Aeryn took off her modified headset and replaced the side panel she had removed to access a signal back onto the display unit. "The interface reports Squadron Velka heading for the Gelis sector, that's several systems away," Aeryn simply reported to John.
John Crichton kicked the wall panel and charged around a few steps seething some curses under his breath. "Frell it Aeryn, if they get through-"
"Yes I know. I've already suggested Pilot prepare for Starburst. We may get closer on another try."
"We're running out of tries, Aeryn."
"Yes I know that Crichton. This isn't helping. We have to wait another arn at least before Moya is ready. Just go "shopping" with the others and remember to keep a low profile so security on that base doesn't become aware we're down here."
"Do you know where Chiana has been all these arns?"
"What? Chiana?" he was incredulous to be asked. "No. Do you?"
"No I don't Crichton that's why I asked. I'm going to find out. With a Peacekeeper base in orbit we don't need her getting into trouble. Go ahead with the others," her eyes and voice resented his keeping company with certain of the others. His eyes darkly resented her resentment as he walked off with Jool.
Sliding between the cabinet and crates no guard could follow between, Chiana kept her gaze and attention above and around. Surveillance could be anywhere and every effort had to be made to keep as far out of security's senses as possible. A tell tale high pitched chirp as some gadget did something and a barely noticeable cast in some visual spectrum alerted her. Chiana ducked lower, keeping covered to either side unless the gadget was right on top of her. Looking up, Chiana's Nebari vision saw the UV emissions were coming from too far to the left.
Ibbik went to speak but Chiana jerked up a hand tensely and held it still, which told the young man shadowing her on the other side of the crates in the open walkway to be quiet. Her big black eyes darted sharply from one side to the other and her head tensely tilted. Something about the ambient noises had changed.
"Any reports from surveillance?" Ulek snapped, demanding a reply from his subordinate over the com as he hustled towards storage area 7 with his squad.
"Storage area 7 is under scan. No positive response at present. Cadet Ibbik still appears to be covering the area presently. No report of the subject," the reply sharply crackled through the com.
Ulek frowned, still convinced his intuition is correct. Too much is at stake to back down or be wrong. "This will be a difficult subject. We are proceeding to area 7. Send squad delta to the rear access of area 7. Prepare a prowler team for deployment on a microt's notice."
"Yes, sir." The voice was dutiful but weary. Only Ulek knew how formidable a threat John Crichton was. At least, only he was convinced the pulse pistol missing from evidence was not only John Crichton's, but had been retrieved by him. Let others call it missing, a mere accident. Ulek knew if John Crichton was here, then the information they were all charged with conveying was his objective. He would not let them succeed in relating such solid evidence and information of his research and whereabouts to High Command. No matter what the database said, John Crichton must have attained the evidence and would escape if they could not locate and stop him.
It didn't seem too odd that John Crichton was not waylaid by the misinformation ruse down at the commerce planet. Not with his reputation. It was how he was hiding that was so infuriating. Nobody could without getting information and the cooperation from guards. He was convinced nobody here would assist John Crichton. How then was he evading them on a base this secure?
Chiana's hand changed from a shush gesture to her gloved finger quirking a "come here." Surprised, Ibbik crawled over and just slid his legs in to stand in the gap she squirmed through. Her hands ran over his middle and he gulped. "H-here?"
"Shhhh!" she hissed. "Can it, kid," she harshly whispered. "Do nothing and nobody gets hurt." His eyes widened. She suddenly didn't seem like a helpless lost waif working in supply, accidentally trapped on the base, and needing to sneak out.
To Ibbiks shock, the main door opened. In the light streaming in, he could see the squad rushing in to take positions to cover the storage room. Before they could shine the search lights at him, a shockingly fast hand slid over his own hand which held the pulse rifle. His finger was suddenly pressed down, and the rifle shot into a nearby crate, starting a flurry of pulse fire from the squad at the shadows and motion caused by other shots.
