way that she had not come to
expect from him. They wanted to rescue Jackson, maybe nearly as much as
she wanted to get to John, but the weapon took priority. 

"So now the question is how do we get back." O'Neill looked around the
table hoping for a response. When no one spoke, he offered, "Maybe the
Tok'ra? It's about time that alliance did something for us." 

"The Tok'ra will be of no use, O'Neill. Their vessels would require
years to travel to Brinisa." 

"There might be another option, Teal'c. We know that Brinisa was part
of the gate network at one time. If we could find a nearby planet with
a gate, we could use it as a staging point for a raid. We would need to
contact the Asgard, but it might just work." 

"Thank you, Major. That's worth looking into immediately. Contact Thor
and start searching for a feasible planet. I'll need to get
presidential approval before we can make a proposal to the Tok'ra." 

Hammond then turned to Aeryn. "Officer Sun, you were a Peacekeeper and
you know how they operate and what we can expect. Your assistance would
be invaluable. It's unfortunate that we have no way to communicate with
you effectively." 

"I may have an idea about that, Sir." 


"One of the devices we recovered from Machello. Daniel thought it was a
Goa'uld translation device, but he never got around to examining it.
Teal'c or I might be able to get it functional." 

"Very well, Major, contact Area 51 and have it transported here." 

Most of this meant nothing to Aeryn, but she did gather that she might
soon be able to do something more productive than shake her head. 


Crichton and Jackson were treated to a simple but filling meal by their
hosts. Crichton had withdrawn from the others, still trying to come to
grips with his separation from Aeryn. He had sworn after what happened
with Crais and Talyn that he would never let her out of his sight
again. This time, it was no one's fault, but he wouldn't let himself
accept that. 

When he could get a hold of Crichton, Jackson tried repeatedly to
engage their hosts through him, but all he got in response to his
questions were single syllable answers. He didn't blame them. These
people were putting themselves at tremendous risk, and he had no right
to expect civility on top of everything else. 

Sa'di had been out for a number of hours, gathering food and a change
of clothing. 


"Remind me again why I agreed to this deception, Commander." 

"Sir, you know as well as I that the use of this gate as a
transportation device has limited strategic value. Whether you can
adapt the technology to your wormhole research is uncertain. However,
this relativistic weapon has immediate and profound implications." 

Scorpius continued to look at her with that hideous expression. It took
some effort on Calis' part not to react. Every fiber of her being
screamed that the creature before her was an abomination. Addressing it
as a superior was almost more than she could tolerate. After all, she
was a Sebacean and a Peacekeeper. Not only that, but among the elite,
hand picked from childhood for special service. She believed without
reservation in the superiority of her people and in her own superiority
over this half-breed. Still, duty dictated that she obey it for now. 

"I would suggest once again that forceful extraction of the details of
this weapon is dangerous. It didn't work with Crichton the first time,
and it may not work with Jackson. We are under no immediate time
constraint. The city is secure and will remain so. Give me a few
weekens, and I may be able to get the all the information we need. If
it becomes necessary, we can always take the humans into custody and
employ more forceful methods." 


The remainder of the day was an exercise in frustration for Aeryn.
Carter informed her that the translation device would take a day to
make it to the SGC, and even then, there was no guarantee it would
work. She was given a brief tour of the base, ending with a trip to the
mess hall. Carter had apparently appointed herself Aeryn's personal
guide. She assumed this was out of a sense of loyalty to John. She was
actually very grateful to her. In the midst of unfamiliar surroundings,
it was reassuring to be in the company of someone she knew, even a

The meal was another opportunity for Aeryn to learn something of John's
world. The food was actually good and fairly varied, another concession
to the comfort of the individual that the Peacekeeper military would
never have made. The atmosphere was also more relaxed than she had ever
seen on a ship or base. The soldiers and few civilians seemed to be
free of the sense of fatalism that Aeryn automatically associated with
the military, at least her military. 

Her thoughts still centered on John, Aeryn found that she had little
appetite. Carter tried to engage her a few times, suggesting some item
or other, but the one way communication only went so far. A short while
into the meal, they were joined by O'Neill and Teal'c. 

Teal'c addressed her first. "Officer Sun, I hope you are adjusting to
your new surroundings. I know better than most how it feels to be on an
alien world with no connection to your past." 

Aeryn could only nod her head again. She looked around the table,
pointed to herself and said her first name hoping that her meaning was
clear. The other's got the point and O'Neill spoke for them. 

"You can call us Jack, Sam and Teal'c." 

Of course, she already knew the names, but it was good to establish a
connection explicitly. Aeryn found herself a passive observer during
the rest of the meal as SG-1 discussed the details of their plan. 

"So, Carter, how's the search for a staging area going?" 

"We have three prospective planets, sir, between 12 hours and 2 days
travel to Brinisa by Tok'ra transport vessels. We've communicated the
gate coordinates to the Asgard already. With any luck, one of the gates
will be functional. We still have to sell this to the Tok'ra though." 

"Oh, I don't think that's going to be a problem. The second they hear
about the weapon, they'll be begging to help. Self-important, useless
bunch of...." 

While O'Neill continued to complain about the Tok'ra, Teal'c said,
"Perhaps we might involve your father, Major." 

"The last time I talked to my dad, he said he was going on a 6 month
extended mission. He's not going to be available." 

O'Neill broke from his increasingly colorful commentary to say, "Great.
The one Tok'ra I trust, and he's not available." 

"Perhaps we should attempt to contact Anise. She has proved unreliable
in the past, but she is a known variable and she would undoubtedly be
interested in this new technology. She also seems to have a particular
interest in you, O'Neill. That may be advantageous." 

"Uh, yeah. I don't think that's relevant Teal'c." 

Aeryn noticed that O'Neill and, to a lesser extent, Carter had become
uncomfortable at the mention of this Anise. It occurred to her for the
first time that there might be more to their relationship than simply
that of superior and subordinate. They didn't act that way, but to
Aeryn that was perfectly natural. 

Carter continued, "In any event, the sooner the general gets approval
to contact them the better. We need to get some estimates on how long
its going to take them to disassemble some transports, get them through
the gate and reassemble them at the staging area." 

"Ideally, we would want them to do some reconnaissance a few days
before we strike. We need to identify Peacekeeper headquarters. If we
can't find the schematics, we strike there and at the gate." 

The mention of "a few days" bothered Aeryn, and she was becoming
increasingly irritated by her inability to ask even simple questions.
She realized for the first time that the planning and execution of this
mission might take weekens. That should have been obvious, but the
upheaval of the past few arns had left her somewhat disoriented. 

It worried her that the discussion had so far failed to include
anything about a rescue. So she said something to O'Neill that was
likely to be understood. 


"You're wondering about how much thought we've put into getting them

Aeryn nodded. 

"Well, the main strike force will be busy trying to recover the
schematics and do whatever damage they can, but we haven't forgotten
about Daniel or Crichton. Daniel has a transmitter. It's standard
procedure in a situation like this to broadcast a one second signal
every day at local noon. The signal is designed to mimic background
radiation, so with any luck, the Peacekeepers won't notice. We should
be able to find them easily enough. Don't worry. Daniel's smart. He
knows how to stay hidden, and from what I understand, your friend
Crichton has a little experience in that area too."

"We're going to need your help with this, Aeryn, not just to get our
two wayward friends back, but for the overall plan. We need to know
about standard Peacekeeper procedures, the sort of resistance we can
expect, the likely distribution of forces and probably a lot of other

Aeryn nodded furiously at O'Neill. Of course, she would do anything
they wanted if it meant getting back to that frelling planet. She just
had to hope that John and the other human could hold out. They had
Sa'di with them, who might be useful as a native, but Aeryn had more
than a few suspicions about her. She wanted desperately to convey these
to the humans but had to wait for now. 

After the meal, Carter took Aeryn to some temporary quarters. They were
hardly luxurious, but far better than what she had been used to as a
Peacekeeper. She showed her to a terminal of some sort. 

"These microbes of yours don't allow you to read alien writing, do

Aeryn shook her head to indicate that they didn't. 

"That's too bad. We could have given you some material and mission
briefings to familiarize you with our procedures. That can wait. In the
mean time, I've taken the liberty of having the computer set up to
display some information about Earth. There are images and videos with
narration. Let me show you how to scroll through them." 

She turned on the machine and briefly showed Aeryn what to do. "We kept
this as simple as possible. Once you start, you can just push this
button to advance and this one to repeat a segment. We've used this
program before to give guests and offworld contacts a little
introduction to our planet." 

Aeryn was grateful for the distraction. She had decided by now that she
was in no immediate danger of being cut open, and since she could do
nothing for John just yet, she would learn as much about his world as
she could. Aeryn told herself that it was in anticipation of their
reunion. She had already vowed that she would either make that reunion
a reality or die in the attempt. 

"There are some clothes in the closet over there, and a small bathroom.
Press this button if you need anything, and someone will come by to
help you." 

Carter smiled and said, "With any luck, we might be able to have a real
conversation tomorrow. Is there anything else I can do for you before I

Aeryn could think of nothing at first, but just as Carter was about to
leave, she flashed on something. It was ridiculous, she knew, but she
said it anyway. She hoped she was saying it right, and at first Carter
didn't seem to understand, but then she just looked a little surprised
as understanding dawned. 

"Chocolate? You want chocolate? Uh...o.k. I'll see to it that someone
brings you some." 

No doubt the human thought she had lost her mind, but as far as Aeryn
was concerned, it was another link to John. He had talked about it
often enough. Now she would be able to tell him what she thought of it
when she saw him again. 

Aeryn settled herself before the computer and did as Carter had
instructed her. Her concern for John was ever present, but a lifetime
of training had taught her how to compartmentalize her thoughts. So she
was able to focus the rational part of her mind on the images of John's
home world. She absorbed everything presented to her eagerly. 


Their hosts had excused themselves for the evening, and Crichton and
Jackson found themselves alone in the small dining room waiting for
Sa'di's return. 

"So you're going to set this thing off every day. Are you that sure
your people are going to come back?" 

"The weapon is important enough, even if we aren't. Besides, it's best
to be optimistic." He hesitated for a moment. "I think it might be
better not to tell Sa'di about the transmitter just yet." 

He continued before Crichton could interrupt. "It's not that I don't
trust her. It's just standard procedure. I shouldn't really be telling
you about it either, but it might be necessary for you to operate it if
something happens to me. And you're from Earth, so that's a plus as far
as I'm concerned." 

Crichton simply nodded his head in agreement. He had barely been
listening when Jackson explained how to use the transmitter. 

"You're worried about Aeryn, aren't you? She's safe, you know. No one
at the SGC is a threat to her." 

"We promised each other we wouldn't be separated again. Now she's on
the other side of the galaxy. I can't imagine what she's thinking or
going through right now" 

"You promised each other you would never be separated? Pardon me for
saying, but don't you think that's a little .... ridiculous?" 

Crichton looked up at Jackson for the first time, and his expression
held nothing pleasant. 

"I just mean that with the type of life you two have been leading, how
can you possibly expect to control something like that?" 

He spoke in quiet, measured tones. "Don't tell me what I can and can't
control. You don't know anything about us. You have no idea how much we
had to overcome." 

"I might know a little more than you think. You see, my wife was from
another planet. Well .... she was human, but she wasn't from Earth. Of
course, Aeryn is human too..." 

Crichton's building rage was now replaced by a look of utter disbelief.
"What do you mean your wife was from another planet?" 

"Just that. She was from another planet." He continued with a touch of
sarcasm, "You do realize that the gate lets us travel to other planets,
right? I met her on my first mission." 

This was certainly a turn in the conversation Crichton hadn't
anticipated. However, he suddenly found himself with an opportunity to
address some things that had been worrying him for more than four

"And, she came back to Earth with you?" 

"No. I stayed with her. She was from a very primitive world, and I was
of some use to them." 

"Would she have come with you if you had asked?" 

"I think so. I adapted to her world. I think she would have adapted to
mine. We loved each other, nothing else really mattered." He paused for
a moment. "You're asking about yourself and Aeryn, aren't you?" 

Crichton said nothing but made no attempt to deny it. 

"I saw the two of you together for a few days. I don't think you have
anything to worry about. On Earth or out here, you two belong with each
other. The rest doesn't matter." 

Crichton looked at Jackson and said simply and with complete sincerity,
"Thank you." 

"Wait a minute, what are you doing with this SGC if you decided to live
on your wife's planet?" 

Jackson became pensive for a times before answering. "My wife was taken
by the Goa'uld. I joined the SGC to find her ... she died." 

"I'm sorry, I had no idea ...." 

"It happened a few years ago .... and we had four good years together.
I just try to remember that." Then with a pointed look at Crichton,
"You shouldn't worry about incidental things. Just hold on to what
really matters for as long as you can." 

There seemed nothing more to say, and both men sat quietly for a while
until Crichton suddenly focused on something Jackson had said in

"What do you mean Aeryn's human?" 

Before he could answer, the locking mechanism on the front door
disengaged. The humans tensed and drew their weapons. Both relaxed as
they saw Sa'di enter the living room and head in their direction. 

She had returned with clothing for Crichton and Jackson that consisted
of non-descript gray shirts and trousers of the sort worn mainly by
Brinisi merchants. She herself had undergone a bit of a transformation.
Her hair was no longer in a tight bun, her complexion was no longer so
ashen, and she had lost the formless dress she had been wearing and was
now dressed in a more form-fitting and colorful gown. The change was
actually quite remarkable. Crichton had never thought of her as being
especially attractive, but he had obviously been wrong. 

"No offense, but I thought we were trying to be inconspicuous." 

Sa'di answered Jackson through Crichton. "I don't normally dress like
this. If the Peacekeepers are looking for me, this won't match the
descriptions they have." 

That seemed reasonable enough to both humans. 

"We can hide from the Peacekeepers for a while, but I don't know what
else I can do for you. Is there some way for us to use the portal to

Crichton had already discussed this with Jackson. "The gate's under
guard, and we can't power it anyway, and even if we could, we can't get
to Earth without the Asgard device." 

"So what do we do?" 

"We wait. Daniel says his people will come back for the weapon. We'll
try to contact them when that happens." He said nothing of the

"How are they supposed to get back if the portal is being guarded." 

"I don't know. We just have to hope they come up with something." 

Sa'di took this information in and said nothing, apparently resigned to
wait with the humans for as long as necessary. She suddenly brightened.

"I have some good news. Those metallic disks the off worlders were
looking for. I know they took some of them when they left." She looked
at Jackson. "And I know he has some of them. It turns out the rest
weren't taken by the Peacekeepers. I've been in contact with some of
the other researchers from the project. When the Peacekeepers attacked,
they got to the portal first and took as much as they could. I should
be able to get some of them to you in a few days." 


The following morning, Carter found Aeryn still hunched over the
terminal and staring at images of Earth. She had evidently cleaned
herself up and changed into standard Air Force fatigues. 

"Good morning, Aeryn. Did you sleep at all?" 

Aeryn shook her head fractionally to indicate that she hadn't. 

"I see you're still running that program. I'm sorry we couldn't give
you something a little more sophisticated. This thing was designed to
be colorful and pleasant; it doesn't really go into much depth on
anything. We'll see about getting you something more interesting later.
For now, I have a little good news. The translation devices arrived
earlier this morning. If you would follow me we'll see what we can do
with them." 

Carter led Aeryn to the medical facility, where O'Neill, Teal'c and
Fraser were waiting. There were greetings all around as Carter opened a
case containing a number of triangular metallic pieces about one inch

"According to Daniel's notes, these things are supposed to be placed on
the temple. It should be painless and safe, but Dr. Fraser is going to
monitor us for a few hours just to be sure. Well, here goes nothing." 

With that, she placed one of the triangles against her head. There was
a click as it bonded to her skin. 

"O.k., Aeryn, try saying something." 

"Do, you understand me?" 

Carter smiled at that. "You sound a little funny, and your mouth isn't
matching the words I hear, but yeah, I understand you." 

The look of relief on Aeryn's face was unmistakable. 

"I have a number of questions about this mission. I also need to tell
you ..." 

Carter held up her hands. "Hold on just a second. I know you're eager
to communicate now that you can, but let's try this on the others

Teal'c and O'Neill placed identical devices to their head just as
Carter had done, and they sealed themselves in place. 

"Try to say something again." 

"Hello. Do you understand me?" 

"Indeed I do, Aeryn Sun. Your voice sounds strange to me as Major
Carter said, but the meaning is clear." 

O'Neill just tapped the triangle at his temple. "Nothing yet, Carter. I
just heard the same backwards sounding gibberish. No offense ...." 

"I was afraid of that. We still don't know why Machello built these
things, but it seems they were designed specifically for Goa'uld.
Teal'c's symbiote and what's left of Jolinar in me seems to be enough
to trigger them." 

"Aeryn, I'm afraid Teal'c and I are the only ones who are going to be
able to understand you." 

"I don't frelling care. Just as long as I can communicate with someone.
There are a number things I need to ask you." 

"O.k., why don't we get some breakfast and you can ask away." 

Fraser interrupted. "Not so fast. I want MRIs of you and Teal'c first.
I want to see if those things are doing anything unusual. I'm afraid
Officer Sun's questions will have to wait just a little while." 

Aeryn was not in a mood to be pleasant. "Fine. Do whatever the frell
you need to do, but get it over with fast." 

"Janet, she said ...." 

"I think I got the gist." 

"Uh, Carter?" 


"How the hell do I get this thing off?" 


Calis had just finished another meeting with Scorpius. It had taken
some effort to convince that short-sighted monstrosity to part with the
schematics the Peacekeepers had seized, but she had eventually managed
it. It wasn't as if there was any danger of the humans making off with
them. They had nowhere to go and were under constant surveillance. 

On the way back, she had been considering how best to handle the
humans. Jackson was a problem, since she couldn't communicate with him
directly. It would be necessary to remedy that as soon as possible. He
also seemed to distrust her instinctively. She needed to do something
about that as well. She had already decided that it would be essential
to firmly ally herself to at least one of the humans, but she hadn't
yet decided which one to focus on first. 

Crichton was the obvious choice since he had known her under different
circumstances and seemed to trust her. He was the scientist and had
discussed the weapon in some detail with Carter. Too bad she had gotten
away, but there was no point in worrying about that. 

Calis had read Jenavian Chatto's report on Crichton, and had been
considering an attempt at seduction. He had obviously been compliant
before. However, the present situation was different and Crichton's
attachment to the traitor, Sun, had obviously strengthened in the
preceding three cycles. The attempt might backfire. Calis decided to
hold that option in reserve for now. 

