Sikozu Shanu watched intently as the creature called Talikaa carried the glowing green orb that contained the energy generated by Scorpius' strongest personality trait. She was careful to keep that orb in view and herself hidden as Talikaa made her way through Moya's corridors, finally reaching her destination – the nest she had established in one of Moya's cargo bays. Sikozu secreted herself behind some empty crates and watched as Talikaa reached the top of a ramp and almost reverently, it seemed, lifted the orb to hang it with the others that had previously been harvested.
Sikozu shifted for a better view. The subtle shifting of position, however, caused her maimed leg to give out on her and she bit back a cry of pain as she made a grab for the doorway, preventing herself from falling. Using the doorframe for leverage, Sikozu maneuvered herself further into the room, sliding in between another stack of empty containers and a wall. From here, she could rest her leg for a few microts and still maintain a watch on the orbs as she alerted Crichton to the location of the nest.
"I've found it," she whispered into her comms. "Tier seven, the cargo bay."
"I'm never gonna make it." Crichton sounded exhausted and utterly defeated. As there was no further reply, Sikozu could only hope that the Human would follow through on the plan. She pushed herself away from the wall against which she had been leaning and limped further into the room, through the maze of containers, careful not to touch anything with her damaged hand. It would be unwise to cause herself further and unexpected pain, perhaps alerting Talikaa to her presence.
It wasn't long before she heard the welcome sound of Crichton's arrival in the cargo bay. She carefully poked her head out of her hiding place in time to see the Human stumble into the room. Their eyes met, but Sikozu had no clue as to what could possibly be going through Crichton's mind as he laid down his rather large gun on some sort of canister. She didn't know exactly where Talikaa was, but she was certain the Wolaxian was in the cargo bay, keeping watch over the orbs.
Crichton's voice startled her. "I know you can see me. The bad guys always see me, 'cause my plans suck. People die. It's always a mess." Sikozu could find nothing in his assessment with which to disagree.
"Crichton." Talikaa's voice came from above. Sikozu's green eyes followed the sound and spotted her crouched within the girders almost directly above Crichton. A sigh of relief escaped her lips as she realized that, although she could see her enemy, she could not herself be seen – Talikaa was facing in the opposite direction.
"Yeah, that's me, the dumb ass. I help someone and they screw me."
While Crichton engaged Talikaa in conversation, drawing her down from her hiding place in the girders, Sikozu began to make her way as silently as she could toward the nest. It was difficult, given the damage to her leg, but what choice did she have? Her damaged hand she held cradled to her chest.
Sikozu reached for the nearest orb – the new addition, Scorpius' – as Crichton said, "Come on, I'm tired." Intent as she was on her task, she couldn't see his position. "I'm tired of worrying. I'm tired of fighting. Just…bring it on. End it now."
The hopelessness and despair in his voice made Sikozu pause, the third orb in her hand. She moved to where she could see what was happening below. She couldn't hear Talikaa's reply, if there was one, but was disturbed to hear a chittering sound and then see Crichton fall to the floor. He didn't try to get up, even as Talikaa sidled over to him.
"Oh, God. I was afraid you were gonna say that." He sighed heavily, the sound carrying to Sikozu. "Bring it on."
She watched in horror as Crichton closed his eyes and Talikaa slowly leaned in over him. "I already have," the arachnid-in-Sebacean-form said.
"Crichton!" Sikozu screamed at him, forgetting for the microt the task at hand. "Don't let her!" Her eyes widened as Talikaa, now in spider form, turned from Crichton to rush at her, moving faster than anything she had ever seen.
Sikozu sped back to the remaining orbs and began to hurriedly gather them up, no longer making any attempt to keep them in any sort of order. The force of the arachnid's scream hit her in the back like a fist, causing her vision to dim. She barely heard the sound of Crichton's rifle firing. She stumbled, but forced the darkness back. She couldn't fail.
Shaking her head to clear her vision, she heard more gunfire and Crichton yelling, "Get the orbs!" Glancing over her shoulder, Sikozu saw the enormous spider take a full-on shot and come right back at Crichton. Ignoring the pain in both her hand and her leg, she reached up for the last of the orbs.
She looked back again in time to see Crichton ram the muzzle of the rifle into the arachnid's maw and pull the trigger. The creature exploded in a spectacular display of flame and sparks. Sikozu ducked behind a girder with a gasp just in time to avoid being hit by flaming bits of spider.
