A Prefect Murder
August 9, 2002 - US
November 25, 2002 - UK
4.09

Writer - Mark Saraceni
Director - Geoff Bennett

Guest Cast
Ivar Kants . . . Gaashah
Jason Chong . . . E'Alet
Bruce Spence . . . Falaak
Raelee Hill . . . Sikozu
Brett Stiller . . . Zerbat
Peter Whitford . . . Jabuka


TRANSCRIPT
Transcribers note: APM makes use of a storytelling device in its opening sequences that I'm sure has a name but I can't think of what it is right now. It replays scenes - adding more to the scene with each telling. As a cinematic device, this is a neat way of drawing out the action and tension of a story - particularly mystery stories - and it is used to nice effect in this episode. However as a prose device it is difficult and can be confusing - which why I point it out for the reader to be aware of.

The episode opens on the surface of an alien planet. Its landscape is dominated by brown rock, brown grasses and leafless tress hung with brown mosses that lay under a chilly grey sky. Broad expanses of mist the same color as the sky separate the higher elevations of land like rivers of cloud. In the distance a domed structure perches on the cliffs of a craggy mountain. The only sound to break the silence of this dead, wintery place is the flat burr of a device in Aeryn's hand. She's walking slowly around her Prowler and seems to be using it to check the crafts condition. She slaps absently at some buzzing insect on her arm - and then hears the someone humming behind her. She whips around to see a child curiously fingering one of the Prowlers external bits of machinery. He's a dreamlike figure and Aeryn seems agitated as she shouts-

Aeryn: Don't touch that! (the little boy looks up, his luminous complexion and the rich russet browns of his thick mat of hair stand in hallucinatory contrast to the dull landscape. Aeryn is unnerved and quickly returns her eyes to her sensor. When she looks back - all she sees is a motley local child humming to himself and poking at the Prowler)

(cut to elsewhere on the planet - Chiana is being driven through a gloomy wood of scrubby, leafless black trees by a small mob of locals - who are human in appearance and dressed in heavy, homespun clothing. Everything about their appearance is as bland as their world. Their features are blunt and their colorless eyebrows are virtually invisible. Their long hair on the other hand, is dark brown and heavy - it has no part and resembles a braided rug laying on top of their heads - the style is common to both men, women and children. But their dull appearance belies their inner passion and Chiana has her work cut out for her to dodge their rocks and righteous fury)

ClansMan: YOU KNEW OUR LAWS WHEN YOU ARRIVED!

Chiana: (angry than frightened) I WAS JUST HAVIN' FUN! (there is one face on the edges of the crowd that is very different from the others. it belongs to a creature named Paroos. He has ginger hair that's going grey and stands up around his deeply lined face like a wild mane, his forehead is branded with arcane symbols. He has pig-like, triangular ears and a set of curly black horns - one twisted up - the other twisted down. His mouth is twisted as well and one eye appears to be bling - but the really strange thing about him is that he appears to be nothing but a large head. A head that like Rygel - uses a hover vehicle for mobility. His floatation Dec vice is a carved, wooden, box-like affair with crude levers around which his tiny, skeletal hands are curled. Unlike Rygel- nothing else is visible of his body and he clearly uses his hoverbox out of necessity - not convenience)

Paroos: (sagely) Banishment is lenient for your indiscretion.

ClansWoman: Many indiscretions! (she throws a big rock at Chiana, who stumbles - but furiously turns to confront her accusers just as D'Argo strides onto the scene)

Chiana: (stammering furiously) No wonder - no wonder your men were begging me for it!

D'Argo: (furiously - to himself as he grabs Chiana and begins to hustle her away from the locals) This isn't happening...

Chiana: (to the clanswoman) With tralks like you!

D'Argo: (to Chiana, from between clenched teeth) No wonder you're thrown off every planet ya land on! (as they hurry on ahead of the crowd, they come upon another man on the path. He's clearly of a different race than the other, who eerily keep their distance. His skin in is dusky and he appears to have ho true hair although darker messes that fringe his bald pate give the impression of hair. In actuality, this is masses of skin that gives him a very thick-necked look. His forehead is decorated with thick tattoos of the Maori type and scars. He also has a large, chambered structure like a gill, that runs along the right side of his face and neck from his jaw to where his ear should be. Chiana seems - familiar - with him)

Chiana: (panting) E'Alet! Yeah... You're-you're friends with the guy up top. Maybe I- I can appeal to him, one -on-one.

E'Alet: (with an oily smile) The Prefect has already denied your petition - (he boldly runs his fingers down her cheek) - but bids you safe journey.

ClansWoman: BANISH HER NOW! (D'Argo drags Chiana off and she screams over her shoulder at E'Alet, who is very amused by all this)

Chiana: AFTER EVERYTHING I DID FOR YOU! (we think she means just "did you" - but let us not dwell on it.

Meanwhile, back at the Prowler, Aeryn eyes the boy, who's still messing with the ships machinery. Suddenly he's standing in front of her, fair as a dream and reaching his little hands up to her. She responds by knocking him down with a vicious slap. And just as suddenly - the vision passes and Aeryn looks back at the boy, standing by the Prowler and humming peacefully as he snoops. That's enough for the ex-PK. She flicks off her sensor and concentrates on being worried about herself…
And nearby - within sight of the Prowler - D'Argo has stopped at the edge of the woods to quietly try to educate Chiana on the potential consequences of her culturally insensitive behavior.

D'Argo: Moya is up there floating dormant in space. This is the first planet in 20 that we've found that has any drinking water - you are going to get us - kicked - off.

Chiana: I didn't do anything. (and as distant thunder mutters in the leaden skies - she turns and trudges off towards Aeryn and the Prowler. Meanwhile, the Chieftain of the locals, Gaashah - whose rank is indicated by a grey pearl-like decoration in the center of his forehead at the hairline - is trying to sooth one of his clanswomen)

Gaashah: I know your need for vengeance.

ClansWoman: (bitterly angered) Do you Gaashah? Would you sit by if an outsider had been with your son? (and Chiana, overhearing it - turns back to bite the hand of conciliation)

Chiana: Ah - Is he the cute one? I remember him! What's the kids name? Zer-boy?

Gaashah: (enraged) ZERBAT!

Chiana: (mocking) Oh ZerBAT! (Gaashah stomps off)

D'Argo: (disgusted) Chiana - you are such a fekkik! (he turns to go and try to mends fences with Gaashah. But before the Nebari can alienate anyone else today - Aeryn summons her)

Aeryn: Chiana. Come here now. (Chiana sulkily stomps the rest of the way to the Prowler) I've pre-programmed a course to Moya.

Chiana: (plaintive) I'll be bored to DEATH out there!

Aeryn: (reasonably) Well Chiana - you've been banished. (but the Nebari's feeling batter already now that the rock-throwing has let up)

Chiana: (brightly) Yeah only from Gaashah's clan. (she starts to climb into the Prowler - but stops and looks at Aeryn hopefully) One prospect in each one?