Crichton might have a better understanding of the weapon, but Jackson
knew the language the disks were written in. Gaining his confidence
would have advantages as well. She was also concerned that his
continued suspicion might undermine Crichton's trust in her. It might
be best to address that problem before it became significant. Also, in
Jackson's case, she was unaware of any complication of the sort Sun
presented for Crichton. That too could work to her advantage. 

As she neared the house where the humans were concealed, Calis decided
that she needed to observe them a little longer before deciding on a
specific course of action. For now, she would continue to be as helpful
as possible and make sure they understood that she was indispensable to

As she entered the house, she found Crichton and Jackson waiting in the
small living room while their hosts silently and mechanically prepared
the mid-day meal. *Frelling idiots* They looked as if they were on KP
duty. She would have to see to a reprimand when all this was over. 

She handed a small package to Jackson. "I managed to get some of the
disks. The others are spread among several people throughout the city.
I'll see what I can do about getting those to you soon." 

Crichton translated, and Jackson simply said, "Thank you." 

"We can't have him unable to talk to anyone. I have a friend who's a
doctor. I think I can get an injector and some translator microbes." 

"That's a good idea, Sa'di." Turning to Jackson, he said, "She wants to
inject you with translator microbes." 

Jackson looked a little disturbed by that. "I don't know how I feel
about having microbes colonize my brain, but I guess we don't have much
choice." He turned to Sa'di and nodded. 

"Good. We should eat now. We need to get moving. I don't think it's
safe to stay in one place for too long." 

There was no argument, and the three fugitives from the Peacekeepers
sat down for a quick meal with their very quiet hosts. 


Aeryn Sun was taking her frustrations out on the only thing that would
stand still for it. She was beating the life out of a heavy punching
bag. It was a little different than her setup on Moya, but adequate for
the purpose. As she executed a series of complex, coordinated blows,
the focus required and the attendant physical exhaustion were almost
enough to take her mind off Crichton. However, she knew that would last
only as long as she kept hitting the bag. 

She heard someone approach from behind and stopped, a little annoyed at
the interruption. 

"Greetings, Aeryn Sun. I hope you do not mind the intrusion." 

Upon hearing the voice, Aeryn decided that she didn't mind at all.
There were only two people on this planet she could talk to, and this
was one of them. Except where John was concerned, she had never really
been one for conversation, not even when she was a Peacekeeper. Having
the option taken from her made all the difference. She felt comfortable
around Teal'c in a way that she didn't with any of the humans. She
spent more time with Carter and had not only become dependent on her
but had also come to like her. However, Teal'c was an outsider like
her, and that made some things easier. She didn't have the feeling that
she was constantly being appraised by John's people, even if she knew
that it was probably all in her head. 

"Not at all. I was just trying to keep busy." 

"I understand. Physical activity can be a useful distraction at times.
Your concern for Dr. Crichton has been quite evident. Rest assured that
you will be reunited with him." 

Aeryn simply nodded. There wasn't really anything to say to that. She
changed the subject. 

"So you've been on Earth for a number of cycles ... years now. Do you
feel that you have adjusted, or do things still seem strange to you?" 

"I have become accustomed to life here, but it has not become my home.
I suspect that your situation and mine are similar in some ways, Aeryn
Sun, but different in others. We are both fugitives from our people and
would be treated by them as traitors. I, however, plan to return to
Chulak someday when the Goa'uld are finally defeated. It is my
understanding that you have no desire to return to your people. Is
there nowhere you consider home?" 

Aeryn thought about that for moment. "I suppose maybe Moya. That's the
closest thing I've ever had to a home." Then she added, "But only if
John was there with me." The words were out before she had a chance to
consider them. Of course, she meant it, but she hadn't expected to say
it to anyone except John. She looked away slightly embarrassed. 

"You are concerned about adjusting to life here with Dr. Crichton. I
suspect that you have nothing to fear. It is clear how you feel about
him. It was equally clear on Brinisa, at least to anyone with eyes, how
he feels about you. You say that Moya was a home for you with him
there. I assure you that Earth will be as well, should you both decide
to stay." 

Teal'c didn't do a lot of talking, so it was difficult to gauge him at
times. Aeryn was surprised by how easily he had seen through her
worries. Was she that transparent? It didn't really matter. There was
no point in thinking that far ahead until they got John back. However,
she was grateful for Teal'c's attempt at reassurance, and she said,
barely above a whisper, "Thank you." 

Teal'c smiled and bowed his head in acknowledgement. 

"I observed some of your attack patterns a moment ago. They are very
unusual and most intriguing. Perhaps you would consider sparring with

"I would welcome it. I tried it with some of the humans a few days ago,
but Samantha asked me to stop. I caused a few injuries, and apparently,
that is discouraged. I find it very strange." 

"Yes. The Tau'ri are fine warriors, but they have a very different
approach to certain things than the Jaffa and, I suspect, the
Peacekeepers. They do not endanger their people unnecessarily during
training or when an objective is not deemed sufficiently important. I
too found this attitude strange in the beginning, but have come to
respect its implications. They have a reverence for life that is all
too uncommon." 

Before Aeryn had a chance to respond, they heard the sound of footsteps
and turned to find Carter approaching. 

"There you two are. I've been looking for you. The general wants us in
the conference room in 15 minutes. We have guests. The Tok'ra council
has approved our plan, and we're going to meet with their

Aeryn suddenly found herself more energized than she had been in days.
Things were finally moving, and the faster it went, the faster she
could get back to Brinisa. 

"Give me a few microts to shower and change, and I'll join you." She
headed to her quarters alone. 

It had been ten days since her inadvertent and totally unexpected trip
to Earth, and the humans were allowing her greater freedom with each
passing day. At first, she had been escorted everywhere, and there was
always a guard posted outside her door. Now, with the exception of the
armory and a few restricted areas, she had the run of the base. Aeryn
suspected that the increasing trust they placed in her had more than a
little to do with Major Carter. 

She spent more time with Carter than anyone else. In addition to being
one of only two people who could understand her, Aeryn suspected that
Carter had taken her on as a personal project, probably out of loyalty
to John. For her part, Aeryn had accepted the attention not only
because she needed Carter but because she had been John's friend ...
and more she reminded herself occasionally, but that wasn't relevant to
the situation at hand. 


"It's been ten days. No sign of your people." 

"It might be ten weeks, John. There's no way to tell. We just have to
be patient." 

"Patient ... " 

"I know you're worried about her, but she's safe. I give you my word on

"It's not that. I believe you, and Aeryn can take care of herself
anyway. It's just that she must be going out of her mind by now. She
can't even talk to anyone on Earth." 

"My friends are smart people, John. They'll figure something out, and
I'm willing to bet Aeryn will be with them when they come to get us." 

Jackson took out a small device he kept concealed in his backpack. 

"It's close to noon. You keep an eye on the door while I send the

"Daniel, do you still think we should keep this little toy of yours
from Sa'di? She's the only thing that's kept us alive so far." 

"Believe me, I'm grateful, but it's standard procedure. I never used to
see any sense in this cloak and dagger stuff myself, but the past few
years have taught me a few things about staying alive." 

"Yeah ... I know the feeling." 


Aeryn walked into the conference room to find SG-1 and General Hammond
in conversation with a woman wearing ... not very much at all. 

The general made introductions. "Officer Sun, this is Anise,
representing the Tok'ra council. Anise, Aeryn Sun, formerly of the
Peacekeeper military." 

"It is a pleasure to meet you Aeryn Sun." 

Aeryn was surprised by the strange, resonant quality of Anise's voice.
She nodded once in greeting. 

"You haven't missed anything yet. We just started. Please continue

"The Tok'ra will provide you with two transport vessels and two pilots.
We have already begun the disassembly procedures, we expect to have
both vessels fully reassembled at the launch site in four days. As per
our agreement, any information you recover will be shared with the

Aeryn blurted out, "Then we move in four days?" 

Carter translated for the group, and O'Neill responded. 

"I'm afraid not, Aeryn. We won't be charging in blindly. This isn't an
invasion, it's a surgical strike. Once the transports are in place, we
send in a reconnaissance team. With luck, the Tok'ra ships should be
able to get through Peacekeeper scans without any trouble. They blend
in as best they can and collect information on troop deployment,
movement of senior people, and the layout of their base of operations.
The best case scenario is that we snatch someone who knows where the
schematics for the weapon are. At the very least, we destroy the gate
room, control mechanism and their headquarters. It would be nice if we
could destroy the gate, but that would mean wiping out the Brinisi
capital as well, so that's out." 

Of course, this all made sense to Aeryn, but that didn't stop her from
quietly making a fist so tight that her nails almost cut into her palm.
They were talking about at least another 10 days. John would be alone
for at least that long. Well, he wasn't entirely alone. He had Jackson,
whom she trusted because the humans did, and Sa'di, whom she trusted
not at all. This reminded her of something as they were exiting the
conference room. 

"Samantha, did you have a chance to examine the residue from that
explosion." She had voiced her suspicions about the Brinisi woman
almost as soon as she could communicate, but in all the excitement she
hadn't thought of this until just a few days ago. 

"Yeah, I was going to talk to you about that. You were right. The
metallic fibers on our clothes couldn't possibly have done damage.
They're something like strands of mylar. You said those explosives are
designed to expel fine shards that cause puncture wounds, an
antipersonnel weapon like claymores? Well, they definitely modified
them so they wouldn't hurt anyone." 

Aeryn ignored the unfamiliar words but got the point. "So the explosion
was staged? Why would they do that?" 

"I have no idea, but it certainly lends credence to your suspicions
about that woman. You said you saw her do something with her wrist
right before they went off." 


After the elation of finding out that the plan was finally in motion,
Aeryn was now more worried than she had been before. Whatever the
humans made of this evidence, there was now no doubt in her mind that
she had left John in the hands of someone very dangerous. 


She couldn't understand it. As far as he knew, he could be captured and
subjected to torture and death at any time, but instead of worrying
about himself all he did was babble about Aeryn Sun. He did it nonstop
in her presence now, ever since the fiasco of three days earlier. 

Calis had kept them constantly on the move and increasingly dependent
on her. She thought it was working. Jackson had questioned her a few
times early on, but he no longer did. Whenever they 'found' someplace
to stay for a few days, they fell into a simple routine. Jackson would
work on the translation, and if the material had anything to do with
the weapon, he would go over it again and again with Crichton until
they were sure what the inscription meant. She would listen intently
and secretly record everything. 

She had been forced to supply large amounts of material from the dig,
since the Peacekeepers had no idea what was important. This had proved
very frustrating because Jackson seemed to be as interested in
meaningless cultural information as he was in the schematics. Crichton
was no help; he barely seemed interested in anything. It was left to
her to try to keep things on track, but she couldn't afford to appear
too eager. 

They had been moving every two or three days, and following this
pattern. Calis disappeared each day to secure food and supplies and to
periodically recover more of the disks from her supposed colleagues.
Things had been going smoothly if slowly. The only miscalculation, at
least that she saw, had happened three days ago. 

Crichton had been in a somewhat less abysmal mood than usual. She had
joined him as he looked out an open window and watched the setting sun.
It seemed like a perfect opportunity to make a move and further
ingratiate herself. She sat close and spoke about the upheaval of the
past several days, her grief at losing Celas and her constant fear of
venturing out each day. She closed the distance between them as she
spoke until she was leaning against his shoulder. He put his arm around
her. It seemed to be working. He was trying to comfort her, telling her
that everything would be alright. While he spoke, she slowly turned in
his embrace, and before he knew what was happening, kissed him lightly.
She had fully expected a response, but the one she got took her by
surprise. He stiffened instantly, removed his arm and stepped away. 

She remembered the look of total confusion as he backed away saying,
"Sa'di, I'm sorry. I think you may have misinterpreted things. I ..." 

She had cut him off, trying to salvage the situation as best she could.
"No, John. I apologize. I didn't mean to give offense. I'll leave you
alone now." She had assumed her most wounded expression as she walked
away. She still had no idea what the frell had gone wrong. Could he
really be that dedicated to Sun? Or was it just some primitive and
incomprehensible alien nonsense. In any event, Crichton had made sure
that he was not alone with her again. 

Well, if seduction wouldn't work, perhaps she could still use this. He
was obviously feeling guilty about hurting her. That might prove an

Calis' train of thought was interrupted as Jackson jumped up and said,
"Yes! It's exactly what I thought." 

"Sorry. Got a little carried away. This is a historical record that
describes how the original inhabitants of this planet transported tens
of thousands of people from a primitive world. The description of the
system they came from definitely matches Earth." He looked up from his
work at two blank faces. 

"Don't you see? This means that Sebaceans, Brinisi, anyone who looks
human in this part of the galaxy are actually the descendants of human
slaves. It's the same pattern as the Goa'uld, only much earlier." 

Calis blurted out with genuine contempt, "Don't be frelling

Both humans stared at her as she quickly covered her indignation. "I
mean, that sounds rather unlikely doesn't it?" 

"No, not really. As I said, the Goa'uld have done it repeatedly, and
some of the people they displaced are now far more advanced that your
people or the Peacekeepers." 

Calis said nothing. The human was a fool. It was inconceivable that
Sebaceans were descended from primitives, and slaves at a that. It took
an effort on her part not to kill him on the spot for implying
something so hideous. 


Aeryn had been on Earth two weekens, and each day was worse than the
last. She knew that the longer John was on Brinisa, the more likely it
was that the Peacekeepers would find him. Had she been objective, she
would have admitted that it was likely they had already found him, but
she refused to accept that possibility. Her days had consisted of long
sessions with various military personnel and endless questions about
not only the Peacekeepers and the Brinisi but about everything else
they could think of. Carter usually served as interpreter, although
Teal'c sometimes assumed that role. 

When she wasn't being questioned or having yet another battery of
medical tests performed on her, she was familiarizing herself with the
slowly developing details of the mission and with the equipment they
would be using. Aeryn had been impressed by the human weapons. They
were primitive in terms of technology, but she could appreciate that
they were designed with the end user in mind, something the
Peacekeepers often forgot. 

Even so, Aeryn had expressed some initial reservations about the humans
using their own weapons instead of the more advanced Goa'uld weapons
they had stockpiled. However, it soon became apparent that their
projectile weapons were ideal for use against the Peacekeepers. The
shielding and personal armor they used consisted mostly of light,
ablative material designed to absorb and dissipate fire from energy
weapons. They were largely useless against more primitive projectile
weapons. The brief firefight in the Brinisi gate chamber and some tests
the humans did on Aeryn's pulse rifle confirmed this. Carter had
informed Aeryn that this matched their experience with several other
advances races. It seemed that technology could sometimes blind one to
the obvious. 

If her days were occupied with details about the mission, her nights
were spent mostly in immersing herself in information on Earth. Carter
had given her access to the non-secure portion of the SGC's computer
system as well as some basic instruction, which was greatly complicated
by the fact that Aeryn couldn't read. She now had endless streams of
audio information, images, longer videos on various subjects, and an
enormous collection of music. The last had come as the biggest
surprise. The Peacekeepers had simple martial music only, and in her
limited experience, other species tended to have fairly narrow ideas
about what constituted music. One Luxan shilquen composition sounded
very much like every other Luxan shilquen composition. One Delvian
religious hymn sounded very much like every other Delvian religious
hymn. Aeryn had been unprepared for the variety and shear volume of
human music. She listened to as many different types as she could and
found that she liked a great deal of it and disliked a fair amount of
it as well. That was comforting in its own way. 

As for being unable to read English, Aeryn had actually started to
tackle that problem head on. She had spent a few arns each of the past
few nights with an elementary language program, obviously designed for
young children. She was learning, very slowly, not only how to
interpret the symbols but how to make the sounds. Having an inanimate
computer as partner helped considerably, since the microbes didn't
interfere. Aeryn felt foolish at times when her correct responses were
rewarded by simple music and dancing animals, but she put up with it.
She decided this would be her surprise for John. 

Sleep was impossible for more than a few arns a night. Even when she
was fully occupied, Aeryn was constantly worrying about John. When she
attempted to rest, the worry became overwhelming. After her nightly
study sessions, she had taken to exercising to the point of physical
collapse. It was the only way she could sleep at all. Carter brought
the subject up soon after her arrival on Earth. She and Fraser
suggested that Aeryn take some sleep medication, but she categorically
refused. She was beginning to trust the humans, but she would not allow
her senses to be dulled under any condition. 

The trust she had developed in such a short time was another surprise.
Carter in particular had become a friend. It was a novel experience for
Aeryn. When she was a Peacekeeper, there were people she called
'friend', but any one of them would have betrayed her without a second
thought if duty required it. She knew all too well about that. It
wasn't until her exile on Moya that Aeryn had learned something about
what friendship meant, and even then it had taken her the better part
of a cycle to overcome her training enough to start regarding her
crewmates as friends. These humans were different. Of course, she was
also a very different person than she had been. 


"Come in," Aeryn responded to Carter's now familiar knock. 

"Good morning, Aeryn. How are you today?" 

She looked up from the computer, smiled and said far more pleasantly
than she felt, "Good morning, Samantha. I'm fine. How are things going
with the Tok'ra?" 

"They expect to have the transports reassembled later today. After
that, it's 16 hours to Brinisa. They'll do several passes over the
city, collect what data they can, and insert our observers." 

"Good. They'll be able to pick up Jackson's signal?" 

"Yeah. But even if John and Daniel are still in hiding from the
Peacekeepers, they won't try to make direct contact. We'll have someone
observe the Brinisi woman first. We have you to thank for that piece of
intelligence. No matter what, we can't compromise the overall mission."

"Of course," Aeryn said with resignation. She didn't care about the
frelling overall mission, but this was the only way the humans would
proceed. She almost wished she hadn't said anything about Sa'di, but it
was better for everyone, including John, that they went in as fully
informed as possible. 

"In the mean time, I have a surprise for you. How would you like to get
out the base for a while?" 

That got Aeryn's attention. "What do you mean?" 

"Well, we're expecting data on the layout of the city and the gate site
within 24 hours. We're going to start constructing a mockup of the site
for training right after that, and naturally, you're going to be
involved. So either way, we're taking you above ground in about a day.
General Hammond and Dr. Fraser have already given approval for you to
leave the base under escort." 

"In the mean time, I've been ordered to Washington to brief some of our
senior scientists on the relativistic weapon, at least on what we know
about it so far. I thought you might want to come along. The briefing
itself shouldn't take long, and there's nothing for us to do here until
the reports from our field operatives are processed and transmitted. It
would give you an opportunity to see a little more of Earth than what's
in those videos, and," she tried to sound casual, "it might give you
something to tell John about when you see him." 

Aeryn was on her feet instantly. She didn't need any convincing. "Let's

"Not so fast. We don't want to attract attention, so we're going to
have to find a way for you to blend in a little." 

