Farscape/Batman: Dark Knight, Rising Son, Pt. 4

By: Spacelord

<< Continued from part 3

Part 9: Lazarus

Shadows loomed in eerie accord along the walls of his chamber. Even the room itself bore an air of menace.

He had specific reasons for choosing the lower chambers of the Gammak base for his personal dwellings. Temperatures were lower here, since the reactors directly above the room sent the heat upward to all the levels. Up there, it was cool by human standards, comfortable for Sebaceans, but unsatisfactory to him.

Subterfuge was the other reason. Just as much out of fear his enemies could discover his secret as out of personal vanity, he would not let anyone on the base- or under his rule for that matter- bear witness to the object of his addiction.

A circular tub sat in the center of the chamber, its diameter nearly the length of a Prowler. A spiraling network of valves and pipes snaked up and around its girth, and an ochre-colored liquid bubbled and churned within it, releasing a stink of chemicals that permeated the room.

The red headed nurse observed him from the shadows under the catwalk, preferring to make herself less obvious. Except for Captain Braca and herself, no one else was privy to the ritual. His chamber acted as cathedral and med station all in one. Bathing in the large pool he stood in front of had become a sacrament for him since discovering its properties a generation ago.

"Isn't it splendid, Niem?"

Niem lifted her chin and stepped forward. The question had no genuine relevance; Scorpius never needed an honest answer. Not so much as he wanted affirmation of what he had already said.

"It is, sir- most splendid."

He nodded thoughtfully. "It is. It's so perfect- my healing and my rebirth combined. The finest single creation ever spawned by Earth, and worth every effort to bring it here. So simple in design and yet so intricate is its use. I was fortunate to discover it." He kneeled down and dipped his fingers in the chemicals, inspecting the shine on his gloved hand. "I wonder if Ra's al Ghul ever dreamed that it would serve someone besides himself. Foolish he would be to think there was no one else who would desire the Lazarus Pit."

He unfastened the clasp to the purple cloak he wore over his thermal regulator suit. He left on the black carapace that encased him, as it held his body temperature to a bearable level, fighting back the heat his Scarran half craved. If the suit served as protection, the Lazarus Pit served as salvation.

Niem removed the cloak from his shoulders. He descended the metal stairs and immersed himself in the chemicals, allowing their lucidity to seep through the crevices of his suit, into the pores of his skin, feeling its effects throughout his body. Chemical radiance reached its tendrils into him, regenerating dying cells, repairing genetic structure and prolonging an already ancient life.

He threw back his head and exhaled. "Again, I feel reborn. I feel eternity touch me every time I immerse myself. I would have liked Ra's al Ghul to see how his creation has sustained me." He paused for a moment, and then smiled. "But then, I seem to remember I snapped his neck after he divulged its secrets. Did you know his name meant 'The Demon's Head?' Such a disappointing opponent he was. I wonder why the Batman had not dealt with him permanently long before I did."

Her face remained expressionless. She had heard the translation of Ra's al Ghuls name before. Ironic, it seemed, he did not use the name for himself.

"He did not have your vision, Scorpius. Perhaps through this, you'll live forever."

He cocked his head slightly, giving the remark serious consideration. "Perhaps. In the meantime, however, I will be content once our other guest above us reveals the information that I desire, since the human will not cooperate. Once the wormhole device is successfully deployed, then I might ponder my immortality."

His eyes looked up at the skeletal framework of the chambers ceiling. He began to laugh- a rare occurrence for him. He slowly immersed his head under the liquid and completely disappeared from view. There was only the sound of the bubbling of the chemicals as they broke the surface, disturbing the silence.

***

Space surrounded them on all sides. This was where his father dwelled when he was a boy. He told his father once when he was still alive that he hoped to follow in his footsteps one day. His father only smiled weakly, never answering the remark. The Peacekeepers permanently grounded him after the conquest- then killed him later as an example to anyone who might try and make a stand. The only humans who set foot into space afterwards were slaves or prisoners.

But no more- if his father could only see him now.

"There it is."

John checked the Batscape's monitor to verify the location. It was right on target, exactly were Aeryn had indicated it. Just beyond Earth's evening side and above the event horizon was the leviathan ship. It floated solitary, faintly reflecting gold tones under the dim starlight. Only the front of the ship, covered by a clumsy black control collar, gave any evidence of the Peacekeeper's control.

There was no Prowler escort and no other ships nearby to interfere with their intentions. This was the perfect opportunity for a hijacking. It would be score one for humanity, even if they were not aware of it. It was already becoming a day of firsts.

"Now we just have to figure out how to get on board," he said, studying the scene before him. "I imagine this would be second nature to you, Aeryn."

She looked at him but did not answer. He meant what he said. Bluffing their way onto a starship had never been part of the Batman's training, either past or present. Space itself would have been a new environment for Bruce as well as for him. He had no clue how to handle it.

"Any ideas?"

Her eyes brightened up. "Leave that to me, and turn off your stealth mode."

As soon as he shut it off, a transmission came through. "Unidentified craft, you are approaching Peacekeeper prison transport Moya. Identify yourself."

She adjusted her headset. "This is Officer Aeryn Sun, retrieval hunter, Peacekeeper Law Enforcement Liaison, Gotham City sector. I'm delivering a human prisoner for transport."

There was a pause. "Officer Sun, your delivery was not expected. Furthermore, visuals indicate you are flying an unidentified ship not found in our data stores."

"I'm flying the prototype of a new Peacekeeper hunter ship. My prisoner has the highest-level priority. Will you let me on board?"

An even longer pause kept the silence in the Batscape's cockpit. Standard Peacekeeper personnel were unused to abrupt changes in their schedules.

"We will need you to transmit your identification code."

"Acknowledged. Stand by."

She removed the ident-chip from around her neck and inserted it into the compatible port on the Batscape's instrument panel. "Let's hope they haven't cancelled my code yet. I've only been a traitor for a few arns."

They watched the lights on the screen blink in a random pattern as the code transmission went through. The prison ship grew steadily larger through the Batscape's canopy with each second. John craned his neck up towards it, taking in its dimensions. It was hard to believe it was actually a living creature, and a slave, at that.

A green light flashed in approval. "You are cleared for arrival, Officer Sun. Please allow the docking web to guide you in."

John pulled the ident-chip out and handed it back to her, smiling. "I always knew there was a reason this was a two-seater. So, are you prepared for what we have to do now?"

"Let's do it." She looked at him assuredly.

He nodded back. It was now just the two of them against all of the Peacekeeper forces. Somehow, he did not mind the odds.

Batman and Aeryn: that had a certain ring to it.

John·

For just a moment, he thought he heard someone calling to him.

***

Taking down a handful of guards that met them in the Moya's docking bay was simple enough. They were substandard grunts at best, easily surprised. Getting to the lieutenant, who had barricaded himself in the control room, was a slightly different matter. As Aeryn rewired the door key, he ordered the ships pilot to send out a distress call, to alert reinforcements.

Moya's pilot had a different idea. It knew an opportunity when it saw one. A slave always turned on his master, Bruce had once said. Aeryn guaranteed the pilot would defy the Peacekeepers in a microt. Just before the lieutenant tried to send a pain pulse to the control collar, a batarang struck the back of his skull sending him into unconsciousness. The prisoners, freed by a simple push of a fail-safe switch on their tier, quickly dealt with any remaining personnel that had remained hidden below in the lower levels.

"That was easy enough," John said, reaching down to hoist the stunned officer over his shoulder. "But I think we need to introduce ourselves to the pilot and the prisoners before they get the wrong ideas."

Aeryn nodded, checking the ships roster. "At least there's not too many. According to this, there are only three prisoners currently onboard- a Luxan, a Delvian and a Hynerian."

"That is enough to make it count, I would say."

They turned quickly at the sound of the voice. A giant stood in the doorway, tattooed and bearded, with what looked like tentacles coming through the locks of his braided hair and a bony plate on his nose. He was dressed head to toe in blood red.

John's eyes widened slightly. It had to be the Luxan. He had heard of them, but never seen one before. He was imposing; even more so because of the large sword he held in his hand. He wondered how the Peacekeepers could have even held him in the first place. A set of metal rings protruding from his collarbones told him.

Behind him, two others flanked him on each side. One was a female, Beautiful, bald and blue from head to toe- the Delvian. The other could only be described as a two-foot tall frog floating in some type of gold hovering chair- the Hynerian. All of them stood there recently liberated from their cells and pointing weapons at Aeryn and himself.

John put down the unconscious Peacekeeper and held up his hands. "We have no quarrel with you. We're here to free this ship- we need its help."

"You mean her help," the Delvian corrected.

"How nice," the Hynerian said sarcastically. "But we need her help too. I need to reclaim my throne as quickly as possible, so we are getting the frell out of here now." He turned to face a clamshell shaped instrument. "Pilot! Do you hear us? Starburst us away from here, now!"