Aeryn: (facetiously) Oh that's a great idea.

Chiana: Come on! (she ought to know better. Aeryn ignores her sluttish sense of entertainment and shakes a warning finger at her instead)

Aeryn: Now once you're in there - don't touch any of the controls. (and she marches away, leaving Chiana perched on the side of the Prowler)

(cut back to D'Argo and Gaashah. For the Chieftain, Chiana's behavior is only an irritant to his real problems)

Gaashah: MORE THAN YOU KNOW IS AT STAKE HERE!

D'Argo: (mildly) I understand.

Gaashah: NOTHING! No one does. (he pauses and tries to explain) Unity of the clans is new - PEACE is new! But even I know such peace is too fragile to be endangered - (he's interrupted momentarily by the roar of the Prowler streaking away overhead and he finishes his thought with quiet contempt) - by some indelicate whore.

(cut to the Prowler as it rises above the mist and clouds of the planet into an azure sky. It rockets past the golden-domed building high on the craggy mountainside. The scene shifts to inside the great hall where John and the Prefect of this world watch it go. The hall features a sunken central area ringed by a raised promenade. One whole wall is taken up by a single huge widow with triangular panes. The Prefects name is Falaak. He's a tall man of slender build - a member of a different clan than Gaashah's. His hair is long, and smoothly combed, sections of it are rolled into a great coil on either side of his head. Even though it's silver, his aristocratic face looks no older than Gaashah's. He wears long pale grey robes and his demeanor rather imperious)

John: (muttering ruefully as he watches Chiana depart) Gone but not forgotten…

Falaak: (looking down his long nose at John) What of the others?

John: What Aeryn: and Sikozu? No no - nun'n'nunner. Perfect ladies at all times. (Aeryn chooses that moment to loudly comm him)

Aeryn: Crichton. (John notes Falaak's downturned mouth and dubious gaze)

John: (self-consciously) Yeah… I gotta take this. (he trots down a few steps from the window to the main floor of the great hall whose Spartanly elegant furnishings include finely wrought braziers and a long table with two chairs on a white fur rug. He speaks quietly to Aeryn, who's allowing herself to be led through the dreary woods by the eager little boy. The scene shifts between them as they speak) Aeryn - I see that Elvis has left the building.

Aeryn: (sharply) What? What does that mean?

John: That means Prefect Falaak has graciously accepted our apology for Chiana's conduct - as well as our emergency generator as compensation. (suddenly, down in the woods, Aeryn finds herself face to face with Gaashah. She stops and stares at him. This little boy giggles and Gaashah is gone)

LittleBoy: Come on. (he pulls Aeryn onward, and in the great hall - John is perplexed by Aeryn's silence)

John: Aeryn:? It's a good deal - allows us all to stay on the planet.

Aeryn: (hurriedly) The comms are frelled. Call me later. (and she signs off)

Falaak: (loudly arch) Seems a bit - moody.

John: Man - you shoulda met her mother.

(cut to the gloomy woods as Aeryn is led by her young guide into a busy marketplace in a clearing. It's a primitive place, open stalls display wares in baskets and wooden trays. Little open fires provide the only illumination other than what light filters in from above through the mists. Aeryn catches the voices of D'Argo and Gaashah speaking as the little boy lets go of her hand and scampers off to get her a drink of water)

Gaashah: The only risk - is that my failure will signal there's more to be gained from war than from peace. (Aeryn flashes on the face of Gaashah, his mouth agape in a silent yell. The image is gone in an instant and she knits her brows as she looks over at where D'Argo lays his hand on the chieftains arm)

D'Argo: Let me help you.

Gaashah: The less anyone sees of you and your friends - the better for me. (D'Argo sighs and moves off. Gaashah pauses a moment, as if regretting his words. but he seems to feel Aeryn's eyes on him and looks her way. She instantly flashes on his twisted, yelling, face - but this time his is hit by a blast from a pulse gun and goes down screaming a silent scream amid a shower of sparks. Aeryn quickly averts her eyes, but Gaashah continues to gaze at her, worried and wary)

(cut to the cliff face below Falaak's lofty hall. It is night and a series of lanterns give dim illumination to a narrow staircase carved into the rock. There is no railing on the open side of the stairs. John is making his way down this lonely path as he comms Aeryn. The scene shifts between them as they speak)

John: Aeryn - talked to Rygel. He said that Moya's still outta commission. How you doin'?

Aeryn: (from the marketplace) I'm getting a really bad bribe.

John: (under his breath) Oh God she's talkin' English. (he digs through his pockets for a hit of lakka as he replies) Vibe - It's a really bad vibe. (he snorts his slug guts and the requisite memories of Aeryn flash past his eyes like lightning . There's hardly a pause before he goes on) D'Argo may be right - until we find another source of food and water- (back in the marketplace, Aeryn steals another glance in Gaashah's direction and is at one overtaken by a vision of him charging her, yelling, and then falling to a blast of pulse fire. She quickly looks away but she missed the end of what John was saying. On the staircase, he's puzzled by her sudden silence and addresses her in a funny accent) Officer Sun?

Aeryn: I'll get back to you. (she signs off comms and suddenly realizes that she has her pulse gun in a white-knuckled grip. She lets go of it as if her fingers where stiff and is distracted by a contented coo from the child, who's sneaking a taste of the delights of a nearby display of sweets.
Back on the stony staircase - John's look of puzzlement over Aeryn's sudden sign-off is interrupted by the sound of distant gunfire below him and he takes off running in that direction.
And in the marketplace - Aeryn is standing, lost in a horrific dream as pulse fire mows down shoppers in the market around her. Confused by what she is seeing - she watches as Gaashah charges into the carnage and is gunned down. That sight keeps replaying for her, closer and closer each time...)


(cut back to earlier in the day - before the mob incident with Gaashah's clan. Chiana is talking to the rug-haired chieftain at the edge of his dreary woods)

Chiana: I'm such a welnitz, Gaashah. You're gonna be Prefect soon - I could always come back down.

Gaashah: That - would be suicide for you and your friends. (the Nebari huffs with fury)

Chiana: This place - is run by tight-asses. (she storms off)

(cut back to the start of the scene - the point where D'Argo is walking Chiana away from the cold stares of Gaashah's clanspeople)

D'Argo: (quietly) How can you be so selfish? Moya is up there floating dormant in space. This is the first planet in 20 that has any drinking water. You're going - to get us - kicked - off.

Chiana: (softly - as if stunned) What? Frell you! (she storms off to where Aeryn waits by the Prowler)

D'Argo: (through clenched teeth, to Chiana's back) You are such - a fekkik. (he hurries back to Gaashah to try and mend fences) Gaashah - Gaashah wait! (he catches up to the burly man) Gaashah… (but Gaashah rounds on D'Argo and whips out a long knife which he puts to the Luxans throat)

Gaashah: Give me a reason - not to kill you - all of you - now! (he offers D'Argo a good reason FOR killing him) One stab... My clan is avenged, the leaders are reassured... I am made Prefect - a hero to my people.