Cradling the precious orbs to her chest, Sikozu looked down at Crichton. He looked back up at her through the mess of ichor that covered his face and said, "Along came a spider…exploded beside her…" With that pronouncement, he fell unconscious to the floor.
"…touch infects its victims and stimulates exaggerated neural functioning. The creature then transforms, harvests that energy from its host, stores it in membranous orbs, and hides those orbs in an external nest for later consumption. Finding that nest and opening the orbs in proximity to the victims will allow reassimilation of the energy and complete recovery."
They were all gathered in the center chamber, watching the recording from the traders' ship. D'Argo had asked Pilot to filter the Diagnosan's recorded transmission so that they only heard the voice of the translator, rather than the duet with the Diagnosan's voice underneath the translation. The combination had been distracting, especially for poor Aeryn, who had become what Crichton called a "bumble of nerves."
"Well," Chiana began, "that sounds simple enough. We just find our own orb and open it." She reached for one of the glowing objects, currently stacked in a box in the center of the table.
Crichton's hand shot out, trapping hers before she could grab an orb. "Not so fast, chickie." She didn't have any problem withdrawing her hand from his grasp, though, as he visibly lost interest, lapsing back into the brooding, depressed state that was beginning to worry D'Argo.
"Why not? How hard can it be?" Chiana shrugged and reached again for an orb. "There's gotta…there's gotta be some way to tell them apart." She took the one on top of the stack and sniffed at it.
"Chiana, I already tried that," D'Argo said, taking the orb from her and replacing it on the stack with its companions. "They are identical, as far as I can tell."
"Did you run a spectrum analysis on them?" Crichton asked of no one in particular, as he traced random patterns on the table top.
"Yes, of course, Crichton," Sikozu answered him. "That was the first test I ran." Although her response had started out a bit terse – the tension of the situation was getting to her, especially since Scorpius, following the harvest of his neural energy, seemed to have become little more than an automaton – it finished on a much more frustrated note. "I can find nothing to differentiate between them."
Aeryn, who had been pacing incessantly for the last quarter arn – ever since she had arrived in the center chamber, in fact – paced over to the table. "Well, we just have to do something. We'll be dead soon, if we don't."
"We don't know that," Noranti said. "We—"
"But we do know that!" Aeryn exploded. "You weren't there! You didn't see those traders, how they just…" Her voice softened. "…fell apart." She dropped her arms to her sides. "We have to do something. I'm with Chiana on that."
Almost simultaneously, all eyes seemed to turn to the orbs, mocking them from the stack on the table.
"All right. Let's take a vote," D'Argo said. "All those in favor of simply choosing an orb and opening it?"
Chiana, Aeryn, and Rygel raised their hands.
"Those in favor of more research, maybe finding out what happens if we choose the wrong orb?"
Noranti, Sikozu, and D'Argo raised their hands. Scorpius, huddled into himself in a corner near Sikozu, was no longer capable of casting a vote.
"You abstain? You can't abstain!"
"Yes, I can." He looked up from the table, finally, and what D'Argo saw in his friend's blue eyes pushed him from worry into outright fear. "D'Argo, I don't care. You guys…do what you want." There was a certain note of finality in his voice. Crichton pushed himself up from the table and, turning his back on everyone, started for the door.
"John, get back here!" D'Argo ordered.
Crichton paused next to Scorpius. "Why?"
"Why?" Chiana, too, pushed herself away from the table. "'Cause we have to take care of this, you fekkik, that's why!" D'Argo thought she might have seen the look in John's eyes, too.
John turned his head to look over at the Nebari. "I told you, you guys do what you want. I'm outta here."
D'Argo and Chiana exchanged a look. Then D'Argo reached over Noranti's shoulder, grabbed an orb from the stack, and threw it to Chiana, who had followed Crichton over to the door.
Chiana caught the orb in one gloved hand and smashed it into the back of Crichton's head, causing him to stagger and catch himself on the doorway as the orb exploded, covering him with glowing green goo.
He dropped to his knees, one hand still on the doorway. "Dammit. I just got all the frelling spider bits outta my hair." He fell to the floor, half in the center chamber, half in the corridor beyond, and began to convulse.