An image appeared on the clamshell. This time, John's jaw dropped. A large four-armed crustacean-like creature appeared on the monitor- Moya's pilot. He blinked again to make sure he was not hallucinating. A giant crab with eyes like Albert Einstein's was flying the Moya.

"Impossible!" It said. "We still cannot starburst with the control collar on, Dominar Rygel. A Peacekeeper vessel would easily catch us."

The Luxan growled. "Then I will remedy that right now! I'll tear out the wiring in the command console. Something has to give!"

"Wait!" Aeryn brushed past him, facing the pilot's screen. "Pilot, we need both you and Moya's help. But we need you to keep the control collar on for a bit longer."

Pilot was taken aback. "Why?"

"Is that joke, Peacekeeper?" The Luxan pointed his blade at her. "We're free now, and I vow I will never be taken prisoner again. Now, I don't know what the frell he's supposed to be in that outfit, but you, I recognize easily- Peacekeeper huntress. Your kind is responsible for my capture in the first place!"

"She's not a Peacekeeper anymore," John said. "I said we had no quarrel with you. Now, lower your sword. We'll need your help, too."

The Luxan turned to face him again. His stare could burn a hole through the bulkhead. "And if I don't lower my sword?"

"Then we will have a quarrel."

The Delvian's face softened. "D'Argo, wait, I sense no evil from them. Perhaps we should listen to what they have to say-"

The Luxan roared. Rational conversation was not customary for him, particularly when foaming-at-the-mouth enraged. He charged John with his sword raised, ready to hack off a limb- or two- or all of them. John stepped aside at the last moment and struck the giant from behind, using his forward momentum against him. Even through padded gloves, it felt like striking rock.

But the end results were achieved; D'Argo went careening into a table, and struck the floor with a resounding crash that echoed through the adjoining corridors. John turned and sent his batarang airborne, knocking the pulse pistol out of the Hynerian's chubby fingers. Aeryn completed the disarming, kicking the remaining pistol out of the startled Delvian's hand.

"Enough of this!" Aeryn shouted. "Just listen, will you? We're not your enemies."

Pilot's image reappeared. "We must prepare to leave! Moya senses a Prowler patrol in the area. If they should suddenly hail us·"

"DIE!"

D'Argo charged them, hyper-rage fueling his temper beyond its normal limits. It was yet another unfortunate facet of their race John had never experienced until now. While the others stood back, he braced himself for the assault. His size made the Luxan a walking earthquake in his current state.

The sword came down hard and fast. John blocked the stroke with his gauntlets crossed over him. The blow sent a shockwave through his arms. The gauntlets held- Bruce had constructed them to serve as shielding and as weapons- but the Luxan might just push them past their limits. He ducked as D'Argo swung the sword in a lethal arc over his head, and kicked hard at the inside of the Luxan's knee, toppling him again. A second kick liberated the sword from his hand.

John held out his hand to help him up. "I'm through fighting with you. Will you listen to us now?"

D'Argo clasped his hand. "Only upon your death, Peacekeeper."

He was unmistakably not done with the fight as he yanked John forward and smashed him across the jaw with a burly fist that sent him reeling. His world spun around erratically- a sledgehammer would have hurt less. D'Argo stood back up on his feet and moved in to finish him off.

John recovered and stooped down to take the full weight of the Luxan as he swung his fist wildly and stumbled over him. Before D'Argo could stop, he was lifted up over his head and threw him across another table to strike hard against the bulkhead. Hair and tentacles flailed around his head for a moment and they slide down the wall with him to the floor. He pulled his feet under him and prepared to stand, but his face met a black-gloved fist halfway up. D'Argo looked perplexed the split second before he fell. He saw the queerest thing happen as the floor suddenly rushed up to meet him.

John stood triumphantly over him, as the others looked on, alien faces masked in disbelief.

"I am not a Peacekeeper."

"It would appear you now have the advantage," the Delvian said. "We are at your mercy."

John bent down to pick up the Luxans' sword. "We're at your mercy, too. We came here to stop the Peacekeepers from deploying a new weapon. We could use both yours and Moya's help." John handed out the sword to D'Argo, who was shaking his head, still dazed from the punch. "Again, we're not the enemy."

"Now will you believe us?" Aeryn added.

"I will," said the Delvian. "I am Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan of the planet Delvia. This is Rygel the Sixteenth, Dominar of Hyneria."

"Charmed, can we depart now?" Rygel said, ignoring any pleasantries.

"I'm Aeryn Sun, former Peacekeeper huntress."

"What do you want with us?" D'Argo asked.

"The Peacekeepers are about to deploy a device to create wormholes," John said. "They could reach any system, at any distance in just moments. No one, Earth or any other world would be safe. We need your help to stop them. Now, do you understand?" John extended his hand. "On Earth, this is a sign of respect to show the person is not holding any weapons."

D'Argo looked down at the gloved hand, shifted the Qualta Blade to his left, and clasped the hand with his right. "I am Ka D'Argo. Never has an opponent such as you struck me down. Who are you?"

John stood straight and faced him. If there was ever a time for the Zen moment he was looking for, this was it.

"I'm Batman."

***

Part 10: Angry Red Planet

John· to me·

"Pilot, what is the time till arrival?"

Pilot's image reappeared on the clamshell. "Arrival is in just under a half arn, Batman. Moya senses the Gammak base on the far side of the planet. "

"Good. Keep us posted, and watch for the Zelbinion and other ships that may be in orbit."

Pilot's image disappeared, leaving him and the others to discuss the next move, whatever that might be. After making their peace, they quickly placed the unconscious Peacekeepers aboard one of Moya's transport pods and ejected it, to be picked up by any approaching patrol. Only the five of them along with Pilot now occupied Moya.

John watched the forward viewscreen; the image of Mars grew larger and filled the window as it drew closer. Across from him, Aeryn and the Luxan worked on the wiring on the control console before them.

"Almost done?" He asked, watching them disconnect semi-organic wiring.

Aeryn clipped another milky white cable. "That should do it. As of now, the control collar is purely cosmetic. We have to wait before total disconnection; otherwise all the collar pieces will detach and float off."

"Wait for what?" D'Argo asked. "Do you even have a plan to infiltrate this Gammak base? Both of you may have impressive fighting abilities, but this ship is totally unarmed, so what do you intend to do?"

"The Gammak base is where the wormhole project is to be tested," said John. "The entire project's significant data has been transferred to there. So now, the base- and possibly the Zelbinion- is the project. I'm going to have to deal with them both."

Aeryn looked at him, perplexed. "How are you going to do that?"

"Like I said before, I'm prepared for all contingencies. In the Batscape, I have that shipment of Radium isotope I liberated from the supply convoy a week ago. We're going to make a weapon of our own."

"Radium is a highly unstable element," Aeryn said. "Furthermore, there are about 50,000 men, women and children on a command carrier at any given time, not to mention the population of the Gammak base. You're not planning to send them all to their deaths, or did you plan a 'contingency' for that, too?"

John lifted his hand. "We'll make sure they all have time to evacuate, but we have to act quickly. We're going to get down to the base somehow, and sabotage the device. It's got to be in the form of some attachment that's put on a ship like a Prowler or Marauder, that's what part of the project was about."

"It doesn't sound like you're certain," D'Argo said. "How do you know things will be where you're saying they are? You've never even been out here."

He did not want to say he was acting primarily on instinct. Since leaving Earth, it felt like a voice was guiding him, but he could not pinpoint the exact reasons. "Let's just say I'm following my nose," he finally said.

"In that case, I'd better go with you," D'Argo grunted. "Humans and Sebaceans have frelling terrible noses."

"With all due respect, I believe Moya and I may require your assistance, Ka D'Argo." Pilot's image reappeared on the clamshell. "Since you deactivated the control collar, we sense it will be shortly setting off a Paddac beacon that was hastily installed to warn Peacekeepers of any escape attempt. It will be necessary to disconnect it, but it won't be easy as it will put Moya in a great deal of pain."

"Just tell us what to do, Pilot," Zhaan said as she walked into the command chamber with Rygel floating in behind her. "I am a P'au; I can help take Moya's pain away."

"Instruct them, Pilot," John said. "Aeryn and I will handle the base. Just make sure·"

"Attention, leviathan transport, this is the command carrier Zelbinion. Your presence is unauthorized. You will identify yourself and your purposes for approaching this Gammak base." The transmission was abrupt and totally unexpected. The Zelbinion, wherever it was broadcasting from, was nowhere in sight.

"We need to answer them immediately," Aeryn said. "Pilot, was Moya scheduled to stop at this Gammak base?

"Yes, Officer Sun," Pilot responded. "But, we are a full solar day early. Surely that would arouse suspicion."

"We'll handle it Pilot," she answered. "John, you need to do it, Moya's captain was a male."

He thought for a moment then pressed the response switch. "Zelbinion, this is the captain of the prison transport Moya. We're expected here for a prisoner transfer."