D'Argo: (very quietly) We are going to leave, the microt our Leviathan revives.

Gaashah: (furious) Only criminals come into this part of space! (cannily) Perhaps there's a price on your head. A bounty I could claim for my people? (he thinks about it) Killing you - would improve everything.

D'Argo: We Luxans too, struggle to overcome our violent past.

Gaashah: It's what I know in my bones… As my father knew and his father before him! (he abruptly releases D'Argo and paces away) More than you know is at stake here!

D'Argo: I understand.

Gaashah: NOTHING! No one does. (he pauses and tries to explain) Unity of the clans is new - PEACE is new! But even I know such peace is too fragile to be endangered - (he's interrupted momentarily by the roar of the Prowler streaking away overhead and finishes his thought with quiet contempt) - by some indelicate whore.

D'Argo: Nobody on this planet gives a dren about Chiana.

Gaashah: The problem isn't - simply - her.

D'Argo: (shrewdly) It's your son.

The scene shifts briefly to elsewhere in the sleeping woods. Sikozu and Zerbat - the son of Gaashah - are sitting in a thicket among the brown leaf litter and mosses. The Kalish is naked from her waist up and the rich colors of her skin and hair almost glow against the wintery drabness of the place. Zerbat is a younger version of his father, blunt browless feature topped by a wig-like mat of brown hair - he also bears the pearl-like mark of his family's status on his forehead. He and Sikozu touch each others faces and kiss. Zerbat slowly explores her body with his hands and lips...
Meanwhile - Gaashah woefully spells out his dilemma for the D'Argo.

Gaashah: When the wars were ongoing - I traded my herd to send Zerbat off-planet... (with a fathers pain) Where he'd be safe! Where he could learn other disciplines!

D'Argo: And a Prefects son cannot be seen as an outsider.

Gaashah: (bitterly) All the other clans view him as corrupted by outside influences.

D'Argo: (with a rueful sigh) And then we bring Chiana...

Aeryn's Prowler streaks through the blue skies high above the mists of the planet, past the domed hall of Falaak. But this time it's coming instead of going. Moments later, it's parked under grey skies at the edge of the leafless woods. Chiana drops to the ground and looks furtively about before darting away into the gloom.
Soon after, she's using the low branches of trees at the edge of a brown river as a perch from which to scan the area.
Nearby, Sikozu and Zerbat kiss and look into each others eyes.
Chiana drops from the tree and makes her way through the brown leaf litter and dense tangles of low branches.
Sikozu and Zerbat both smile as he takes one of her breasts into his hand.
Chiana watches the lovers from behind a thicket of scrubby black tree trunks.
Zerbat kisses Sikozu's body.

(cut to the busy woodland marketplace as D'Argo and Gaashah enter. The bounty of fruits, vegetables and bread belies the apparent barrenness of the surrounding forest. The chieftain seems pleased and many of the people there are clearly happy to see him)

Gaashah: It all smells wonderful.

ClansMan: Gaashah! (he tosses his leader a pieces of fruit and Gaashah proffers it to D'Argo)

Gaashah: Ucuz.

D'Argo: Ucuz?

Gaashah: Ripe from harvest. (they walk on and D'Argo takes a bite of the pale green fruit) Our women nurse their babies with it. (D'Argo's eyes widen and he forces himself to not spit the stuff out. Gaashah laughs amiably at his discomfiture)

D'Argo: No... No really - It's very... very good. (at that moment, another piece of fruit is tossed to Gaashah, who turns to face another Chieftain, Jabuka, striding up to him. He has the same hair, stocky build and silvery forehead ornament as Gaashah, but his demeanor is distinctly adversarial and Gaashah is clearly not too thrilled with him either)

Jabuka: Jabuka clans finest etmek.

Gaashah: Jabuka clan etmek - (in a valiant effort at diplomacy - he tears a bit of the fruit off and chews it as he stares back at Jabuka) - is most - tasty.

Jabuka: Fit for a Prefect. A flavor - you may never know. (he snatches his etmek back and stalks off while Gaashah loudly spits his bite of the fruit out)

D'Argo: I thought your ascension to the Prefecture was predetermined.

Gaashah: If he acquires enough votes I can be removed as unworthy.

D'Argo: Removed how? (Gaashah gives him A Look whose meaning is easy to guess) Kill you?

Gaashah: It's one of Paroos' little... negotiations. 200 clans, 200 chieftains... (wearily) 2000 grudges to accommodate.

D'Argo: One little priest has that much sway - over all the clans?

Gaashah: Oh he can be - compelling.

D'Argo: Compelling enough for you to risk your own life? (at that moment, the little boy leads Aeryn into the market)

Gaashah: The only risk - is that my failure will signal there's more to be gained from war than from peace. (Aeryn looks over at them and sees D'Argo touch Gaashah's arm)

D'Argo: Let me help you. (but the run-in with Jabuka ha ruined the Chieftains ebullient mood and reminded him of the appearances he needs to keep up)

Gaashah: The less anyone sees of you and your friends - the better for me.

(cut to soon after. D'Argo has left Gaashah and is walking through the dim woods as he speaks to John via comm)

D'Argo: He wants us to leave…

John: (on comm) Moya may not be revived yet.

D'Argo: I think you should go.

John: (affecting a cartoon Scottish accent) Wha' if Uh don't want tew Cap'n?

D'Argo: He respects me. It would help if I could show him that I have you under some sort of control. More or less.

John: Right. I'll check in with the ship.

(cut to Chiana back in the woods as she pops out of hiding and calls Sikozu, who's still fitting there and getting jiggy with Zerbat)

Chiana: Hey! (she smacks her tongue a few times) Sikozu! (with a startled gasp - the Kalish whips her head around) Tasting the local spices are we?

Sikozu: (annoyed) Go away - (nearby - D'Argo growls as he catches Sikozu's words, he immediately detours in that direction) - you dirty girl! (Chiana's crouched face-to-face with Sikozu now. as the Kalish continues with deadly contempt) They would stone you to death if I turned you in. (Zerbat is rather vapidly silent through this whole confrontation. He just sits there, also naked from the waist up - which exposes and un-boyishly hairy chest - and listens)

Chiana: Okay. They have banished me - for being with nobodies. I would say they'd probably impale you on a pole - for shacking up with their prince.

Sikozu: We are not shacking up! I would not tell anyone about this if I were you.

Chiana: I'm not even meant to be here - who am I gonna tell? (and at that moment, an infuriated D'Argo bursts onto the scene)

D'Argo: Exactly! (Sikozu cringes as D'Argo makes to grab Chiana, who rises and tries unsuccessfully to swat his hands away from her) THAT'S WHAT I WANT TO KNOW! WHEN I PUT YOU ON THAT PROWLER MYSELF! (Sikozu turns back to Zerbat, who touches his lips to her face and seems to whisper something before looking up at the loud altercation going on over them) HOW DID YOU GET OFF IT? HOW DID YOU GET THE AUTO-PILOT TURNED OFF?

