They had split up to comb the city in their desperation. D'Argo had offered to try to follow scent trails, and Aeryn, Gilina and Chiana were working the "have you seen this man" angle. But he was the one who sensed the faintest echo of a presence, across the city. Zhaan might have, but he knew them better. And if they were here...
Dreading what he would find, he kicked the door open and fired five shots in rapid succession at the Scarran, who obligingly dropped dead. The Human was strapped to a table across the room, drooling and whimpering. He ran over, ungloving his hand, and touched the Human's fevered brow, looking with vision and with the faint power he had for any sign of the mind inside.
There was none.
He unbuckled the Human and collapsed with him to the floor, horror and grief welling up. Humans didn't suffer Living Death from an excess of heat, but apparently Scarran psychescape torture could produce the same effect. And now this man, this brilliant mind, was gone forever. Not just his partner in research, not just a wormhole genius, not even just the man who had helped him escape from horrific captivity, but his friend. The first one, still perhaps the only one, he'd ever had.
You should have brought him to KaToya for training. Except Moya hadn't wanted to go to Tormented Space. You should have trained him yourself. Except he'd never been a teacher and he didn't know how. You should have protected him. Except the planet was hot and D'Argo was usually a reliable bodyguard and none of them had known there were Scarrans around but he should have known because there always were and they wanted to take everything he had and John had been his friend so of course they'd destroyed him because that was what they did…
Scarrans couldn't cry. Sebaceans could want to.
He was Sebacean enough to know what you did with a friend whose mind was gone into Living Death. Carefully, tenderly, he broke John's neck.
Aeryn found a dead Scarran and Scorpius sitting on the floor, cradling John's body, rocking very slightly.
"Living Death. They destroyed his mind. I released him." The hybrid's voice was simultaneously soft and harsh, an effect she'd never heard from him before. What he was saying crushed her, and she almost staggered. John. Dead. No no no.
Scorpius looked up at her. "I have enough," he said. "We never learned to stabilize them, we still don't know how it was John could travel them safely, but I know enough to open them, now. Not for travel, but a weapon." He stood up, still cradling John's body in his arms. "We will burn the Scarrans for this, Aeryn Sun. We will burn them all."
John would never have agreed to that. But John was dead. The Scarrans had killed him.
"We will," she agreed quietly.