"You're a solar day early captain. What is the reason?"

"There was a revolt at the prison we were scheduled to do pick-up for. The intended prisoners all died in the fighting. We were given permission to depart early since there was little reason to stick around."

"Stand by, Moya. The transmission paused.

"Oh, I don't believe they'll buy that story for one microt," Rygel said sarcastically. "You are clearly not skilled when it comes to lying."

The response came back. "Attention, Moya, This is the Zelbinion. You are cleared for orbit. Follow these coordinates down with the transport pod to use for prisoner transfer."

"Acknowledged," John exhaled with relief. "That was a little close, wasn't it?"

"Too close," Aeryn said. "Something feels off. They should be more suspicious, what with the wormhole project about to take place. And how did they know where we would be?"

They all looked through the forward view screen. The Zelbinion came into view on the horizon line. Its position was fixed, pointing away from the leviathan ship. Off to its hammond side was the shape of what looked like a whirlpool fluttering and shimmering against the stark contrast of space - Wormhole.

"We have to go now," John said. "There's no time left."

***

The transport pod passed harmlessly by the command carrier as it descended into the Martian atmosphere. The giant ship focused matters completely on the wormhole off its bow, not concerned with a mere prisoner delivery that occurred so frequently as to go unnoticed most of the time.

"Our timing's good," John said. "We'll have to sneak into the base once we've landed and do our best to avoid detection."

Aeryn checked the flight coordinates on the pod's computer. "That may be easier than you think. Did you know we're flying a stealth trajectory? Our approach will be totally unnoticed if the Zelbinion didn't notify the base we're approaching."

"Do they do that often when special testing is taking place?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "It's been known to happen, but why would they do this for a prisoner transfer?"

"It's too late to turn back," he replied. "It would look suspicious. If they don't know we're coming, we'll use it to our advantage. Any indications they spotted us?"

"No targeting systems of any kind are detected, nor are there any hails for us to respond to. So far, we're going in invisible."

"Perfect."

Come, John· protect·

That was the third time that he heard the voice.

The pod leveled out beneath the clouds and headed for the tall black spire of the Gammak base. John frowned at the sight of it. Its architecture was not the least bit surprising; it was almost identical to the Peacekeeper tower in Gotham. But the thing he saw that lay before the base was another matter.

"John, look at that!"

Pointing at the view screen, Aeryn indicated to a giant stone face that looked up from the Martian surface. In addition to that, there was a pyramid in the distance beyond the Gammak base; much like the ones in Egypt, but far bigger.

He heard the theories when he was younger about a civilization that may have existed on Mars long before the human civilizations emerged. There were even Earth scientists who presented evidence from photographs by landing probes that were once sent to chart the surface and analyze the soil. The governments had dismissed the photos as tricks of light and shadow, and berated the scientists as quacks for thinking the red planet ever held life. This was all before the Peacekeepers arrived to change any preconceived notions.

"Who do you suppose built them?" Aeryn asked.

John shook his head. "No idea. Maybe someone's been watching Earth long before the Peacekeepers ever did. I wish I had the time to study them."

"Time enough once we're finished." She shifted the controls, and the transport pod slowed, maneuvering onto a landing zone on the very top of the base. There were no personnel around, or any querying transmissions challenging them, only the blinking of landing lights. They disembarked from the pod and made their way down a metal stairway off to the side of the landing zone and into the base. John shifted the bulky container of radium from hand to hand, allowing each arm to evenly handle the load.

The upper levels were dimly lit, showing mostly skeletal framework, the humming of generators and the occasional emergency hatch. There were no guards at this level, since the weapons systems up top were fully automated.

Down· to me·

"We need to get to the bottom levels," John said.

"How do you know that?" Aeryn asked. "The science and laboratory levels on a Gammak base are in the middle sections."

"There's someone down there who can help us. Don't ask me to explain, but he's been calling to me. I think he's a prisoner."

"Are you sure of this?"

He nodded. "We need a freight lift, one that will take us down without interruption. Is there one close by?"

She began to scan the area. "There should be. I've never been on this Gammak base before, but they all have similar layouts. That's what they taught us, anyway."

They descended several tiers, ducking behind doorways and staying in the shadows. With each level, soldiers and techs began to appear, walking in pairs or alone down the corridors and reappearing around corners. They crept to the end of an empty but short causeway where she lifted open a square door that revealed an empty freight lift.

"Take us down to the prison levels," John said, sliding the isotope container in first.

Climbing in, Aeryn pushed the button and the lift quickly descended. Pushing the full length of his arms against the wall, John felt his stomach come up to meet his throat. The lifts were not designed to carry people, either comfortably or uncomfortably. Still, it was manageable.

After about a minute, the lift slowed and came to a halt. Opening the door, the corridor they entered into was empty, but a distinct moaning sound softly echoed along the walls.

"The prisoners, I take it," John said in an angry whisper.

Aeryn nodded. "They bring many humans here for interrogation- other species too. The distance makes escape impossible and makes them more likely to cooperate. Plus they can work on high level weapons testing here without Earth resistance intervention."

"That's going to end as well," he said.

Turning the corner, they saw the entrance to the main prison block. A pair of guards stood at either side of the doorway.

The guards stood rigid, with heavily powered versions of the pulse rifle at their sides. A sudden clanging sound caused them to break their frozen stance to see what was approaching. Before they could respond, a heat grenade bounced in front of them, flashed brilliantly and knocked them unconscious.

"I guess neither of them are half-human," Aeryn said, smiling.

To me·

Moving silently down the corridor, they jumped and knocked out another pair of guards that stood watch over a massive door with several locks. After retrieving his batarang, John placed a small black box with several buttons over the door's keypad. The scrambler that Bruce developed would decrypt and open any of the Peacekeeper's electronic fail-safes. The box emitted a low beeping noise and the door opened with a soft hiss.

John walked into the cell and stopped dead in his tracks at the sight before him, with Aeryn crashing into him from behind. The prisoner who stood in front of him was unmistakable.

"It can't be you· Dad?"

***

Zhaan appeared in the opening with a knife. "Here you are, Dominar Rygel."

"I'm supposed to use this?" Rygel held out the knife with two pudgy fingers. "This is a Luxan Tokkar knife. Do you know what this is used for?"

"Yes, of course. Luxans use it for circumsi-"

"YECH! Was it even cleaned? Get me something else that's more appropriate!"

Zhaan shook her head. "We cannot use metal knives to cut the wires loose, the beacon's defense systems are programmed to fire at anything metallic. If we are going to remove the Paddac beacon, that bone knife is the only thing we can use, and you are the only one who can fit in there to do the job."

"And I expect it back undamaged," D'Argo said through the comm.

Rygel grunted in disgust. "Easy for him to say, he's remaining in the command chamber while we risk our lives!"

"It is necessary, Dominar," Zhaan said. "I'm the only one who can take Moya's pain, you are the only one who can cut away the Paddac beacon, and D'Argo must remain on guard if the Zelbinion is alerted to our escape. We each do what we can."

"Mother always warned me about days like this," Rygel said, shaking his head.

"Now, prepare yourselves," Zhaan said. "I will now join with Moya to take away any pain from the removal. Dominar Rygel, do not begin cutting the wires until Pilot signals you to do so."

"And be quick, both of you," D'Argo said. "If the Peacekeepers turn their attention to us, we'll be recaptured again quickly. I, for one, will never be taken prisoner again."

Rygel's ears perked up. "How long were you a prisoner?"

"Eight cycles."

The small Hynerian shook his head. "I was a prisoner for over one hundred and thirty. You had it easy."

"Pa'u Zhaan, we are now opposite of the orbit of the command carrier," Pilot said. "Moya and I are now ready for removal of the Paddac beacon."

"We will work as quickly as we can, Pilot."

Zhaan gently placed her hands against the wall surrounding the neural cluster and closed her eyes. She focused on the colors floating through the blackness as her mind reached out and joined Moya's. In the dark field, a streak of red lined with yellow appeared at the edge of her consciousness- the Paddac installation. Her thoughts covered the streaks in white light to hold back the pain.

Rygel watched as Zhaan went deeper into a trance, her body frozen against the bulkhead. Her eyes abruptly opened. The whites of her eyes had disappeared, replaced by orbs of pale blue.

"Dominar Rygel, Zhaan has completed her joining with Moya. You may now begin cutting away the connections to the Paddac beacon."

"Very well, Pilot."

He entered into the small portal and began cutting the first cables. "I hope this is all worth it. We have put our freedom in the hands of a man who dresses like a trill bat."

***

"Dad?"

John and Aeryn faced the tall man standing before them. He was human- at least he looked it. But the face was familiar even after two and a half decades- Jack Crichton. He was much older than the man John had remembered from his childhood. His dark hair was now gray, and there were more lines on his face, but it was him.

"No, you can't be him. I watched him die- along with my mother."

The man smiled slightly. "My real name is not pronounceable to you, but you can call me Jack. We've been waiting for you for a long time, John."