Chiana: You want to know how I got off it?

D'Argo: (sarcastic and disgusted) No I don't want to know!

Chiana: Of course I got off it! (D'Argo shakes her as he bellows)

D'Argo: I DON'T WANT TO KNOW! (in a low tone) What I do want to know-

Chiana: (defiant) Yeah what do you want to know? (she continues as D'Argo asks his question) You - tell me what you want to know.

D'Argo: -is: Does anyone else know that you're here?

Chiana: Of course not! I'm just sneakin' around like I always am!

D'Argo: Good. (he slowly and firmly pushes her shoulder to make her face away from him) Now turn around- (she jerks back to face him with an explosive curse like the spit of an angry cat)

Chiana: Frell you!

D'Argo: -and sneak back to the ship.

Chiana: (as she storms off) You know what? I think this Captain thing has really gone to your head! (D'Argo sighs and turns his attention the couple on the ground - who haven't got one single full eyebrow between the pair of them)

D'Argo: (to Sikozu) Crichton wants you back on the transport pod now. (she eyes him with annoyance - but a look of pure stubbornness sets in on Zerbat's face. D'Argo addresses him) Don't argue. The sooner she goes - she and all of us - will be able to come back. It's your father - who needs you now.

Sikozu: (softly, to Zerbat) He's right. (suddenly the silence is broken by the sound of pulse fire. D'Argo hisses and takes off running in its direction)

(cut to Falaak's great mountain hall where John's first conversation via comm with Aeryn, who's back in the forest marketplace - is in progress. Falaak looks on from the promenade in front of the window)

John: It's a good deal - allows us all to stay on the planet. (no response) Aeryn!

Aeryn: (hurriedly) The comms are frelled. Call me later.

Falaak: (loudly arch) Seems a bit - moody.

John: (under his breath) You shoulda met her mother. (louder, as he turns back to Falaak) Well! I should be going. You have to pack up and hand over the keys to the new tenant. Interesting system you have. Every half cycle a new leader takes over.

Falaak: It's - a little disruptive.

John: Well - They say change is good. Invigorating.

Falaak: It's frightening. (he turns away) It takes a 3-day festival to distract from the terror that someone - from another clan is assuming power. It took me months of haggling beyond that to gain the slightest support. (John grunts thoughtfully)

John: Better than uh - clubs and machetes approach.

Falaak: (wistfully) Many would be eager to return to that. At least we understood it. (despite the blue shy out the window - the sound of thunder from the clouds below is a presence in the serene chamber)

John: Right. (there's an awkward silence) Well have a nice day. (and he exits - we guess he isn't one of those freedom and democracy cowboys)

(cut to Chiana as she makes her way through the dormant forest. Suddenly the heavy quiet is disturbed by a sound like the moan of wind and movement on the path in front of her - it's the bestial priest, Paroos)

Paroos: You've returned seeking forgiveness. (Chiana stops in her tracks, she obviously finds this strange creature unnerving)

Chiana: Uh - I know how you feel about nixas like me.

Paroos: (chuckling lecherously) I rather like - nixas like you. (his hint of sexuality is all the common ground Chiana needs to relax)

Chiana: So is it true about what they say about priests? (Paroos grunts questioningly) They give great religious experience?

Paroos: (solemnly) What I give - is great consequence.

(cut to D'Argo, walking alone through the woods and talking to John via comm. The human is descending the dimly lit staircase that snakes along the cliff face from the high hall of the Prefect. The scene shifts between them as they speak)

D'Argo: I am no ambassador.

John: Well you got Gaashah talkin' without giving away parts of the ship. That's better than I did.

D'Argo: He wants us to leave.

John: Moya may not be revived yet.

D'Argo: Well I think it's important that the future Prefect knows he can count on me.

John: Hey Moya's not just takin' a catnap up there y'know. This tormented area of space is beatin' the crap out of her. (he does his comically bad Scottish accent again) An' Uh dun't know when Uh kin git th' systems back on loin Cap'n! (it's impossible to tell if D'Argo is just ignoring John's goofing or if he doesn't notice it)

D'Argo: I think you should go.

John: Wha' if Uh doon't want tew Cap'n?

D'Argo: He respects me. It would help if I could show him that I have you under some sort of control. More or less.

John: Right. I'll check in with the ship. (he abruptly switches comm channels) Ryg! What's shakin' up there, man. Is Chiana back yet?

Rygel: I didn't know she was coming.

John: Well, you know Chiana. (as he speaks - he sees a figure in the mist on the stairs below him, someone coming up) Guess that means Moya's senses are still out. (the other person on the stairs is E'Alet, and as they meet, John steps in towards the cliff face to give him room to pass. But E'Alet mirrors his step and the next thing John knows, the gill-faced alien has him by the throat and his holding him, teetering, on the precipice at the outer edge)

E'Alet: (blandly) I am - puzzled - by off-worlders.

John: (constricted) Yeah - I know what you mean.

E'Alet: I have... concerns about you. (John gives a short, mirthless laugh as he stands there and tries not to move lest the other man let him go over into the clouds below)

John: A lot of people feel that way. Your boss - seems to think I'm okay so... (E'Alet pulls him back onto the staircase and eyes him as he staggers a little before getting his balance)

E'Alet: (polite words belie his appraising stare) Be careful. The stairs are - quite slippery. (thunder crackles below them)

John: (and his sarcastic tone belies his polite answer) Thanks for the warning. (he watches as E'Alet ascends into the darkness and mist and is gone. Then he comms Aeryn - who's down on one knee in the marketplace as she accepts a cup of water from the little boy. The scene cuts between her and John as they speak)

Aeryn: (to the child) Thank you.

John: Aeryn - talked to Rygel. He said that Moya's still outta commission. How you doin'?

Aeryn: (from the marketplace) I'm getting a really bad bribe.

John: (under his breath) Oh God she's talkin' English. (he digs through his pockets for a hit of lakka as he replies) Vibe - It's a really bad vibe. (he snorts his slug guts and the requisite memories of Aeryn flash through his mind like lightning . There's hardly a pause before he goes on) D'Argo may be right - until we find another source of food and water cozying up to Gaashah may be our only solution. (in the marketplace, Aeryn looks around, as if confused. John is puzzled by her silence and asks her in his Scottie voice) Officer Sun?

