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Continued from page 1


I grabbed him as he fell , glaring at Aeryn. She waved the remote at me again , as if to say she hadn't done anything.

Gabe grabbed both my arms. "What year did you get stuck out here? I have to know." He could barely talk. I could barely see through the tears in my eyes. I had found another human! I held his arms as tightly as he held mine.

"It was 1999 when I got launched out here. I've been here for just over a cycle." I told him.

"Make that 5 years then." He said. He suddenly threw his arms around me and laughed so hard I felt his whole body shaking with it. I started laughing too , pounding him on the back. After a minute or so he let go and sat back down , waving me to sit down as well.

"Is she human too?" he asked, looking pointedly at Aeryn. He eyed her up and down openly , evidently liking what he saw as much as I do. When I do that same thing I usually do it when she's not paying attention though.

"No sir , that's the radiant Aeryn Sun. She's all Sebacean, and if you keep doing that , she'll demonstrate just how bad a pantak jab can hurt." I warned him.

He laughed and bowed his head towards Aeryn. "It's an honor to meet you Miss Sun."

"That's Office Sun to you , slave." She retorted.

I saw him wince at her words. I'd have to remind Aeryn of tact one of these days. "How in the name of hell did you get out here?"I asked him.

"You know all those stories about alien abductions? They're not all bull." He said. He took a deep breath. "Okay , let me give you the short version. I lived in Seattle most of my life , and was what they call a 'troubled youth'. When I was about 9 my father got me into a martial arts school, hoping I'd learn some discipline. By the time I was 15 , I was into kendo , the sword. I stuck with it through high school and college. During my second year of graduate studies , I was heading into the woods to go camping after a week of some really hard tests." He reached behind himself and got a flask of something to drink. He took a swallow and offered it to me. I took a slug , thinking it must be water or something. Instead , my head exploded and I couldn't breathe.

"I should have warned you , sorry about that. The natives call it oothlik. Strong huh?" he grinned at me.

"I'll get you for that." I wheezed. I waved at him to keep telling his story.

"Anyway , I found a campsite , made my fire , set up my camp. That night I saw all the usual things; bright lights , no sound , an object moving in strange patterns across the sky. All of that." His eyes grew distant. "I can remember standing next to my fire thinking some local was trying to pull my leg." He shook himself. "The next thing I know, I'm strapped down on this hard , cold slab. I could hear people moving around me , but I couldn't move. When I could see them , they were short , about 5 feet or so , grey skin , very slende , delicate looking. No noses , large , totally black eyes , hardly any mouth."

I looked at Aeryn. She shook her head. This must be a race the Peacekeeper's hadn't encountered either.

"Medical type probing tests?" I asked him with half a grin.

"Yeah , you know the tabloid stories." He chuckled weakly. "The one thing the tabloids get wrong is that you do feel everything. I was one of I don't know how many subjects they had." He took another drink of that oothlik stuff. "I got tossed into a cell with another alien. A female. She's kinda like these people , only feline. Pointed ears , slitted pupils ," his voice trailed off.

"Nothing like a planet full of Lassie's huh?" I asked.

"More like Dobermans. They're all nice and hospitable until you make them angry , then they'll bite your head off."

I could see Aeryn rolling her eyes at our cliches. It was nice to not have to explain them all the time. I wondered if he'd join up with us.

"What was your major in school?" I asked , trying to change the subject.

"Computer Information Systems. I was going for an MBA. I would have made it too." He said wistfully.

"A computer geek with a MBA and a sword? Look out Wall Street. So what happened? How did you end up here?"

"My captors decided they had found out as much as they wanted to from me and about 8 others , including my cellmate. Purbithlaya was her name , I just called her Bith. They didn't give us translator microbes on the ship , so we had to learn each other's language. She's quite a lady. She's the one who started calling me Kublai Khan. I'd keep reciting what I could remember of poems , songs , anything I could to remind myself of home. I said Kublai Khan so much she thought it was my name at first. We got here , and we got herded off the ship and into this building. That was about 4 and half years ago I guess. These nice folk gave us all shots , which included the translators , and explained why we were here. To fight to protect their government's interests." He glared at the door the guards used. "When they asked our names , I just stuck with Kublai Khan. I wanted something to keep to myself that these people couldn't take from me." He grabbed my arm again , so hard I felt my hand go numb. "Get Bith and me out of here!" he whispered fiercely.