John cocked his head. "How do you know who I am? And who is we?"

"Our influence runs deep throughout the galaxy. The Ancients have been studying Earth for a long time. We foresaw this happening many cycles ago, and we believed that Earth held the key to defeating the Peacekeepers. The rest of my people have moved on to find another home. And I, I stayed behind to wait for the one."

Aeryn shook her head. "I don't understand· the Ancients? What are·?"

"You saw the remains of the civilization we built here to watch over your world," Jack continued. "Long ago, there were many of us. But, over time, the Peacekeepers found our home world and destroyed much of our people. If they master the wormholes as we fear they might, my people will gradually perish as there will be no barriers to prevent them from conquest."

"That's what we're here for," John said. "We're ending this project."

Jack nodded. "I know. Your father was right. You finally get the chance to be your own kind of hero."

John's eyes narrowed, looking hard at the man. "It was you wasn't it? You were the one who provided information to Bruce about my past. You were the one who called to me."

"Yes. I'm sorry. But we had to reach out across the distances and explore your mind to know if you were the one we seeked." Jack looked at the container of radium John carried. "I'm glad you bought that. We'll need it."

"I don't wish to interrupt, but we have to get out of here quickly," Aeryn said. "They'll discover those guards soon and start sending reinforcements. We can't lose our subterfuge just yet."

"Aeryn Sun is correct," Jack said. "I can take you to where the wormhole device is being prepared, but we must work quickly. And we will need a distraction to reach it."

John nodded his head. "I know just the thing."

The three of them moved quickly from the cell and crept quietly along the walls of the prison block, avoiding any armed guards that walked down the corridors. They followed Jack around corners, through doorways and up one level to reach the master chamber to all the cellblocks. A trio of stun blasts from John's gauntlet quickly eliminated any resistance from the bored and ill-prepared guards.

"Jack, which control opens all the doors to the cellblocks?"

Jack indicated a black lever on the far left side of the command console. "That one. But be advised, there are some truly dangerous individuals incarcerated here in these cells."

John hesitated, and then shook his head. "We have to chance it to get the maximum distraction. Besides, we're outnumbered here, so this will even the odds." He looked over at Aeryn. "Would you like to do the honors, Miss Sun?"

"Certainly."

She stepped over to the console and pulled the lever down. The simultaneous clang of hundreds of doors opening echoed through the adjoining chambers, as well as a klaxon alarm indicating the release.

"Jailbreak. Now, let's get going," John said.

***

The man watched as the door to his cell opened amidst the wail of the klaxons. It was surprising, as it was not time to deliver his meal and there were no unexpected visits from Scorpius this soon after their last meeting.

"Ooh· must be my lucky day!"

The two guards appeared in the doorway. "Stay where you are! We don't know what's going on, but you're not going anywhere until we get this under control!"

"Oh, boys, I wouldn't worry about little old me. Actually, there are about a hundred others coming up behind you that I would be seriously concerned with."

"What are you talking about?"

Before the guard could finish, a dozen prisoners pounced on him and his companion from behind and proceeded to tear them apart. The man stood and watched the scene, doing nothing.

"Well guys, you did tell me to stay where I was!"

Once the prisoners finished, he stepped out of his cell over the remains of the guards, and he could see that all of the doors on the cellblock had abruptly opened. There were prisoners of many races and varieties running about, fighting the overwhelmed guards. The shouts and voices of alien tongues were drowned out over the wail of the klaxons. The man walked down the corridor to the central chamber, oblivious to it all.

"Scorpius, Scorpius, what will we do with you? Maybe it's time to have that little talk with you, after all."

The man pulled out another clove cigarette and lit it off of the smoldering body of a dead guard. "I think this Gammak base of yours has become an inflamed ass and I'm now the suppository."

He inhaled long and hard and let the aromatic smoke drift through his lips. "I've really got to find a better pun. That one is so bad it hurts my feelings."

***

"What is going on?" Scorpius said irritably. The alarms were loud and growing very distracting.

Kanor checked the comm. "Sir, I don't know how, but there is a prison break going on! All of the cells abruptly opened and the guards are being overwhelmed!"

Scorpius snarled with rage, his Scarran half quickly emerging with his rising emotions. "We have no time for this! I want reinforcements sent to the prison levels! Execute all prisoners on sight!"

"Sir, what about the human?" Niem asked.

"I have had enough of him! He no longer suits my amusement. I want him killed as well!" He turned to his officers. "Bring those responsible for this to me!"

"Sir, guards report the fighting is descending into the lower chambers." Kanor said, worried.

Scorpius froze. The Lazarus Pit; it could not be touched. "Dr. Kanor, you stay here and oversee the wormhole devices installation to the Prowler. I am going to the lower chambers to deal with this myself. Understood?"

"Yes sir."

Kanor watched Scorpius, his assistant and his senior officers disappeared through the hangar entrance. Below him, the techs continued the installation work and the Prowler modifications. He was relieved. Scorpius was not angry with him this time, plus he was still alive. He could now literally taste his rewards.

"Dr. Kanor, are you there?" A voice sounded over his comm.

"Not right now, I'm busy."

"But sir, there has been an infiltration of our lab section. The prisoners might get their hands on the intellent virus we're developing!"

He knew the name. It was the other weapon Scorpius had tried to develop in addition to the wormhole device. If it fell into prisoner hands, its use could be equally as deadly. Surely Scorpius would understand his trying to prevent its capture or distraction while he was occupied saving his secret private chambers.

"Lieutenant, watch over this, I'll be back as quickly as possible," Kanor said to his assistant. He walked over to the lift, pushed the button, and descended to the lower tiers to the laboratories. It seemed hard to grasp, but he might actually be recipient to two rewards this day.

***

John, Aeryn and Jack peered down at the hangar from the shadows. It took time to reach the hangar, avoiding the Peacekeeper fray that was busy engaging the prisoners on the many levels of the base, but they made it. Surveying the area, there was now a skeleton crew working on the installation of the wormhole device, and little security to watch over them.

"It looks like our little distraction worked," John said.

"Yes," Aeryn said. "Shall we finish this?"

"By all means."

They swung down to the floor, quickly knocking out the guards and techs. After placing them outside the doors, the hangar was sealed off, barring any access. With the way cleared, Jack walked down to the craft with the radium container in his hand.

"How much time do you need?" John asked.

"Only a few of your minutes," Jack said. "I only need to make a few modifications- ones that they hopefully won't notice. But I need both of you to find quick shelter while I open the container. The dose of radium would be fatal to either of you."

"What are you making?" Aeryn asked.

"A displacement engine. It will make a wormhole. But it will collapse quickly and the strain on the device will cause it to self-destruct."

"If your species can create them, why didn't you already?" John asked. Everything was happening too fast, and he was still waiting for the proverbial hammer to fall.

"It would require too much energy on the part of my people; it would kill us. I'm afraid the time I have spent here being interrogated, they managed to wear down my defenses and retrieve some information- just enough to pose a threat."

"And now we rectify that," John said. "What about afterwards? What will happen to you?"

"Like you John, I am prepared for that. Also, I have no intention of leaving here alive."

"Not leaving? Why?"

Jack waved his hand. "Enough for now, we have little time. Leave the room. I'm going to begin work."

***

Kanor entered the lab section to the hiss of its transparent sliding doors. There was no one in site. Had the lab had been evacuated already?

"Dr. Tynnaq? Officer Runin? What is the problem here?"

Despite the continued wail of the klaxons in the background, there was no sign of damage or prisoner infiltration. Kanor scanned the room, the tables and all equipment had been undisturbed, and rows of tubes, beakers and mixers were all in place with no fires to be seen.

But there was a smell. It was bitter to his senses and completely foreign. He did not recognize it, but it caused a slight pain in his side as he inhaled. Whatever it was, it was still fresh in the air.

"Is there anybody here?"

Kanor walked over to the rows between the lab tables, and gasped in horror at the sight. The scientists and guards were lying there out of sight- all dead. There were no signs of pulse weapon injury and no blood. But their faces·

Every last one of them had a grotesque smile on their faces. Somehow, the muscles in their faces peeled back to impossible angles. Teeth and gums all the way to the backs of their mouths were clearly visible.

He heard a sound behind him. Turning, he saw a human standing in front of him- or what he thought was human. His skin was dead white. He was balding, but still had locks of oddly colored hair on his sides. His eyes bulged out maniacally and his mouth, like the others, was twisted in a wide grin. The man pointed his finger at him.

"Hi!"

A stream of gas shot out from under the man's pointing finger through a nozzle. It had the same odor he had smelled when he entered the lab. He could not catch his breath as he inhaled a mouthful of the gas and he began to choke. Shades of red filled his vision, and he struggled to breathe as it felt like blades were shredding his throat from the inside. He coughed and hacked uncontrollably as his eyes watered and his insides burned. He started to lose muscle control and collapsed on the floor over the legs of one of the dead scientists.