Aeryn couldn't seem to stop herself from pacing. Couldn't seem to focus on anything. The uncertainty was killing her. Actually, whatever that frelling Talikaa had done to them was killing her. Why couldn't they just frelling decide on a course of action? All they seemed to be able to do was talk the thing to death.
She watched John push off from the table without voting, surprising her. She thought that he, at least, would vote to do something. But, then, he hadn't been himself lately. None of them were. That was the whole frelling problem, now, wasn't it?
And then it seemed, in just the blink of an eye, John was on the floor in convulsions. Chiana had done something to him, but Aeryn had missed it. They had been voting, John had abstained and started to leave, and then he was convulsing on the floor, covered in green goo.
Her pacing finally interrupted, Aeryn ran to John. "John!" She glared at Chiana, who was kneeling next to him, holding his head. "Are you trying to kill him?!"
"Hey!" Chiana sounded outraged. "I thought you were on my side!" Chiana shifted so that Aeryn was able to pull John's head into her lap to keep him from slamming it to the floor. "We had to, Aeryn. He was…was…he was going to kill himself."
Aeryn's eyes locked onto Chiana's. Hard though it was to focus, the conversation she had only been half listening to replayed in her mind and she realized that Chiana might be right. She looked back down at John as his eyes rolled up into his head, the convulsions stopping as abruptly as they had begun.
She looked up at the sound of Rygel's throne sled approaching. "Well, I suppose this makes our decision for us."
Several arns later, Noranti was in the galley, cobbling together the ingredients for a special recipe. True, she had never made her roasted spider soup from a Wolaxian Arachnid before, but she thought that might just make it that much more satisfying. At any rate, it wouldn't be ready to eat for a couple of solar days – it took that long to marinate and roast the spiders properly, or in this case, the spider.
None of the others' assimilation of the orbs' energies had been nearly as eventful as Crichton's, thank the divine eternal. It was still unclear, though, if they had somehow miraculously gotten them right. Just in case, D'Argo had set Pilot and Sikozu to searching for the Diagnosan whom the traders had spoken to as well as searching through every dench of Moya's databanks for references to Wolaxian Arachnids.
"Hey, Grandma! How you doin'?" Crichton slapped her on the back as he stole a piece of Parellian cucumber from her soup ingredients. Before she could say anything, he had stuffed it into his mouth.
She frowned, her third eye shading into red. "Well, I'm glad to see you're at least feeling better."
"Right as rain. Hey, you got any of that casserole left from the other day? I'm starving!"
"I do, but only if you promise me you won't steal any more of my soup ingredients."
"Moi?" He was the picture of innocence. "Your soup fixin's are safe from me, Grandma. Scout's honor."
Whatever that meant. With an admonishing look, she turned to the refrigeration unit for the casserole. There was almost half of it left, so there should be more than enough for Crichton to satisfy his hunger. She turned to hand it to him, only to find that the remainder of the uncut cucumber was gone, as was a portion of the marinating spider meat, and Crichton was licking his fingers. "Crichton!" She thrust the cold casserole at him. "Take this and go! I will not have you eating everything I need for my soup!"
"Um, sorry." He made a visible effort to look pathetic. "I'm hungry." He took the casserole from her and she waved him away.
"Sikozu, any luck with locating that Diagnosan yet?" D'Argo asked, comming her from his quarters. He returned to polishing his Qualta blade, whistling as he worked.
"Nothing yet," she replied. "And there will be nothing if you don't stop bothering me."
Her sigh was audible, even over the comms. "If and when I find anything, you'll be the first to know."
Aeryn woke slowly, stretching languidly, enjoying the feel of the coverlet against her bare skin, even as she realized that she didn't normally sleep naked. Hmm. She might just have to change her ways, in that regard…
Following the breaking of the orbs, and after reassuring herself that John would live, at least for now, she had returned to her quarters, showered, and gone to bed. She had been exhausted and hadn't felt that she could be of any use to anyone until she had gotten some sleep.
While she slept, she had dreamed. A smile slowly spread across her face. Yes, she certainly had. And John Crichton, astronaut from Erp, had figured prominently in those dreams. Perhaps she should seek him out, once she got dressed. Her smile widened as she thought, Perhaps I should have him come here, and simply not get dressed at all. Maybe that would break through the walls he refused to tear down between them.