"Are you not treated well? Beaten , tortured?" Aeryn asked , stepping closer.

"That fight last night? If you can call it a fight. That was the twenty-fifth person I have had to kill to keep Bith and myself alive. I cannot do it anymore. I can't keep killing. But , since you're a Peacekeeper OFFICER Sun , so you must love that kind of thing. Want to trade places with me?" Years of bitterness added acid to his voice. I thought Aeryn would use that collar to knock him out after that. "Oh , all the slaves are treated well , we get fed twice a day , are free to train when and how we wish , given weapons of our choice to practice with. But we are still prisoners here. We cannot leave , cannot go anywhere but to the arena to kill or be killed."

"Where is Bith?" I asked him. "Do they make her fight?"

"No , she's a servant for that lapdog that brought you here. Monath. He treats her and me like his own personal property. Well , she is I guess. He bought her outright , and me on behalf of his government. I've seen her at every fight , serving Monath. I think he brings her to remind me just who is really pulling my strings. She hates him though , I can see it in her every time. Now you Commander Crichton. I remember reading stories about the new Renaissance Man , the PhD who designed , built and was going to fly his own spacecraft. How did you end up in these god-forsaken lands? And in the company of the radiant Aeryn Sun?" He winked at Aeryn for good measure.

Aeryn sat down beside me , and I started with my story. How the wormhole shot me out of Earth's solar system , hitting Tauvo's Prowler , and all the adventures since. Aeryn corrected me on a few matters. I didn't mention what happened when were stuck in the Flax and thought we were going to die , or what had happened that night on the Ancient's version of Earth.

"I'll tell you one more thing." Gabe said after I was done. "I have heard stories from guards. When they think the slaves aren't listening they talk about some one , or a group of people that have managed to get slaves out of here. They don't discuss it to openly , but from what I have gathered , who ever is helping slaves escape has to have an ear inside the government." Gabe looked at us. "Has Monath mentioned anything about it? I know he has a few of his children working for him."

Suddenly we heard the lock on the door being slid back. Aeryn and I jumped up , and Gabe went back to his kneeling position. Monath stepped in , looking around for the guards. "Officer Sun , Commander! My most sincere apologies. The guards are never supposed to leave guests without supervision."

Aeryn waved the collar control in front of Monath's face. "We had everything under control Monath. Khan was well behaved and answered all our questions." She said in a cold voice. The guards filed back in. Aeryn tossed the lead guard the control. Gabe stood up and followed them from the room , not once looking back at us.

"Well , I'm glad you are satisfied. If you'll follow me , I believe that Deetra has already had your supplies loaded. I shall be sorry to see you leave. You've been most entertaining guests." He said , leading us from the dormitory for the slaves.

"Have any of the slaves escaped Monath?" I asked , just to test the waters.

"Oh , some few have now and again. Most realize they have a good life here. They don't have to fight all that often and are allowed access to most anything they might desire. Art , music , literature if they can read our alphabet."

"Except the choice to walk out and never be forced to kill again." Aeryn said.

"Well , there is that of course." Monath chuckled , thinking Aeryn meant it to be funny.

"How much would it cost to buy Khan's freedom?" I asked. "Just a general figure."

"Oh , I'm afraid he's not for sale Commander. His skill has allowed us to annex rather large areas of land for agricultural use and mining , and expand our ocean territorial claims for fishing and industry. He's far to valuable to sell."

"So , some slaves have been successful in escaping. Do you hunt down escaped slaves?" Aeryn asked. "Surely your guards must be nervous being around so many skilled warriors. An escaped slave would have an edge , a desire to remain free , and be much more dangerous. How do you reclaim them?"