Against the wall there was a cabinet with a mirrored surface. He could see his mouth beginning to pull back into the freakish smile the others had. Before he went completely numb and his vision went black it was the last thing he saw. Death claimed him as his life functions ceased.

Satisfied, the man walked away and went through the doors whistling a tune. Except for the alarms, all was silent in the lab again.

***

"How's it going?" John asked.

Jack continued working on the phase stabilizer. "Almost done, the displacement will cause the density to collapse, and it will draw any matter within close proximity into it."

"Wait a minute," John said. "Are you talking about a black hole?"

"A small one. It won't be permanent, and it will take care of the Zelbinion floating above us."

Aeryn walked up, shaking her head. "You would be dooming everyone on board, maybe even those on Moya. I'm not comfortable with that."

"Neither am I," John said. 'We're not killers. I want to defeat the Peacekeepers as much as you do, but not like this."

"Then you have to find a way to get the base and the command carrier to abandon them," Jack replied. "Do you have a plan for that? I think your friend Bruce Wayne would have."

"Bruce has never been in this situation before," John said angrily. "And the Batman is not an executioner. I'm not about to start."

"John, you have important knowledge that will be given to you."

"What important knowledge?"

"When you began to help to construct this device, you helped to unlock something that has been unknown for thousands of cycles. It's your obligation to us·"

"No!" John said forcefully. "I'm the Batman. I will not be anyone's puppet."

Jack closed the door to the device. "Then we have chosen wisely. I'm now finished." He stepped off the Prowler and faced John. "When it opens it will pull matter into it and deposit it on the wormhole's other side, including large ships, without any harm coming to them."

John nodded. "That's the better alternative."

Aeryn put her hand on John's arm. "If we're done, then we need to get out of here, and find some way to get the others to evacuate. Those outside the door will be waking up and getting help."

She spoke too soon. An explosion rocked the hangar and buckled the doors behind them. Peacekeeper pulse rifles stuck through the cracks, taking shots at them.

"We need a back door NOW!" Aeryn shouted as she returned fire with here crossbow/rifle. "John, protect Jack, while we-"

It was too late. A strafing blast hit Jack dead center in the chest and he collapsed. John pulled him out of harms way as Aeryn continued defending the failing door.

John gently stroked the dying man's hair, trying to comfort him. "Hold on, Jack, we'll get out of this somehow."

"No," he rasped. "Here." He reached his finger up to touch John's forehead. "Take this."

A myriad of images filled with symbols and equations rushed into his head. They were formulas he had seen glimpses of before, but were always confusing and incomplete. Now, suddenly it all made sense.

Wormholes- they were so simple. A child could have done them.

"Protect," Jack exhaled.

John sensed the beings life slip away. His body felt lighter. "Don't worry, Jack. I'll keep them all safe."

John reached to close his eyes but stopped. Jack's body slowly morphed into an insect like form, with impossibly thin arms and amber eyes that were now extinguished of life. It was now twice in a lifetime he saw Jack Crichton die.

Aeryn ran up just as the transformation finished. "I can't keep them back," she said. "They'll be in here any microt."

John kicked open the door to a vent. "Jack is dead. I want you to go."

"What? No! It's suicide!"

"Listen to me," he said. "Go into the vents we hid in earlier. One of us needs to remain free. You have to help the others. We have to finish this."

He gently held her face in his hands. "I will see you again. I promise."

She said nothing. He felt her soft trembling lips brush against his for a moment, and then she withdrew with one last look his way. Then she was gone, disappearing into the vents.

He turned his attention to the rushing soldiers bearing down on him across the hangar. He expertly dodged pulse blasts, while his fists flew out to strike jaws and stun weapons knocked over wave after wave but their numbers were too great. A moving black mass pinned him to the floor and the butt of a rifle struck him in the face. John's mind fought against unconsciousness. It must have been like how DK felt in his last moments.

"Lt. Mero to Scorpius, we have apprehended the human called Batman."

"Good work, Lieutenant. Bring him down to interrogation. When I'm finished down here, I wish to question him."

***

A high-pitched wail snapped Zhaan out of her trance. "Pilot? What is that?"

"I'm sorry Pa'u Zhaan, the Paddac beacon has activated!" Pilot replied. "We weren't fast enough in removing it!"

"I was working as fast as I can!" Rygel said, sticking his head through the vent opening. "You try working under these horrid conditions!"

"Calm yourself, Rygel. There is no blame here- we knew it could go off." Zhaan turned to the clamshell to face Pilot's image. "Pilot, can you turn off the noise?"

"We're eliminating the noise now. But I fear the command carrier has detected the signal it transmits. They are already hailing us!"

"I'll handle this part," D'Argo said. "I'll try anyway. Maybe we'll get lucky and they won't ask for a visual."

They wasted no time hailing them. "Attention, leviathan Moya, this is command carrier Zelbinion. We have detected a Paddac signal emanating from your ship. Visuals indicate your control collar is still attached. Explain the cause."

D'Argo hesitated a moment. He had rehearsed several responses in his mind, but none of them seemed proper to convince the Peacekeepers there was no cause for alarm, especially since the alarm already went off. "Uh, this is the captain of Moya. We had a minor malfunction in the neural cluster. No cause for alarm, we're working on repairs."

"We will send a tech ship over to assist. Registers indicate you have minimum crew to affect repair and watch prisoners at the same time."

"Negative! We, uh, have a small reactor leak. We're locking down until we can contain it, but we're all fine here. We're fine. Um, so how are you?"

"Who is this? Transmit your visual and enter your access code into the-"

D'Argo raised his Qualta Blade and sheared the console in half. "It was an awful conversation, anyway. I'd like to see a human do any better."

Pilot reappeared on the clamshell. "I'm sorry to say this, but the Zelbinion is beginning to turn to pursue us."

"By the goddess," Zhaan said sadly. Closing her eyes, she began to recite a prayer.

"In our next lifetime, Luxan, let me do the talking," Rygel said sarcastically. "You are complete yotz at the art of deception."

***

Braca walked onto the Zelbinion's bridge to observe the image of the leviathan. "What is its status, lieutenant?"

The female lieutenant looked up from the command console she was reading and snapped to attention. "Sir, the captain on the Moya has ceased responding to our hails and gave no logical explanation why their Paddac beacon is activated."

Braca nodded, and smiled. "I can think of a good one. We just received a message of a distress call from Earth orbit from the members of the Moya's crew, including its real captain. They were ambushed by the Batman and the huntress Aeryn Sun, probably cooperating with the prisoners on board to come here to stop Scorpius' project."

"We checked the transmission log, sir. A few arns ago, someone on board gave the Moya permission to stay in orbit for a prisoner transfer."

"I know. "No such order should have been given."

The lieutenant remained stiff. "What are your orders, sir?"

"That should be obvious. Find who gave the order, prepare the frag cannons and pursue the leviathan."

***

Aeryn emerged from the vents below the main hangars and held back in the shadows until the squads of armed guards and soldiers passed by. The lower levels had gone dark as a result of the heavy fighting going on. Blast marks peppered the walls and ceilings, destroying much of the light sources. On the floors, the bodies of dead or dying prisoners and Peacekeepers lay on the floor. The newfound part of her wished she could have found a way to save them, but she was all too familiar with conflict against the Peacekeepers- death was unavoidable.

But those that remained could be saved. She simply had to find a way to remove everyone from the base before it was destroyed, but how? John seemed better at figuring out something like that, not her. By now, he was no doubt captured, or even dead.

She would not allow herself to think about the alternative. He needed her to stay alive and free to finish the job.

She checked the corridor for any activity. Most of the fighting was rapidly moving through the base and slowly being contained. She padded lightly from door to door, hiding in any alcoves, using the dim light to her advantage.

There was the base reactor. An overload would destroy the base from the bottom up, but it would take time for buildup, giving all personnel time to escape in the emergency ships and anything else presently docked.

Her attention shifted to a large doorway surrounded by pulsing red lights around its opening. It went to a hangar along the walls of the base. Technically it was more of a mooring than a hangar, used for larger ships. She stood in front of the entrance, debating if it was worth investigating.

She never heard the female coming up from behind and striking her. The kick sent Aeryn reeling and she struck the far wall hard, knocking the breath out of her.

Brushing her hair out of her face, she looked up to see Jenavian standing before her, hate smoldering in her eyes.

"Get up, traitor."

***

"Sir, he's waking up."

There was a thrumming sound vibrating in his ears as he awoke. He winced; sharp pains shot through his arms, legs and body as he attempted to stretch his limbs. Restraints around his wrists and feet held him in a chair. He inhaled deeply only to feel the soreness magnify itself.

Even through the armor he wore they managed to hurt him. His last memory was the mass of Peacekeepers hurtling themselves at him, desperate to bring him down. Fists, clubs and rifle butts came down hard on every inch of his body. He could resign himself to the satisfaction that it took so many of them to finally capture the Batman.