"I could wear my own clothing." 

"Trust me. That would probably attract some attention. Airman ...." 

Someone entered Aeryn's quarters carrying what looked like a uniform.
She realized immediately that it resembled nothing she had seen at the

"We've come up with a cover story for you that might help with the
language problem as well." 

Assuming a tone of mock severity, Carter said, "Aeryn Sun, welcome to
the Russian Air Force." 

"I don't understand." 

"You know that Earth is divided into different countries, right?" When
Aeryn nodded, she continued. "Well, you are going to play the part of a
visiting military observer from another country, specifically Russia.
That will explain why you don't speak English, but you shouldn't say
too much out loud when we're in public since you don't sound even a
little Russian." 

"Why did you choose this, what is it ... Russia?" 

"For one thing, I speak some Russian, so I can communicate with you in
public without breaking cover. Also, the Russians control the second
Stargate, and they know about the weapon. We have a treaty obligation
to share any important technology recovered through the gate. So we
were able to ask permission to borrow the identity of one of their
officers. Don't worry. We didn't tell them why, and they don't know
anything about you. They just went along because it's connected to the

"Why don't you change and meet me in my office when you're ready." 

Aeryn almost felt guilty at her excitement, but she couldn't really
contain it. There was nothing she could do for John just yet, but she
would frelling well be ready with a few stories whenever she did get
back to him. After a bit of uncertainty about what went where, she
managed to get the uniform on and headed to Carter's office. 

"Looks good. So, are you ready to go?" 

"Very much so. By they way, what's my rank?" 

"Captain. Specifically, you are Captain Irina Petrovna Tuchina, senior
instructor at the Zhukovsky Academy, and currently assigned to the
Russian Stargate project." 

It occurred to Aeryn that she had just been promoted. All it took was
becoming a fugitive from her people, joining up with a group of
criminals, falling in love with an alien and ending up on the other
side of the galaxy. It wasn't quite the career path she had planned in
her youth, but it had certainly been more colorful. 

As they headed from Carter's office to the elevator Aeryn had never
been allowed to approach, two guards fell into step behind them. 

"So, are they here to protect me from Earth or to protect Earth from

"A little of both, I suppose." 

"Not the answer I was expecting, but thank you for the candor." 

All four entered the elevator and Aeryn could sense that they were
ascending a fairly long way. She had no idea until just now that they
had been that far underground. After they reached the top level, there
were a series of checkpoints and armed guards until they arrived at a
collection of vehicles of some kind. Carter motioned for Aeryn to join
her in the rear of one of them while their escorts took the front
seats, and one of them operated the vehicle. They passed through a very
long tunnel with yet more armed guards and a succession of heavy blast

As they passed outside, the sudden glare of sunlight blinded her for an
instant. The air was cold. Carter had told her that it was nearing
winter in this region of the planet. At least there was no snow or ice.
Rain was one thing, but Aeryn had developed a deep aversion to ice. 

"It's a couple of miles to the airstrip, then 5 hours by air to

"Five arns?" 

"Remember that we don't have your transportation technology. It takes
us a while longer to get anywhere." 

The flight itself was uneventful but a little disconcerting for Aeryn.
The technology involved was even more primitive than that on Farscape
One, and she would have felt much more comfortable if she were doing
the flying. The interior of the craft was considerably more comfortable
than any transport she had ever seen. It was just the four of them from
the SGC, two pilots and an Airman serving refreshments. In her old
life, a space this large would have been considered a waste if it
carried anything less than 50 Peacekeepers. She asked Carter about

"Oh, don't think this is normal for our military either. It's just that
working on a top secret project with a massive budget has a few perks."

Aeryn considered that for a moment. It was probably much the same with
the Peacekeepers. "I wouldn't know anything about that. I was just a
simple soldier." 

That piqued Carter's curiosity. "Can I ask you how you and John met? He
sort of summarized things when we were in the Brinisi detention center,
but he was obviously editing a lot out." 

Aeryn thought back to the day nearly five cycles ago when her life had
been turned upside down. "Well, I suppose we met because I was a little
overzealous and failed to obey an order ...." 

She spent the better part of the next arn explaining in some detail
what had happened that day. Their security was at the other end of the
cabin, so they were essentially alone. She hadn't intended to reveal as
much as she did, but she felt comfortable with Carter and once she
started, she just kept going. 

"So this Crais. From what John said, you had trouble with him later

Aeryn immediately shut down. "Yes." She wasn't comfortable enough to
get into that. 

Carter sensed that this was a line of inquiry best left untouched, so
she focused on something else. 

"Do you mind if I ask you when you and John became more than friends?"
She wasn't sure if that would be a touchy subject too, but Aeryn
started talking again. 

"I suppose I always realized there was something different about him. I
don't know when my .... feelings .... started to factor in. I know I
denied it for a long time. If I had to narrow it down, I would say a
little over two, maybe two and a half, cycles ago, although things
didn't go very smoothly at first. I ....uh .... well, it was all very
new to me. Peacekeepers don't form long term relationships of any kind.
I didn't know what the frell I was doing, and I suppose John didn't
expect certain things either. We both made some mistakes." She paused,
again withdrawing into herself for a few moments but then brightened a
little. "But that's all behind us." 

Carter was surprised that Aeryn had been willing to reveal so much.
They talked frequently, but until now, things had rarely ventured onto
personal topics and almost never onto anything of consequence. 

"You've known John for a long time." 

"Yeah. We've been friends for around 15 years." She decided not to
venture beyond that. 

"You were also more than a friend at one point, were you not?" 

Carter looked at Aeryn in surprise. "He told you about that?" 

"In the detention center. We don't keep secrets from one another." 

"It was a long time ago, and it was never very serious." 

"That's what John said." 

"You two are very lucky, you know. It's obvious to anyone who spends
five minutes with you how much you mean to each other. Leave it to John
to have to travel to the other end of the galaxy to finally find
someone who's right for him." 

"Was there no one else in his past who was .... right for him?" 

Carter considered the question carefully before answering. 

"Aeryn, I've known John a long time. He's been in love before,
seriously enough to consider marriage at one point. But I am telling
you with absolute certainty that I have never seen him the way he is
when he's around you. If you're worried that things will change once
you're both on Earth, don't be. There's nothing here to threaten you,
at least not where John is concerned." 

Was everyone around here a frelling psychic? Aeryn didn't know how to
respond to that or how to convey her genuine gratitude to Carter for
saying it so she just remained silent. 

Carter took her silence for acknowledgement. "Well, that's enough of
that. We've still got a few hours before we get to Washington. How
would you like to see a movie?" 

"A what?" 

"It's a story in video form, fictional in this case. I've picked
something you might find kind of fun. It gives you a little taste of
what humans have dreamt about when they consider space and what might
be out there. It's a little thing called Star Wars. Try not to laugh
too hard." 

As the fanciful and somewhat bewildering images finished playing, Aeryn
decided that her initial assessment had been correct. Humans were
bizarre. The pilot announced over a speaker system that they were about
to land, and Aeryn put on the simple restraints attached to her seat. 

"This is Andrews Air Force Base. We'll be here for about an hour and a
half while I give my briefing, and then we'll see about giving you a
little taste of Earth. 


It was ridiculous, but a lifetime of training and carefully developed
instincts were not things to be casually ignored. As she made her way
through the city towards the rendezvous point, she could feel that she
was being shadowed. It couldn't be the humans. They could barely cross
a street without tripping over themselves. 

Whoever was following her, if there was anyone at all, was very good
indeed. She wouldn't tell anyone just yet. Those Pleisar morons would
have no idea how to handle the situation. They would simply end up
tipping off her pursuer that she was on to him. She would just have to
be more vigilant from now on. 

He was exactly where he was supposed to be. 

"Lieutenant Braca. Do you have the supplies?" 

"Yes, sir. I have the next batch of disks and the food you wanted. If I
may ask, are you sure it's a good idea to supply them with such
quantity and variety of food? Won't the humans become suspicious?" 

"You let me worry about their suspicions. Besides, we have to keep
Jackson and Crichton on a healthy diet if we're going to get anything
useful out of them. Now, here are the latest recordings. I suggest you
get them back to your freak of a superior with all due haste." 

Braca smirked a little at the last comment and left. 

Calis headed back to their current hideout, still unable to shake the
feeling that something was wrong. 


The briefing went without incident. Only a few of those present were
aware of Aeryn's true identity. As far as the rest were concerned, she
was Captain Tuchina of the Russian Air Force, currently visiting her
counterpart in the American Stargate project. Carter and their two
constant companions were able to deflect attention from her by calling
her away or interrupting anyone who tried to engage her in

Aeryn already knew the basics points of Carters presentation and
wouldn't be able to follow the more abstruse ones anyway, so she took
the opportunity to observe the listeners. Most were civilians. A few
were military officers. It was obvious from the age and relatively
elaborate uniforms of the latter that they must be fairly high ranking.
Again, she was struck by the contrast to her own experience. These
people didn't seem especially officious, and although it was clear that
Carter was a subordinate by quite a margin, they still treated her with

After the briefing, they were escorted to another ground vehicle of a
somewhat different configuration than the earlier one. This one had a
much more comfortable interior. Aeryn had a brief opportunity to see
some of the combat aircraft as they flew overhead. She was intrigued
and more than a little disappointed when Carter informed her that it
wouldn't be possible to take one up. 

"Well, we've got the rest of the day. I thought we would do some of the
usual tourist things around D.C. I'm afraid it's going to be kind of a
superficial look at Earth, but it's the best we can do in the time we

"I understand, and I am grateful to you, Samantha. I know this goes
well beyond your normal responsibilities." 

"Don't worry about it. It's my pleasure. I should warn you that there
are going to be lots of people around doing essentially the same thing
as us, and there's an off chance we might run into someone who speaks
Russian. So I'm going to teach you a very short Russian phrase. I think
if we just sound it out in pieces, very slowly, we can get past your

For the remainder of the trip from Andrews to D.C., Carter drilled her
again and again until Aeryn was able to say in fairly passable Russian,
"Go away. I'm busy." Carter assured Aeryn that backed by her own
natural and very obvious gift for intimidation, this would be enough to
keep them out of trouble. 


"I'm not questioning you, Sa'di. I'm just saying that maybe we need to
think a little more carefully before moving again. So far there's been
no indication that the Peacekeepers have been on to any of our hiding
places, but we keep moving." 

"We can't afford to take chances, Daniel." 

"I understand that, and I appreciate everything you've done for us, but
I'm just saying that we might be exposing ourselves to more danger with
these constant moves." 

"What do you think about all this, John?" she said in a more subdued
voice. In the past few days, she had managed to make it quite clear to
him that she had been thoroughly embarrassed by her earlier advance and
his rejection. It seemed to be working. Unlike Jackson, he tried to be
as accommodating as possible. 

"I don't know, Sa'di. Daniel may have a point. Do you really think
they're likely to find us if we stay put." 

"I'm convinced of it, John. My friends tell me there were more patrols
than usual in this area last night. We need to move." 

"I think we should go along with her, Daniel." 

"Fine. If both of you want to move, we move. Again." 

"Then it's settled. I'll see you in two or three arns. I need to get us
some more supplies and I'm expecting to get some more of the disks

She left them and headed to another meeting with Braca. The situation
was starting to become uncomfortable. Crichton was still manageable,
but Jackson's behavior over the past two days had become almost
belligerent. All she needed was another weeken at most. After that, all
the disks in Peacekeeper possession should have passed through his
hands, and his cooperation would no longer be a factor. She would have
him picked up and continue to work on Crichton. 

Another attempt at seduction might be worthwhile at that point.
Crichton would be alone and more vulnerable, and she could turn up the
pressure from the search patrols enough to unravel him. Calis was
uncertain of how much of the details of Jackson's translations she had
managed to record and how much had been missed. She couldn't be there
all the time. Crichton was still useful if she could get him talking
freely about the weapon's design, and having a hold over him would make
that easier. Also, she had to admit that her prior failure rankled just
a little. 

She was probably worrying about nothing. It was like that feeling of
being followed, and she hadn't felt that again in nearly two days. The
stress was simply affecting her. She could certainly manage two
predictable primitives for another weeken. 


"So, what do you think?" 

"I think you may be right. The Peacekeepers aren't this incompetent,
and the Sa'di I knew before all this started wouldn't have been able to
outthink them for this long. I've known people to rise to the occasion
when things get tough, but this is ridiculous. She went from mousy
librarian to Mata Hari at the drop of a hat." 

"She's certainly well connected. Every time I finish a set of
translations, she's ready with another batch of disks within a day or

"She didn't have any friends before this started, at least not anyone
except Celas. It doesn't make sense." 

"So you're willing to accept that she might be working with them? Maybe
they have some hold over her. Family maybe." 

"I don't know, but I think it's a good thing you've been mistranslating
things for a while. I thought you were nuts when you suggested it, but
now I'm not so sure." 

Crichton paused, unsure whether to mention his other cause for
suspicion, but it was incongruous enough that he needed to tell

"She came on to me a few days ago." 

"She did? That doesn't really seem like her, does it?" 

"It didn't fit at all. I was just embarrassed when it happened, but
when I look back at it, it makes no sense. It's not something I would
have expected from her. On top of that, she's been milking it for all
it's worth since it happened." 


Aeryn had to admit that in spite of everything, she was enjoying
herself, at least as much as could be expected under the circumstances.
Before 'seeing the sights' as Carter had put it, they had stopped at a
dining establishment of some sort. Aeryn had been surprised at the
nature of the place. Her time in the Uncharted Territories had not
prepared her for large numbers of people simply enjoying themselves, at
least not this way. There were families and children everywhere,
apparently without any concerns beyond enjoying a meal. Nothing in her
past had really prepared her for this, and she felt a vague sense of
jealousy at some of what she saw. 

It was at that point that the one disturbing aspect of her excursion
had started. People, mostly men, kept staring at her. She had asked
Carter about that only to receive an incredulous look. 

"You're kidding, right? I guess you Peacekeepers must have some very
different attitudes about some things." 

That was all the explanation she had been given, and she still had no
idea what it meant. 

Their next stop had been a large complex housing various Earth animals.
Carter called it the National Zoo. At first, Aeryn objected to the idea
of keeping these creatures in captivity, but she learned that part of
the function of the place was conservation. The variety of animal life
was astounding, and Aeryn was immediately taken with some of the larger

Things were going well until she came across something called a giant
toad that looked not entirely unlike Rygel. The audio description even
said it would eat anything that it could fit into its mouth. She smiled
inwardly at that and decided that she would have to tell the little
slug about it, if she ever saw him again. Of course, she probably never
would see him or anyone on Moya again. Even if everything went
according to plan with John, and she would not even entertain the
alternative, Aeryn realized that her life had taken another turn. 

After the zoo, they traveled to the center of government and looked at
some buildings and monuments. None of this really interested Aeryn. She
was much more interested in the people around her. There were huge
crowds doing exactly what she was doing. It gave her a sense of
connection and of belonging that was very comforting. She would have
preferred to share this first exposure to his people with John, but she
appreciated it nonetheless. She couldn't wait to tell him about it. 

Carter took her to a collection of buildings called the Smithsonian
Institution. Apparently, this was an archival facility of some sort.
Aeryn was fascinated by some of what she saw and utterly bored by the
rest. In one of the building were large skeletons of extinct animals.
The animals themselves were not so exceptional. She had seen things as
strange or stranger. What fascinated her was the extent to which humans
had gone to preserve their past. Peacekeepers had very little sense of
their own history. Almost nothing had been taught to her except for the
names of a few battles and heroes, and she had learned from personal
experience that not even the little she had been taught could be

The exhibit outlining the evolutionary history of humans was
fascinating. She would have to tell John about that too. It was hard to
believe that he was first cousin to some of the creatures she had seen
in that zoo. 

It was soon after this that she had embarrassed herself a little. She
came across a display with a green figure. It looked vaguely familiar
so she took a good look at it. Her sudden finger pointing and cry of
alarm had attracted exactly the sort of attention they had been hoping
to avoid. Their two escorts almost drew their weapons. Carter had come
up to her and said, "Aeryn, that's just Kermit," And then proceeded to
explain. How the frell was she supposed to know that the thing had
never been alive in the first place. Her only experience of it had been
from the instructional software Carter had given her. 

They stood now in a building that seemed dedicated to technology, if
one could call it that. There were various flying craft and pieces of
equipment, none of which seemed to approach even John's ship. Aeryn was
thoroughly unimpressed. 

"I can understand the extinct creatures and the historical documents
and even the stones and gems, but I don't understand this. All of this
technology is far more primitive than what you use now. Why keep
something like that," she pointed towards the ceiling at a cloth
covered, wooden craft, "around for thousands of cycles." 

"Thousands of cycles? Aeryn, that thing up there is almost exactly 100
years old. I guess this is something you and John never talked about,
not that there's a lot of reason it would have come up. Everything you
see in this building is less than 100 years old." 

"Wait. You're telling me that your people went from that to the
technology in John's module in less than 100 cycles?" 

"Yeah. That takes a lot of our 'guests' by surprise. We've noticed in
interacting with more advanced species that a lot of them tend to
progress much more steadily and slowly than we have. The Goa'uld are an
exception, but they stole what they have, and even the Tollan had a
massive head start. I guess the difference is that we tend to take
blind leaps where other people think things through a little more
carefully. Sometimes we hit on things that someone else might dismiss
out of hand." 

Aeryn looked around the building again with a newfound appreciation of
what she was seeing. Perhaps four and a half cycles with John should
have prepared her for this. It had been a long time since she had
underestimated him. The past few days had been a good indicator, but
now she decided definitively that it would be best not to underestimate
his people either. 


Aeryn was pouring over the file Carter had given her an arn earlier. 

She was making rapid progress with English. She could now sound out
simple words without much difficulty, although she soon discovered that
some things defied the rules and made no sense at all. Her vocabulary
was developing as well and had been immeasurably aided by Carter's most
recent contribution to her studies. It was a dictionary for children
which associated words with images. Of course, many of the images made
no sense, but enough of them did to give her a sense of accomplishment.
English grammar, even the most rudimentary structures, still defeated
her, but she was determined that she would manage it eventually. The
last four cycles had taught her that there was very little she couldn't
manage once she put her mind to it. 

Aeryn had also been introduced to the internet. There was very little
she could do at this stage, since she still couldn't read. However, she
could write out words of interest and was often rewarded with related
images. The enormous volume of information available for public
consumption had come as quite a surprise. With a little help from
Carter, she had tried to search for a number of the things she saw
during her excursion of the previous day. On a whim, she had also tried
a search on the first English words she had ever seen, Farscape, IASA
and John Crichton. She was rewarded with a number of documents showing
John during various stages of his training and a few items that
probably reported his death. That had inspired her to ask for the
documents she was now reviewing. 