"That's quite easy. When we purchase property , we only purchase linked pairs. Khan , for example , had become romantically involved with a Natarian , a fellow criminal of his on the ship when my government purchased him. He was also a well-known criminal , picked up by bounty hunters. The officials who wanted him deemed our purchase of him fitting punishment. Both he and the Natarian were to serve life sentences for their crimes. Most of our property are condemned prisoners or those serving life imprisonment." He stared at the sky for a moment , collecting his thoughts. "Those who are chosen to fight know that if they escape , their other half will be eliminated. The same goes for the insurance property. If they escape , the fighter is eliminated. It also makes reclaiming them quite easy , since they invariably try to free their counterpart." Monath explained. "Khan has a strong attachment to this Natarian , so I know as long as she is alive and well , he will continue to prove his value. And she adores him , so it works out well for all involved."

Deetra was waiting for us at the doors. Monath told us good day and went off towards another vehicle. There was a woman waiting by the vehicle. I quickly slipped the monocle on and zoomed in. This must be Bith , from the fight. She had long , thick auburn hair. Her skin was a slightly olive color. If it wasn't for her eyes and hands , I'd have guessed she might be from Italy or Greece. I could see that her eyes were slitted , just like a cat , and the way the light shone on her indicated a light coating of fur , just like Deetra. Like our hosts , it seemed the female Natarians had less fur than the males. I could see her fingers ended in claws when she bowed as Monath got close. She gazed over at Aeryn and I and made a slight waving gesture with one hand. I guess she knew we'd spoken with Gabriel.

"My uncle got everything you asked for , plus some extras that Dominar Rygel asked for this morning. He said you had forgotten his list." She said brightly.

I groaned , and Aeryn asked , "What did the Dominar ask for?" I could tell she dreaded the answer.

"Marjules. He said he'd give half his realm for fresh Marjules." She told us. "My uncle added them to your supplies at no cost , a gift for the Dominar."

"Thank god!" I thought. "Tell your uncle I'm sure the Dominar will be grateful for the gift." "And out of our hair for at least a few arns" I added mentally.

"That merchant is your uncle then Deetra? Are you related to any other celebrities?" I asked. "Is Monath your father , or will we find a horde of your cousins cleaning the transport pod?" I smiled at Deetra.

"Well , no , you won't find my cousins cleaning the pod , but Monath is my father. He keeps me as his secretary. He's found positions for my two older brothers in the government too." She looked directly at me. "My brothers and I aren't happy with what he does , buying slaves , but he is our father , so we help him when he asks." She concentrated on driving our airport tram.

"No wonder he said he didn't mind your nepotism when I said your uncle got us excellent supplies. That's his brother." I said to myself.

"Your grasp of the obvious is overwhelming Crichton." Aeryn said just as quietly. She looked at me with an eyebrow raised. "Perhaps these are Khan's eyes."

We got back to the landing pad to find another transport pod had landed next to the one Aeryn and I had brought down. Zhaan got down from the ladder as we walked up. I could tell she was furious from her manner.

"John , Aeryn. Why did neither of you tell me these fights ended with one of the fighters dead?" she demanded. Deetra backed away from Zhaan's fury. She barked quick orders for our supplies to be loaded and hid behind the transport.

"Blue , I didn't think it was a good idea. You said yourself these fights brought bad memories back. I didn't want to add to that." I said , trying to calm her down. She stalked back into the transport pod she came in , Delvian swearing blistering the air behind her. Aeryn and I followed her.

"Well , what we found out will not help your mood any Zhaan." I said. Aeryn and I related the story Gabriel had told us. Zhaan got angrier and angrier.

"I know the Natarians. They are a peaceful people. Artists. Performers. They are perhaps the most graceful dancers I have ever seen." Zhaan seemed doubly upset to learn Monath was using a Natarian female to keep Gabriel in check. "Come with me." Zhaan strode out of the transport pod , Aeryn and I following.

Zhaan found Deetra hiding behind the pod , supervising the loading of supplies. "I assume you can take us to see Monath?" Zhaan asked.

"Yes , if it is necessary." She said , fear making voice tremble.

"It is necessary child. Take us to him now." Zhaan didn't wait for an answer; she just got into the vehicle and waited for Deetra to start driving. D'Argo stuck his head out from the pod with the supplies.

"Crichton! Can we leave this frelling planet now?" he asked. "Any people who keep slaves have no concept of honor." The techs all backed away at his words. I'm sure the fact he was nearly two feet taller than them made them just a bit nervous.

