BOUNTY

By Darkman

Rating: PG for violence and language.

Category: Action/Adventure

Time/Spoilers: Some Season 3 spoilers. Takes place somewhere near the end of Season 3 after John and Aeryn's resolution of their relationship problems

Summary: After a strange encounter on a Commerce planet, the crew begins to plan their assault on Scorpius, but they need more currency.

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.

Special Thanks: I wish to thank my gentle and kind beta-readers, Banshae and Janeway. They kept me in line.

Reader's note: Character's thoughts are in italics.

Chapter 13 – Reunion

Chiana, Rygel, and Jool had been in a running argument aboard Moya since D'Argo had left to board the command carrier with Aeryn. Jool's courage had slowly eroded and she began whining incessantly about getting Moya to Starburst as far away from Scorpius as possible or getting off Moya before the trouble started. Chiana and Rygel were increasingly frustrated as the arguments within Moya became more and more strident.

Crais and Talyn had taken up a position well out of comm range, so Rygel, Chiana, and Ch'rall were left to listen to her complaints. On almost an hourly basis, the discussions turned toward jettisoning Jool into space. Throughout this time, Pilot and Ch'rall attempted to remain above the fray, but even they soon grew tired of the bickering.

As Jool began to cajole Pilot through his clamshell one more time, Chiana snapped. She grabbed her head and pulled out a large handful of hair, causing a scream that threatened to melt all metal within thirty metras. Ch'rall covered his ears and grimaced while Rygel tried to leave the area as quickly as possible. Pilot ducked his head and lost all patience with the situation. Before the scream crescendoed, he hit a button on his console causing a loud screech to resound throughout Moya.

"Shut up," Pilot yelled, freezing everyone with surprise.

Chiana was the first to recover. "Pilot, I've never heard you talk like that."

Pilot continued as if Chiana hadn't spoken, "Moya and I are quite tired of the incessant arguing and fighting that has been going on since D'Argo and Aeryn left. You four need to get yourselves under control."

"Don't include me in that group," Rygel grunted.

"I am also under control, thank you," growled Ch'rall. "It is the young female who cannot function without crying and creating a scene. You would think she has never been in a situation like this before."

"She hasn't," sneered Chiana. "Her planet is a non-violent paradise, to hear her tell it."

Ch'rall shook his head, the doubt apparent in his expression. "I heard of places like that, but only when I was small and my parents told me stories about them. As an adult, I have found no such place in all my travels. I do not think such a paradise exists."

"It does so exist," Jool blurted. She dried the tears from her face and walked up to Ch'rall, standing on her tiptoes and pulling Ch'rall down to get closer to eye level. "I lived there and I wish I were back there now."

"All well and good, youngling," Ch'rall snorted as he pulled himself away. "You do know that the Peacekeepers will destroy a society like that without hesitation if they master wormholes, do you not?"

"And they enslave any people who cannot defend themselves," added Rygel. "So it appears that your society will be completely destroyed unless Crichton is successful. Therefore, put your personal concerns aside if you wish to return to this vaunted paradise of yours."

"In other words, can it, hairdo, and calm down so the rest of us can…" began Chiana.

Before she finished, Pilot interrupted excitedly, "I just received a transmission from Ka D'Argo."

"Don't keep us waiting, Pilot. What does he say?" Chiana blurted.

"He retrieved both Aeryn and Crichton, but they are trapped in a launch hangar and cannot leave until the doors are opened."

Ch'rall hesitated slightly before bolting from Command. The other three looked after him in confusion.

"Where are you going?" yelled Chiana.

"To open some doors. Pilot, comm D'Argo and tell him to get ready to leave."

On the command carrier, Scorpius was more furious than his minions had ever seen him. He had already gone through two cooling rods and would need a third before long. Braca estimated the third rod would be necessary within eighty microts as he watched from the table where a med tech treated him. This is not good. He must calm down or he will injure himself.

"How did two intruders get aboard my vessel? How did they manage to elude capture? Where is Crichton?" Scorpius' voice was lowering toward the guttural vocalizations of his Scarran ancestry when Braca cleared his throat to interrupt.

"Sir, do not overtax yourself. We will find them quickly."

Scorpius glared at Braca for a moment and then regained some control. "Oh, really. This damage occurred over an arn ago and there is no sign of them. I am beginning to wonder if you are all incompetent."

He grabbed a nearby security guard and pulled him close. "What progress has been made?" he snarled into the guard's face.

All color drained from the guard's face as he replied, "We still have not found any trace of the intruders."

Scorpius threw the guard across the room with a growl. "I want this damage cleared and I want Crichton. NOW!" he roared.

Turning to the quivering project director, he demanded, "Strappa, how much data can be salvaged?"

"The sabotage was very thorough. I am not sure any data can be recovered." Strappa flinched away as if fearing he would be struck or worse.