To Aeryn's surprise, Carter was able to supply a very thick file on
John. It seemed that in the past few weekens, the SGC had collected
everything they could about him. There were many written documents that
meant nothing, but there was also a large collection of photographs.
There were images of John as a child with his family, as a young man in
various settings including some sort of ceremony, and many images of
him only slightly younger than he was now. 

The one thing that made the greatest impact on her, even though she had
always known it on an intellectual level, was just how far these images
were removed from the life he had been living. She regretted not
understanding in the early days just how hard an adjustment he had
needed to make. Aeryn had made her own adjustments, of course, and they
were just as dramatic, but at least she had the luxury of doing them in
a world she understood. 

Among the various pictures, Aeryn immediately recognized several of
John's father, and from context, she was able to pick out his mother
and sisters. There was a man about John's age who featured prominently
throughout. She guessed that this must be DK. In many of the later
images, there was also a very attractive woman, and from the rather
obvious nature of her relationship with John, this had to be Alex.
Aeryn felt an unexpected wave of jealousy, which the rational part of
her mind told her was ridiculous. As uncharitable as it seemed, the
first thing that came to mind was, "That little blonde trelk wouldn't
have survived two solar days out there." 


Ten years earlier, some recruiter had told him that joining the
military would let him see the world. He certainly hadn't counted on
this. Sgt. Ramirez was hiding in an alleyway on an alien planet, his
only way home a ship piloted by a different set of aliens. 

His four man team had been inserted by the Tok'ra two days earlier.
They had split up immediately to concentrate on different areas of the
city. Since they didn't speak or understand the language, they were
under orders to avoid all contact, operating at night and fading into
the shadows during the day. At least the other three did. His job was
different. He had the tracking instrument mated to Dr. Jackson's

Ramirez had found them on his first day here. Jackson transmitted 12
minutes after local noon. He had their hideout in sight less than an
hour after that, just in time to see the Brinisi woman, Sa'di,
returning from somewhere with a bundle. He had watched the little house
for the remainder of the day until she emerged again near dusk. 

She was good. No obvious route, constant changes in direction, and he
thought she had almost spotted him at one point. Almost an hour after
setting out on a journey that should have taken 20 minutes, she had met
with a Peacekeeper officer. He had gotten as close as he dared and took
a number of photographs with the miniature camera he carried. 

When she headed back, Ramirez hadn't followed. One close call was more
than enough. He returned to the house by a different route, and
continued to observe. Sa'di followed roughly the same schedule each
day, and it seemed the transmissions always occurred when she was away.
He only hoped that Jackson was following protocol and hadn't told her
about the transmitter. Today was his last day. Tonight the team would
meet at the rendezvous point outside the city to be picked up by the


These past days had been Aeryn Sun's least frustrating since coming to
Earth. Even the short trip to Washington had been constantly attended
by worry for John. Recently there had been no time for worry, at least
during the day. The Tok'ra had transmitted schematics of the city and
gate site right after arriving at Brinisa. The humans had then quickly
set up a mockup of both the gate site and the likeliest location of
Peacekeeper headquarters. Even though Aeryn and SG1 would be conducting
the search for the schematics and the rescue, they trained with the two
assault teams as a contingency. 

If SG1 had impressed her, the teams assigned to the raids astounded
her. Physically, they were no more fit, and probably less so, than
Peacekeeper commandos. Man to man, she would have given herself the
advantage against nearly any of them. However, their level of
coordination was something Aeryn had never imagined in a lifetime of
military service. 

If her days were now too busy to think much about John, she more than
made up for it at night. The combination of exhaustion from training
and the overwhelming worry that attacked her as soon as the training
ended each day had taken a toll. She made less progress in her studies
now, but she refused to give up. Instead, she doubled her efforts to
make up for the decrease in efficiency. 

As she tackled the bewildering structure of yet another simple English
sentence, she heard a knock at the door. There were only two people who
knocked at her door, and she had learned to tell them apart. 

"Come in, Teal'c." 

"Aeryn Sun, how are you this evening?" 

"I'm fine. I'm just trying to learn this frelling language." 

"I fear I cannot offer advice in this area. My nanites greatly
facilitated my efforts to read the language of the Tau'ri." 

"It doesn't matter. I'll manage. What did you want to see me about?" 

"I have news. The operatives whom the Tok'ra inserted into the Brinisi
capital transmitted their report to the staging area moments ago and it
is now being relayed through the Stargate. It seems that there is some
word on the Daniel Jackson and John Crichton, although I do not yet
know the details. Your presence is requested in the gate room." 

Aeryn jumped to her feet and raced out the door saying, "Why the frell
didn't you say that in the first place?" 


It took only a few minutes to transmit the surveillance team's report
through the gate, but Aeryn could barely contain herself. Copies were
made and distributed to General Hammond, SG1 and the leaders of the two
assault teams. Aeryn received a copy as well, but merely as a courtesy.
Her language skills were far from equal to the task, so she had to wait
for the briefing before she could find out about John. At least Carter
had skimmed the report and let her know that John and Daniel were still
out of Peacekeeper hands. The following hour was an exercise in
frustration as Aeryn waited for the humans to read and absorb the
report. She felt supreme relief that John was still safe, but became
more anxious for details with every passing minute. 

The first order of business was the primary mission objective. They now
knew with certainty that the Peacekeepers were headquartered in the
Brinisi military complex, and they had detailed diagrams of both the
complex and the gate site. From SG1's experience as detainees, they
also had some idea of the internal layout of the base. The distribution
and movement of Peacekeeper troops left a few windows of opportunity
during which both objectives were lightly guarded and reinforcement
would take some time to arrive. The Peacekeepers were clearly not
expecting anything from what little remained of the local forces. There
were random attacks now and then, but these were disorganized and very
small scale, usually against individual Peacekeepers. Aeryn found
herself on the receiving end of a number of questions she had already
answered many times about standard Peacekeeper procedures during an

Once the details had been presented, preliminary plans were quickly
made for the strikes to be conducted in parallel at local dawn. The
base was far enough removed from the population centers of the city to
allow for use of Naquadah enriched high explosives and incendiary
devices. They would simply burn the relevant buildings and everything
in them to the ground. The gate site would receive similar attention.
The gate itself could not be damaged without using enough force to
destroy the city, so they would destroy the control mechanisms and all
related artifacts. A dialing device would take long enough to
reconstruct and only with considerable luck, but if the Peacekeepers
had no information on how to calculate local gate coordinates, they
could never operate the relativistic weapon even if they found a second
gate. Furthermore, no information on the coordinate system meant that
the Peacekeepers could not use the gate to threaten anyone else by
transporting troops. Earth was safe from such an attack, but other
worlds might not be. The specifics would be worked out by the assault
teams over the next two days, and more intensive training would begin

The next topic of discussion was the possibility of retrieving the
schematics for the relativistic weapon. They suspected that these were
being kept at Peacekeeper headquarters, but finding them without more
specific information would be impossible. 

"That brings us to Daniel and Crichton, and these two," said O'Neill as
he placed a photograph of a Brinisi woman and a Peacekeeper at the
center of the conference table. 

Aeryn had been growing increasingly impatient until she heard mention
of John's name and then saw the picture. 

"What the frell is this?" 

Understanding the gist of Aeryn's exclamation without need for
translation, O'Neil responded, "It seems you were right about that
Sa'di woman. She meets this guy every day and passes something to him
and takes something back to Daniel and Crichton." 

"Then she has betrayed her own people to the Peacekeepers?" asked

"She didn't betray a thing. I know him. That's Lt. Braca, Scorpius'
second in command. Look at the picture. He's standing at frelling
attention. That means she's a Peacekeeper and outranks him." 

"So she's a spy? That tracks with the firefight in the Brinisi gate
room being staged and what you said about her triggering the fake
explosives. Our man on the ground also says that she doesn't operate
like an amateur." O'Neill continued, "But why go to the trouble?" 

"It kind of makes sense, sir. She has access to the schematics, and she
has the one person who can translate them and someone who can interpret
them directly. It might be more efficient to gain their trust than to
use coercion. That bit of playacting in the gate room would have been
part of it." 

O'Neill considered this for a few moments. "O.k. We have a target then.
We can get information on the schematics and about Daniel and Jackson
at the same time." 

"Are you suggesting that we seize this woman, Colonel?" 

"No, sir. That would arouse too much suspicion and guarantee that the
Peacekeepers pick up our people right away. I mean him," he said
pointing at Braca. "You said you know him, Aeryn. What can you tell

She spoke through Carter. "He was my superior officer when I was a
Pleisar. He is an ambitious functionary, competent enough, but nothing



Braca was off duty. He was a creature of habit and often spent an arn
or two every night at the same local tavern. The food was better than
what he was used to in the fleet, they had passable raslak, and the
local females who had taken to fraternizing with the occupying forces
often congregated here. 

As he headed back to the temporary headquarters and another encounter
with the abomination, his thoughts were elsewhere. Calis had said that
one of the humans could be seized soon. Too bad it wasn't Crichton. He
owed that one. 

The street was mostly desolate with only a few locals lounging about. A
Brinisi brushed against him and he turned and shoved him aside roughly,
saying, "Watch where you're frelling go...." 

He was unable to complete the thought much less the sentence as he felt
someone come up behind him and cover his mouth, just as the first
Brinisi lunged forward and touched something to his side. He felt a
sharp jolt and everything went black. 


As he came to, he felt a sharp pain in his head and noticed that his
hand was bandaged. He was on a vessel of some kind, a very advanced
vessel by the look of things. There were five men. Four of them dressed
in Brinisi clothing and one who looked different. When they spoke to
one another, he realized that the fifth man also sounded very
different. One of them noticed him. 

"Sir, it looks like our guest is awake." 

"So it seems, Sergeant. Lt. Braca, I presume. I'm Captain Richard
Sorensen, United States Marine Corp., but I guess that means nothing to
you. O.k. then, I'm from Earth." The man, the human Braca realized, was
smiling at him and speaking in a carefree tone. 

He tried to control himself, but Braca knew that he was staring wide
eyed like an idiot. 

"Relax Lieutenant. We're going to have a nice, quiet flight, and then
you're going to take a little trip to Earth. There are some people who
want to talk to you." 

Braca started to protest that his absence would be noticed and that
these humans would be caught in no time. 

"I have no idea what you just said. No microbes you see. But I can
guess. Don't worry about your friends missing you. They think you're
dead. You know there have been a few attacks on Peacekeepers here and
there. Well, guess what. You are a victim of one of them, and we made
sure there were a couple of witnesses. You were stabbed, Lieutenant,
and the culprits were lazy enough to leave behind the knife with your
blood all over it." He pointed to Braca's bandaged hand. "At least they
had the presence of mind to dispose of your body before the patrols
found you too soon." 

Braca was beginning to panic. He looked around frantically, hoping to
strike out. 

"Before you do something stupid, let me assure you that I have no
qualms about hurting you, Lieutenant. I saw what your people have been
doing to the locals on that planet. Let's just say I'm not your biggest
fan right now." The smile never left the human's face. 

Braca felt himself deflate instantly. 


Calis was furious. Braca had missed their appointment and she was
forced to go and talk to Scorpius in person. On top of that, he had
kept her waiting nearly half an arn. She put on a neutral face so that
her disgust wouldn't show. 

"Sir, Lt. Braca never showed. I suggest severe punishment...." 

"That won't be necessary, Commander. Braca is no longer in a position
to learn anything from a reprimand." 

Calis just waited. She might have to obey this monstrosity, but she
wouldn't engage it in any more conversation than necessary. 

Scorpius ignored her silence and continued. "It seems that the
Lieutenant was a bit careless last night. He was attacked by two
Brinisi and killed. The body hasn't been recovered, but we have several
witnesses and a weapon with blood stains. The DNA matches Braca." 

Calis absorbed this information with no reaction. "I need a new liaison

"Yes, and I need a new second in command. This is most inconvenient." 


Aeryn waited alongside Hammond, SG1 and half a dozen human soldiers
with their weapons trained at the gate. The now familiar cascade effect
was followed by two figures emerging, one with his wrists bound and
another with a drawn sidearm. 

"Sir, reporting with the prisoner." 

"Thank you, Captain. Any trouble?" 

"No, sir. It went exactly as planned." 

"Very well, escort him to a holding cell." 

"Just a moment," Aeryn interrupted before Braca could be taken away. 

She walked up to him casually, stood before him, and punched him in the
stomach hard enough to drop him to his knees, coughing uncontrollably. 

Hammond objected immediately. "Officer Sun, we do not treat our
prisoners in that manner." 

"My apologies, sir. I just want him to know where he stands." She said
that knowing the general couldn't understand her. It didn't matter,
since it was intended for Braca's ears. 


One day you're doing your job and minding your own business. The next
day, you're the prisoner of a group of primitives on some planet almost
no one has ever heard of. As Braca paced back and forth in his small
cell, he looked once again towards the outer door. The guard was still
there, armed and motionless. He had ranted and raved at him at first,
but there had been no reaction. After an arn or so of confinement,
Braca had tried to regain some of his composure. The past day had been
very disorienting, and he realized that he wasn't acquitting himself
very well. Of course, he had never been in a position like this, and he
told himself that his early panic had been understandable. After all,
if Crichton was any indication, his people were insane. He had no idea
what they might do to him. 

He had no way of telling time, but he guessed that he had been here at
least three arns. He heard footsteps in the adjoining hallway and felt
the panic start to rise again. 

Four people entered the room. He recognized Aeryn Sun immediately. The
other three he remembered from the firefight in the Brinisi portal
chamber. One of them addressed him. 

"I'm Colonel O'Neill. We have a few questions we want to ask you,

"Go frell yourself, human! You get nothing from me." 

At that, Sun lunged towards him, and he instinctively withdrew a few
paces. Already, this was not going well. 

O'Neill hadn't needed a translation of that outburst; the point was
obvious. "Let's dispense with the false bravado, Braca. You're not in
the best position right now, but there is a way you can get yourself
out of this. We have a little proposition for you. Carter." 

"We want details on the internal layout of your base and the location
of the disks you removed from the Brinisi gate chamber. In exchange, we
take you back to Brinisa, and let you go. As far as anyone knows, you
were attacked by some locals. How you survived and got back is between
you and your superiors." 

"You expect me to believe that you're just going to let me go?" 

"Believe what you want Lieutenant, but it's your only option. The
alternative is to spend the rest of your life in confinement on Earth.
We," she pointed around the room to indicate the four present, "won't
hurt you, but others might not be so patient." 

The three humans seemed calm enough to Braca, but at the mention of
these "others", he notices a cold smile descend on Sun's face. 

O'Neill took over from Carter. "It's a simple enough deal, Braca. You
give us some information, and you get your life back, assuming you can
talk fast enough with your own people. You don't, and at best you spend
the rest of it in a little room like this. At worst, someone decides to
hand you over to NID. They've been wanting to get their hands on an
alien for years." 

Braca glanced at Sun but saw no reaction to O'Neill's last statement. 

"We'll give you a little time to think about it." 

Time. He didn't need any frelling time. If it came down to a choice
between him and betraying that Scarren monstrosity, then there was no
choice. He didn't for an instant believe that the humans would just
keep him locked up, and he didn't need details to understand what
O'Neill was implying about this NID. They would get him the instant he
refused to help. He didn't believe that they would just let him go, but
maybe there was a chance for better treatment if he cooperated. 

"Fine, I'll tell you what you want." 

The disgust on Sun's face was unmistakable. Why should he care? She was
a traitor, a real one, not like him. She had turned her back on her
people for the sake of some alien. He knew about her relationship with
Crichton, and that disgusted him almost as much as Scorpius. Sex with
an alien, especially one who looked Sebacean, was one thing, but the
sort of commitment she had made was a violation of every belief that
had been instilled in him, and in her, since childhood. 

Holding up an image, Sun said in a voice dripping with menace, "Tell me
everything about her." It was a picture of him with Commander Calis.
When had they managed to take that? 

He still tried to maintain a semblance of pride. "I said I would
cooperate with the humans. That doesn't apply to you, traitor." 

"I think I can get them to leave me alone with you for half an arn.
Would it apply then?" 

He didn't need this dren. Fine, if she wanted to know about Calis, he
would tell her about Calis. "That is Commander Serina Calis. She's 12th

"A disruptor?" 

He nodded. 

"What is she doing with the humans?" 

"They think she's keeping them safe. She's told them that she has
contacts who hid the disks from the gate chamber. She gets a few to the
humans every couple of days. They translate, and she records the
translations and passes them back to us." 

"So they're safe for now." 

Braca nodded, "Yes." But he had obviously given something away because
Sun was eyeing him suspiciously. 

"You are not going anywhere until we recover Crichton and Jackson. If
you are holding anything back, I swear that I will gut you myself." 

"She....the translations are almost finished. She's going to have
Jackson taken after that. She wants to spend some more time with
Crichton to get whatever additional information she can on the weapon.
She suspects that they might be holding something back from her." 

Sun nodded and left the room. That left him with the three humans, and
the questions started in earnest. 


"You want me to come with you?" 

"Yes. We don't have a choice. The next segment is not on one of those
disks and it's too large to carry in public. It must have been
something you missed when you searched the chamber." 

"And you're sure it has something to do with the weapon?" 

"The markings look just like the other ones. We don't know for sure,
but it seems likely." 

Jackson shared a look with Crichton. If Sa'di was working with the
Peacekeepers, then they were already under surveillance. If he showed a
reluctance to accompany her now, capture would be inevitable. He had no
idea what he was being lead into, but he had to play along. 

When Sa'di wasn't looking, he made a point of catching Crichton's eye
and glancing at the backpack containing the transmitter. There was a
barely perceptible nod from Crichton. 

He followed her out into the street and through a series of alleyways.
She led him into a small building. Inside were four Peacekeepers, who
immediately seized him. 

"Take him to headquarters. See to it that he isn't mistreated for now."

Turning to Jackson, Sa'di said, "I will see you again, human, if
there's anything left of you." 

Jackson did his best to look surprised. Their only chance now was
Crichton. There had to be a reason Sa'di had separated them, and the
longer he could conceal the fact that they had suspected her, the
longer Crichton would remain relatively safe. 

The last thing he remembered was one of the Peacekeepers moving as if
to strike him. 