Chiana was on her way to Command, as it was her turn on watch. She still wasn't feeling well, but at least she no longer felt like she was going to die and that rash, or whatever it was, had disappeared. She could hear the slight whining sound of Rygel's throne sled ahead of her, coming closer.
She turned the corner at the same time as Rygel, with a jarring impact that flung her to the floor. "Watch where the frell you're going, fek face!"
"Nebari bitch. Just stay out of my way," Rygel snarled. He kept going, not looking back.
"You little—" Chiana surged to her feet, angrier than she had ever been in her life. When she tasted the blood trickling from her nose to her mouth, she decided the little frog's days were about at their end. Pulling her pulse pistol, she ran after Rygel.
Scorpius had returned to his cell some arns ago, following the absorption of the orb's energy into his body. That was where Sikozu found him now, lying in his bed, eyes closed, but she was sure that he wasn't asleep. She needed to speak to him, determine for herself if the energy had indeed been his own, reintegrated, or that of one of the others.
She had been searching for arns with Pilot for either anything to do with Wolaxian Arachnids or the Diagnosan in the traders' recording. While they had narrowed down the approximate location of the Diagnosan's original transmission, they had been unable to determine an exact point of origin. Pilot, recognizing her increasing frustration, had sent her away to rest, saying that he would continue the search alone for a while.
"Scorpius?" she called to him softly through the cell door. "May I come in?"
He didn't open his eyes as he said, "Why?"
Sikozu blinked, taken aback by the curt reply. "Because I would like to speak with you. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Sikozu. I have no need of anything. Please, leave." His voice was polite and impersonal when he spoke. And still, he had not opened his eyes.
She opened her mouth to say something, but closed it again, her words remaining unspoken. While his current state was certainly better than either the animal he had become prior to the harvest or the near catatonia following it, she felt certain that the energy he had received was not his own.
Having warmed and eaten the rest of Noranti's casserole, Crichton found it the more prudent course to simply leave, rather than risk the wrath of Grandma if he were tempted again to swipe some of her "ingredients." Whatever she was sautéing smelled pretty darn good, though…
Maybe he'd just swing back by his own quarters – he just had this odd feeling that he should check on things, make sure everything was where it should be.
Speaking of odd, what the hell was the ruckus at the end of the corridor? At the sound of Chiana screaming, he broke into a run.
He skidded to a stop at the sight of Rygel, hovering just out of Chiana's reach while she worked herself into a frenzy, jumping at him, apparently trying to take something from him. Crichton couldn't tell what it was from where he was standing.
"Hey, kids, can I play, too?" he asked, hoping to distract them and maybe diffuse some of the tension that was thick in the atmosphere.
They both ignored him.
"Gimme that back, you little weasel!" Chiana was practically frothing at the mouth.
Rygel didn't reply, just watched her from his perch, just out of reach.
"Whatcha got there, Sparky?" John asked, curious. He, too, watched Chiana, fascinated by the fireworks display.
"She attempted to shoot me, so I disarmed her."
"Shoot you?" Crichton whistled. "Man, Ryge, what'd you do?"
"I did nothing, Crichton. She got in my way. I am a Dominar. No one gets in my way. I give right of way to no one."
Crichton frowned. Chiana, for the moment, had stopped leaping at Rygel and was now bent over, hands on knees, recovering her breath. There was dried blood on the lower part of her face. "You okay, Pip?"
"I will be once this little fekkik is DEAD!" The last word was more shrieked than spoken, as she took another swipe at the Hynerian, who had dropped his altitude a bit, bringing him into range.
With Rygel distracted, he grabbed what he now saw was a pulse pistol. "Why don't I just take that? You two can just fight it out without weapons, 'kay?" As Chiana lunged again for Rygel, making contact, this time, Crichton said, "Hey, if you guys kill each other, can I have your stuff?"
Rebuffed by Scorpius, normally the only person on this insane ship that she could tolerate for more than a few hundred microts, Sikozu returned to Command, intent on continuing her search through Moya's databanks for information on Wolaxian Arachnids. There were terminals she could have used in other locations, but the master console in Command was much more straight-forward – she didn't need any more frustration in her life right now.
Plugging back into the database, she commed Pilot. "Pilot, have you located the Diagnosan yet? I've just returned from speaking with Scorpius and I am convinced that the energy he absorbed was not his own."
"Yes, Sikozu, I have located the Diagnosan. Literally, just a few microts ago."