"In a little while D'Argo. Why don't you fly the loaded pod back up to Moya? When we're done here we can leave that much faster." I told him. He nodded curtly and shut the hatch.

Aeryn and I joined Zhaan in the airport tram as Deetra finally decided to do as she was told. She drove us through the financial centers this time , to a large building. This must be their government center. It was mostly two stories high , with a large tower rising out of the middle , a good 6 stories above the main part of the building. She got out and silently led us up the steps. Once we entered the building , a great many functionaries murmured as we walked by and bowed. I guess word had spread a tenth level Pa'u might make a visit. Their reverence for Zhaan might help get Gabe and Bith out of this place. Deetra led us to an office , and opened the door. She obviously did not intend on going inside with us. She stood by the door like a statue.

"Thank you Deetra ," Zhaan said as she walked by. Aeryn and I joined her , not sure what else to do.

"Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan! It is a great pleasure to meet you in person." Monath said , rising from behind his desk. I could see Bith and four other women standing in a row along one wall , waiting for an order from their owner. "I must say , it is quite a surprise though. If I had know you were coming I would have made preparations."

"Spare me you empty platitudes. If you had informed me of your methods of resolving disputes I would never have sent any of my friends to this nauseating place." Zhaan nearly shouted at Monath.

Aeryn and I moved up and took Zhaan's arms. "Easy Blue , take it easy." I said quietly. Bith's eyes seemed to flash at Zhaan's words.

"Why Pa'u! This is how my people have resolved for over two hundred cycles , ever since your healers aided us so long ago. It is a tried and true method." Monath argued. "Your aid showed us the folly of war. We have found a better way , just as your leaders told us we must."

Zhaan regained some of her composure. "This is not a better way.As the Minister of Foreign Relations , you should be seeking alternate methods of resolution that do not involve the death of any living thing , a peaceful resolution that offers the best options for all involved. I want you to release one of your servants to me right now."

"Of course , I shall select the most worthyš"

"HER!" Zhaan pointed directly at Bith. Bith walked to stand behind Aeryn and me.

"Pa'u , I do not think you will be totally satisfied with that ones services. She is headstrong and willful." Monath protested. That room we met Gabriel in must have been bugged. He had to have known why we wanted Bith.

"I do not want her service Monath. I want her freedom." Zhaan said in flat voice.

"As you desire Pa'u. Now , if you'll excuse me , there are matters that demand my attention." He sat back down and ignored us , activating a terminal and typing away.

We left , Bith following just a step behind us , looking like a servant out on loan. Deetra hurried to catch up , getting in front of us and leading us back to the waiting vehicle. She drove us back to our pod. No one said a word the entire drive.

We got into the remaining pod and shut the door. Once inside , Bith suddenly sprang to life.

"Thank you great Pa'u!" She knelt in front of Zhaan , grabbing the hem of her robes. "Please , you must help me free my friend Gabriel. Without me I'm afraid Monath will try to kill him." Her voice was light , musical , with a lilt to it. It may have been the microbes , but I could have sworn she sound Irish. Maybe it was the red hair and green eyes.

"Stand up child ," Zhaan said gently. Zhaan bent down and help Bith to her feet. "We will do what we can to aid your friend. This is John and Aeryn. They have spoken with Gabriel today , and John shares a special kinship with your friend."

Bith turned to me with a shocked expression. "You are a hoo-man too?" she asked.

"Yes , I'm from the same planet as Gabriel. He was taken a few years before I got trapped here in the Uncharted Territories." I replied , smiling at her. Bith suddenly grabbed me in as tight an embrace as I'd ever had. She was very strong. I started seeing spots in front of my eyes when she finally let me go. "Gabriel must have been so happy to meet you." She was nearly in tears. I had never seen a cat cry , so I didn't know if they could.

"If we can , we will try to free as many as we can ," Zhaan said. She brought up her communicator. "Pilot , please tell D'Argo to return with another transport pod. We will need him. Also Pilot , is Moya ready to starburst?"

"Ka D'Argo is on his way Zhaan. Moya can starburst at any time." Pilot said. He didn't ask any questions , so he must have understood why Zhaan asked. Zhaan must have left her comms link open.