He didn't know how long he had been here or where exactly here was. It
was some place within the Brinisi detention center but very unlike the
cell he had earlier shared with his teammates and Crichton and Aeryn.
There was a single diffuse light offering barely enough illumination to
see from one end of the small room to the other. The room itself was
totally empty and devoid of any features but a waste facility and a
continuously flowing water source in one corner. There were no
furnishings and the floor was covered with a widely spaced mesh so that
sleeping was difficult at best. Meals consisted of a tasteless bread-
like mass inserted through a slot near the floor. He was certain that
they were feeding him on nothing approaching a regular schedule. 

Jackson had gone through the orientation sessions on torture and
psychological manipulation. He knew that this was preparation. They
were depriving him of external stimuli and trying to disorient him
prior to interrogation. He had no way of judging the amount of time
that had passed or even the time of day, and he had been allowed no
contact with his captors. Even the sound of his own voice was muted by
the acoustics of the room and the running water. Knowing what they were
doing didn't help much. He could feel the despair beginning to settle. 

There had been no physical coercion, but he suspected that wasn't too
far off. He paced back an forth, trying to distract himself by reciting
passages from the Book of the Dead. "Let their experts have some fun
with that," he thought absentmindedly. Without warning, the lights went
off and he heard several people enter his cell. They bound his hands
and placed a hood over his head. He was pushed into the hallway roughly
and guided through what seemed like a maze of corridors. No one said a

Finally, he was led into a chamber and seated in a chair. Straps were
placed on his arms, legs, waist and chest, firmly securing him in
place. The hood was removed, and he heard everyone filed out of the
room behind him. There followed absolute silence for at least 5 minutes
until a single set of footsteps sounded loudly as they approached the

Someone entered and closed the door. The figure stepped in front of him
and spoke. 

"Dr. Jackson. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Scorpius. I
expect John has told you a few things about me." 

"A few." 

Scorpius smiled. "We have some things to discuss regarding your
translations. It is a shame that our people have never developed any
real tradition of linguistics. It's the microbes you see. The language
on these disks has proved especially difficult, so your help has been
greatly appreciated. However, we are not fools, and it has become clear
that there are some inconsistencies in your work. I suspect Commander
Calis was less convincing than she thinks. How long have you suspected

"I don't know what you're talking about. Sa'di led me to you. That's
all I know. I'm guessing you have her family." 

"Come now, Daniel, there's no point in lying to me." 

Scorpius walked over to some sort of instrument panel. 

"No matter. We will have many fruitful discussions over the next few
days. It's a pity I don't have access to an Aurora Chair here. The
Brinisi really are quite primitive in some areas. Nevertheless, we will
make due with what is at hand." 

He did something on the panel and a screen descended before Daniel. A
red dot began moving erratically on the screen. There was no fixed
pattern or speed to the movement. 

"I require your undivided attention during our conversations. You will
track that marker with your eyes at all times. Failure to do so will
result in ... correction. Allow me to demonstrate." 

Daniel felts a sharp jolt go through his body. It was enough to make
him mildly nauseous, but he was able to contain himself and said

"The charge is random, but the as we continue to talk, the average
intensity will increase. It is to your advantage to see that we
conclude our discussions early. Once I have what I need, I will release
you. I'm sure John has already told you that I released him once we
extracted the wormhole information from his brain. You have no reason
to distrust me." 

"I think I'll reserve judgment on that for now." 

Scorpius smiled again. "As you wish. Let's begin. Now remember, you
must track that red dot at all times. It's simply a means of assuring
that I have your attention." 

"Really. You mean it's not a pointless, repetitive task designed to
distance you from the source of the pain and make me blame myself

"Oh, very good, Daniel. But if you know that, you also know that in the
long run it doesn't matter that you know. Shall we begin?" With that,
he did something else to the panel, and a green square appeared at the
center of Jackson's vision. The square and the dot were misaligned, and
again Jackson felt something. This time, it was anything but mild. He
could barely hear Scorpius say, "Remember to Track the dot, Daniel,"
over the sound of his own scream. 


They had been on the run for four days. They hid where they could, no
longer staying in any one spot overnight. The intensity of the patrols
had increased dramatically and they had nearly been caught a few times.
Sa'di was with him almost constantly now, and he had missed the
transmission twice already. Crichton still didn't know exactly what to
make of her. 

After Jackson's loss, she had appeared inconsolable. She blamed herself
at every opportunity for his death. Crichton didn't trust her, and for
all he knew, Daniel was still alive and in Peacekeeper hands. However,
he couldn't be sure of anything. There was still a chance that Sa'di
was exactly who she claimed to be and that they had managed to elude
the Peacekeepers all these weeks by sheer luck. 

They were hiding in a small room behind a market in the commerce
district. Sa'di claimed to know the owner. 

"I'm afraid they can't offer us much to eat. All I could get is two
cups of soup." 

She handed one to Crichton and sat next to him, leaning against his
shoulder. She had been doing that a lot, making physical contact at
every opportunity and appearing to take strength from him when she did
so. Crichton hadn't yet made a move to stop this. If her grief was
legitimate, then she needed the comfort. If not, he couldn't afford to
make her suspicious. They ate in silence. 

Afterwards, she leaned in a little so that she was resting entirely on
his shoulder with her head against his cheek. For Crichton, it was
simply another day stuck with what might be a cold blooded killer and
unsure when or even if help would arrive. He thought of Aeryn to
distract himself. He rarely thought of anything else, but these days he
made an effort not to let Sa'di know that. 


Aeryn again marveled at her surroundings. It wasn't that they were
especially luxurious. She had seen luxury, from the casual and carefree
opulence of the Royal Planet, to the more regimented decadence in which
high ranking Peacekeepers indulged. This was different. It was
comfortable and welcoming in a way she had never experienced. This was
a home. 

What was truly incongruous was that this was Samantha Carter's home.
She was a member of a military organization, granted a very different
one from the one Aeryn had once served, but still. It had not occurred
to her that Carter had a life outside that military. She should have
suspected that things worked differently on Earth. How else would John
have become involved with her in the past? Aeryn had simply not
possessed the necessary mental framework to make the connection. 

She had been here for the past three days. Soon after she was given
permission to leave Cheyenne mountain, Carter had offered to let her
stay with her. Aeryn had assumed this meant moving to officers quarters
in some nearby base somewhere and had accepted as much for the change
in routine as for the company. She had been unprepared for the drive
into town and Carter's apartment, as she called it. She actually lived
freely among civilians and had a decidedly non-military life for part
of the day. 

The experience had been eye opening for Aeryn. Her days were still
spent at the SGC training for the upcoming mission, but the past few
nights had been quite different. She learned more in a few days than
she had in weekens of study. The day to day details of life on Earth
were not recorded in any book or video, and Aeryn found many things

The purchase and preparation of food had come as something of a
surprise. She had become accustomed to it on Moya but never expected it
of Carter. Her Peacekeeper upbringing still led her to think of many
things as institutional matters, to be dealt with by techs or menial
laborers. Of course, John had explained some of this to her, and
although she had listened carefully, she saw now that some things had
never really registered. 

Carter's home was overflowing with books. Most were technical things
that Aeryn would not have understood even if she could read them. The
rest were eclectic enough that Aeryn felt a stab of jealousy at having
been deprived of so much for so long. There was also music, some of
which Aeryn recognized from her nightly studies in the SGC, but most of
which she had never heard. If Carter's reaction was any indication,
Aeryn's taste in human music was rather atypical. Carter had apparently
approved of Rachmaninoff and the Beatles, but what was wrong with Barry
Manilow anyway? Yesterday, Aeryn had remembered something that John
sometimes talked about. Carter purchased a few CDs after she mentioned
it, and she was now listening to Charlie Parker. She found it very
confusing, and decided she would have to talk to John about it. That
brought her back to more important matters. 

Everything was finally ready. Tomorrow was the day. 

"How are the final preparations going?" she asked Carter. 

"Everything's in place. The Tok'ra have everything assembled. It's
lucky we got as much out of them as we have." 

"Any last minute modifications?" 

"No. The reconnaissance team goes in one day in advance, evaluates the
situation and finds Daniel and John. We go in the following day. The
assault teams hit the two targets, and we improvise as necessary." 

Aeryn found herself unusually nervous. She had been on countless
missions as dangerous as this, but the stakes had never been higher for
her. Unlike the other times she had risked herself for John, the
extended separation and uncertainty about his fate added to her nerves.

"Do you think they're alright?" 

Aeryn felt almost childish for asking, but she found that she needed
some reassurance. 

"They both know what they're doing, Aeryn, and they're both smart. I
bet they caught on to the disruptor right away." 

Aeryn bristled at the mention of Sa'di or whatever her name was.
Thoughts of a certain other disruptor followed unbidden, but that was
then. She trusted John completely, and her only worry was about the
threat she posed. She swore that if that trelk hurt him, she would cut
her heart out. She would probably do that anyway. 

Carter seemed to sense the shift in her mood and interrupted her train
of though. 

"So, once we get them back, what are you plans?" 


"You and John must have talked about what you were going to do once you
got back to Earth." 

"No. Not really. There wasn't a lot of time on Brinisa. We have talked
about it now and then over the cycles, but it didn't really mean
anything. There didn't seem to be any way for John to get back until
the Stargate. I suppose he'll have to start a new life of some sort,
now that he is cut off from his past." 

"He? You mean the two of you, right?" 

"Of course." Did that sound as pitiful to Carter as it did to her? From
the look she gave her, apparently it did. 

"Aeryn, I don't know what you think is going to happen once the two of
you are on Earth, but like I've said, I know John. I may not know who
he's become in the past four years, but that's not the John you're
worried about, is it? You think that once he settles back into some
kind of life on Earth, things might be different. Well, the John I know
*is* the one who had a life on Earth, and I can tell you that I have
never before seen him the way he is with you. He loves you Aeryn, and
that's not something that comes easily to him. I think he's only really
been in love once before, and I never once saw him look at her the way
he looks at you." 

Aeryn smiled inwardly. She knew all this on some level, but there were
always nagging insecurities, and Carters words helped more than she
could have anticipated. 


Now his only measure of time was the number of sessions he had endured
with Scorpius. There had been eight so far. There was no fixed schedule
and he couldn't tell if any two sessions were half an hour or half a
week apart. He never remembered the end of any of them. Each apparently
ended like the last, with him screaming himself into exhaustion and
eventually passing out only to find himself back in his cell. 

Each time was harder than the last. Concentrating on the display was
becoming more than he could bear and the physical punishment associated
with failure was becoming more intensive as promised. The points where
the straps made contact with his flesh were now little more than open
wounds, and he wasn't certain how much internal damage the shocks were
doing. He just knew that it hurt to move and that anything more than
shallow breaths caused a sharp, stabbing pain. 

He couldn't hold out much longer; he knew that. Scorpius was always so
insistent and so unnaturally calm. It was becoming harder not to give
in to the confident, neutral voice and the promises of release. Already
he had started to let things slip. He had long since revealed that the
translations were intentionally botched and had started to supply
corrections. He may have said something about suspecting Sa'di, but he
wasn't sure. So far, he had said nothing about the transmitter. He had
to keep that hidden as long as possible. He tried not to think of it at
all and instead focused on other secrets, so that those would be the
first to surface in the next round of questions. 


It was working. She was sure of it. John Crichton was coming around,
and soon she would have him. He allowed her to get close in a way that
he hadn't since he had first rejected her, and he barely mentioned
Aeryn Sun now. 

She brought up the weapon design as often as she dared while still
maintaining a casual air about it. He had clarified a few things that
had been omitted from Jackson's translation, but there were still
numerous points that needed to be addressed. Soon she wouldn't have to
worry about arousing suspicion. She was confident that would all
evaporate once they became intimate. He was a male after all, and in
her experience, that had always been the case. 

She was leaning against him again. He sat against a bare wall in their
current hideout, exhausted from the day of hiding and running. She
decided to take a chance. Moving a little closer, she slowly started to
rub her forehead along his cheek while gently stroking his arm. Instead
of relaxing into her as she had expected, he stiffened for a microt and
then essentially went limp, not pulling away, but not encouraging her

What the frell was that? She didn't know what to make of the reaction.
Had she misread him? Had he actually been trying to manipulate her
these past days? Or was he simply tired? She would back off for now,
but if this continued, there would be no point in carrying on with this


This was becoming ridiculous. They had been alone and on the run for
days now, yet he still refused to react in any way to her fairly
blatant advances. He had revealed a few things about Jackson's
translations, but now she wasn't sure if these were distortions as well
or if he had been doling out carefully planned bits of information. She
still didn't know whether it would be possible to form enough of a bond
with him for it to be worth all this effort. Now was the time to find

Subtlety hadn't worked. Perhaps something more overt was in order. It
clearly wasn't a matter of attraction. He had to have been attracted to
her. She knew how men had always reacted to her. If he suspected her
loyalties too strongly, then it was time to end the charade. However,
it might simply be that he was deluding himself in his sense of
obligation to Sun. If she pressed the issue rather than leaving him to
make a decision, he might give in. 

They had just settled into the basement of another non-descript
building belonging to one of her "friends". Calis watched as Crichton
look around appraisingly. 

"Well, it's not much, but at least it's better than that last ..." 

She didn't give him a chance to finish. Dropping any pretence of
weakness, she pushed him roughly against the near wall, pressed herself
into him and began to kiss him deeply. For a microt, she was certain he
would respond. He started to kiss back and placed his hands on her
shoulders. Then to her utter disbelief, he pushed her away. 

"Sa'di, we shouldn't. This is a really bad idea." 

"Why the frell not? It's not as if we have any hope of coming out of
this alive. We might as well take what little pleasure we can. I'm
attracted to you, and a microt ago you seemed interested too. So what's

For several microts, she saw indecision on his face. This settled into
a look of resolve mixed with resignation. He stepped away from her. 

"Look, it's not like that for me. I haven't given up hope yet, and even
if I had, it wouldn't change anything. I love Aeryn. It doesn't matter
if she's here or not or if I ever see her again. I won't betray her

He cut the sentence short, almost as if it should have ended in another
word. He continued. 

"I know we've both been under a lot of stress, Sa'di, and I'm sorry if
I did anything to mislead you in any way ..." 

The idiot was still talking, but she was no longer listening. 

"Oh, frell this!" 

She grabbed his shoulder, twisting it around, and struck him in the
solar plexus. As he began to double over, she struck again at the back
of his neck. He fell unconscious at her feet. 

"I suppose we have to do this the hard way now." 


Daniel Jackson no longer knew what he was saying. He might have been
babbling incoherently or he might have been revealing everything he had
ever learned while working at the SGC. All he knew for certain was that
Scorpius was with him and that he was screaming. 


It was completely irrational, but Aeryn had come to despise this. It
didn't seem to bother the humans, so she said nothing about it, but it
never felt right. She was born and raised in space and had traveled
between the stars her whole life, but not like this. This was simply

She had been through the gate only a few times, mainly to acclimate her
to the feeling. Carter had nearly had to shove her through once or
twice. This time, it was for real. The surveillance team had already
been on Brinisa for 20 hours now, and the mission would begin within
the day. 

She was dressed in a familiar uniform, although it felt quite different
and was made of different material. The humans had reproduced them to
her specification, and every member of the small strike force looked
like an officer in the Pleisars. She was dressed as a Lieutenant and
would do the early talking if any talking was necessary. 

Braca was with them, bound, under guard, and looking thoroughly
miserable. He would accompany them to Brinisa and remain on a Tok'ra
transport until the end of the mission and would then be dropped off at
the edge of the city. Aeryn was a little surprised that the humans had
decided to honor their agreement with him. Like Braca, she hadn't
really expected it. 

With the exception of Aeryn, who carried her pulse rifle and pistol,
the other members of the team were armed with a combination of human
projectile weapons and Goa'uld devices. In the past few weekens, Aeryn
had become thoroughly familiar with all of them. Most team members
carried FN P-90's as their primary weapon. These vaguely resembled
pulse rifles, and the similarity would work to their advantage. Teal'c
carried his staff weapon. Sidearms consisted of a combination of human
handguns and Goa'uld Zats. Each of the two strike forces was equipped
with a Barrett M82 sniper rifle. Aeryn had seen this weapon in action
and was certain it would penetrate the relatively light armor of most
Peacekeeper vessels. 

She looked around at the faces of the humans. Once again, the contrast
struck her. She had come to know these people over the past few
weekens, especially the members of SG1. They could be frivolous and
distracted at times, much like John, but now she saw only determination
and deadly seriousness. She had no question about their competence.
Having trained with them, she knew these people were very good indeed. 

The most recent report indicated that John and Jackson had transmitted
their location that day. The humans on the ground had tracked them to a
building on the outskirts of the city. As of their last contact, it
seemed that the humans and their Peacekeeper companion hadn't left the

O'Neill nodded to Carter who touched one of their two Asgard dialing
devices. The second was carried by Major Ealing, who would lead the
attack on the Brinisi gate. 

The Stargate came to life, and O'Neill simply said, "Let's get moving."

Aeryn hesitated a little again, closed her eyes and stepped through.
From this point out, failure was not an option. Soon she would be
reunited with John or she would die in the attempt. 


Crichton felt a throbbing pain behind his eyes. He started to open
them, but was having trouble focusing. A distant sounding voice began
to come through clearer and was just starting to make sense. 

"Welcome back," it said in a pleasant tone. 

He looked up and saw Sa'di seated on a crate opposite him. It was
Sa'di, but not Sa'di. She had altered her manner of dress when they
first went on the run, and that had been a noticeable change, but it
was nothing like this. Now she was a completely different person. Her
bearing, her movements, everything spoke of competence, strength and

Crichton tried to move. It was only then that he realized he was seated
on a sturdy chair. His legs were bound to its, his arms were tied
behind him and secured to the chair, his fingers were interlaced, and a
loop secured his thumbs together and back. There was also a tight
binding crisscrossing his chest. He wasn't going anywhere. 

"I considered leaving you free to see how much fight you had in you,
but this is better. There's no point in having you hurt yourself

"Sa'di, what are you doing? Get me out of this thing." 

"Drop the act, Crichton. I think you've known for some time that I'm
not who I seem, and if you didn't before, you do now. Allow me to
introduce myself properly." 

She stood up, at attention if Crichton was any judge. 

"Commander Serina Calis, 12th Disruptor Directorate." 

"You're a Peacekeeper? And a disruptor...." 

"Yes. I understand you have some ... experience with one of us. She
certainly had a few things to say about you. Pity I didn't get a chance
to confirm her observations myself." 

Crichton tried to ignore the implications of that. "What do you want
with me?" 

"What do you think? Information. I want to know everything you and
Jackson found out about the relativistic weapon. This is just a matter
of convenience, you understand. Scorpius has already extracted enough
information from Jackson to establish a translation base for the disks.
Our scientists will work out the rest with or without your help, but
since you have some experience with wormholes and went through the
translation with Jackson in detail, your perspective might prove
valuable in saving a little time." 