Chopping him in the abdomen got him to bend over enough to keep him safely ducked below the line of fire, while Chiana kicked the crate which blocked the plumbing access out of the way in the same motion. Ripping Ibbeks com off, turning and sending him tumbling over the crate with a kick, Chiana deftly worked the access panel knobs off in no time. Ibbek finally got back onto his feet, signaled the squad and pointed his rifle at her, as she knew he would, but by then the only thing he hit was the access panel she held up as she leaped feet first into the access. She smashed the com with the panel then pulled the panel into place.
Ulek charged over with cover just in time to see Ibbek try to reopen the panel. Ulek picked up the broken com and glanced at Ibbeks torn uniform. "Poor hand combat, Cadet," he assumed, handing the com back to Ibbek and charging off with his squad. "The subject is in the access. Where does it emerge?"
"Level 4, area 9," came a hurried answer.
"Level 4, area 9, at once!" Ulek barked.
As the others ran off, Cadet Ibbek still stared at his com in bewilderment. Why would an enemy who had so used him ever so cleverly cover his guilt?
John rolled his eyes, wondering why he was stuck shopping forever with the ladies while D'Argo and Rygel got supplies. Well, except Aeryn and Chiana, the exciting ones to shop with, naturally. Where was Aeryn? Chiana was trolloping, he didn't wonder. Aeryn, though, could be into some serious business.
Squeezing through a tiny gap between the plumbing and current accesses, Chiana smirked as her laboring around everywhere paid off. Working another panel free, she slid out on level 3, area 10, running unnoticed through mundane service rooms to the prowler bay.
"This had better be important," Ulek demanded as he hurried into security central. He stopped in his tracks when he saw the data processor that was working on decoding John Crichton's data device. Their data processor was trashed and John Crichton's data device was stolen. And exactly like scores of other recent strikes by John Crichton, some paint had been scrawled on the side of the unit in the same strange symbols.
Ulek barked for more officers. This proved his hunch beyond any doubt, even being unable to read the alien symbols so deftly copied, spelling "john crichton was here."
A lightening quick flick of the wrist and Chiana sent a small, thin silver canister flying right at the Prowlers pilot, who was awaiting inspection and orders, idly resting against the stair up to the cockpit. The pilot slumped. Chiana raced over, plucked up the little spray paint canister and kissed it, pleased with its handiness.
Chiana worked the female Sebacean pilot behind some part bins with much struggle and donned the helmet. Bolting up into the cockpit just in time for the inspector to pass by and signal the okay to the squad, Chiana shifted in her seat and readied to try her hand at following her new squadron's dispatch and flight pattern.
Aeryn was uneasy as everyone entered the transport. "Where is Chiana?" Jool asked, not disguising some concern in the annoyance.
"I don't know," Aeryn answered, "but I'm going to look. D'Argo, take them back and return in one arn."
D'Argo nodded, just doing it while the others all yell at Aeryn's retreating form. "Will everyone just shut up," D'Argo lectured as if to his whining family. "I'm sure Aeryn knows what she's doing. Now let's just get the frell out of here."
"Pull in, Claey," the squad leader barked at her again. Chiana managed the touchy craft back into what seemed to be the right place. Sure enough, when it came to sending a few Prowlers to land at the planets dock and cover there in case, she was one of the three picked.
Landing first, she scrambled out and away before the others were finished with landing procedure to pay her any mind. Scurrying down the passages to the commercial transport pad below, she looked down from an observation window, startled to realize they had left without her.
"I thought I might find you here," Aeryn startled Chiana from the slight fuzziness all the rezlac was giving her. Aeryn went to sit on the stool beside her, getting rid of Chiana's new friend, but Chiana pulled her arm a microt then scrambled out before Aeryn could sit.
"Aeryn," Chiana held up a pulse pistol before Aeryn could query her outside the bar. Aeryn recognized it. Her eyes widened. "Tell me we have the transport."
"Not yet. D'Argo is returning soon."
"They'll shoot him down now they're looking for the transport. You still want to be a Prowler pilot?"
Aeryn narrowed her eyes. "What are you getting at?"