Sikozu smiled. "And can he help us?"
"Yes. I believe she can."
"Have you alerted D'Argo?"
"I was about to when you commed."
Aeryn sauntered into Command, a bit later than she expected, to find that everyone was already there. They were all waiting in front of the main viewscreen, which had that white-noise look that meant a transmission was pending.
"Whoa." John's voice and eyes said that he clearly appreciated her change in wardrobe. Rather than those drab Peacekeeper leathers, which weren't all that comfortable, really, she had chosen something a bit less…constricting.
She drifted over to the Human, trailing one finger across his chest as she passed. His quick intake of breath was quite gratifying. "Are you all waiting for me?" she asked, turning to face D'Argo. A small smile played with her lips as she realized that he, too, appreciated her new look. It was amazing, really, what a few subtle changes could do. She'd had no idea.
"Um, yes, er, I mean, no, Aeryn," D'Argo stuttered, "we're, ah, waiting for the Diagnosan to become available."
"Good. Sorry I'm late."
Looking at the others, who were all looking at her, she noticed that Chiana's nose appeared to be swollen and discolored and she was glaring at Rygel. Rygel was on the opposite side of the room, sporting a few bruises of his own, watching Chiana. Scorpius' attention seemed to be focused rather intently on herself, as was D'Argo's and John's. Sikozu was watching her with narrowed eyes, her thoughts a cypher. Noranti's eyes drifted from one to the next of them and she looked thoughtful, her third eye open and glowing a shade of purple. Aeryn made a mental note to ask the old woman if there was any significance to the colors.
She leaned back against a console, enjoying the slippery feel of the fabric John – a lifetime ago, it seemed – had called silk, when he had bought it for her, monens ago. She choked off the memory of those days, not wanting to ruin her enjoyment of the effect she was having on her crewmates with sadness.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the viewscreen flaring to life. The image of a Diagnosan filled the screen, she had no idea if he or she was the same one from the recording. The Diagnosan began to speak in a high-pitched, trilling voice quickly followed by a much lower voice translating. "I give you greeting. You require my services?"
"Ah, yes," D'Argo replied, tearing his eyes away from Aeryn Sun with visible effort. "Yes, Diagnosan…" John felt a twinge of jealosy, seeing how affected the Luxan was by Aeryn's, ah, charms. She belonged to him, dammit.
"You may call me Samat." There was a short delay as the translation was relayed, kinda reminding him of an old Japanese monster movie. Godzilla… Mothra… Talikaa…
"Diagnosan Samat," Big D continued, "it's our understanding that you were contacted a few solar days ago by a group of traders."
Well, dammit, now Scorpy was staring at Aeryn. What was the deal? John moved a little closer to Aeryn, putting himself between her and Scorpius, blocking Scorpy's view. He tried to look nonchalant as he did so – after all, he didn't want Scorpy to make anything of it.
"Yes, Captain D'Argo, that is true. They wanted information in regard to a Wolaxian Arachnid incursion on their ship."
"Exactly!" The big guy sounded excited.
"Your current inquiry is in regard to that incursion?"
John jumped a little as Aeryn got up from her seat and drifted past him, leaving a whiff of perfume in her wake. His eyes widened a bit as she approached Scorpius and then narrowed as Scorpy's attention was drawn entirely away from the conversation between D'Argo and Samat, fastening instead on Aeryn's perfumed hair. Well, her hair and the black silk negligee she was wearing. Where the hell had she gotten that? He had to force himself to stay where he was and not go over there and haul his woman away from their unwelcome houseguest.
John dragged his attention back to D'Argo and Samat with great difficulty. He had missed what D'Argo had just said, but caught Samat's reply.
"And you believe the Arachnid has transferred itself to your ship?"
"Well, actually, we know that she did. Some of our crew have been, ah, infected."
The Diagnosan cocked her head to one side. Because of the mask covering her face, John couldn't tell if there was any change in expression or not. Still watching the viewscreen, his attention was nevertheless caught by the sight of Scorpy and Aeryn talking quietly in the corner. Why the frell was she so close to him?
"I do not perceive any of the visible symptoms, Captain. Perhaps you are mistaken?"
"I don't think so."
"Well, in any case, if you have been infected, I do not believe there is time for you to come here for an examination. Given your current location, it would take almost a weeken, and that would be several solar days too long."