Scorpius regained his self-control with a visible effort. "Then it appears I need Crichton's brain more than ever," he murmured. "Intensify the search. Find Crichton!"

On the Luxan ship, Pilot's transmission caused D'Argo to smile. Aeryn turned to him and asked, "What did he say?"

"He said Ch'rall was on the way to open the doors. That should be interesting."

Aeryn smiled wanly as her attention turned to Crichton, who was drifting in and out of consciousness.

"Hey, baby," he whispered.

"Hey, yourself. How do you feel?"

"Like I had a fight with a Luxan in hyper-rage and got the dren kicked out of me."

"Hang on. Help is on the way."

"Yeah, well, unless a command carrier or dreadnought is on our side, we've got a real problem. I don't see how we get out of here anytime soon."

"Pilot said Ch'rall sounded very confident about his success," D'Argo responded. "And we all know what his ship can do."

"I don't like to rain on anyone's parade, but this is a command carrier, not a Prowler," John replied weakly. "I'm afraid his Mellacat isn't big enough to get this carrier's attention, let alone blast us out of here."

"Well, we're about to find out. Ch'rall is signaling and wants to lock onto our signal so he will know where we are."

"Give him a signal, D'Argo and get ready. I think we'll be blasting after all," Aeryn said with a tight smile.

John reached over and touched D'Argo's arm. When he turned, John said, "Make sure to call Rygel and Crais and give them a head's up before we blow this taco stand." D'Argo nodded and started his engines.

Once the engines started, all pretense of concealment was gone. The interior doors to the hangar bay opened within ten seconds and a squad of troopers entered, firing at the sound of the engines. The Luxan ship's shielding effectively repulsed their blasts. Just when the three began to worry about heavier weapons being brought in, the outer doors imploded with a violence that shook the entire carrier, vaporizing the troopers.

Surveying the damage, D'Argo smiled broadly. "I guess that answers any question about his craft, wouldn't you say? Now hang on, it will probably get a little bumpy." He quickly accelerated out of the gaping hole in the carrier's side.

"You weren't kidding, big guy," John winced.

Aeryn noted the rear sensors and yelled, "Here comes the pursuit. I count at least six Prowlers and two Marauders. There's sure to be more."

As D'Argo focused his rear cannons, Ch'rall swung out of the carrier's shadow and blasted through the Peacekeeper formation. His fire destroyed one Prowler outright and severely damaged two others. Unfortunately, seven other Prowlers took their place almost immediately.

"Faster, D'Argo," Aeryn yelled as she noticed the increase in the following pack.

"Hang on, guys. We're coming," Chiana's voice sounded over the comms. "Don't shoot us. We're in the Marauder coming your way."

"Who is manning your weapons console?" Aeryn asked breathlessly.

"Who do you think, Peacekeeper? If I could shoot at Charrids on Dam-ba-da, I can certainly shoot at Peacekeeper ships out here."

"Rygel!" John yelled with a laugh. "Just don't hit us."

"Don't worry, Crichton. Moya and Talyn are on the way and should be here very shortly," he answered with assurance. "Take that, you frelling Peacekeeper."

A Prowler exploded behind them as Ch'rall and Chiana laid down withering fire to protect the Luxan vessel. D'Argo looked ahead and saw Moya with Talyn close behind. "It appears that we might just get out of this with our skins," he exclaimed.

Moya cut behind them and the defense screen took the brunt of the fire from the pursuing vessels. Then Talyn joined the fray and space became silent again for a brief moment. The next wave of Prowlers washed over the ships with blasting cannons. The dogfight intensified as Aeryn noted the carrier beginning to close while bringing its frag cannons to bear.

"We have to get those Prowlers off us if we are to have any chance," she yelled.

"What do you think we are trying to do?" D'Argo yelled back.

"Why can't we catch a break?" John moaned.

"You are the one who once said things were never easy," D'Argo retorted.

"But couldn't I be wrong just this one time?"

Talyn and the Mellacat took out the brunt of the second wave without suffering much damage. Chiana spun the Marauder away from a blast and D'Argo took out the remaining Prowlers before she could wheel around.

"Thanks, D'Argo. I owe ya," she called.

Noticing a break in the Prowler attack, John asked tensely, "Can we board Moya before the carrier gets here?"

"We have to or the carrier will destroy us all," D'Argo growled. "Pilot, drop the defense screen and let us in."

"Acknowledged!"

"Pilot, Crais, be ready to Starburst as soon as we board," Aeryn called.

The vessels entered Moya and she powered to Starburst before they had rolled to a stop. The carrier fired a salvo that barely missed both Leviathans as they disappeared. All that was left was a wounded command carrier and a squadron of Prowlers buzzing like angry hornets robbed of their prey.