"Daniel is alive?" 

"Yes, although I imagine he wishes otherwise right now." 

She smiled, but it was a parody of a real smile. It never reached her
eyes. She stood and began to pace lightly. John glanced at the backpack
on the far side of the room when her back was turned. It didn't look as
though it had been disturbed, but she had probably searched it. With
any luck, she didn't recognize the components that made up the
transmitter when they were disassembled. He had managed a transmission
earlier that day, but that obviously wouldn't be happening any more. 

"Understand this, John. You are no longer necessary. However, your
cooperation might make things a little easier for you." 

"You mean easier for you. Not exactly at the top of my list of
priorities right now." 

She smiled again. "I was hoping you would say something like that." 

Sa'di or Serina, or whatever her name was, moved without warning and
struck him hard in the ribs. He started to cough uncontrollably. 

Once he had gained a little composure, he choked out, "That wasn't very
nice. Shouldn't you be taking me to Scorpy about now? I don't think he
would appreciate damaged good." 

"As I said, John. You are no longer necessary, and my rank affords me a
little latitude. Besides, I am curious about you. You are a very
strange creature." 

"I've heard that before." 

"So answer me this. Why did you really reject my advances? I don't
believe all that nonsense about Sun. Is it because you suspected my

"No. Well, yeah, but mainly it was the nonsense." 

She seemed to consider that for a few moments. 

"How very odd. You're not lying, are you? I can't imagine how such a
twisted situation could have developed. You I can understand. You're a
primitive. Sun is another matter. Perhaps they missed something during
the genetic screenings." 

"Yeah. They missed the fact that she has a soul. It's very un-
Peacekeeper. Take you for example." 

Calis chuckled at that. "As I said, you are intriguing. I regret not
having had the opportunity to have sex with you. Chatto's reports were
quite explicit about your encounter." 

He ignored the reference to his indiscretion of three cycles earlier.
"Wouldn't that contaminate you?" 

"Don't be foolish. I am a disruptor." 

Obviously in her mind, that was explanation enough. 

"Well, no point worrying about missed opportunities. Let's start, shall
we? You will begin by explaining the stabilization mechanism in detail.
How do you filter out the high frequency lateral instabilities while
maintaining a completely uniform field strength?" 

"I don't know. Maybe you pad the gate with food cubes." 

She backhanded him hard enough to draw blood, but there was no anger.
Her expression never changed. 

"You used to pull the wings of insects when you were a kid, didn't


Some of the details were different, but the feeling was the same. This
mixture of anticipation and eerie calm was something she had known
countless times in her former life. Aeryn was on a transport vessel,
albeit like nothing she had ever seen before, on her way to engage the
enemy, who this time were her own people. She was in the company of
fellow soldiers, but they were aliens she would have dismissed as
primitives just a handful of cycles ago. None of that seemed
significant now. The one difference that did matter to her was the
objective. As a Peacekeeper, combat had always been a matter of
following orders, of playing her small part for the greater good as she
perceived it then. It was probably how many of her present comrades
felt in their own, decidedly non-Peacekeeper way. For her, there were
no abstractions or greater goals. This was entirely personal. She was
here to get John back. 

Aeryn forced herself to focus on the present and on the broad outline
of the plan. The humans on this vessel would attack the Brinisi base
directly. Those on the other ship would attack the gate. O'Neill and
Carter would collect whatever they could from the base before it went
up. She and Teal'c would recover John and Jackson. They had received a
final report from the reconnaissance team microts earlier confirming
that no one had moved from the location of Jackson's last transmission.
The details had been worked out carefully, but everyone involved knew
that nothing like this ever went exactly according to plan. Even if
they performed flawlessly, luck, perhaps good but most likely bad,
would factor into things in unexpected ways. 

O'Neill interrupted her thoughts. 

"Listen up, everyone. We reach Brinisa in under an hour. Last chance to
review the basics." 

"Sorenson's people should already have explosives set up throughout the
Eastern quarter of the city. We know that's where off duty Peacekeepers
have been spending most of their time and where most of them are

"Ealing's team will intercept the morning replacement for the guard
detail at the gate. They know the route they're going to take and where
to hit them quickly and quietly. The explosives go off at about local
dawn, hopefully with a minimum of collateral damage. Ealing should be
arriving at the gate just about then. His people take out the guards
before anyone notices, take the gate room, set it up to burn to the
ground and get out through the gate. 

"With any luck, the explosions and whatever other trouble the recon
people can cause will divert some of the troops at the base towards the
gate and city proper. We blend into the general confusion, and head
into the base without attracting attention. Carter and I head to the
research labs Braca told us about. The rest of you place our little
presents throughout the building as planned. We get in and out in under
10 minutes and without anyone noticing. 

"Smith draws attention away from our exit with the Barrett. We scatter
and reassemble at the rendezvous point 40 minutes from the start of the
mission. Don't be late. We won't be waiting for stragglers. 

"While the rest of us are busy with all that, Aeryn and Teal'c snatch
Daniel and Crichton from Mata Hari. As far as we know, she's still
playing her part, so that should go pretty smoothly." 


Calis absently rubbed her knuckles. They were beginning to bruise. The
human had proved remarkably resilient. She had read Scorpius' reports
of his experience with the Aurora chair. Scorpius had attributed his
greater resistance compared to most Sebaceans to the differences in
brain chemistry and neural pathways. Calis suspected now that there was
a bit more to it. There was certainly more to Crichton than the past
few weekens with him had indicated. 

He was asleep now, or perhaps unconscious, but it was nothing she
couldn't rouse him from. It had given both him and her a small respite
and a little time to rest. She didn't want her own fatigue to show in
any way, and she didn't want to kill him accidentally. He hadn't really
revealed anything of use about the weapon. A few items had slipped out
here and there, but that was hardly the point. Jackson had already
given them enough of a starting point to make both humans redundant. 

Calis realized that this had started to become personal. She knew
objectively that her behavior was fast approaching the unprofessional,
but she allowed herself the indulgence this time. She would break this
alien before she killed him. It was curiosity, she told herself,
nothing more. 

She took a good look at him, almost as if for the first time since her
interrogation had started. She hadn't been subtle. Peacekeepers often
employed chemicals and advanced technology in these matters, but just
as often, they relied on more traditional methods. His face and upper
body sported multiple bruises and cuts, some deep. His eyes were almost
swollen shut. There were puncture wounds on his thighs and upper arms.
The last of these was accompanied by burn marks, both to cauterize and
to persuade. His breathing was labored, probably because of the two or
three ribs she had cracked. His right leg hung in an unnatural fashion.
That had been a mistake. He had lost consciousness when she broke it,
and it took considerable effort to bring him around again. His
shoulders were at an odd angle from where she had dislocated them.
Grinding bone against bone at the shoulder blades had proved an
interesting method of getting his attention. His hands looked a little
strange too because of the broken thumbs. 

He had been out for a few hundred microts. That was long enough. She
walked behind him, grabbed his shoulders and twisted. The resulting
scream was evidence enough that he was awake. 

She walked around to face him. 

"Did you have a refreshing nap, John?" 

His voice was hoarse from excessive use. 

"Yeah. Had a nice dream. You were in it. You, a deep pit and some

She smiled coldly at his irrelevancy. "I believe we were talking about
field strengths and accelerations." 

He gasped out an answer. "I told you what I know. There's nothing else
to say about it. You have to know that by now." 

"I will decide when I know what I need to know from you, John." 

His head shot up, and he smiled unexpectedly. The effect on that
battered face was disturbing, and Calis cursed herself for reacting
even a fraction. 

"This has nothing to do with the weapon does it? It's because I didn't
frell you." 

"Don't be an idiot." That had come out louder and faster than she had
intended. She quickly regained her composure before continuing. "As I
told you, I'm not expecting any great revelations from you, but
anything I get is better than nothing. I also want to see what you are
made of. Not very much, it would seem. No Peacekeeper would have broken
as easily as you have." 

"Oh, I don't think I'm broken just yet, do you? And I've met all kinds
of Peacekeepers." 

Calis ignored this. "Of course, if you had been sensible, none of this
would have been necessary. I guarantee you would have enjoyed yourself.
Instead, here you sit, bleeding and in pain. You see what your blind
allegiance to that traitorous trelk has earned you?" 

"So let me see if I've got this straight. My choices were torture or
sex with you .... I think I made the right decision." 

She drove her fist into his torso with all her considerable strength.
He blacked out again. 

"Frell ...." She had let the human get to her. This was becoming
counterproductive, and Crichton no longer served any real purpose. It
would be best to eliminate him now, but she decided not to make that
move in too much haste. It was almost morning, and she had been cooped
up in this basement for nearly three days. She needed to get some air.
His execution could wait for that. 


Ramirez had been watching the building for over 50 hours. There had
been one transmission and nothing after that. No one had left or
entered in all that time. Until now. The woman emerged alone. There was
something about her appearance that disturbed him. The assault teams
was scheduled to begin their strikes in just under 30 minutes. His
orders were to stay out of the way until Teal'c and Sun arrived, but
his instincts told him that something was seriously wrong and that
delaying would be a mistake. Despite the risk to himself, the captives
and the mission, he decided to take a chance. 

He waited until she was out of sight, hid the receiver, and headed for
the building. The doors were unlocked. He made his way inside, and a
quick inspection led him to the basement entrance. He went in
carefully, armed, like the rest of his team, with only a knife of local
manufacture. The risk of discovery by passing Peacekeeper patrols was
too great to allow anything else. 

He saw Crichton, whom he recognized from the briefings. He was clearly
in very bad shape and seemed to be unconscious. Jackson was nowhere in
sight. He tried to wake Crichton while carefully cutting through his
bonds. Crichton started to come out of it. 

"Hey, you awake? Come on. Get up. We have to get out of here. You just
need to hold on a little longer. They'll be coming any time now." 

For a moment he saw a look of hope and the shadow of a smile began to
form, but then Crichton's eyes focused on something to the right and
went wide. Ramirez spun around knife in hand, and lunged towards the
direction Crichton was looking. He was too slow. Calis was standing at
the entrance with a weapon pointed at his chest. He had only a moment
to register the absolute calm on her face as she fired, and then
everything went black. 


Teal'c was dressed in local clothing and carried his weapon like an
ordinary staff. He and Aeryn had made their way through the city within
sight of each other but far enough apart not to appear to be together.
Things had gone smoothly for the most part. The only incident had been
when one of the routine patrols had stopped Teal'c. Aeryn had managed
to overtake him from behind before they could ask him anything. The
patrol consisted of young Officers barely out training, and it had
taken little effort for "Lt. Sun" to berate them on their lack of
discipline and anything else she could think of. They were more than
happy to be elsewhere by the time Aeryn was done. 

They arrived at the location Sorenson had transmitted, only to find
that their contact was missing. Aeryn couldn't help feeling that things
had already started to go wrong. 

"Where the frell is he? Could he have panicked at the sight of a

"Sgt. Ramirez is a capable warrior. He would not have abandoned this
position without good reason." 

"So something went wrong. I say we head into the building now." 

"That would be unwise, Aeryn Sun. I too wish to rescue our companions,
but we cannot jeopardize the mission by revealing our presence too
soon." He glanced at his watch. "The explosives will detonate in 12
minutes. We must wait until then." 


"Who the frell was this, and what did he mean by 'They'll be coming any

Crichton said nothing. He had said nothing for nearly a third of an arn
as Calis carefully examined the body of the man she had just killed. He
seemed ordinary enough, dressed in the clothing of a Brinisi tradesman.
The only unusual thing about him was the knife he carried. Brinisi did
not normally carry weapons. Calis thought he might be a member of the
small resistance group that had sprung up, but how could he have known
about her or Crichton? 

"I know you haven't been in contact with any Brinisi, so how did he
know you were here, and why would he care?" 

Calis had a flash of intuition. The idea was preposterous, but she
hadn't advanced as far as she had by ignoring possibilities, however

She had read the medical reports on Crichton, and there was an easy way
to tell. She drew her knife and made a an incision along the abdomen.
It was messy, but squeamishness was not something most Peacekeepers had
in them. This was wrong. There was an unusual structure where the
paraphoram should be. Brinisi were almost identical to Sebaceans
internally, and this thing wasn't a Brinisi. 

She jumped to her feet, pulled out a communicator and contacted
Scorpius directly. 

"Sir, we have a situation..." 

Before she could say anything further, she, and probably everyone else
in the city, heard a series of loud explosions to the East. 


It would be dawn in nearly a quarter arn, and the platoon currently
guarding the entrance to the portal chamber was awaiting relief that
would never come. 

Seven men in Peacekeeper uniforms approached the guard detail from the
far side of the small valley. To the soldiers who had been standing in
the cold for arns, this was a welcome sight. At a distance, the P-90s
the newcomers carried looked like pulse rifles, and their approach was
timed so that getting a good look at those weapons would be the last
thing on anyone's mind by the time they were close enough for it to

A series of loud explosions sounded from somewhere in the city, in the
direction opposite the approach of their comrades. The Peacekeepers
were instantly on alert, weapons at the ready, but with their attention
focused in the wrong direction. They were totally unprepared as the
special ops team calmly joined them and proceeded to shoot with cold

The humans rapidly filed into the building housing the gate. This time,
luck was not on their side and one of the techs working in the control
room sounded an alarm. The handful of soldiers in the facility
responded haphazardly, and there was a short exchange of fire. In under
two minutes, all the Peacekeepers, soldiers and techs were dead. One of
their own was also down. 

They quickly set incendiary devices throughout the gate room, in the
control chamber and on every major piece of Brinisi hardware. They then
sprayed the room with a chemical accelerant. The equipment in direct
contact with the thermite charges would reach a temperature of 3000
Kelvin and stay nearly that hot for close to a minute. Tests on the
material recovered by SG1 revealed that this would be enough to turn
anything but the gate itself to slag. The rest of the facility would
burn for at least 30 minutes at nearly 1800 Kelvin. There would be
nothing left to recover. 

Conventional explosives would seal the entrances so that the
Peacekeepers would be unable to do anything about the fire, even if
they could react in time and with the right counteragents, an unlikely
but not impossible prospect. 

The team worked fast. The alarm would bring reinforcement any minute,
but they were prepared for that as well. As soon as the guards outside
had been eliminated, two of the team, in hiding until then, had taken
up position at the entrance to the facility with the .50 caliber sniper
rifle. As the two marauders with commando reinforcement approached,
they fired into the propulsor units, where Officer Sun had indicated
the vessels were most vulnerable. The marauders were as ill equipped
for this sort of primitive firepower as the Peacekeeper soldiers had
been. Both ships exploded in mid-air. 

When all was ready, Major Ealing activated the 15 second delay on the
explosives and touched the Asgard dialing device. The Stargate came to
life, and humans filed through moments before everything went up in
flames. From the sound of the explosions to their exit via the gate,
the operation had lasted just over 7 minutes. 


"Yes sir, I hear them as well." 

[It must be what remains of the Brinisi forces in the city. It seems
they are better organized than we suspected.] 

"I don't think so, sir. Someone tried to rescue Crichton. A cursory
examination seems to indicate that he is human." 

[Human .... could he be one of the human gate travelers, perhaps
separated from the others and left behind.] 

"No, sir. I was present when the humans arrived through the gate. There
were four of them, and this wasn't one of them. I can only conclude
that they have some other means of traveling from their planet to

There was a slight pause. 

[This could prove very valuable, Commander. Is the human in any
condition to be questioned?] 

"No, sir. I was forced to kill him. However, he said something to
Crichton about others coming. I suspect there are more of them in the
city, and they may attempt to rescue Crichton. I request that you send
reinforcements right away. An attack on the base is also a possibility.
Those explosions may have been a diversion." 

[Thank you for your assessment, Commander. You seem to have an uncanny
grasp of the obvious. I have already ordered forces to your location
and have placed the base on alert. However, the initial reaction to all
this excitement has left us in a temporary state of confusion. It seems
most of our troops have already been dispatched to the Eastern quarter
of the city. We are attempting to correct that situation. I suggest you
do what you can to defend your position until reinforcements arrive.] 

"Yes, sir." She disengaged her comms. 

"Frelling, self-righteous half-breed," she muttered under her breath. 

"Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?" Crichton was lucid again, but
he could barely speak above a whisper. 

"What the frell do you want?" 

"Oh, nothing. Just thinking out loud. You guys are always talking about
this racial superiority crap, but when it comes down to it, it's just
another meaningless slogan. I mean look at you, cream of the PK crop,
yet you're taking orders from old Scorpy." 

She struck him across the face, and his head snapped to the side and
then drooped forward, motionless. He'd done it again, managed to
unbalance her. She had to stay calm. The situation required a level

"I don't have time for this dren. I was planning to kill you, but you
have a temporary reprieve, Crichton." 

He had just been promoted from condemned prisoner to bait. Calis went
around to the back of the building to wait for the rescue attempt she
was sure was coming. 


"There are the explosions, let's move." 

"I advise extreme caution, Aeryn Sun. Sgt. Ramirez's disappearance
indicates that we may encounter difficulty. We should approach from
opposite ends of the building." 

"Fine, you go around the back." 

She was already on the move before Teal'c could say anything further. 

He circled around the building and found a rear entrance. He stepped
through cautiously, looking for any possible points of concealment. Too
late, he saw a narrow passageway that hadn't been immediately visible
from near the entrance. Just as his attention was drawn to it, a figure
stepped out, weapon at the ready, and fired at his chest. 

The last think he remembered was sinking to his knees as the staff
weapon slipped out of his hand. 


Aeryn tried to maintain some cover as she advanced towards the
building. Now that she was this close, she had to maintain control. A
careless move at this point might cost John his life. She saw no one as
she approached the building's front entrance. She stepped through,
pulse rifle raised, and noticed footsteps tracked in the dust. There
were several different ones, but one set had become familiar over the
past few weekens. They had been made by military issue boots of the
sort the humans wore. She followed them to a basement doorway. 

Aeryn descended the stairs slowly, trying to see as far as she could in
the dim light. A few hentas from the bottom of the staircase, she saw a
body and froze. Forcing herself forward, she got a clearer look and
started breathing again when she noticed that the hair was too dark to
be John's. It wasn't Jackson either, which meant that the fate of Sgt.
Ramirez was no longer a mystery. 

She stepped carefully around Ramirez's body and scanned the room. The
only illumination was a dim light, under which sat a man on a wooden
chair. It took her a moment to recognize the broken and battered figure
as John Crichton. She couldn't tell if he was dead or alive.
Suppressing the overwhelming urge to run up to him, she advanced

A pulse rifle blast missed her by a hair and she dove for cover behind
some crates, returning fire in the direction the shot had originated. 