Attention divided between D'Argo and the Diagnosan and Aeryn and Scorpy, John felt himself becoming a bit…agitated. He found himself wishing he had something to munch on to distract him from—
"Will you two pay attention?" The sight of Aeryn taking Scorpy's hand was just too much. Was the woman deliberately trying to make him jealous?
"Sorry," she said, turning her eyes to the screen, but keeping Scorpy's hand. Was that actually a smirk on her face? And he didn't believe she was sorry at all.
"Ah, given that we can't go there and you can't come here in time, what can you tell us of treatment? Say, for instance, what would we do if the energy were assimilated into the wrong person?"
The Diagnosan took a deep breath before replying. John, who had stuffed his hands in his pockets after his outburst, found a few food cubes in them and drew one out, popping it into his mouth. Huh, he didn't normally carry food with him, but he was glad of it anyway.
"In that event, Captain, if you have the Arachnid contained, I'm afraid you will have to kill it and ingest a portion of it's flesh."
Noranti interjected a comment then, moving to stand closer to D'Argo. "Well, that shouldn't be a problem. The Arachnid is already dead and I have the meat marinating for roasted spider soup."
"Marinating, you say?" The Diagnosan shook her head. "I'm afraid that won't do. The meat must be raw and unadulterated, and from the original Arachnid, for the cure to be effected."
"Dead is dead. I don't see the problem," Rygel said, his throne sled drifting closer to John. Shooting a look over at Chiana, who was clearly still angry with the little toad, he took a step back to make sure Ryge didn't drift past him and closer to Pip.
"The unadulterated meat of the Wolaxian Arachnid acts as a catalyst, forcing the body to reject the foreign neural energy."
Sikozu joined the question and answer session with, "Wouldn't their bodies reject the foreign energy naturally."
"While that does occasionally occur, it is not a certainty. And, in many of the case in which this does occur naturally, the energy is not recoverable. If that happens, the individual will die, just as surely as if the neural energy had never been recovered in the first place."
"That certainly puts a damper on things," John said, now trying to divide his attention between the Diagnosan, Aeryn and Scorpy, and Rygel and Chiana. He popped another food cube into his mouth.
"No, no, no," D'Argo said. "We'll all be just fine. Even assuming we didn't absorb our own neural energy, there's nothing to worry about. There's plenty of spider meat in the galley."
"What makes you say that, Pollyanna? Grandma here," John gestured to Noranti, who was still standing near D'Argo and looking a bit chagrined, "put all that meat into a marinade for her soup."
John thought D'Argo looked a little sick, at that announcement.
"Not all," Rygel said.
John raised an eyebrow, popping another cube. "Oh?"
Without answering John, Rygel moved past him and closer to the viewscreen. "How much meat must one ingest?"
"A few bites should be sufficient."
Rygel didn't say another thing as he left the room.
Recovering his composure, D'Argo asked, "Ah, what is the procedure, provided we have unadulterated meat?"
"You must first determine who possesses the neural energies of the infected parties. As I said previously, the meat acts as a catalyst. Once ingested, it will cause the living body to reject the foreign energy. That energy will reform itself into a membranous orb which then must be broken in close proximity to its rightful owner."
"Exactly how long does it take for the body to reject the energy?" Aeryn asked. She had now drifted over to stand near D'Argo. John closed his eyes, hands clenched into fists, wishing he had a robe or something to toss over her.
"It usually takes fourteen to sixteen arns. Once the meat is ingested, however, any physical deterioration should cease."
"Doesn't really matter, though, since Wrinkles seems to have screwed the pooch." Chiana sound more than a little irritated.
The whine of Rygel's throne sled could be heard reentering Command as D'Argo said, "Thank you for your help, Diagnosan Samat. It is much appreciated."
"I wish you luck, Captain D'Argo." The viewscreen went blank.
Fools, Rygel thought, as he tossed the large spider leg into the midst of them. He had found the leg intact and was planning to keep it as a trophy. But, since he didn't feel like a Dominar – and he always felt like a Dominar – and, judging by Aeryn's behavior, she wasn't feeling particularly like a Peacekeeper, he thought that he'd rather give up his trophy than his life. Luckily, he hadn't yet taken steps to preserve it, beyond putting it into the refrigeration unit in his quarters.
"What is that?" Chiana asked.
"What does it look like, dolt?"