"Please , tell us how you came to be here." Zhaan asked Bith. The Natarian sat on the edge of a console and told her story. Her story jived with Gabriel's , so Monath's claim that they were bought from bounty hunters was definitely a lie. I doubted any of the slaves were condemned criminals.

We relaxed for another arn , then felt the pod vibrate slightly as D'Argo landed next to us. Zhaan went out to meet him. Bith looked at Aeryn and I.

"Are you mated?" she asked us.

"We're just crewmates and friends Bith." I said. Aeryn appeared to be choking on air.

"You should be , you make a nice pairing." The Natarian said. "How many can you bring down from your ship?"

"Just one. Ka D'Argo. Luxan warrior extraordinaire ," I said.

"Only one?" she asked. She almost started crying again.

"Bith , he is an excellent warrior , strong , brave and loyal. He's worth 20 of these locals." I told her. "He is Luxan after all."

Zhaan returned with D'Argo in tow. He went right to Bith. "We shall return your friend to you. I promise."

"Well , that seems simple enough. Now , how do we do it? From what Bith says , we had best do it soon." I told everyone Bith's fears , and what Monath had told us about buying slaves in pairs.

We sat down and began to make our plans. There was a sound by the door to the pod. I went to see what is was , only to find Deetra running towards the vehicle. I yelled for her to come back , but she only waved at me and sped off.

"We may have a problem. Deetra just took off. I'm pretty sure she knows we're going to spring Gabriel." I said worriedly.

"Deetra? She's my friend. I don't think she'd try to stop us. She might try to help us." Bith said.

"I hope you're right." Aeryn told her.

Our best guess would be that Monath would try to have Gabriel killed after dark. Bith seemed to think that Monath would try to make it seem another slave had done it to lay the blame on a rival owner. According to Bith , we had about 4 arns before sunset , so we had to hurry. Aeryn and I checked our pulse pistols , D'Argo converted his Qualta blade to its rifle form. Zhaan went to the other pod and came back with a pair of pulse rifles , one for her , one for Bith.

"Damn , Deetra left with the vehicle. We need that if we're going to pull this off." I said. "You think we could land a transport pod in that dorm's courtyard?" We had to salvage this plan. Then there was knocking at the pod's door.

Aeryn opened the door with the rest of us covering it. Deetra stuck her head in and looked at us. "Please , don't shoot. I'm here to help."

Aeryn waved her in , and following Deetra was her uncle. Both wore dark cloaks that covered them neck to foot. "My niece has told me some of what you have planned. I will do what I can to help."

"That's great Lassie , but how do we know we can trust you?" I asked him bluntly.

"Crichton , I have been helping slave pairs escape for cycles. I have aided a dozen pairs so far , with no one the wiser. It helps to add to the embarrassment of my brother. And call me Neith." He said crossing his arms and glared at me.

"Who's your brother?" D'Argo asked.

"Monath." I told him. I turned to Deetra. "So , what Gabriel said is true. You've been spying on your father to help your uncle spring slaves. Let me guess , since your uncle is a merchant , these slaves seem to find their way off planet on one of his cargo ships right?

"Yes , I have been spying on my father." Deetra said , hanging her head. "I am not proud of my father , or what he does. All he does is buy and sell slaves. He gets the credit for the victories they win. It disgusts me. And you are right John Crichton. My uncle does find himself with extra helpers sometimes."

"Well , our own little Underground Railroad." I murmured. Six pairs of alien eyes turned to me at once. "Never mind."

We all piled onto the airport tram , trying to keep our weapons concealed as best we could. Deetra drove us directly to the dorms.

"Deetra! Neith!" the guards at the door exclaimed. Our guides were well known and popular , which gave us an edge.

"We need to see Khan." Neith said. "He's been given special dispensation to have visitors tonight. This Pa'u needs him for some.... studies this evening." He grinned at the two guards , handing over a small pouch the jingled slightly.

"Ah! A wise choice Pa'u. He's quite a specimen ," one guard said. The other looked at Aeryn , D'Argo and I uncertainly.