Aeryn: I'll um... I'll get back to you. (she signs off and suddenly realizes that she has her pulse gun in a white-knuckled grip. She lets go of it as if her fingers where stiff and is distracted by a sound at the edge of hearing - that gives way to the coos of the child admiring a display of sweets nearby. Aeryn seems spooked as she rises)

On the dark, stony staircase - John hear sound of pulse fire in the distance and he takes off at a run toward it.
In the woods, D'Argo whirls as he hears nearby pulse fire and he takes off at a run toward it.
John flies down the step.
In the marketplace - gunfire erupts. People begin to run and scream.
D'Argo pounds through the gloomy woods.
The melee in the marketplace goes on. People scream and try to get away from the deadly pulse blasts.
D'Argo races through the woods.
The clanspeople in the market are cut down even as they try and help their loved ones to escape.
John tears down the staircase.
Gaashah charges into the marketplace, yelling at the shooter - it is Aeryn - and as D'Argo arrives with his Qualta blade in hand, she fires at the Prefect-to-be and he falls amid the flame and smoke of a direct hit.

D'Argo: NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO! (but his horrified bellow is cut off as Aeryn brings her weapon to bear on him - and cuts him down with a blast to his chest)

A short time passes. Small fires burn on the bodies of the fallen in the smoky aftermath of the massacre. The little boy crawls away from the tray of sweets and makes his way across the bare dirt ground of the ruined marketplace to one of the dead sprawled nearby.
John rushes breathlessly onto the scene and stumbles to a stop as he takes in the carnage.
Sikozu and Zerbat also arrive - too late. The young man rushes to the side of his fallen father and drops to his knees.
Sikozu kneels to look at D'Argo.
John watches all this as he turns about, looking for the perpetrators of this terrible crime.

(the scene jumps ahead to a short time later. Those who escaped the killing have returned to tend the wounded and search for the missing. The sounds of grief and anger echo in the desolation. Sikozu has joined Zerbat at the side of his dead father. D'Argo was luckier though, and is sitting up and Chiana is crouched next to him, tending his wound. He's trying to tell John what he saw)

D'Argo: It was Aeryn.

John: What? No way. Aeryn wouldn't- (but he's cut off)

D'Argo: I know - who shot me. She wasn't even looking.

John: D'Argo, Aeryn would not-

D'Argo: (angered by John's denial) I know who shot me! (at that moment, John is sent sprawling by a heavy, blindsided blow from Jabuka. Paroos has also arrived at the scene)

Jabuka: Take their weapons. (his clansmen move in to do his bidding)

Chiana: (apprehensive) Frell.

Jabuka: Where is the assassin?

D'Argo: (breathing hard from his injury) I wouldn't tell you - even if I knew. (no matter - Jabuka has a solution for THAT)

Jabuka: You came to the planet together - you're all assassins together! (that's all it takes to get Chiana going - she calls his attention to D'Argo)

Chiana: She shot him too, feg-face. (she begins to rise from her crouch)

ClansMan: Quiet! (he shoves her back onto the ground)

Jabuka: Tell me where she is, or I'll have your head as well!

Paroos: That is not your decision.

Jabuka: Keep out of this, priest!

Paroos: (calmly) The clans agreed to follow the law.

Jabuka: The law says we can hunt down murderers!

Paroos: (blandly) Only by command of the clans next leader - Gaashah's son.

Jabuka: (incredulous) The boy? (Zerbat looks as dubious as Jabuka) The leader? (vehemently) Where's his weapon? Where's the fire in his eyes? He's as much an outsider as those who murdered his father! (Zerbat does look like a complete piece of milquetoast as he stares blandly up at his elders. At that moment - the current Prefect arrives, full of stately ire and with E'Alet in tow)

Falaak: Who broke the peace? What clan attacked?

Jabuka: Not a clan - an outsider. She escaped us.

Falaak: Find her. Kill her.

Jabuka: (to John) And if she acted on anyone's behalf - we'll catch her - and torture her - until she tells us!

John: Damn - how come I didn't think of that before?

Paroos: (pointedly - to Jabuka) The way the clans tortured the others?

D'Argo: Others?

John: What others?

Jabuka: (annoyed, snapping) Two clan leaders were killed! (Falaak presses his noble lips together and says nothing)

Chiana: Before we arrived. And you dren-heads are trying to blame that on us?

John: (wearily) Look just let me go and I'll... I'll bring her back.

Falaak: You make a lot of noise - for an outsider.

Zerbat: I will go! (the surprised eyes of all turn to Zerbat as suddenly, the no-account kid rises and speaks. Despite his youth - his voice has the rough, gravelly edge of both his father and Jabuka. And yes - a determined fire smolders in his eyes as well) I have a right to avenge my father, to see his killer brought to justice.

Paroos: That is the law.

Jabuka: (sneering) And - will you need your nanny? (in a single motion - Zerbat rounds on him and draws a heavy knife, which he points at the older man)

Zerbat: My father is dead. You just insulted the leader of his clan. (Jabuka doesn't back down - but he makes to move against Zerbat or to further impugn the young man) I will go - (he points at John with his knife) - and I'll take him with me. He will lead me to her. (John sighs and hangs his head)

Paroos: We have another duty first- the burial sacraments. (he reminds them of the personal costs of this massacre by casting a sidelong glance at the little boy, who's still sitting quietly by one of Aeryn's victims)

(cut to later. John and Zerbat are picking their way through the colorless woods)

John: Maybe Gaashah wasn't even the target. Maybe she was aiming at something else and he wandered into the line of fire.

Zerbat: (sounding princely) You're talking about my father. His blood is still wet on the ground thanks to your friends vicious hand.

John: It's my mistake. I was just thinking out loud, trying to figure out why.

Zerbat: Why? Why an outsider would come all this way to kill my father? A good man. (he stops to pull his gun and hold it to John's head) And my father was a good man. (John makes no move as he waits - but the other shoe drops in the form of Sikozu stepping onto the scene)

Sikozu: Are you going to kill him here?

Zerbat: What? Did you come to question my resolve? Because I will avenge my father. (Sikozu steps closer and with a little grunt of annoyance, Zerbat adjusts his grip on his gun and says to her in a low tone) I can handle this myself.

Sikozu: (archly) By putting a gun to the head of the only person who can help us find Aeryn?

Zerbat: (very serious) I am the leader of my tribe now.

Sikozu: (coolly unimpressed) Which makes you what? Just like all the rest? (point well taken - Zerbat lowers his gun)

John: Maybe we should keep moving before Aeryn takes out another clan leader. (the scene jumps ahead to the 3 of them trudging through the woods, John leading, followed by Zerbat and Sikozu bringing up the rear) I think that maybe we should split up.

Zerbat: So you can run?

John: Son, at this point you either trust me or you don't.

Zerbat: (relenting) Right. Sikozu and I will take the trail up the ridge. You continue along the bank. We'll cross down to you further along. (John watches them disappear among the thickets and begins to sing softly to himself)

John: You take the high road and I'll take the low road... (he looks around the clearing he's standing in and wanders over to take a seat on a log) And I'll be in Scotland before you... (he takes a hit of lakka from his pocket and eyes it while he waits)

Aeryn: Behind you. (John turns, and there she is, sitting on an outcrop of rock amid the leaf fitter and looking haggard) Did I kill Gaashah? (John averts his eyes)

John: Yah. Why?