"That's not what I meant, fek face. What? Were you keeping it as a trophy?" Her voice was full of contempt.
"What does it matter? I have it, we need it."
John had picked up the leg and was examining it, thinking, when he could break his mind away from Aeryn, about the way he had been acting lately. He was constantly eating, even now wanting to take a bite out of the raw haunch of spider in his hands. It wasn't like he was hungry… He kept feeling the urge to check on his things. He felt like no one ever listened to him. In a word, he was acting like… "Rygel! I'm acting like Rygel!"
"What are you blathering about now, Human," Rygel said, his tone a bit menacing.
"Damn, Sparky! You're way too short for the Darth Vader routine." A thought struck him and he turned to Scorpius, who was standing off to the side, alone. "But you're not."
"What are you thinking, John?" D'Argo asked.
"What am I thinking? I'm thinking I got Sparky's neural energy and that he's got Scorpy Sue's." John looked over at Aeryn. "Yeah. And Aeryn's definitely got Chiana's."
"That's it!" Chiana shouted. "I've been acting like D'Argo all day!"
"And D'Argo's been acting like John," Aeryn added. "So, does that mean that Scorpius has mine?"
Sikozu looked at the hybrid. "That would explain your coldness to me, earlier…" She ended her statement looking at Aeryn.
"So…what do we do?" Chiana asked, gesturing to the spider leg John was still holding. "Everybody just a take a bite and, uh, pass it on?"
Aeryn had been looking for John for the past quarter arn. She finally found him in the galley, talking to D'Argo. Noranti was stirring a pot of something that wasn't yet hot enough to steam.
"Aeryn." John didn't sound happy to see her, but she intended to change that.
"John, D'Argo." She smiled at them both in turn. "What are you cooking, Noranti?"
"I'm working on the broth for my soup."
"And do you need any help with that?"
"No, Aeryn, but thank you for asking." The old woman's voice sounded mystified. Aeryn bit her lower lip to keep from laughing at her and hurting her feelings. She hadn't asked out of kindness. Her eyes moved from Noranti to John and D'Argo. She bit her lip harder when she realized that both men were totally focused on her mouth.
"Good. Then you won't mind if I steal these two away for a while." Aeryn was gratified to see the blue eyes of both men widen in surprise. She leaned over, resting her arms on the table, giving them both a good…view, and purred, "I'm bored. Want to have some fun?"
Noranti hurriedly put down the spoon she had been stirring with, rounded the cooking area, and hastened over to the three at the table. Pulling Aeryn away from the two thunderstruck men, she said, "My dear, I can't let you do that. You'll hate yourself in the morning." With that, she blew a pinch of dust in Aeryn's face, catching her before she fell to the floor.
Noranti hummed as she stirred the bubbling, steaming pot of soup. The aroma of the steam was making her mouth water and her stomach grumble, but she would wait for the others before she sat down to her meal.
Rygel, not normally one to miss a meal or even wait until a second call to meal time went out, had already finished one bowl of soup by the time D'Argo had arrived. Now the two of them – D'Argo still on his first bowl, Rygel on his third – sat at the table while she awaited the others. She expected them all, save Sikozu, who would, no doubt, remain with Scorpius in his cell. Noranti would see to it that they both ate; even though Sikozu needed food infrequently, it would help her injuries to heal more quickly if she ate something, hungry or not.
"Ahh…. Excellent, Noranti," Rygel said with a loud slurp. "Best roasted spider soup I ever ate."
D'Argo, who had been a bit dubious about the menu, added, "It's the only spider soup I ever ate, but it's really quite good."
Noranti smiled. "Are you feeling like your old selves again?" It certainly seemed so to her… Especially when she saw Rygel reach for D'Argo's bowl when the Luxan wasn't looking. At least, Rygel thought he wasn't looking. This clearly wasn't the case, though, as D'Argo grabbed his stubby arm in mid-reach with an outraged, "Hey!"
Rygel responded with a grunt as D'Argo continued, "Rygel obviously is."
Rygel tried to pull his arm away. "How about you? Still affected? You don't seem very angry…" He laughed evilly.
D'Argo leaned in close. "Would you like me to show you how angry I am?" His tone was conversational, but his slow smile was positively feral, to Noranti's way of thinking.
She chuckled and returned to stirring her pot. The others should be arriving for last meal any microt now and she wanted to make sure the soup remained just so.