John Crichton was in a good mood. The sun was shining, the sky was the right shade of blue, Winona was a reassuring weight on his hip, he had the equivalent of a burrito and a beer under his belt, Harvey was taking some time out to chill, Pip and Rygel were in orbit and therefore not in (much) trouble and no-one was shooting at him.
And to cap it all, the radiant Aeryn Sun was walking next to him, her long black hair swept back over her shoulders, still giggling over the joke about the Hynerian courtesan and the drunken Luxan that he'd just told her.
Yup, life could be sweet sometimes, especially as Scorpius was nowhere near the area. Naturally it was at that moment that his communicator chose to chirp, before broadcasting D'Argo's voice.
"John, Aeryn, meet me at the bar now. There's something here you should see."
Almost two years of living in the Uncharted Territories had bred a few rather important survival habits into Crichton, and at the tone of the Luxan's voice, these instantly kicked in. His hand fell to his side, close to Winona, he turned and did a quick 360 degree scan of the area, trying to see if there were any suspicious characters or faces that looked out place and he registered where Aeryn was to make sure that they didn't block each other's field of fire. Aeryn was busy doing the same thing that he was. Then he triggered his communicator.
There was a pause before his friend replied. "I don't know. It could be. You need to see something here at the local holographic display."
Crichton glanced at Aeryn, who raised an eyebrow and then nodded sharply. "We'll be there in a couple of microts, D," he said, and then strode off down the street.
D'Argo was still standing where they had left him at the bar earlier, scanning the almost deserted street carefully. He didn't relax visibly when the two arrived, but by the slight tilt of his shoulders Crichton could tell that he was relieved. He nodded at them, and then ordered more drinks. The barman served them up and then wandered back to what looked like an ongoing campaign to chat up one of the barmaids.
"Even in a backwater like this someone might wonder at why we met just to stare at a Peacekeeper wanted beacon," rumbled the tall Luxan. "But three friends meeting over a drink and discussing affairs?"
Then he nodded at the beacon as it started to hum, obviously starting to draw power into the holographic projectors. "This thing is about to start over again. We're not on it... but, well, you might find it surprising."
The beacon emitted a sharp buzz, crackled once or twice and finally broadcast a simulation of a medium-sized Sebacean with short upswept black hair and a red and black coat fastened tightly at the neck.
"Hey," said Crichton softly into his beer, "It's our boy Braca. I wonder what Scorpy's right hand man has to say?"
The hologram froze for a second, crackled twice more and then the image finally spoke.
"Peacekeeper Command has issued bounty notices on four fugitives from justice, wanted on charges of murder, theft, sedition and intrusion into Peacekeeper space. If you see these four and report them to the nearest Peacekeeper unit you could stand to receive a substantial reward.
"The first is a Sebacean male-" the image changed to display a brown-haired figure in the uniform of a prowler pilot. He looked very bad-tempered to Crichton, although it might just have been that Peacekeeper-issue trousers could have made any male bad-tempered. "-called by name Etil Mar. Mar is a traitor to Peacekeeper Command, is dangerous and can be terminated on sight. A bounty for the delivery of his body will be delivered."
"Very generous," muttered Aeryn. "Nice to know that Peacekeeper Command hasn't lost its delicate touch."
The hologram Braca continued: "The second fugitive is Tallis Mar-" the hologram changed again to display a woman, dark haired like her brother, but slightly more cheerful, "-the sibling of Etil Mar. Technician Mar is to be held for questioning.
"The third fugitive is a Ralkan prisoner. Laytar Tinnissia-" an image of a beautiful red-skinned woman with long yellow hair and a look of profound dignity that reminded Crichton, with a raw stab of grief, of Zhaan, "-is a political radical and is to be detained on sight."
Crichton turned to D'Argo with a frown. "I don't get it, we don't know any of these guys, why were you concerned?"
"Keep watching," came the growled reply.
"The last fugitive, name unknown, was seen boarding the transport, an obsolete MT-300 class vessel. He and his primitive spacecraft are to be detained, undamaged, for questioning by special operatives sent by Peacekeeper Command."
John Crichton did his best not to gape as an image appeared of a pod that looked far too much like Farscape One for comfort. Then it changed into a picture of a rather stunned-looking human being. With a face belonging to someone who should have been more than a few hundred light years away.
"What the hell? Huw?"
Getting from the commerce planet to Laytar's fellow exiles had been easier said than done. For one thing the old transport was long past its prime, its theoretical maximum speed now being only a memory. However, Tallis had parts, time, expertise and help, even if the latter was on occasion more baffled than anything else.