From somewhere in the darkened corner of the basement opposite her
position, she heard, "Officer Sun, this is a surprise. I never expected
you to risk yourself by coming after him in person." 

"So let's see how much this primitive really means to you. I have him
clearly in sight. Unless you step forward and drop your weapon, he
dies. And don't expect any help from the other human. I have already
dealt with him." 

"Why the frell should I do anything you say? You'll kill us both

"Don't be so melodramatic, Sun. I have no desire to harm either of you.
The human has already revealed everything he knows. He is of no use to
me. You may be a fugitive, but so is the Captain who declared you
contaminated. You are no longer anyone's priority. Step forward, drop
your rifle, and I will release him into your care. You have until the
count of ten." 

"You're lying!" 

"What you choose to believe is your problem, but I will fire on ten.
One .... two ...." 

Aeryn had only a moment to think. Teal'c was down, possibly dead. She
couldn't see Calis. Any attempt to open fire would mean John's death. 

"Six .... seven ...." 

She was out of options, and only one choice remained. She held her
pulse rifle over her head, stood up and walked slowly towards John. The
counting stopped. 


Security was lax, as promised. There were guards posted at the base
perimeter, but the Peacekeepers obviously expected nothing of substance
from the locals. The explosions went off on schedule, and the early
morning quiet was disrupted by a mass of bodies, most heading towards
the Eastern quarter of the city. 

The twelve men comprising the assault team were scattered outside the
base, doing their best not to draw attention. As the alarms sounded,
and troops began streaming out, the humans quietly inserted themselves
into the confused rush. The overall movement of troops was out and away
from the base, but there was enough traffic in all directions to allow
them to move in unobserved. They closed on the main building from
different directions, and entered in staggered groups of two and three.
Each small group headed to its pre-assigned starting point at the
extreme corners of the building. 

They expected little or no resistance going in and met none, but once
they started working, there was the possibility of individual
Peacekeepers stumbling across them. Each team worked back towards the
entrance placing small metallic devices in preplanned locations. One or
two men attached the devices to the walls while the remaining man
covered them. Most of the teams had progressed more than half way back
towards the entrance when things started to go wrong. 

They were to maintain radio silence except in extreme emergency, but
Lt. Smith 's voice suddenly sounded. From his concealed position on a
small hill overlooking the compound, he could see a sudden shift in
Peacekeeper troop movement back towards the base. The men in the
building continued to work methodically, but they now realized that a
smooth exit would be unlikely. 

By the time most of them were down to two or three remaining devices,
they started to hear the enemy approaching along the hallways. Instead
of the light, disorganized opposition they had hoped for, the twelve
men, all near the entrance of the building, but still scattered, faced
scores of Peacekeepers who were ready for them. The last of the devices
were abandoned, and several furious but short firefights broke out as
each small team encountered opposition. Within ten minutes of entering
the building, all twelve were dead. 


O'Neill and Carter had entered with the others, but they headed
directly for the central laboratory. They passed several Peacekeeper
and Brinisi techs, none of whom bothered with the two 'Officers', and
made their way to the secure facility housing the disks, the weapon
schematics and Daniel's translations. Braca had told them that all the
material from the gate site was being stored here, and that the
translations were being analyzed on the base. In a genuine stroke of
luck, the information was not being relayed to the ships in orbit for
fear of compromising security. 

O'Neill punched in the pass code Braca had supplied, hoping that no one
had thought to change it. To their relief, the door opened. Explosives
would not be necessary. 

They walked in to find Daniel Jackson standing in the center of the
room with a female Peacekeeper holding a weapon to his head. Off to the
side was a creature who had to be Scorpius. 

"Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter, if I am not mistaken. Daniel has
told me a great deal about the two of you. I suggest you surrender your
weapons. This facility will be surrounded by my troops very shortly,
and I know enough of you to know that you have not come this far to
risk Daniel's life." 

O'Neill bluffed. "We're here for the disks, not Daniel. Besides, there
are two of us, and you're not armed. It looks to me like we have the
advantage here." 

"My aide is expendable, and you are no threat to me. I am part Scarren,
as you may know, and your primitive weapons will have no effect." 

O'Neill had casually leveled his weapon at Scorpius' shoulder while he
spoke. "You know, we get a lot of that." 

He fired without warning. Scorpius was thrown back violently. There was
a spurt of dark blood followed by an utterly inhuman bellow. 

The Peacekeeper had clearly not expected this turn of events. She
seemed to hesitate for an instant and started to bring her pistol
around to fire at O'Neill. At that moment, Jackson went limp and
dropped far enough to give Carter a clean shot at her head. She took

"Carter, gather everything you can. Daniel, you o.k.?" 

He was slumped against the body of the dead Peacekeeper. "Uh .... no. I
haven't exactly been on vacation here. Glad you guys finally showed

"Don't worry. We'll have you back on your feet in no time." 

"Crichton. He's still with the woman. She's some kind of spy, by the

"We know. Teal'c and Aeryn are getting him." 

Carter interrupted them, "Sir, I think we've got everything. I'll set
the explosives." She turned to Jackson. "How are you doing, Daniel?" 

"Oh, about as well as when Jack asked me a couple of seconds ago." 

"We'll have you out of here in no time. Sir, what do we do with him?"
She pointed at Scorpius who was leaning against the far wall and
bleeding freely. 

"It looks like the mission's been compromised. We take him with us.
We're probably going to need the insurance." 

He walked over to Scorpius. 

"Hey, you. Get on your feet. You're coming with us." 

The voice that responded sounded nothing like the one that had
initially greeted them. It was deep and guttural. 


"Oh, you know. Primitive weapons. They never seem to behave. Now I said
it once already, and I won't repeat it a third time. On your feet. Or
would you like to see what happens when I fire this thing at your

Scorpius staggered to his feet. 

"Carter, you get Daniel. I'll escort our friend here." 


"Drop the rifle and kick it towards my voice." 

She complied. 

"Now your pistol." 

Aeryn unholstered her pistol and kicked it in the direction of the
rifle, all the while keeping an eye on John. To her immense relief, he
was breathing, although with obvious difficulty. His head snapped up
unexpectedly, and he tried to focus in her direction. 

His voice was a hoarse whisper, "Aeryn? You ... get out ... she's here

She tried to keep her voice steady, "It's alright, John. Don't try to

An armed figure slowly stepped out of the darkness and walked toward
her. Aeryn recognized the woman she had known as Sa'di, but this was
obviously no longer a meek scientist. 

"I didn't think you would do it. You're really willing to throw your
life away for this alien piece of dren. I've read your record, Sun. You
showed promise. You might even have secured your own command in time. I
can't believe you gave up everything for him." 

Aeryn refused to react. She knew it would do no good. 

"I'll admit, he's not a bad frell, and very eager .... but still ...." 

That required no thought. She knew instantly that Calis was lying.
Aeryn realized that her disbelief must have registered on her face,
because a moment later, she saw a brief flash of embarrassment from the
other woman. This was covered as quickly as it appeared. 

"You said you would let us go." 

"I lied, you frelling traitor. You are a disgrace to everything we
Peacekeepers stand for. You betrayed your oath for an alien." 

"I betrayed my oath because my oath meant nothing, and we
Peacekeepers," she spat out the word with every ounce of contempt in
her, "stand for nothing." 

That got a reaction. Calis was enraged. 

"Maybe a few rounds in the Aurora chair will reveal how the genetic
screenings allowed something like you to live. But first, you get to
watch him die." 

She started to point her rifle at John's head. Aeryn prepared to throw
herself at Calis. It would almost certainly be suicide, but she had no
choice. Just as she was about to lunge forward, she heard a sound that
had become familiar over the past few weekens and saw blue arcs
encircle Calis' body. The disruptor fell heavily to the ground. Aeryn
instinctively picked up her rifle and slung it across her shoulder. 

When she looked up, she saw Teal'c leaning against the rear entrance to
the basement as the Zat slid out of his hand onto the ground. There was
a prominent burn mark on his torso. 

"Are you alright?" she called across the room. 

"I will live," Teal'c answered weakly. 

Aeryn immediately turned to John, drew her knife and cut his bonds. She
was appalled by his appearance, and the strange way his legs were
arranged worried her. 

"John? Can you understand me?" 

"Aeryn .... she .... lying .... never." 

Aeryn tried to be as comforting as her current state would allow. "I
know, John. Don't worry about any of that now. We need to get you out
of here." 

"More soldiers coming .... heard her." 

Aeryn started to move faster. She tentatively stretched John's leg and
could feel the break. His sharp intake of breath told her of the pain
it caused. Ignoring it, she hauled him up and supported his weight as
best she could. Teal'c had made his way over to them. 

"Allow me to assist you." 

"Can you manage? You're hurt." 

"My symbiote will repair the damage in time. Until then, I will endure
the discomfort." 

Each took one shoulder to support his weight. As they started to make
their way across the basement towards the exit, Aeryn noticed that
John's arms were hanging loosely at the shoulders. She had a burning
desire to go back and finish Calis, but there was no time for that sort
of indulgence now, and the sometimes annoying moral compass with which
she was now burdened told her that it would be wrong to kill the
disruptor in her present condition. 


The fuzziness was starting to fade, and she could see again. She was in
intense pain, and her muscles seemed no longer to be under her control.
Forcing her head up somehow, she saw three figures heading away from
her. She could not allow him to escape now, no matter the cost. 

Calis had been trained to ignore pain, and there was considerable pain
to ignore, but there was more to this. She felt no response from any of
her limbs. Through an act of immense concentration, she forced her
right hand down to the knife concealed in her boot. She still felt
nothing, but she saw her body respond. Planning out the motion
carefully in her head, she willed her body to respond once again. It

She rose in one swift if somewhat clumsy motion and threw herself
across the few hentas separating her from the central figure in the
trio. Then she saw her hand drive the knife into his back. 

Sun turn towards her as the other human took Crichton's full weight.
She saw Sun's left hand shoot out to grasp the back of her head and
twist it. She recognized the move instantly and knew what was coming.
She heard, but never felt, the sharp crack as the palm of Sun's right
hand contacted violently with her chin. As she slumped to the ground,
she had a few moments to considered how odd everything looked from this
angle, with her head hanging loosely on her neck. Those thoughts didn't
last long. Her vision started to fade, and she knew she would be dead
in a few microts. At least she had taken Crichton with her. 


Aeryn examined John's stab wound in absolute terror. She was no medic,
but she could tell that the bleeding wasn't as extensive as it would
have been if the knife had penetrated deeply or pierced a vital organ.
She suspected that it had been deflected off a rib. Still, he was
bleeding continuously and had lost consciousness. They took a moment to
bind the wound with the only available material, strips from Calis'
dress, and then started to move. If John was right, the Peacekeepers
would be upon them soon. 

Aeryn and Teal'c half carried and half dragged John out of the
building. In his current condition, there was no way they could get him
to the rendezvous point in time. They managed to get away from the
building and headed toward the city center. 

Once they were far enough away, they stopped in an alley. 

"You should go. We can't possibly get him there in time." 

"I could say the same to you, Aeryn Sun." 

Aeryn shook her head. There was nothing to discuss. "I will not abandon

"And I will not abandon either of you. Therefore, I propose that we
find some way for all three of us to join our comrades." 

"Look, there's no frelling way we can get there on foot with John like

She had a thought. "Maybe we don't need to. Stay with him for a few
microts. I'll be back." She leaned in close to John's unconscious form,
gently touched his face and whispered into his ear, her voice
trembling, "You hold on, you hear me. I am frelling well not going to
lose you now." Then she ran quickly around a corner. 

It didn't take long. She saw a Brinisi ground vehicle carrying two
Peacekeeper techs and stood in its path. The vehicle stopped and one of
the techs got out. 

"Sir, we are under orders to return to base." 

"Frell your orders. I have two prisoners in need of immediate
transport. I'm taking your vehicle." 

The tech who had spoken hesitated. "This is highly irregular." 

She struck the him hard across the jaw with the butt of her rifle,
knocking him to the ground, and turned to the other one still in the

"Do I get an argument from you as well?" 

He scrambled out and stood at attention. "No, Sir!" 

"Pick up your friend and get back to base. Now!" 

She didn't wait to see what they would do. Aeryn had been a Peacekeeper
most of her life, and although it now embarrassed her to do this, she
knew that the techs would do as they were instructed without question. 

She returned to the alley. "Help me get him up. We have a vehicle." 

They got John into the back and headed directly to the rendezvous


"This is going to be tricky." 

They hadn't gone far when they found themselves faced with a wall of
Peacekeepers blocking their exit. 

"Tell them to back off now." 

Scorpius did nothing. 

O'Neill shoved the barrel of his P-90 roughly against the back of
Scorpius' head. 

"Like I said, I don't like to repeat myself. Do it." 

"You will stand down." 

The Peacekeepers looked around in confusion. 


To a man, they backed away. 

O'Neill lead the way with Scorpius in front of him. Carter supported
part of Daniel's weight on one arm while holding her weapon with the

"What about the others, Sir?" 

"Let's hope some of them made it out. We'll find out when we get back
to the ship." 

Upon leaving the building, O'Neill led them to one of the vehicles
parked near the entrance. The Peacekeepers had been ordered to remain
well away. As they approached their objective, Scorpius took the
instant's distraction offered by a low flying prowler to throw himself
at the humans. It wouldn't have worked except that the sudden surge of
strength came as a surprise to them. O'Neill managed to fire from a
prone position but only hit Scorpius in the leg. There was no time for
a second shot as the Peacekeepers who had been waiting near the
building entrance made their way towards them. 

The heads of the two closest Peacekeepers exploded in rapid succession.
The others took cover, and the three humans took the unexpected
opportunity to get into the vehicle and out of the base as fast as
possible. They heard the sound of equipment exploding behind them. It
was too small and sporadic to be the main building going up. It must
have been Smith. 


From his concealed position, Lt Smith saw that only SG1 had emerged
from the base. They appeared to have a prisoner, and the Peacekeepers
were keeping clear of them. He saw the prisoner break away and the
Peacekeepers begin to advance. His mission had been to provide some
cover for the assault team's retreat by destroying some equipment at
the far end of the base, parked prowlers or marauders. Now he found
himself engaging individual Peacekeepers. It worked well enough to get
them to keep their heads down and let SG1 get away. 

Once they were out of the base, he continued to fire at any large
target that presented itself. He knew that remaining in a fixed
position this long was a mistake, but there was no other cover for the
three running from the base. He saw a lone prowler approach. He took
aim and prepared to fire. The prowler fired first. 


Within the main building of the Brinisi base, the small metallic
devices the humans had placed began to spew a colorless gas. It spread
quickly throughout the outer hallways. The devices exploded
simultaneously, igniting the gas and resulting in fireballs that spread
throughout the hallways and into the laboratory facilities. The heat
caused instant condensation of the gaseous accelerant, which now
covered key points of the building. The resulting fire would burn as
hot as the one at the gate and would be as difficult to extinguish. 


Aeryn drove like a maniac, partly because of her unfamiliarity with the
vehicle, but mostly because she was desperate to get John to the ship.
The streets were almost deserted. The Brinisi, practical people to
begin with, had learned over the preceding weekens how to stay out of
the way, and the recent explosions had been more than enough incentive
to keep most of them indoors. They passed a few Peacekeepers near the
center of the city, but no one paid them any special attention. As they
approached the Western outskirts, the streets became totally empty. 

They were early by more than 5 minutes. Sorenson's small reconnaissance
team had already assembled at the marker where they were supposed to
wait. Aeryn and Teal'c lifted John out and carried him towards the
assembled humans. 

Sorenson glanced at Crichton and said, "Flint, take a look at him." 

Aeryn instantly blocked his approach. She hadn't worked with these
particular humans, and didn't really trust anyone at the moment. 

"It's alright, he's a medic." 

She relented marginally, but maintained her grip on John. The human
medic examined the hastily prepared bandages, already soaked through
with blood. Humans, Aeryn had discovered, were very easy to read, and
she didn't like the look in this man's eyes. 

"We can't do anything here, but we need to take a look at this as soon
as we get back to the ship." 

Aeryn nodded, pulled John down to the ground and held him in a death

Sorenson addressed Teal'c. "Ramirez?" 

"Sgt. Ramirez was killed while attempting to rescue Dr. Crichton. Rest
assured that he died as a warrior." 

Sorenson looked away. Aeryn could tell that he took the loss
personally, something a Peacekeeper would never have done for a lost


"We're nearly there sir, and we haven't been spotted yet." 

Carter peered out from the back of the vehicle at the marauders
scouring the city. There was nothing to distinguish their transport
from any of the others, and Smith's diversion combined with some very
fancy driving from O'Neill had insured that the Peacekeepers had lost
track of them at the base. 

Their luck failed at the last minute. As they approached the pickup
site, Carter noticed that one of the marauders had turned towards them.
By the time they stopped and joined the others waiting at the marker,
three other marauders had converged on their position from different
directions, and several prowlers circled overhead. The commandos poured
out and started to advance as soon as the ships landed. Fortunately for
the humans, it seemed that their orders were to capture rather than
kill. Carter was certain that they would already be dead otherwise. 

The humans arranged themselves in two small semi-circles separated by a
few feet, weapons at the ready and prepared for the worst. The larger
group consisted of Aeryn, Crichton, SG-1 and Flint. The remainder of
Sorenson's team made up the other. 

A Peacekeeper addressed them from the far end of the street. Everyone
turned to Carter. 

"He wants us to drop our weapons and surrender." 

O'Neill asked quietly, "How much longer?" 

Carter glanced at her watch. "Should be any second, sir." 

No sooner had she said this than two ships materialized overhead and
two columns of rings descended on the two groups. A moment later, they
were on the Tok'ra vessels. 

O'Neill addressed the pilot. "Are they following?" 

"They are attempting to do so, but it will serve no purpose." With
that, the Tok'ra touched a control to activate the hyperdrive, and the
Peacekeepers were left far behind. 

Carter approached Aeryn. She had moved aside slightly to allow
Sorenson's medic to work on John but wouldn't let go of his hand. 

"Ask him how John is?" 

Carter relayed the question. 

"The knife didn't penetrate too deeply and I don't think there are any
internal injuries, but he's bleeding badly. I changed the dressing, but
it's already starting to soak through. I don't think we can control
it." He paused for a few moments looking back and forth from Carter to
Aeryn. "I don't think he's going to survive the trip back to the gate."

Aeryn's face became ashen. Carter would not have imagined her capable
of that look of utter defeat. She snapped out of it with frightening

"What about the Brinisi gate?" 

"We can't get to it, Aeryn. That part of it went according to plan." 