"These are the Pa'u's bodyguard. Two Sebaceans and a Luxan should be more than enough in case Khan gets out of hand." Neith explained. The guards looked at Bith. "Surely , you don't expect my niece , Councilor Monath's daughter , to go about unattended at night do you?"

That , and the bribe , seemed to satisfy them. They opened the door and we filed in. Neith took the lead , bypassing the weapon check room and led us down a corridor to the left of that grand staircase. The whole building was dimly lit. The low light might have been enough for the locals but not me. I pulled the monocle on and turned on the nightvision capability. That was much better. Neith seemingly took turns at random , but he stopped in front of an ornate door.

"This is it." He knocked lightly. "Khan , it's Neith."

The door opened slightly , I could see Gabe's face clearly with the nightvision of the monocle. He looked devastated. "What is it Neith?" he asked. His voice sounded raw. "I got bad news today , so make it quick."

"You've got to come with us , right now. We've got a way to get you out of here." Neith urged him.

"Don't you get it Neith? Bith is gone. She finally pushed Monath over the edge and he killed her. He came and told me so today. I'm supposed to die at some point in training tomorrow. I just want to rest and then get it over with."

"You cannot die yet!" Bith pushed past us and tackled Gabriel. He couldn't talk. They just held each other tight and whispered to each other. Part of what they were saying couldn't be translated but it didn't seem to matter. I think we all got the idea.

"I hate to break this up , but we need to get going." I said , tapping Gabriel on the shoulder. I could see tears in his eyes.

"You're right Crichton. Let's get out of here." He said , pulling Bith along by the hand. Neith stopped him , and handed him a pair of cloaks from under his own. Then Neith went to each of the other doors , tapping lightly on each one. The other slaves all gathered in Gabe's room. Since he was the top dog he had the largest one.

"Okay , I've found a way to get Khan and his mate out of here. But we , they , need your help. Will you?" Neith asked. I could see both Bith and Gabe blush as Neith introduced them as mates. The other slaves gathered around Gabe , making their farewells , promising to never forget him , making him promise to remember them. D'Argo was talking with the Luxan slave. They both stepped forward.

"We have an idea." D'Argo said. "If we cause a large enough diversion , we should all be able to slip out the front , past those guards."

"If any of you can make it to landing pad 94 , we'll take as many as we can tonight." Neith said. "Now , how do we cause this diversion?" he asked.

"A fight , of course." The Luxan slave said. Without warning , he punched the Scorvian. I remembered that Luxans and Scorvians didn't really like each other. The other slaves pushed them out the door , down the hall , towards that main training hall Aeryn and I had passed the day before.

Neith closed the door , and watched through the grill. We could all hear the shouts from the rest of the slaves. Guards ran down the hall. After a few minutes , Neith opened the door , and motioned for Gabe and Bith to put their hoods up. We hurried back to the front door. Guards ran past us without looking at us to break up the brawl. It sounded like more than just the Luxan and Scorvian were fighting now. We made it to the front door , past the other two guards. Neith whispered something to them and they sped off to help stop the fight.

"Go now , all of you. I told them I'd stay here and watch the door. Those two will forget how many were really with you Pa'u , and tell me stories of how brave they were." Neith kissed his niece on the forehead. "Hurry Deetra."

We ran to and clambered into the tram. Deetra drove the quickest route back to the landing pad. I had to fight the urge to tell her to drive faster , but I knew that would draw attention us. I turned to hand Gabe a pulse pistol , but he shook his head and showed me the hilt of his sword. I nodded grimly. If push came to shove , he'd do what needed to be done.

Deetra parked , and we headed up the steps. The moon had risen , and the moonlight showed about a dozen guards between our pods and us. Between the guards and us stood Monath.

"Well daughter , did you enjoy your trip to see the slaves?" He sneered at his daughter. "I'm sure that Khan was eager to join you , now that his beloved Bith is free." He laughed.

I could see D'Argo holding both Gabe and Bith back. Zhaan pushed her hood back. Aeryn , D'Argo and I followed suit.

"Ah , Pa'u , with your Peacekeeper , and now Luxan bodyguards. How interesting." He turned to his guards. "Take them."