Chiana grinned deviously, "Follow me, Ace partner."
D'Argo broke off his pleasant marching hum. "What the hezmona?"
Three prowlers assumed attack formation. D'Argo activated his ship's weapons. His mouth fell open as he realized they had him dead on target from three sides by the time he had prepared. His mouth stayed open as two of them fired on the third of their own and assumed an escort formation, roughly.
"D'Argo is that you? Hello?" Chiana's voice broke in as D'Argo got the com online, once his mind got working again.
"Of course it is. Who else would fly this? Crichton?"
"Nevermind," Aeryn broke in. "Let's get back to Moya immediately."
Aeryn was already lost to inspecting "her" new Prowler as Chiana intercepted John walking towards Aeryn. "Hey old man, got something for ya."
"Listen, Chiana, you could have gotten Aeryn, D'Argo, all of us, killed! I've had it with your thieving, scheming, trolloping, just, just get the hell out of my-" he cut off his anger once his eyes settled on her unsettlingly vulnerable big black eyes that wordlessly watched. They blinked aside anger and hurt. He swallowed his anger and clenched his jaw. "Not now, Pip," he moved her aside, absently but not harshly. She turned away and stood there, quietly stung.
Aeryn wasn't receptive. Or he was being a problem? Whichever, as expected John was soon leaving Aeryn, and Chiana intercepted him in the corridor outside the hangar this time.
This time she pulled out the pulse pistol. That stopped him. "Winona?" he snatched it. "How did?"
"Just a little thing I picked up. With this," she held up his data recorder with his research.
"Chi! Pip, how the hell? They, that information, Peacekeeper information down there-"
He cut himself off as Chiana smiled, looking away. He suddenly felt like the naive one. He waited for her amused face to look back at him. "Fooled Aeryn and you like it was supposed to. Like I figured. You guys gotta learn other ways of getting information. Useful information," she smirked at him, bright eyed.
He smiled kindly at her. It hadn't been directed at her for what seems ages to her. "Thanks Pip. You're a life saver," he clasped both her shoulders then moved her aside with them, taking himself and his reclaimed goods down the corridor towards where she just knew another was waiting for him. Always another.
"No problem," she turned and told him, probably unheard. She just smirked wryly. Aeryn might care for hearing about it now. Chiana wandered back into the hangar with her own rewards, just a flask each of good fellip and rezlac. She smiled excitedly but put them back. Maybe later. She didn't feel much like any at the moment.
Chiana stood watching Aeryn inspect her new Prowler and glance over her shoulder time to time, wondering, she'd bet, what John is doing now. Not the right moment yet to bother her, Chiana decided. She just watched Aeryn, her now truly outcast companion in loneliness.
Aeryn suddenly stopped her work and sat heavily on the bottom rung of the Prowler access ladder. Now it was time.
"Fellip?" a thin metal flask was offered beside her face. Aeryn took the flask, glancing up at Chiana. Probably had been watching all this time just as unnoticed as her approach.
Aeyrn moved over on the step to make room then took a good swig and frowned at the flask. Good fellip. "How did you get this?"
Chiana just made an unreadable smile.
"How did you ever learn to pilot a Prowler?" Aeryn asked.
"That's. A long story."
"Good. And thank you, Chiana."
"It's just a small bit of fellip," Chiana made a tiny space between her index finger and thumb.
"For what you did."
"Yeah. Okay it was hezmona."
"Let's hear about it."
"That's another long story."
"Stop avoiding the subject."
"Uh," Chiana nervously scratched the nape of her neck, "I got word from a drunk Private at the bar that he was bumped off watch because some big shot unit came in, and the Captain sounded like our guy. So I snuck into a supply crate that was being shipped up to the base. With these," Chiana gestured to the flask in Aeryn's hand. "I saw this Cadet. Well, he saw me. So, I went over and told him I'd been left by the delivery people, I was helping, and he-"
Aeryn turned slightly towards Chiana in more interest, resting her chin on her fist as Chiana settled into her tale.