Best Served Cold
By Darkman
Rating: PG for language
Category: Short Story, AU
Time/Spoilers: After Icarus Abides, before Fractures
Summary: None (don't want to give it away)
Disclaimer: I don't own them, didn't create them, and certainly don't profit from them. Wish I did or had. I promise that I'll put them back where I found them.  Henson & Co., Sci-Fi, Channel 9 Australia, etc own the rights to Farscape and its characters.  Any others are all mine.  Many thanks to Janeway, my patient and kind beta reader!

Darkness has an insatiable appetite.  Children are afraid of the dark because the reptilian brain knows predators lurk in the darkness and light drives them away for a time.  However, darkness is always there eating at the light in an endless struggle for supremacy.  Things that go bump in the night can still scare the hell out of anyone unless light is there to curb imagination.

Another foot, then another as she slowly and painfully inched along the duct.  The darkness was pressing in and she didn't like it one bit.  Sweat ran down her face as she made her way deeper and deeper into the constriction that had become her universe.  She imagined unseen things crawling and wriggling over her and she clenched her teeth, ignoring the sensation.  "Just a little farther," she told herself over and over.  Her world became the push of legs and dragging of arms.  She thought back to another time and place and kept moving.

When she was a raw recruit, part of her training took place on a world riddled with caves.  Her team was to crawl into them with precious few weapons to search out the poisonous worms that dwelled there.  Their trainers wanted them to fight in all types of terrain and she knew that, but these creatures gave her pause.  The worms were fully as big as any of them and armed with formidable fangs which delivered a neurotoxin causing a painful death.  The point was to crawl into their nesting places and bring back the fangs as trophies.  The team had to stay in the caves until each member killed a worm and claimed a prize or died in the effort.  She was the team leader and charged with bringing them out intact.  Success ensured prowler duty, casualties a backwater assignment and no prowlers for a long time, if at all.  

Aeryn felt the darkness devouring all light and closing in as she inched her way further up the duct.  Every foot drew her into deeper blackness and soon she was left with only the sound of her breathing and heartbeat to keep her in touch with reality.  This option was highly unpleasant, but it beat her other alternatives by light years.  This was the only way to achieve her objective and her determination was infinite.  Failure meant chaos in real time and it scared her immensely.

Traxyl!  That was the name of the Chilnak-forsaken place where they took us to hunt the worms.  Knowing that the worms were slow and non-aggressive wasn't a comfort, but she accepted her mission like the Peacekeeper she was.  Stoic as she chose her team, purposeful as she devised their plan, decisive as she led them into the caves, she was the leader and she meant to bring them all back with trophies and their hides intact.  She stressed the need for quiet and stealth as the blackness swallowed them. 

Each member carried a small light which shone weakly in the pure blackness of the caves.  The worms would be nesting high and they would have to illuminate both the floor and the ceiling to avoid any nasty surprises.  When the tunnel began to constrict, they fell into single file and moved forward slowly.  The first worm hissed as they made a turn to the right.  Henta fired before she could and the worm dropped lifeless to the floor.  Henta grinned maniacally as she began to remove the fangs.  Her pride in making the first kill was evident and Aeryn reproved her slightly to refocus the rest of the team.

"You really don't have to do this, you know," he said in a matter-of-fact tone, snapping her reverie.  "It won't bring me back."

"I wondered when you would show up," she retorted in a whisper.  "I thought you left too easily when I told you to go."

"Well, you know me, babe.  Stubborn to a fault, like my whole family."

"Yes, well, I know this won't bring you back, but it's something I swore to do.  You aren't the only stubborn being in the universe."

The hotel clerk had studied her carefully before drawing himself up to full height.  "We don't give out that kind of information," he started to say, but the pistol in his face made him stop his sentence after "don't."  From her expression, he knew he was a microt from death unless he told her something that satisfied her.  She pulled him roughly toward her with her free hand and raised a questioning eyebrow.  He got the message clearly and said with a stutter, "Room 3 in the back."  Before he finished speaking, he was watching her retreating back.  He thought briefly of warning his guest, but thought better of it when the Peacekeeper glanced over her shoulder and froze him with a look.  "Frell," he thought.  "I wasn't paid for silence and I'm not risking my neck.  Besides when she sees the bodyguards and the design of that place, she'll change her mind."  His last thought brought a smirk to his face.