"I wish to speak with you, Dr. Crichton."

John turned towards the voice, ignoring the pain as he shifted in the restraints. Scorpius stood to his immediate left, leaning against a thick metal rod that was mounted over the chair and continued on to connect with a monitor that faced him directly. Over Scorpius' shoulder a red headed woman manned a console where his cape, cowl, utility belt and gauntlets were sitting.

"You could've just made an appointment."

Scorpius grunted, amused. "I rarely wait for those who are at my disposal- or mercy." He walked around the length of the chair and its contraption. "You've caused us quite a bit of trouble, with your costumed charade; going around destroying our valuable equipment, assaulting my soldiers and bringing a false sense of hope to your people. How long did you expect to do this by yourself?"

"Until I beat you and sent you packing with your S & M army."

"Unlikely. It's a shame really- I heard only good things about you. You were one of our most important scientists, you know. I should thank you for helping to bring the wormhole project this far."

John pulled at his restraints. "You never gave me a choice. My family and friends are all dead. You should've finished me off as well."

"In due time. Meanwhile, let me demonstrate something for you." Scorpius raised his hand.

Niem pressed a series of buttons, bringing a padded metal plate hanging over him down to press against John's forehead. A surge of energy from the device caused him to convulse hard at the pain that shot through him, bringing a series of distorted images on the monitor in front of him. His body strained, agony covered him in like waves like hot wax pouring over him.

And then it stopped, just as quickly. "This chair can explore your neural pathways- tell me your deepest secrets that you try to hide," Scorpius said. "For instance, I know you were with the Ancient before he died. Tell me, what information did he give you about wormholes?"

"Nothing," John said, straining to speak. Fighting the chair took a chunk of energy out of him, and they only used it once- only once.

"Come now, Dr. Crichton. You really don't expect me to accept that, do you? While we now have a device to navigate wormholes, it's still not perfect. I know the Ancient held the wormholes secrets, but he was so good at keeping it from me, no matter how much I interrogated him. You, however, I do not think could be so resilient."

"Then get ready for a rude awakening Scorpy," John said, spitting out the words.

Scorpius raised his hand again. "I look forward to it."

Niem pressed the button, and the chair sent another surge into him. John growled through his teeth, refusing to scream out loud as a mental battering ram slammed into the wall he built in his mind.

***

It rarely happened, but she was losing badly.

Aeryn's offensive strikes at Jenavian started strong, delivering several blows that knocked her former partner down, but she recovered quickly, retaliating with an attack that reduced Aeryn to a desperate defense. Jenavian's disruptor training made her more experienced in close quarter combat, and she used it to her advantage.

Aeryn buckled at the blow to her jaw. Unable to reach her crossbow/rifle due to the speed of Jenavian's assault, she continued moving down the corridor to the lighted access door where the mysterious ship was moored.

"Surrender, traitor."

"Frell you."

A desperate kick to Jenavian's right knee knocked her off balance for a microt- just enough time for Aeryn use the opportunity to flee. She ran through the doorway where the ship was and disappeared into the shadows of the dimly lit craft. Jenavian followed quickly, scanning the corridor as she covered it with her rifle.

"You can't hide forever, Aeryn. You and your pathetic Human are vastly outnumbered. If you surrender, I promise you a quick death."

"Very thoughtful of you," Aeryn's voice echoed from the distance. "But I'll pass."

"I won't. Your defection means my demotion, and I've worked too frelling hard to get this far. Only your execution will redeem that."

"You're fighting on the wrong side, Jena. It's not too late. If we stop this wormhole weapon, we'll be saving billions of lives. I believe this, and so does Batman."

Jenavian spat. "You're pathetic! The Human has contaminated your mind. You've become as weak as your mother!"

A tense silence was all that answered her. "That's right, I was able to read your file. I never knew I was working alongside a half-breed. I could've easily overlooked it, but you're too far-gone now. It's a pity I wasn't around to execute your mother as well, I may have saved the Peacekeepers cycles of waste."

Aeryn gritted her teeth and kept moving. She refused to be coerced into revealing herself by taunting. The distance already between them needed to give her enough time to get a second wind.

The corridors of the ship were odd-looking. The organic structuring was very reminiscent of a leviathan, but with the colors and designs of a Peacekeeper warship, and the oblong doors of a normal leviathan were replaced by circular hatches. There were even red and black DRDs gliding back and forth around the corners, stopping to observe her.

A symbol over the next hatch she crossed by indicated the command chamber. Entering it, the interior lights activated, showing the chamber and the vacant control consoles where the captain and crew would stand. A large circular light source on the ceiling pulsed, emitting a series of noises. Aeryn walked to the center, looking up at the dais. She had never seen anything like it.

"Hello?"

"And goodbye."

Aeryn turned, and squeezed off several shots at the approaching Jenavian, but she somersaulted, dodging the pulse bursts. Jenavian threw herself forward and struck Aeryn so hard she landed on her back, heavily stunned. Lightning would have been slower.

The sound of Jenavian's wrist stiletto extending reached Aeryn's ears before she could get back up. An arm wrapping around her neck told her it was already too late.

"We're finished," Jenavian said.

There was a loud scream, but not from Aeryn. Jenavian's back arched as a metal tentacle that had extended from an opening in the floor appeared and impaled Jenavian square in the base of her neck with it's pointed end, holding her in place and releasing her grip on Aeryn.

Aeryn tucked and rolled as a pair of pulse guns with blades mounted under them shot out from the ceiling and targeted their sites at the pinned huntress. Jenavian's screams continued as the weapons fired down repeatedly, her body erupting into fire and disappearing behind the smoke.

The pulse fire ceased and the guns retracted into the ceiling, leaving only a faint scattering of ash billowing to the floor where Jenavian once stood. Aeryn got up from where she watched the whole incident and slowly walked under the center light again, watching it pulse to the noises it emitted. A video monitor to her left was translating the sounds into Sebacean as the ship spoke to her.

"What are you?"

***

"No sir, there doesn't appear to be any tampering with the device. Shall we go ahead with the testing?"

"Negative, lieutenant, I want the device thoroughly checked. The Batman and his companions had ample time to perform alterations on the device. I want no further delays to sabotage this project. That will be all." Scorpius turned back to John. "Did you and the Ancient do anything to the phase stabilizer?"

John chuckled slightly, despite the trembling throughout his body. "Don't you hate it when a plan doesn't come together? We didn't do anything, leatherface, there was no time."

"You're lying."

"Not me. Scout's honor."

"We shall see." Scorpius leaned towards the monitor where images from John's consciousness materialized onto the screen. "So, you witnessed your parents being killed in an alley?" The images of two Human's laying dead through a child's eyes filled the screen before him. "Such a pity, that is. Is this the catalyst that encouraged you to take up Batman's mantle and fight this alleged battle against injustice?"

"I had plenty of reasons," John rasped.

"Scorpius grunted. "There was a time when I was much more subtle. I should have been more considerate and ordered their execution when you weren't around. Children should not be privy to such things, don't you think?"

That was more than he could take. John's eyes bulged and he screamed in rage as the Aurora Chair re-activated. It felt like a thousand nails pounding into his head simultaneously.

***

"Ship, can you release from your moorings?"

The lights over Aeryn's head flashed and the video monitor showed the translation while the floor beneath her began to vibrate violently.

Attempting·

Through the front view of the ship, Aeryn watched the moorings strain and tear as the leviathan ship tore away from the dock where it had been secured. It hovered momentarily, drifting away from the mass of the base's wall. The ship's energy readings had to go off the scale- it freed itself from the magnetic dock with barely any effort.

"Very good, ship, you're very powerful."

Am built for war.

"So I see." Aeryn checked the control console. "Your control collar is now deactivated. Your weapons analog says you possess a sonic accelerator cannon. Can you shoot the collar off?

Never attempted.

"Would you like to be free?"

The ship went silent for several microts.

Free. Yes.

The cannon rose up through the hole on top of where the leviathan's head was located. One well-placed shot decimated the collar and its fragments flew across the window where she now stood.

"Well done, ship. What is your name?"

Am without name, you name me.

"Me?"

Would you honor?

She did not answer. A frantic signal from Pilot on Moya interrupted her train of thought.

"Officer Sun, are you there? We need help immediately!"

"Pilot, what's wrong?"

"The Peacekeepers have confirmed our escape, and the Zelbinion is now in pursuit. I don't know how long I can continue avoiding them. We cannot starburst, and they are firing their frag cannons at us!"

"I knew this plan would not work!" D'Argo interrupted. "We should have fled when we had the chance!"

"Hold on, all of you," Aeryn said. "I have something here that can help. I'll be right there."

"Right now, that is not a comfort to us," D'Argo responded sarcastically.

Aeryn gently placed her hands on the command console. "Ship, listen to me. There is a leviathan like you orbiting this planet, and it is being attacked by the Peacekeepers. If we don't do something to help her, they will either enslave her again or destroy her. None of us want that to happen. Will you help?