"I got the left!" I yelled , pulling my pistols out and firing at a group of guards. I hit one with two shots. He fell back; the two behind him stepped forward and began firing back.

"Right side!" Aeryn and D'Argo said in unison , the yellow flashes of Aeryn's pistols and the blue bolts from D'Argo's Qualta blade knocking back a trio of guards.

Zhaan didn't pick a side; she just started shooting at the remaining 8 guards. Bith threw back her hood and stepped next to Zhaan , picking shots at the guards still standing. She must have had excellent night vision , since she was more accurate than the rest of us.

"MONATH!!" Gabriel threw back his hood , ripped his sword out , and leapt up the steps. The Minister fled , terrified at what he saw. I could imagine. With all the flashing lights , and the dimness of the moon , Gabe's cloak spread out about him like wings. Suddenly , it was if I was looking at the Archangel Gabriel , coming down from Heaven bearing God's wrath. I pitied Monath in that moment , just a little.

The official tripped on his own feet , scrabbling to get away from death's grim approach. Gabe whipped that sword under Monath's chin and snarled at him , "Tell your men to drop their weapons."

"D - D - Drop them!" Monath wailed.

By this point , there were only 4 guards left. They dropped their guns immediately , backing away from us. We could hear sirens wailing in the distance.

"I should kill you Monath , for what you've done to me. To her." Gabriel hissed. "But I won't. By now , tonight's occurrence will draw lots of attention. The involvement of your daughter and brother will only mean that you must have been involved as well. You're finished here Monath. You might just become a fighter yourself." He left Monath whimpering on the ground. A dozen more slaves were running up the steps behind us , dragging a mate or significant other behind them.

D'Argo turned to the remaining guards. "RUN!" he roared at them. The four guards ran as fast as they could. "Quickly , into the pods. They can't track both , and if they don't know who is on which pod , they probably won't shoot at us."

D'Argo and Zhaan ran to the far pod , Aeryn and I ran to the near one , Gabe and Bith following close behind. The other slaves clambered into which transport pod they were closer too. We skipped the pre flight check and took off , pushing the pod's engines to their limit. I could hear the pod groaning against the strain.

"Ease off Aeryn , I think we made it." I said. I turned around to see Gabe and Bith locked in another embrace. "Well , we did one good thing today."

"Pilot , open the docking bay , we're coming home." I said.

The Natarians had been overjoyed that we brought one of their own back to them. Bith's family treated all of us like long lost cousins when we landed. I had invited both of them to come along with us to find D'Argo's son , but Bith wanted to stay with her people , and Gabriel would do anything to make her happy. I knew how he felt. When Bith announced her intention to make Gabriel her mate , the party really got under way. Her father made us all Blood Kin to his Clam , including Pilot and Moya. Even the slaves that wanted to stay on Natara and build new lives were welcomed to his Clam. The Natarians didn't have beer or fellip nectar , but they had something that was pretty close. I was carrying a case of it back to my quarters.

"Are you sad that your fellow human didn't want to stay with us Crichton?" Chiana asked , as we walked towards our quarters from the docking bay.

"Not really Pip. It's just good to know there's another person like me out here. And , he said we're always welcome on Natara. Well , his new wife did." I replied with a wink.

"It was nice of Zhaan to marry them wasn't it?" Chiana said. "You humans have strange rituals though." She frowned at me from the door to my quarters. I hid the case of drinks from Natara as best I could. I was pretty sure Rygel would try to find it , but I convinced Pilot to have a DRD stand guard , just in case.

"No stranger than some of the others that I've seen out here. It was nice to have another human to swap stories with while we took them to Natara , even if I did have to catch him up on a few things that had happened since he'd left." I rubbed my thighs , still on fire from the wedding's reception. "Zhaan was right , those people are great dancers. I didn't know Luxans could dance though. I'm just glad D'Argo decided not to sing."

"Yeah , I guess so." Chiana still sounded puzzled.

"What is it Pip?"

"Well , I'm trying to figure out why Gabriel asked Aeryn , Zhaan , and me to jump out of a cake , naked." Chiana looked at me , expecting an explanation. I was too busy trying to get my breath.

"What's a cake Crichton? And what is a Bachelor Party?"




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