Aeryn: I have no idea. (the scene jumps ahead a few moments. John has come to sit next to Aeryn, who's telling her story. Neither looks at the other) That's all I remember - thinking: "I can't stop myself."

John: What about the others?

Aeryn: What others? (John glances quickly at her)

John: D'Argo for one.

Aeryn: (sharply) What?

John: He'll be all right. (Aeryn stares at the side of his head)

Aeryn: There were no others. It was just Gaashah. One clean shot.

John: (with a touch of bitterness) How much chakkan oil for one clean shot? (Aeryn's breath is shaky as he removes her gun from its holster and pulls its cartridge. Her face twists with sick disbelief. John reaches over without even turning his head in her direction and removes the gun from her limp hands)

Aeryn: (her voice trembling) How many? How many people did I kill?

Paroos: 17. (the bodiless priest sails onto the scene and John jumps to his feet with Aeryn's gun trained on him)

John: You better slow down, Crusty. (but Paroos has come to talk, not fight - and proceeds to make it clear that mere life is cheap on this world)

Paroos: People kill each other on this planet all the time. Finding a way to kill Gaashah was - finding a way to start war.

John: She has no reason to start a war.

Paroos: I know. I suspect you're being used.

John: By who?

Paroos: I need evidence. Until now, nothing presented itself. The other - assassins - were both killed instantly. She's - the only one left alive long enough to speak.

Aeryn: But I was completely out of control - I don't remember anything.

Paroos: Then - we must see to it that - you do.

(the scene jumps ahead again to a different location in the woods. John and Paroos sit and listen as Aeryn paces about, frustrated - and tries to recall anything that could exonerate her and be of use to the strange little priest)

Aeryn: I aimed. And I shot him.

Paroos: And...?

Aeryn: And that's all I see!

John: (quietly) We're not getting anywhere.

Paroos: (a patient command to Aeryn) Try - again. (her brow furrowed, Aeryn pauses with one hand on her hip as she brushes at her tight pull-back with the other)

Aeryn: I'm trying! It's all I see! It's all I remember!

Paroos: Then don't see. Listen. (Aeryn sighs with the frustration of all this, and turns away, trying to focus on his admonition. Suddenly she recalls the tuneless humming of the little boy by her Prowler)

Aeryn: There was a child. Is he...?

Paroos: (wearily) Still alive. (she flashes on the sound of her hand making contact with the child's face)

Aeryn: I hit the child. (the sound of the boy being struck replays in her mind again and she concentrates) Why did I hit the child? (she paces, and turns back to John and Paroos) No - that wasn't real. I never really hit him. I never - actually - hit the child. (a squeaky buzz interrupts the silence of the drear landscape and John swats at an insect that lands on his neck)

John: Who cares? (Aeryn stares at him)

Aeryn: Bug. (the insect John swatted lays in the leaf litter and buzzes as it dies - the green glow in it's abdomen fades as it goes still. Aeryn seems confused as she stammers) Uh-a-a bug- bit me and I... (she twists about and scratches squeamishly at her arms as the sounds and images of a bug - biting her at the Prowler, landing on John's neck, him slapping it - flash through her mind. She stops and turns back to the waiting men) A bug. A bug bit me!

Paroos: There are no bugs on this planet. (Aeryn turns away again as the images of the massacre in the marketplace, people trying to flee, and Gaashah going down amid the spark and flame of a pulse blast race through her mind. She raises her hands to her face and sways unsteadily)

Aeryn: I killed them. (the violent images flash by her minds eye) I killed those people. (she falters) I ki... I killed them all. (throughout Aeryn's turmoil, John has remained sitting next to Paroos, staring into space. Now he suddenly has a mental flash of his own. In his, he rises and goes to stand next to Aeryn. Then he raises her pulse gun - and shoots Paroos, who makes a guttural cry as he's hit.
but unlike Aeryn - John's had some experience this past couple years with mental flashes, and he abruptly finds his way back to reality. Then he does rise - and he does walk to Aeryn)

John: (muttering to himself) Bug bites. Flashes.

Aeryn: (muttering to himself) I killed them all.

John: I'm gonna leave now. (he looks back at Paroos) Before there's another killing.

Aeryn: What?

Paroos: (softly) Me? (John returns Aeryn's gun to her)

John: I'm the next assassin. (and he quickly strides away, leaving Aeryn flummoxed and for once unsure if she really wants a gun in her hands)

(cut to later - Paroos isn't finished with Aeryn and John yet and the trio is reunited around a fire pit loaded with enough damp debris to create a bug-proof haze of smoke around them)

John: (coughing) Okay! Heap-big smoke - no bugs. No flashes. Can we breathe now?

Paroos: Are you sure you're both stabilized? (Aeryn and John choke out their affirmations of complete clear-headedness) Then you'll need this. (he moves a lever on his little hoverbox and a pulse gun is ejected out of it and onto the ground)

John: Wynona. (ever glad to see his trusty weapon - John grabs the gun and begins polishing her up) How the hell did you get her?

Paroos: Peacefully. For the most part. (he eyes John happily blowing and wiping the dirt out of his guns muzzle. The old priest is prudently concerned) Hmm... Uh - we need to go quickly. (but at that moment, Sikozu and Zerbat burst onto the scene. His gun is up and trained on Aeryn and John and his mood is unimproved by John's disappearance)

Zerbat: Nobody's going anywhere! (Aeryn and John instinctively move to take up defensive positions, but Zerbat stops them with a shout) PLEASE! Reach for it - or shall I gun you down the way you did my father? He never so much as drew his blade!

Paroos: She's not responsible for Gaashah's death.

Zerbat: A dozen clansmen saw her!

John: She was being controlled.

Zerbat: (bitterly) Lies!

John: (firmly) She got bit by an insect - which allowed her to be controlled.

Zerbat: (teeth clenched with hatred) We do not have insects on this planet.

John: No? Well then what do you call that? (he shows a nasty pustule that's risen on his neck) Or those? (he points to several identical welts on Aeryn's bare arms. Luckily the young mans off-world education has taught him what bug bites look like and he signals his willingness to hear an explanation by lowering his gun)

Zerbat: Why? Who brought them here?

Paroos: Enemies of peace. People who want power. (he narrows it down a bit) More power.

Zerbat: This is not possible! It's not possible. (ah but his paramour has recently learned a harsh lesson herself in how impossible things tend to be all too possible sometimes, and she steps in to lend her support)

Sikozu: Who did your father trust, Zerbat? (the young man wavers and struggles, thinking for a moment before looking to the priest)

Zerbat: Paroos. He - always trusted Paroos.

Sikozu: And do you trust your fathers judgment?

Zerbat: (gazing at her, he nods) And yours. (Sikozu smiles and steps closer to him)

Sikozu: Then we have work to do.

John: Hey kids - we may be forgetting something. Don't we need a bug-ball? A hive?

Paroos: The insects are off-world. I didn't bring them. You didn't bring them.

Aeryn: So essentially we're looking for...?