"We will frelling well do something! I am not going to sit here and
watch him die! What about one of the other Alliance worlds. This ship
is faster than anything I've seen before. We should be able to get to
one in time." 

Carter didn't want to destroy her hopes, but she needed to inject some
reality into the situation. 

"Would they help us, Aeryn? I want to save John too, but we can't risk
everyone else. If you could point us to someone who we're certain will
help, we would do our best to get there." 

Aeryn's face suddenly lit up. 

"My comm. .... It's not a fake like the ones you're wearing. Is there
some way to use all this dren," she waved her hand at the alien
technology, " to contact Moya with it?" 

"Wait, it's been weeks. Would your ship even be there?" 

"I don't know, but we can try." 

Carter had a quick conversation with O'Neill and then took Aeryn's
comm. to the ship's communications array. She understood this
technology better than any other human. A scan of the Sebacean device
revealed the working frequencies, and she quickly determined that the
Tok'ra technology could boost the signal far beyond anything the device
had been designed for. 

"Aeryn, get over here." 

Aeryn left Crichton's side with obvious reluctance. 

"This might work, but only if they're still there, of course. I boosted
the signal and narrowed it enough to hit anything in orbit of the
planet where Moya is supposed to be. Here goes nothing. Speak into

"Can anyone hear me? D'argo? Zhaan?" 

There was silence for a few agonizing moments. Then, [Aeryn? Where the
hezmana are you? How are you contacting us?] 

The relief in Aeryn's voice was mixed with an obvious trace of
irritation. "Never mind. Tell Zhaan that John is injured. He is
bleeding badly. We should be there in .... ," she looked to Carter. 

"About 30 minutes." 

"Approximately half an arn. We will be arriving on an alien ship. Be
ready for us." 



D'argo waited in the docking bay. He was alone. Zhaan was preparing to
receive Crichton and Chiana was helping. Rygel was off somewhere,
stuffing his face as usual. Stark was doing whatever it was Stark did.
He had wanted to leave this place weekens ago but had been overruled.
He didn't want to abandon his comrades, but the chance that they could
escape the Peacekeeper occupation was vanishingly small. No one on the
planet had been able to explain why the Peacekeepers would take a
single city on Brinisa. It seemed preposterous that they would expend
those resources for Crichton or Aeryn alone. The others had come to no
definitive decision about staying or leaving. It was Pilot who refused
to leave while there was still any hope. 

The ship arrived on schedule and was like nothing he had ever seen.
D'argo didn't know what to expect, so he drew his Qualta blade and
waited. Aeryn emerged first, followed by a number of Peacekeepers, one
of whom was helping Aeryn carry Crichton on a stretcher of some kind.
D'argo was confused. 

"Stop! I demand to know why these Peacekeepers are here." 

"D'argo, get the frell out of my way or I will kill you myself."
Aeryn's voice was ice cold. 

Whatever was going on, he knew that there was no arguing with Aeryn
when she was in that state, and that her threat was not an idle one. He
also got his first look at Crichton as she strode past him, and
silently made way for the strange assembly. 

A woman walked up to him and looked at him a little apprehensively.
"We're not Peacekeepers. We're humans like John, and one of us is in
need of medical attention." 

"Humans? How is that possible? And how are you piloting such an
advanced ship?" 

"It's a long story. Right now, we need to get to the infirmary, so if
you don't mind ...." 

She was followed by two males, supporting a third between them. They
followed Aeryn to the medical bay. 

"What the frell is going on?" he demanded of no one in particular. 

D'argo was confused. At least he was used to the feeling. 


Aeryn was hovering over her expectantly, and although she understood
her shipmates concern, it wasn't making her job any easier. 

"Will he be alright?" 

"I've managed to control the bleeding, but his injuries are extensive,
and he has already lost a great deal of blood. It is fortunate that we
have a supply of his blood in reserve. We both know he is strong,
Aeryn. The Goddess willing, he will recover." 

Aeryn nodded absently, and Zhaan noticed for the first time how tired
she looked. It was as if days of unending stress had suddenly reached a
culmination. She still didn't know what had happened or how the other
humans had arrived aboard Moya, but explanations could wait. 

"You look exhausted, child. Perhaps you should consider getting some
rest. John will be fine on his own for a little while." 

She took a seat near John's bed and announced in a tone that would
admit no argument, "He's been on his own enough. I'm not going

"Uh .... pardon me, ma'am." It was the human woman. "You seem to be a
doctor. Our friend here has been through quite a lot. Do you suppose
you could take a look at him next?" 

"Of course. You may call me, Zhaan, by the way." 


She walked to the other bed, around which were gathered the other
humans. None of them looked particularly comfortable with her presence.
Aeryn had said that only the female and the male with the strange
symbol on his forehead would be able to understand her. 

"Samantha, would you please ask the others to step aside." 

Carter relayed the request, and Zhaan ran a scanner over Jackson when
the others stepped away. 

"He has internal injuries consistent with severe electrical shocks. I
imagine he is in considerable pain." 

"You can say that again," Jackson managed to croak. 

"You understand her?" O'Neill asked. 


Zhaan addressed Jackson directly. "I can treat your wounds, but I can
do nothing for the internal damage. Your injuries are not life-
threatening as far as I can tell, but I cannot be certain of anything.
I fear that my knowledge of human physiology is quite limited." 

"Thank you anyway," Carter offered. Then turning to Jackson, she said,
"I'm sure Janet can fix you right up once we get home, Daniel." 

"I could offer you something for the pain. It was worked on John in the
past with no ill effects, so there should be no problem." 

"I'll take it. Anything's got to be better than how I feel now." 

She turned to the tall human, the other one who could understand her. 

"You appear to be injured as well. Would you like me to examine you?" 

"I am grateful for the offer, but it is unnecessary. I would, however,
appreciate the opportunity to perform my daily meditation in private. I
carry within me a symbiotic life form which will facilitate my recovery
while I meditate." 

"You heal yourself through meditation? And you carry another life
within you? I would appreciate the chance to discuss these matters with
you when you feel better." 

He bowed slightly and said, "I would welcome the opportunity." 


The medication Zhaan had given Jackson seemed to stabilize his
condition. He managed to recover enough to start badgering everyone
aboard about their respective languages and cultures. Rygel was an
especially interesting subject because of his background, but they all
fascinated him. It was going well enough until he encountered Stark,
who was a little too strange for even his curiosity. 

Carter split her time between studying as much of the Peacekeeper
equipment as she could get her hands on and talking to Pilot about
Moya's biomechanoid technology. 

After spending several hours in a deep state of kel'no'reem, Teal'c
spent the remainder of the day in conversation with Zhaan. They were
joined by Flint who had essentially attached himself to her as a means
of avoiding Chiana, whose early attention had him more than a little

O'Neill wandered through Moya's hallways and eventually found himself
on the terrace. The astronomer in him couldn't help but wish he had a
telescope. For most of the day, he had been shadowed by D'argo, who
apparently identified him as the primary potential threat. At one point
he had turned around and said, "Hey, tentacle boy, I know you're back
there." This earned him a growl, and even if he couldn't understand the
language, the meaning was quite clear. 


At ship's evening, Carter walked into the medical bay. Aeryn was there
as expected. She hadn't budged all day. 

"How is he, Aeryn?" 

"Zhaan says he's stable. He regained consciousness a few times, but he
was still disoriented. It will take time." 

"How long are you planning to sit with him?" 

"As long as it takes." 

Carter suppressed a smile. John had done very well for himself with
Aeryn Sun. She was happy for her friend, for both her friends. 

"Aeryn, there's something we need to talk about. Col. O'Neill thought
it might be best coming from me." 

Aeryn looked at her suspiciously. "What?" 

"We can't wait much longer. Now that the Peacekeepers know about us, we
can't take chances, not with the gate on the staging planet and not
with the Asgard technology. We have to get back to the gate within 20
hours, and it will take another 15 just to get from here to there.
After that, the support personnel have orders to gate back to Earth,
and the address will be permanently locked out of our computers. Not
that it really matters for us anyway, since they're going to take the
only Asgard dialing device with them." 

"Zhaan says John shouldn't be moved." 

"I spoke with her a little while ago. She said it might be dangerous to
move him now, but she doesn't know how dangerous." 

"Couldn't you just come back to the other planet in a few weekens? Moya
could make it there by then." 

"Even if it was approved, and it wouldn't be because of the security
risk, there wouldn't be any way to coordinate it. Besides which, the
Asgard aren't going to let us hold on to their toys much longer." 

Aeryn said nothing for a few moments, apparently absorbed in thought. 

"You have a decision to make." 

"There is no decision. I will not risk John's life, no matter what, not
even if he hates me for it." 

Carter nodded in acknowledgment. "For what it's worth, I think you're
making the right choice. And Aeryn, no matter what happens, I know he's
not going to blame you. I haven't had much of a chance to get
reacquainted with John, but I have spent a fair amount of time with you
in the past couple of weeks. I think he's going to be happy as long as
he's with you, wherever that is." 

Aeryn cast her eyes down, grateful for Carter's words, but at a loss
for a response. A very soft "Thank you" was all she could manage. 


Everyone including Aeryn, who had finally agreed to leave John for a
few microts, was gathered in the main docking bay to bid the humans
farewell. There was a brief exchange of supplies. The humans left some
medicines for Crichton and some food, which Rygel immediately claimed.
They took with them some of Zhaan's herbs, a small collection of
various pieces of Peacekeeper technology, and a supply of translator
microbes for further study. 

Aeryn found herself unexpectedly emotional at the impending departure
of the humans. She shook hands with each of them, and wished Teal'c and
O'Neill well. Carter was last. 

"It's been a pleasure to get to know you, Aeryn." 

"Likewise. I .... consider you a friend." 

She leaned in closer, so that only Aeryn would hear. "You're the best
thing that's ever happened to him. Take care of him." 

Aeryn smiled at Carter. "Thank you. I plan to." 

"Be sure to look me up when you two eventually get to Earth. I know
John, and I've gotten to know you, so it's definitely 'when' not 'if'."

"We will. Goodbye, Samantha." 


Crichton had been working on his module for nearly an arn. Much longer,
and he knew Aeryn would come after him. His progress over the past few
weekens had been good, but Aeryn still refused to let him overtax
himself. It was impossible to argue with her when it came to his
recovery. He wasn't complaining too much. He knew that she only did it
because she loved him. 

As he walked back to his and Aeryn's quarters, he felt a strange sense
of foreboding. Moya seemed unnaturally silent. He hadn't noticed
earlier, but he had been completely absorbed in his work. 

Crichton hit his comms. "Pilot, is there something wrong with Moya?
It's awfully quiet. I haven't even seen a DRD in close to an arn."
There was no response. "Pilot?.... Aeryn, you there? Pilot's not
responding." Again, there was no response. "D'argo? Chiana? Zhaan?
Anybody there?" When there was still no response, he started to move as
fast as his still healing leg would let him. 

He paused at the door to his quarters before forcing down his
apprehension and stepping through. He saw her lying on the bed and let
out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. She was asleep. That
was odd for Aeryn, since it wasn't the sleep cycle and she never took
naps. He supposed that she must simply be exhausted from looking after
him nonstop all these weeks. Still, he should wake her. She would be
annoyed if he let her sleep through dinner. 

He stepped closer and the hallway light he had been blocking struck her
face. He stopped in his tracks. She was absolutely pale. Crichton had
only ever seen her look like that once, and that had been the worst
experience of his life. He looked further down. The sheets, normally a
reflective gold, were stained deep red. 

Before he could take another step towards her, he saw a movement out of
the corner of his eye. A figure stepped out of the shadows at the far
end of the room. It was someone he had never expected to see again. 

When Calis spoke, her voice was deadly calm. "Hello, John. It took me
long enough to find you. You and I never got a chance to finish our
conversation." She casually glanced at Aeryn, lying motionless. "Don't
worry about your trelk bothering us this time. She's dead." 


She woke to the sudden movement by her side well before she heard the
sound. She looked up quickly to see him sitting bolt upright. It took a
moment to register that the anguished yell was actually her name. Aeryn
sat up, took his head in her hands and turned him to face her. He had a
wild, unfocused look that momentarily terrified her. 

"John! John! Stop it ...." 

He came out of it as recognition dawned. 

"Aeryn!? You're o.k.? God, you're o.k." 

With that, he enfolded her in a crushing embrace and buried his face in
the crook of her neck. She could feel him wince as she made contact
with the bandages covering his ribs, but he wouldn't let go. His
breathing was ragged and she could feel him trembling. She held him and
quietly stroked his hair and massaged the back of his neck. When he
finally seemed to calm down a little, she gently pushed him away and
forced him to lie back down. She got down next to him and put her arm
around him, trying to avoid his injuries. The past few days had made
her something of an expert at that. 

It had been five days since the humans had left Moya and two since
Zhaan had released John from the infirmary. He was no longer in any
danger, but his injuries would take time to heal. Zhaan had applied a
salve to the burns and cuts. She claimed there would be little or no
scarring. The broken bones were bound in place and infused with a
chemical to help the bonds strengthen more rapidly. It would still be
another four or five weekens before his body was completely healed.
That was far more time than would have been required if they had access
to a proper medical facility, but far less than it would have taken
without Zhaan's intervention. 

"Are you in a mood to talk?" she asked quietly. 

She hoped that he would be. John's body would heal, but right now,
Aeryn was more concerned about his mind. He had been through worse in
his time in the Uncharted Territories, but how much could one man take?

"What was it this time?" This wasn't the first bad dream. 

John hesitated for a few microts, and then told her about the dream.
Aeryn breathed a sigh of relief. He was talking, and she knew
everything would be alright. 

The dream was confusing. Her part in it was a little strange. 

"I can understand the disruptor, but why would you be dreaming about
her hurting me?" 

"I don't know. Maybe it's just because I was so worried about you when
we were apart. Maybe that just got mixed in with everything else ...." 

She leaned over and kissed him gently before settling back next to him.
"I was worried about you too." He smiled a little at that. 

"You must be getting sick of this. The pathetic human, afraid of his
own shadow." 

She felt an unexpected flash of anger. "There is nothing pathetic or
cowardly about you. I never want to hear you say anything like that
again." Aeryn regretted her tone as soon as the words were out, but
John just looked amused. 

"Yes, ma'am." 

"Well, good then. I have never considered you a coward, John. I want
you to understand that, and I want you to know how proud of you I am. I
may not always have been able to express it, but it's how I have always

Aeryn hesitated before bringing up the thoughts this line of
conversation had forced to mind, but now seemed as good a time as any. 

"It was worse before wasn't it? I mean after the Aurora chair. Before
you knew about the chip." 

John seemed to think about it for a few moments. "Yeah, I suppose it

Aeryn looked away and became very quiet. The vague feelings of guilt
that had been nagging at her for over two cycles had started to surface
and take form. John gently turned her face back to look at him. His
hands were still bound to allow the breaks to heal properly, so the
motion was a little awkward. 

"What's wrong?" 

"I ...." She swallowed before continuing haltingly. "I'm sorry I
couldn't be of more .... comfort to you then. I knew you needed it, or
at least that you needed something .... I just didn't know what to do
or how to help. I should have tried harder." 

Aeryn didn't know what to expect. Perhaps forgiveness or maybe even
accusation. The look of utter disbelief she saw on John's face took her
by surprise. 

"Aeryn, how long have you been carrying this around? I wish you had
said something earlier." He started to stroke her hair clumsily and
continued. "Listen to me. You are the only thing that kept me sane back
then. I don't ever want you to think you failed me in any way. I know
how hard an adjustment you've had to make over the past few cycles and
how much you've had to overcome for us to be where we are now. I never
expected it to be easy, and I will never begrudge you the time it took.
So just stop thinking like that, o.k.?" 

She opened her mouth and closed it again, not sure what to say. A
slight nod was all she could manage. Aeryn had wanted him to understand
and hoped that he could, but until now, never really believed that he
already did. She thought of the period of extreme awkwardness between
them that had followed her resurrection two and a half cycles ago. They
had come so far since then. It really had been a remarkable journey for
both of them. 

Now that this was out in the open, there was something else she wanted
to address. They had long ago talked about John's indiscretion on the
Royal Planet, and in time, that had been forgiven and forgotten, but
there were things neither of them had really expressed. 

"I don't know why I'm bringing this up now. Maybe the disruptor just
reminded me of some things .... on the Royal Planet, when I left you, I
didn't mean .... that is, I didn't understand ...." 

He cut her off. "You were disappointed in me. I know. There was a lot
going on, and I just couldn't take any more." 

"I should have tried harder to understand what you were going through."

This time he didn't contradict her. "Maybe. Or maybe it just wasn't
possible back then. Either way, I'm the one who screwed up in the end.
I know that. I won't make excuses for myself." 

There it was. Out in the open. And it hadn't been as bad as she thought
it would be. She closed the distance between them and gingerly put her
head on his shoulder, making sure she wasn't causing him any

He kissed the top of her head and said, "I love you, Aeryn." 

She looked up at him and said, "I love you too, John." 

He looked back in surprise. Aeryn did her best not to look too smug,
but she knew she wasn't pulling it off very well. 

"What the heck was that, Aeryn? You sounded funny." 

"I said it in English." 

She watched as an idiotic grin descended over his face. "You were busy
on Earth, weren't you?" 

"Well, you don't think I wasted all my time thinking about you. I had a
very productive few weekens on your planet." 

"I wish I had been there to see that." 

"So do I." 

She hesitated slightly before continuing. 

"We haven't had much of a chance to really talk in the past few days.
You were still groggy from Zhaan's medicines. You haven't said anything
about missing your chance to go home. I'm sorry about that, John, but I
couldn't risk it .... I should have stopped her from stabbing you. I
got careless and ...." 

"Aeryn, stop it. Nothing that happened was your fault, so don't even
think of blaming yourself. If it hadn't been for you, I would be dead
right now. None of that really matters anyway. The only thing that
matters is that we're together again." 

She held him just a little tighter. 

"Tell the truth, Aeryn, you're not all that disappointed to be back on
Moya, are you?" 

"I won't lie to you. I liked what I saw of your Earth, but Moya is the
only home I have ever known." 

He spoke a little hesitantly when he asked, "If we ever get another
chance, do you think you could try to make the adjustment?" 

She had to smile at, "Of course. You've made enough for me. Anyway, I
was telling you the truth. I liked your Earth. I think I could learn to
live there." 

That seemed to satisfy him because he just kissed her again. 

"So, tell me everything. What did you see and do?" 

She settled in and got comfortable. This was going to be a long
conversation, and she was looking forward to it as much as he seemed to

"Well, first of all, I tried that chocolate you keep going on about