Leviathan? Mother?

Aeryn hesitated. Could Moya be his mother? She had no way to tell. The time spent on her was far too brief to know if she was ever used for breeding. "I don't know if she's your mother. But I know the Peacekeepers have killed leviathans in the past to breed hybrid warships. Help me to save Moya from that."

Yes, will help.

"Good. But first·" she scanned the outer walls of the Gammak base. Looking for the vents where the reactor would be located. "I want you to destroy the base reactor."

The gunship swerved, and floated downward to adjust its position and target the lower section of the base. Its sonic accelerator cannon swiftly locked onto the reactor walls.

"Fire!"

***

Scorpius held onto the edge of the Aurora Chair's frame as a sudden rumbling shook the floor violently around him. Niem stumbled from behind her control console and fell. The overhead lights dimmed and went out completely. John breathed a sigh of relief as the Aurora Chair lost power and went silent.

"What is happening?" Scorpius growled into his comm. "What happened to the power?"

A frantic officer responded. "Sir, the leviathan hybrid has broken free of its mooring and has attacked the reactor section. The core is burning and will rupture soon if we don't extinguish it!"

Scorpius hissed. The Lazarus pit was directly connected to the reactor itself. "Send a containment crew immediately; I want all access in the reactor section secured. I will meet them down there." He turned to face John. "It seems you have a temporary reprieve- Batman."

John glimpsed the reflection of Scorpius and his assistant in the view screen in front of him as they walked away and disappeared through the doors, leaving him alone and unguarded.

An automobile accident would have felt better. His breathing was labored. His eyes had difficulty focusing. Tried as he did to resist, an arn in the Aurora Chair had been enough to drain his strength and turn his mind into a Petri dish. Even if the trauma went away, he was still strapped in the chair ö all his equipment lay on the nearby table out of reach.

"I see the chair has yet another victim."

John looked up, and strained to focus on the face in front of him. He looked human- or Sebacean. His one eye was soft, and displayed a gentle sympathy. The other half of his face was covered in a copper-colored mask. John continued staring in surprise, not noticing his restraints being loosened.

"Be calm," the man said. "I know the pain this chair has wrought."

John leaned forward, but the effort needed to move turned painful. "I need to get out of here," he finally gasped. "I have to stop Scorpius."

"Here."

The man opened his mask slightly. A brilliant yellow light streamed out of the crack and bathed John's face in a soft glow.

"Take my thoughts."

John exhaled and felt his body relax. Whatever it was, it healed him on all levels. Words could not describe it, but in the light was the most beautiful thing he ever saw.

"What is this?" He asked.

"It's a place I saw once," was the man's only explanation. "Your strength is returning to you by the microt. But you must hurry. This base will collapse shortly. A leviathan gunship has damaged the reactor and it will explode soon."

John pulled himself to his feet and quickly reclaimed his utility belt, cape and other equipment. "I appreciate this. Who are you, anyway?"

The man tilted his head. "I am called Stark. Will you kill Scorpius?"

"I'm going to make him accountable for his actions. I despise what he's done to Earth and what he stands for."

"Do you fear him, too?"

John hesitated to answer. "For the longest time," he finally said.

Stark nodded. "Fear is good. But travel light. Lose the hate, and your victory is clear."

"Then take me to him."

Bruce's words reached him again as he followed Stark out the door. They were oblivious to the figure that followed their path through the levels.

***

Part 11: Cataclysm

Zhaan looked at Pilot's image on the clamshell. "How soon?"

"Within eighty microts," Pilot said, unable to hide his despair. "I'm sorry, Moya can no longer evade the Zelbinion, and she still cannot starburst with the control collar on."

"This is not a way for a warrior to die," D'Argo said, his anger rising. "We don't even have any defensive capability without starburst. We should never have waited for that Batman and that Peacekeeper."

"Might I add I was in agreement with that?" Rygel said.

"I believed their sincerity, D'Argo," Zhaan said. "And I still do. We all knew about the possibility of wormhole weapons. If we ran, there would be no place to hide from the Peacekeepers."

D'Argo shook his head. "But now it was for nothing. I will NOT be taken a prisoner again."

"You've said that three times already," Rygel said. "We got it the first time."

"And I meant it every time I said it!" D'Argo rushed in front of the viewscreen. "Peacekeeper cowards! I spit in your face! I stab at your ta brushkva! I WILL BEND ALL OF YOU OVER A CONSOLE AND SPLIT YOUR EEMAS WIDE WITH MY-"

"So little faith in us, Luxan? You should have more."

Their heads all turned to the sight on the main viewscreen following Aeryn's voice. What looked like another leviathan was approaching. But this one was sleek and angular, and moving with tremendous speed. Its body was cloaked in Peacekeeper black and red.

"Aeryn, is that you?" Zhaan asked. "What is that?"

"It's me, Zhaan, and I brought a friend. Tell Pilot to maneuver Moya to the far side of the volcano Ascraeus Mons on her treblin side. Nightwing and I are going to give the Zelbinion something else to pick on while she gets some distance."

D'Argo arched his brow. "Nightwing?"

"Yes, after my father, a human freedom fighter."

He snorted. "Still an awful name."

Per Aeryn's instruction, Moya turned hard as the sleek leviathan warship raced past her and charged the giant command carrier. It was only a sixth the size of the Zelbinion ö hardly an even match by the standards of any species.

"Nightwing, prime main cannon and acquire target."

The ship's sonic accelerator cannon instantly rose up and aimed at the Peacekeeper vessel. In their short time together, Nightwing already trusted the ex-Peacekeeper huntress without question.

"Fire!"

It released three shots before banking hard to the left. The Zelbinion shook as the bursts erupted across the front of the carrier's fuselage and blended into one tremendous explosion.

Braca nearly lost his balance but caught himself on the edge of the main command console. "What is the damage assessment?"

The lieutenant checked the incoming data streaming in from across the ship. "We have some surface damage on our forward hull. There are fires on several levels, and tracking is damaged. Whatever that ship was, sir, it's firepower is massive."

"That, lieutenant, would be Scorpius' other secret project, a Peacekeeper/leviathan warship. It seems it's easily persuaded to rebel without a control collar."

"Your orders, sir?"

"Pursue, engage and destroy it. After we finish it off, we continue after the Moya."

The Zelbinion's frag cannons turned on their huge rail carriages and fired at the hybrid ship. But it was far faster and more maneuverable than the average leviathan. It easily dodged the rounds and returned fire in kind. The approaching Prowlers and Marauders were barely flies buzzing around the heavily shielded warship, and more than a few were shot apart by Nightwing's cannon.

"You're doing very well, Nightwing." Aeryn said. "Continue evasive maneuvers, they can't seem to move fast enough to lock onto you."

"Aeryn, are you there?"

Her face brightened, relieved to hear his voice again. "John? Where have you been?"

"Long story. What's your status?"

"Desperate. I have control of a prototype gunship and I'm currently holding off the Zelbinion from destroying Moya. But I don't know how long we can fend them off. Are you any closer to destroying the wormhole weapon?"

"I have a plan. I need you to try and lure the Zelbinion over the Cydonia region where the face is located as quickly as possible."

"I'll do my best."

Aeryn ordered Nightwing to sweep across the Zelbinion's orbital path a second time before hailing them. "Attention Zelbinion, this is leviathan gunship Nightwing. You would be advised to stand down and cease harassing the Moya, or suffer the consequences."

There was a long pause before any reply came through. She pictured in her mind Peacekeepers standing on the command deck with their jaws dropping in total shock at someone's audacity to threaten them. Command carrier officers were said to have egos the size of their ships.

"This sounds like the traitor Aeryn Sun," came the reply. "This is Captain Braca. I can assure you no such thing will happen. However, if you surrender, we can promise mercy. Refuse, and you and your ship will certainly be annihilated."

Aeryn shook her head. The answer was so typical it was embarrassing. "I'll take my chances, Captain. If you want us, come and catch us."

Talyn turned away and sped back towards the Cydonia region, to the Gammak base and to a waiting Batman. At no surprise to her, the Zelbinion turned hard to pursue.

***

John lowered the internal lenses in his cowl over his eyes against the dark acrid air swirling in front of him. In contrast, the Banik slave seemed completely indifferent to it.

The corridors were filled with smoke, not so much from the heavy fighting that had taken place between Peacekeeper forces and the prisoners, but from the burning reactor. Stark had said a rogue leviathan/warship hybrid had broken free from its moorings and blasted the base's power source. He figured it for the ship Aeryn mentioned on the comm. Evacuation protocol had begun when Scorpius failed to answer the base commander's hails. The Prowler with the wormhole device still remained in the hangar, which was surprising considering its importance to Scorpius. What could be in the lower levels that he considered more important than that?

"This way," Stark said, indicating a light through a large circular doorway.