Huw, in between converting Blaidd and helping with repairs to the ship, was learning with every day what a gulf lay between Human and Sebacean technology. For one thing Tallis had burst out laughing when he showed her the multi-head screwdriver set that he had stored in the emergency bulkhead of his ship. Her equivalent looked simple but wasn't.
It had taken a while to get used to the ship and even longer to find his way around it. Also, Peacekeeper technology seemed to be a bit skimpy on the luxuries of life and Sebacean physiology meant that the temperature was often on the cool side.
Speaking of the cool side, Etil, while more friendly than he had been, was still cautious when it came to security and it took time to coax certain explanations about course changes and the way that the weapons worked out of him. He hadn't become more open until Huw had pointed out that there might come a time when he had to know those things if the others were injured or even unconscious.
Caution was also behind their travel itinery. Etil had plotted a course to the Ralkan exile colony that was more curve than straight line. There were good reasons for this. If they ever had to run for their lives then the most that the ship could manage was a fast limp. Tallis was working on that, and already had managed to renovate the engines to the point that they were merely slightly obsolete. But it still meant that they were darting from asteroid belt, to gas giant, to nebula, to dangerously cluttered solar system, hiding all the way, although with the occasional trip to a commerce planet to stock up on supplies.
As Etil had, with good reason, pointed out, if they arrived with a Peacekeeper command carrier close behind then the Ralkans wouldn't exactly welcome them with open arms.
Huw didn't mind. It was all still such a new experience for him that he was actually enjoying himself.
Especially when the day came for the flight of the newly converted Blaidd. Excited, nervous and scared all at the same time, he sat in the main hanger as they orbited a mildly earth-like planet and felt the thrum as the new power converter came online. That was something else. The old Blaidd whined. The new Blaidd hummed, almost straining at the leash.
He looked out of the window as the hanger doors opened to their full extent and then he just gunned it. Blaidd soared up and out and his whoop of joy as he hit space made Tallis grin and shake her head as she bolted on a new manifold to the right-hand energy coupling of the transport.
Huw spun Blaidd twice, feeling the way that the ship responded, tested the acceleration, checked the output from the engine and then looked down at the planet.
"Blaidd One to... Etil, have you named this ship of yours yet?"
"Davies, it's a transport. You don't name a transport."
"It's not Peacekeeper practice." There was a pause. "Good point, Davies. Any ideas?"
"I'll have a think. In the meantime I'm going atmo to test the modifications. Please keep me under observation.
"Confirmed, Davies, Blaidd is going to atmosphere. I hope it doesn't fall apart."
"Me too, Etil. Blaidd One out."
Etil shook his head as he stood in command, Laytar standing next to him. He turned to her and smiled. "That human is almost growing on me."
She smiled back at him fondly. Her love was smiling more and scowling less as the Peacekeeper layers peeled back and the Sebacean beneath came though the surface.
Blaidd One ripped through the upper atmosphere, the energy module that Huw had carefully installed deflecting the heat of reentry, until it was slicing through the clouds effortlessly. Huw slowed slightly and assessed the way that she felt. Damn if she wasn't more like a Eurofighter than a slingshot and re-entry craft, and he found himself wondering what John had done with Farscape.
Then he grinned and started to pull some Gs. Even with the compensators on full he could feel the pull of the planet's gravity as he swept Blaidd up on her nose, twisted her 180 degrees and slashed back down again.
"Welcome to my world," he breathed and then turned Blaidd on her nose again and pushed her to her maximum atmospheric speed.
Up on the as-yet unnamed transport Etil frowned. The human was displaying what he could only describe as great skill, pulling off maneuvres that even a prowler pilot would find hard to imitate in an atmospheric environment. True, prowlers were designed for space, not for atmospheric combat, but still, the amount of expertise needed to carry out some of these moves was impressive.
He watched the little craft gyrate around the planet for the time they had allotted and was about to key the communicator to remind Davies that his time was up when he saw Blaidd One tilt and shoot up out of the atmosphere.
"This is Blaidd One to Etil. Coming back to base. Gobaith."
"Blaidd One, I think my translator microbes failed on that one. What was that last part of your transmission?"
"Gobaith. It means 'Hope' in the original language of my people. I think it might be a good name for your ship."
Etil mouthed the word carefully and then looked over to Laytar, who placed a warm hand on his arm. "It sounds appropriate, my love. Hope is what you clung to for a long time."
He smiled and then quickly kissed her. "Gobaith to Blaidd One. Hanger bay is open. Welcome back... Huw."