When she walked into the hallway, she noticed three bodyguards, a Charrid, a Delvian, and a Scarran.  She immediately figured there had to be more inside the room as well.  She glanced at her hand as if checking a number on the key she had thought to palm while in conversation with the clerk.  She shook her head, looked around as if confused and retreated back the way she had come.  The guards were alert and seemed well-trained which precluded a frontal assault.  She would have to find another way in.

As she scouted around the outside of the building, she found a ventilation duct.  Since a frontal assault was likely to end in failure, she sighed and began to work her way up and in with just the slightest of shudders.  Her mission was revenge, plain and simple and an uncomfortable climb through ventilation systems was not going to deter her.  Her assignment on Traxyl had ended successfully with a few minor injuries, but no deaths.  This time there would be a number of deaths and if one of them was hers, so be it.  If she could only get John to shut up, everything would be fine.

"I told you to go, that you were gone and not coming back," she panted under her breath as she continued her journey.

"Well, missy, it seems you were wrong, because here I am," he shot back.

"Yes, well, whatever you have to say won't stop me.  I am tired of listening to you."

"Aeryn, this is stupid, not to mention suicidal.  You know better than this.  Your training alone should tell you the odds are terrible."

"Yes, but I swore that if the opportunity ever arose I would take it.  I want payback.  That's what you call it, isn't it, Crichton?  I want it and I intend to get it, tonight."

"You haven't thought this through.  Even if you manage to get to the room, you know there will be others waiting and if the three in the hallway were any indication, you won't get two steps before you die.  I don't want that.  That's no way to honor my memory."

"Maybe not to you."  She stopped crawling for a moment to catch her breath.  "I'll make a deal with you," she whispered.

"What kind of deal?"  The question had the familiar ring of Crichton's wariness.  She recognized the tone because he had developed that wariness when talking to her.  She blinked several times as she remembered why he had become wary.  Usually it was because she was about to strike him.  If she only had him back, she would never do that again.

"You answer a simple question.  If the answer is "no," then I'll leave here and forget the whole thing.  If the answer is "yes," then you leave me to my task.  Agreed?"

"What's your question?"

"Is that agreement or your usual failure to answer a direct question?"

"OK, I agree.  So what's the question?"

"If our positions were reversed, wouldn't you be doing the same thing?  Wouldn't you want the same thing that I do?"

She waited for a retort, but none came and she knew she was right.  If the positions were reversed, Crichton would be talking to her spirit in this duct and crawling towards a chance at revenge.

The light was faint and she shook her head and blinked her eyes to make sure it was real.  "Finally," she thought.  She felt as if she had been crawling forever and her sweat was pouring into her eyes as she approached the opening in the duct.  She began checking her weapons as she had hundreds of times before going into combat.  The Pleisars had ingrained her with discipline and her years on Moya had given her patience and a fair amount of wariness.  She knew she was dropping into a killing zone and she prepared as she had when she was still a Peacekeeper.  She checked her pulse pistol, her rifle, and her secret weapon for Scarrans, the Tarnek Deployer she had carried for more than a cycle.  When she was ready, she crawled to the opening and looked down.  Three bodyguards here also, but her target was evident.

"Please let me get just one good shot," she whispered and dropped through the opening into the room below.

Her first shot from the deployer took the Scarran bodyguard high in the chest and threw him back into the Charrid.  As he fought to clear himself of the Scarran, her pulse blast blew him into the wall.  Spinning and falling, she shot the Delvian twice and turned to pump two more rounds into the Scarran for good measure.  The three racing through the door were dispatched as well and she smiled grimly as she turned to the woman cowering behind an overturned chair.

Kicking the chair aside, she aimed her weapon.  The last words the woman heard were, "Hello, Furlow."