John: An off-worlder.

(cut to the great hall above the clouds. Chiana is sitting at the long table as Falaak clams her head down onto it and bellows at E'Alet)

Falaak: YOUR SGABBA FLIES FAILED!

E'Alet: (mildly) They have no attraction to this particular alien species. (Chiana woozily raises her head)

Chiana: Everybody likes me. (with an infuriated grunt, Falaak shoves her head back down)

E'Alet: It is not my fault the priest is still alive. These outsiders are difficult.

Falaak: (the regally cultured tone of his voice has given way to the common roughness of the other clansmen) You told me you could control them!

E'Alet: The sgabba flies implant subtle subliminal signals. My mental powers intensify those signals.

Falaak: Your - impaired mental powers!

E'Alet: Clansmen's hatred is easy to exploit. These - outsiders have no reason to kill. It takes more sgabba - more time.

Falaak: I'm not paying you to make excuses. You're here to incite anarchy - war!

E'Alet: You are not paying me enough. I want - double. (well, dirty-dealing is something Falaak understands at least. His voice falls back into its calm and noble timbre)

Falaak: Will that pay for the extra sgabba to eliminate the outsiders?

E'Alet: (unctuously) Of course.

Falaak: (there's a note of disgust in his tone) Make your bugs. (he exits)

Chiana sits there with her head on the table and allows her enhanced vision to watch what E'Alet does. He walks off the isolate himself - then spreads his arms wide and raises them as he enters a meditative state. The pupil of his right eye becomes white and the area around it turns black. His fingers curl, claw-like, on either side of his head as he achieves his fullest level of concentration. And then, insects with greenly glowing abdomens, like fireflies, begin to appear in the gill-like structure on his right neck and jaw line. As his fingers clench and unclench, more and more insect crawl out and fly away.
Chiana moans softly as her vision fades and she enters the period of blindness that always follows use of her enhanced vision. E'Alet turns at the sound of her whimpers and comes close to peer into her face. Seeing her obviously blind, milky white eyes, he smiles - and deals her a vicious backhanded blow that sends her sprawling. He watches her for a moment until she stops moving - and then he casually exits the room.

(cut back to the forest. It's getting dark and in this light it has the barren look of a place where fire has passed through Aeryn and John are walking quickly and swatting at insects. John curses under his breath as they both stop and flail miserably against the buzzing onslaught)

Aeryn: Are you going to be all right to do this?

John: Yes! Yes! Are you? (she just slaps at bugs in that way people do just before they begin screaming with stark, raving madness. So John answers his own question) Of course you are. Move! Come on!

(but back to the woodland marketplace, deserted now but for D'Argo and the clansman guarding him. Sikozu and Zerbat enter. The clansman brings his weapon the bear on the young man as Sikozu goes to D'Argo)

Zerbat: (in a strong voice, to his clansman) I command my clan. Respect me or kill me. (the man chooses respect and Zerbat takes his gun and admonishes him) Go! LEAVE! (the clansman departs as Sikozu struggles to free the wounded Luxan and help him to his feet)

D'Argo: What's going on? Where's Crichton?

Sikozu: Talk and move D'Argo - it's faster. They're on their way up to the castle. Hurry! (Zerbat wordlessly hands him his Qualta and D'Argo needs no further urging to take off at a run)

(cut to Chiana as she regains consciousness and fearfully whispers for help. Unable to see who may be within earshot - her voice remains low and shaky)

Chiana: Crichton? Anybody? (and luckily - her murmur is heard on comm, by Aeryn and John who are ascending the stone staircase to the great hall as fast as they can come)

John: Chiana Where are you?

Chiana: In Falaak's palace - I'm blind.

Aeryn: We're coming!

Chiana: (terrified) The bugs are coming - the bugs are coming for you.

John: You saw the hive?

Chiana: Mm-hmm. The hive's in E'Alet's head. (on the stairs, Aeryn and John skid to a stop and look at each other. Chiana is unsure what the sudden silence means) Can you hear me? (she shivers with terror as she waits) Did you hear me?

They did - but they're involved in throes of their own out on the treacherous Cliffside staircase. They stand facing each other at close range. Each has their gun trained on the other. In a mental flash - John shoots and Aeryn is hit. She falls, not on the stairs, but in front of the window of the great hall. In another flash - they're both laying dead on the white fur rug. Then the vision passes and they're on the stone stairs, each with the other in their gun sights. They slowly lower their weapons.

John: What did you see?

Aeryn: What did you see? (but neither of them ore willing to put what they saw into words - and the scene jumps head to minutes later as they charge into the great hall) Chiana?

Chiana: (worried, perhaps she has an inkling of what they saw) Is Cri- Is Crichton with you?

John: Yeah right here! Where's the bad guy? (he dances about, all wary tension as he checks out the room)

Chiana: Haven't seen him for a while. (she tries a little chuckle but it goes flat) Haven't seen anything. (she frets as Aeryn helps her to move out of the middle of room. There's a cube table there that will offer her some cover in the event of gunfire) Too long - this is not gonna go away.

Aeryn: It's all right, we'll get you out of here.

John: Soon! Soon as we find the beekeeper. (The buzz of insects in the room is heard and Chiana's rescuers begin slapping at themselves) Damn!

Chiana: What? The bugs?

John: Yeah just - stay down!

Chiana: Yeah I-I can help - they don't bite me. (she gropes about as she tries to get up)

John: Just stay down! (he and Aeryn are jumping and twitching like a pair of insect maddened wildebeests - the room seems to swarming with the flies) Damn! (to Aeryn) You okay?

Aeryn: No. I think too many more of these and I'm-

John: Yeah I know what you mean. Good news is - where there's bugs, there's gotta be- (and right on cue, E'Alet leaps into view with a gun and a white right eye that says the hive is wide open. As on-guard as he was - John is caught off-guard) Oh hell! (Aeryn joins Chiana behind a cube and John dives for cover as E'Alet advances, firing away. Aeryn makes to rise and return fire)

Aeryn: (whispering to Chiana) Stay down. (she fires. E'Alet is easily hit and a second blast from John downs him. Sgabba flies begin to exit the gill on the side of his head like rats abandoning a sinking ship)

Chiana: What happened? Who's here? (John jogs over to inspect E'Alet's body as Aeryn shoos files) Crichton? Aeryn? (John detects some twitching of the aliens hand)

John: He's still alive. (there's a long pause)

Aeryn: Shoot him then. (there's a long pause)

John: You shoot him. (there's a long pause)

Aeryn: I can't. (there's a long pause as John really tries - but instead brings his gun to bear on Aeryn)

John: Me either. (and Aeryn's gun is already trained on him)

Aeryn: Well then. We have a problem. (pause)

John: Fight it. (pause)

Aeryn: I am. (pause)

Chiana: Hey what the frell's goin' on? ("Stay down!" Aeryn and John shout. John flashes on himself firing and Aeryn throwing her arms wide as she's hit. In reality, she forces herself to avert her eyes from him and he does the same. But it's not enough to thwart the deadly compulsion E'Alet is putting on them and they fire simultaneously . Each shot flies past its target. Chiana startles) Whatever you're doin' - stop. (in a wavery voice, Aeryn informs John of her state of mind)

Aeryn: Now. I'm not sure - I have the strength to miss next time. (John's rather worse off)

John: I think - I'm just a bad shot. (Aeryn's breath becomes shaky and a mad smile forms on John's lips) You know I really thought… the coin toss ended badly.