EPILOGUE

Moya's medbay was a little crowded. Besides John and Aeryn, Ch'rall was being treated for a minor concussion caused by the lurch into Starburst. Jool treated John immediately while Chiana stitched Aeryn's wound with D'Argo's assistance. John was unconscious when they brought him in and the crew was worried about his temperature, but the human showed his resilience once again. His temperature slowly lowered toward what they thought was normal and his color returned.

When he finally awoke, he looked at the entire crew who gathered around his bed. Aeryn sat close by with her leg elevated, but she wasn't so far away that she couldn't reach his hand. She squeezed it gently and smiled.

"Hey. Welcome back."

"Hey. How are you doing? How's the leg?"

"It's a little sore. Chiana and D'Argo can add sewing to their list of skills. Probably won't even scar. How do you feel?"

"I've felt a helluva lot worse, considering. Who do I thank?"

Jool reached out and felt his forehead, which earned her a smile from Crichton. "You were very lucky. The knife missed any vital organs. A few drenches to the right and you would have lost a kidney," she chided.

"I told you not to trust that frelling Peacekeeper," Rygel huffed.

"Yeah, well, sometimes the past haunts us," replied John, glancing at Aeryn who lowered her eyes.

D'Argo came to stand over John's bed. "Are you sure you feel well, John? You worried us all," he said with concern.

"Yeah, I feel good, big guy, but there is one thing. I must have been hallucinating during the battle. I seem to remember this weird videogame with Chiana flying a Marauder and Rygel blowing Prowlers out of space. We all know that couldn't have happened," he said with a sly smile.

Both Chi and Rygel began to splutter. "I'll have you know that you weren't dreaming, Crichton. I blew up three frelling Prowlers and Chiana is a better pilot than I thought possible," Rygel declared. The last part earned him a slight shove from the Nebari who was smiling as wide as she could.

"I can attest to Dominar Rygel's accuracy, Crichton. He actually destroyed four Prowlers and Chiana has the makings of a fine combat pilot," Crais interjected.

"I know, I know. I was just yanking their chains for a minute."

"You must be feeling better if your so-called sense of humor is back," D'Argo grinned.

John noticed Ch'rall in a nearby bed with a cold pack on his brow. His concern was evident as he asked, "What happened to you? Are you OK?"

"Actually I haven't enjoyed myself so much in a long, long time. When Moya went into Starburst I was thrown into my ship's canopy, but everyone assures me I'll be fine once I quit seeing two of everything," he smiled. He paused briefly and the smile disappeared as he announced, "When I recover, I will be taking my leave."

His announcement caused a ripple within the gathering. They all looked at him with dismay. D'Argo asked what everyone was thinking. "Where are you going? We thought you wanted to join us."

"Your mission has been accomplished. You have thwarted Scorpius and destroyed his data. I need to move to other things. The battle with the Stinger caused me to think about what I wish to do in the future."

"And that would be?" John asked quietly.

"I have a certain craving for liver and I know exactly where to go to satisfy myself," he replied with a toothy smile. "I neglected to mention the reason for my banishment from Scorvia. Sh'nam usurped my throne and banished me to save face since he could not catch me to have me executed. He killed my entire family including three cousins who might have challenged his right to rule. It is time that justice paid him a visit."

His grim visage caused the others to shudder slightly. Noticing their discomfort, he continued, "If I succeed, Scorvia will become peaceful again. If you need my assistance after that, please call me. I am not ready to die just yet."

"You have been a true ally, Ch'rall. I, for one, will miss you," D'Argo said in a firm voice.

"As will we all," Crais added.

"Ch'rall, take care of yourself and I wish you good luck. Sh'nam sounds like he needs a taste of justice and you are just the person to make that happen. We'll save a place for you if you should get bored," John said smiling.

Aeryn grasped John's hand tightly and whispered, "I'm sorry."

Taken aback, John replied, "For what?"

"That I didn't stop Velorek before he tried to kill you."

"Sunshine, reading tea leaves is Chiana's department. You couldn't have predicted what Velorek was going to do and I don't want you feeling guilty about it. He's not the first guy in this universe who wanted a woman and was willing to kill the competition. I read about it in the newspapers every day on Earth. Jealousy is a strong emotion. Besides, my one regret about this whole business isn't Velorek."

They all nodded as Aeryn said, "Scorpius is still alive and he needs you more than ever."

"I would love to have seen the look on his face when he discovered his precious wormhole knowledge was gone," John laughed. "Damn, that hurts," he winced. "But any way you look at it, today is one of the good days."

Scorpius stared into the star field outside his carrier. He held the reports from Strappa and Braca and was lost in thought. He knew the identity of the body in the lab and deduced that the missing tech was, in fact, Aeryn Sun. The more he thought about it, the more Crichton's trickery galled him. In frustration, he threw the datachips containing the reports across his Ready Room and began to clench and unclench his hands. How could I let you deceive me and escape yet again?

"We will meet again, John. Your luck will not hold. I refuse to let one person stand in my way," he murmured. His voice was as cold as the vast nothingness outside his vessel.

THE END