Aeryn: It did. (the tense silence of their face-off stretches on and on - and is suddenly interrupted by a bellow from D'Argo as he and Sikozu gallop in, followed by Zerbat and Paroos)

D'Argo: CHIANA!

Sikozu: Stop her Chiana! (and at the sound of her friends voices, the Nebari powers out from behind the cube plows into Aeryn - probably by accident. The two go flying off the raised window ledge and hit the floor. Sikozu quickly moves to restrain Aeryn's arms and D'Argo tackles John. It's not easy, both Aeryn and John struggle with the fury of the maniacally compulsive/ Their guns are frozen in their hands and they can't stop trying to shoot each other) Stop it! Aeryn stop it! (Zerbat comes to help her quell the trained soldier)

Aeryn: (with her teeth clenched) I can't!

D'Argo: You can fight against it! (but John knows that he at least - cannot)

John: D'Argo just knock me out! Knock me OUT! (the Luxan obligingly belts him in the head) Hit me harder ya big sissy! (he yells as D'Argo delivers a skull-cracking blow - but still John won't go out. And nearby - E'Alat's hand, with a firm grip on his gun, suddenly jerks to life)

Zerbat: They're getting stronger! (D'Argo spots E'Alet's inexorable rise - but he, Zerbat and Sikozu don't dare let go of Aeryn and John and poor Chiana would need a seeing eye dog to find him)

D'Argo: PRIEST! STOP HIM! (and before anyone has time to amuse themselves with speculation on how exactly the bodiless Paroos will stop E'Alet - the twisted little fellow engages a rather unpriestly weapon - a buzz-saw that extends from his hover box. With a gleeful leer - he rams E'Alet with it. The whir of the saw deepens and slows as it rips through E'Alet's throat and copious quantities of pale green blood is spilled. The hive-headed alien goes down for good and suddenly - Aeryn and John go limp and lay there trying to catch their breaths)

John: It's gone. (but the sudden quiet is broken by a loud, regal voice)

Falaak: Excellent! (everyone looks up at the silver-haired Prefect who stands above them now on the promenade that encircles the room. Aeryn and John are too tired to care much. They just lay there on the floor - John touches Aeryn's hand with one finger and smiles as Falaak bloviates) You have extinguished this - threat - to our peace. I declare a feast to celebrate!

Chiana: (hissing with outrage) You lie! I heard everything! You-you hired E'Alet! (but Falaak hasn't even got the shame to deny his wrongdoing)

Falaak (smugly) And will the clans believe a banished outsider? Hmm?

Zerbat: You ordered my fathers death so there'd be war.

Falaak: (with contempt) Welcome home boy . (he laughs again and with a guttural roar of rage, Zerbat a grabs a gun)

Paroos: Zerbat think of your father! Is this what he wanted? (the young man pauses - and then takes the gun and brings it to bear on Falaak - but he minds the ideals of his father)

Zerbat: You know what your treachery means to your clan. The others would wipe them out - man, woman and child. (he slowly steps up to Falaak's level as the older man backs up, taken aback by Zerbat's unexpected maturity) You can prevent that. You can die the noble hero - I'll make it as painless as possible. Or you can surrender! And according to the law - OUR LAWS - go before the other clans. And I'll make sure - they try as hard as possible not to tear your body apart. I can go either way. The old - or the new. You decide.

Falaak: (with terrible spite) I'll not be judged by you or your pitiful council. (a great central portion of the window behind him opens and he spreads his arms wide as he mocks the youth) IS THAT YOUR FATHER I HEAR? SCREAMING FOR MERCYYYYYY? (as he speaks, he leans back and allows himself to fall. His last word fades into a scream as he plummets thousands of feet to his death far below, beneath the clouds. There's a long moment of silence in the great hall and Zerbat lets his gun drop as if his arms are killing him from holding it up. D'Argo comes to stand at his side)

D'Argo: You made your father proud.

(cut to sometime later. Sikozu and Zerbat are standing on the spot where Aeryn's Prowler had been parked at the start of this adventure. But this time the great domed hall on the distant mountainside is engulfed by flames. Although a few shafts of sunlight touch them, the mutter of the planets eternal thunder is still heard)

Sikozu: Making the destruction of your castle your first order as Prefect was - extremely bold.

Zerbat: A leader belongs with his people, not above them.

Sikozu: (smiling) Sounds like your father talking. (Zerbat smiles back, and reaches for her hand)

Zerbat: You know I want you to stay.

Sikozu: As an advisor?

Zerbat: Perhaps - much more.

Sikozu: (her familiar bitterness reasserts itself) I would love nothing more - than to be off - that - Leviathan - and away from those outsiders.

Zerbat: My term as Prefect is only half a cycle. We could - leave together as we planned.

Sikozu: (with a touch of real regret) As you planned.

Zerbat: I'm starting to care about you.

Sikozu: Good. But you're right - (and as she walks away, she says softly) - a leader belongs with his people. (eh - he's better off without her)

(cut to the woodland marketplace where Chiana and Paroos - the tart and the curmudgeon - are sitting together amid the crowd)

Chiana: Seriously - that's the longest this blindness has ever lasted.

Paroos: (sensibly) Then stop using the vision - twizzet.

Chiana: I'm sure you'll be the first to miss me, next palace coup.

Paroos: Should've let the bugs eat your hide.

Chiana: I'll take that as a blessing holy man. (she scratches him under his chin and he squirms with pleasure at her touch. Sikozu arrives at that moment and says in the sort of tone someone might use to announce that a giant maggot and a bill collector are at the door-)

Sikozu: Moya and Pilot are waiting. We must leave.

Chiana: (facetiously) What? And leave all these stragrats behind? (Sikozu bends down, as if there's something she'd like to say - but nothing comes out. Chiana gets senses her faux-pas) I'm sorry - I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. (she bumps foreheads gently with Sikozu. The redhead smiles despite herself and helps the vision-impaired Nebari up)

Sikozu: All right. (and they slowly head off for the transport pod)

Elsewhere in the barren woods, a mound of fresh dirt rises above the ground mist. Aeryn stands at one end of it. At the other end a lonely child sits with his head bowed, sunk in grief.

John stands at a respectful stance and waits.

Time passes in that desolate place. Aeryn remains in the same spot, watching the child. She's dropped to a crouch as she keeps vigil with him.

John walks slowly up behind Aeryn and touches her hair with the back of his hand. And they wait.

THE END