They descended even lower into the Gammak base, and John worried about he will reach the hangar above. Prisoners and soldiers alike shared the same thoughts as fighting was all but abandoned in a desperate flee to the evacuation pods and any ships still functional. He was confident Scorpius would save the wormhole craft for himself, but why would he come down here when everything was falling apart around him?

"Niem, order a contingent of techs to salvage the pit's chemicals immediately. Tell them refusal to come will mean execution."

John held out an arm to keep Stark behind him, and peered around a corner. Scorpius stood over a circular pool filled with toxic fluids that struck a chord of familiarity with him. It was something in Bruce's data stores regarding some of the criminals he had fought in the past.

John stepped out from behind the corner. "Scorpius, stop and face me."

There was a slight exhalation of breath, and a wry smile as he turned and faced John. "You're very bold to come down here- John." His smile turned into a frown. "And very stupid. This is my realm here."

"In case you didn't notice, your base is burning up. The pooch is screwed. It's over now."

Scorpius chuckled slightly. "Oh, far from it. Do you think you will make me your prisoner? Where do you think you will take me? I still control Earth, and no pathetic leviathan you fly in can match the Zelbinion." He began to walk towards John. "You are only one man, while this-" he gestured towards the Lazarus Pit- "this makes me eternal."

"The Lazarus Pit- I thought I recognized it," John said, remembering Bruce's notes. "You think you will live forever using this?"

"Everything dies, Scorpius, even you," Stark said, stepping out of the shadows.

Scorpius frowned. "You disappoint me, Stark. There is so much I could have done for you if you only gave me the knowledge you had- but this treason? I'm afraid I cannot overlook that."

"Better to be dead than to live to serve you. I haven't forgotten what you did to my people."

"Enough talk!" John said. He produced an explosive grenade from his utility belt. "Stand away, Scorpius. You want to look young, try Botox."

Scorpius hissed and lunged forward grabbing John by the arm, knocking the grenade from his hand- detonation pin still intact. Niem produced a pulse pistol and fired wildly as Stark rushed around the length of the pool to disarm her.

John used his free hand to strike Scorpius repeatedly in the jaw, but he barely flinched. The half-breeds strength was immense, more than John had imagined for such a thin, haggard body. Even with all his gear on, Scorpius lifted him off the ground by his neck with ease and held him there. Even through the cowl, he could feel his air being cut off.

"As you can see, Batman, I have physical superiority to you as well!"

John pivoted his torso and bought his leg up in a hard kick that knocked Scorpius back releasing his grip. He could breathe again, but a second assault could be fatal. He was out of the fuel that powered the Tavlek gauntlet, as well as his batarangs. He was not about to give in now.

"Niem," Scorpius said. "Prepare a cooling rod after I finish with this fool."

She did not respond. She stood silently glaring wide-eyed at Stark with her pulse pistol pointing directly at him. A grotesque grin was forming on her face and growing even larger.

"Niem, what are you-"

Her face remained frozen in the hideous smile as she collapsed to the floor, already dead.

"Don't worry, Scorpy," a voice said in the shadow from behind the dead nurse, "I got a special rod just for you."

The man stepped out from the shadows and into the light. John's eyes widened. He recognized him instantly. Bruce's data stores were filled with more files on him than anyone else he ever fought. He was much older now by his wrinkled skin, and his green hair had mostly fallen away revealing a bald head, but his pale color, the insane grin and the killer's eyes betrayed him instantly.

"Joker."

The Joker's chin tilted slightly. "Batman! The ghost of Christmas past returns! It's been a while, hasn't it?" He looked at John for a moment, closing the distance between him and Scorpius. "Then again, no. You're not him."

"I carry on his legacy," John replied.

The Joker laughed, more of a cackle than anything a normal person would do. "That's so noble, bat-brain, I'm going to start crying in a microt. Not that I should- your mentor never cut me any slack, but these reunions are always so touching."

"Leave here," Scorpius growled. "I will show you mercy if you comply." A curl of smoke was beginning to waft out of the side of his head.

"I'd rather you show me the sights, Scorpy. Since the total destruction of your Gammak base here is happening right now, I would need the total package tour." He looked back at John. "I got to hand it to you, for a beginner, you got quite the panache for fighting Peacekeepers. Prisoners and PKs lying dead, everything is falling apart around our ears and the gimp himself is overheating. I love it!"

John stepped away from Scorpius. "I'll deal with you once I've taken care of him."

"No need."

The Joker held up the grenade John had dropped. "I think I can do us all a favor here and help rid Scorpy of his favorite drug. I'm sure Ra's al Ghul would've liked that."

A sudden explosion above rocked the foundation and caused all those present to stagger as the reactor began to reach critical.

"This is mine!" Scorpius roared, his Scarran voice taking over. "I have succeeded him as the sovereign of immortality!"

The Joker laughed again. "Lemme tell ya, Scorpy. I knew Ra's al Ghul, I worked with Ra's Al Ghul, and you, leather-boy, are no Ra's al Ghul."

Everything went into slow motion as the Joker hit the trigger and tossed the grenade backhand where it landed in the pit and exploded, blowing a gaping hole in the side of the pool where the chemicals began rushing out in a torrent.

There was a tremendous explosion above and the base buckled hard as more debris began to fall. The base was collapsing. The reactor was ready to detonate any moment.

"NO!"

Scorpius's eyes bulged. And he charged into the pool, desperate to salvage any remaining sustenance he could get from it.

"Okay, Bats, nice talking to you, but that's my cue!"

Laughing hysterically, the Joker jumped into the pool and grabbed Scorpius by the neck. Scorpius now screamed in rage and began struggling with his former prisoner. Chemicals sprayed wildly, obscuring them as they disappeared into the pool, only the flaying of their limbs disturbing the rising smoke as the two enemies battled to the death.

"Batman, come quickly!"

Stark grabbed John by his cape and quickly led him to the side of the chamber. There was an emergency lift.

"You must hurry, you have only microts. Here, take this." Stark handed him a coding device. "This will give you access to the Prowler. No one else has it. Scorpius's nurse was holding it for him." Stark indicated humorously at his pants. "He has no pockets!"

John grabbed his shoulder. "You come with me. I can get you out of here."

Stark should his head. "Do not worry about me, I'll be fine. Go, now. Stop the Peacekeepers, and remember what I said." Stark pushed him into the lift and the doors sealed shut.

John held on to the rails as the lift shot upwards at tremendous speed. He could feel a thick wave of heat pass through the chambers as he rose above the reactors. It would be any moment now, he only hoped the Prowler was intact. Stark had told him on the way to the chambers no one was to leave in the ship until Scorpius was present.

As the lift slowed, stopped and opened its doors, he saw the Prowler waiting for him. The hangar was smoke-filled, empty and the last of the ships were departing. No one was left to challenge him. The explosions were coming more frequently now and the trembling under his feet was continuous- the reactor was building up to critical.

The coding device attached to the lock easily indicated by its shape. With a press of a button, it fell off and he was in the cockpit before he realized it. Bruce's training had covered Prowler operations, and the ancient had given John just enough information on how to use the wormhole device. With blinding speed, he ignited the Prowler's engines and the ship moved forward.

He made it out with seconds to spare. As the Prowler cleared the hangar opening, the base collapsed. From the air, he saw the upper part of the tower fall straight down abruptly to the reactor in the center. A massive explosion shot out around the base like a spiral and the entire structure fell at an angle, the large spire trailing black smoke as it crashed down to the Martian surface.

John reached for the comm. "Aeryn, can you hear me?"

"I'm here, John. The Zelbinion is following us, but Nightwing's shields are weakening. I don't know how much longer we can hold them off."

"You've done enough. The ship is in range now. I'm going to go EVA in a few microts. I need you and your ship to stay out of the path of the wormhole."

"What wormhole?"

"Just watch and go ooh!"

The leviathan gunship shot past and the mass of the Zelbinion was bearing down on him. Aeryn and the leviathan hybrid fought a magnificent battle, but the smaller ship was outgunned. It was draining all it's stored up energy and shields were weakened.

John's only reaction was to smile. "Right about· now."

There was a bright burst of light and a swirl of blue and green as the bloom of a massive wormhole opened up in front of him, right in the path of the Zelbinion. John stared on in amazement. The great secret of them was that they were everywhere, one only needed to know the equations to locate them. Scorpius had set the base on Mars for a reason: he knew there was one here. He managed to torture the information from the Ancient, but little else. Now, John commanded all the knowledge.

Sending the Prowler into a loop, he activated the device. A bright band of yellow began to form along the mouth of the wormhole. The color blended into the funnel and it began to shimmer. John shifted the controls and flew free of the maelstrom.

"Aeryn lock on my signal. I'm ditching this boat!"

The oxygen bubble slid downward from his cowl and gave him an airtight seal. The Bat suit was designed for surviving underwater or even the vacuum of space. That was the perfect thing because right now he needed it.

The Prowler's ejection rockets sent him free and tumbling away from the Zelbinion and gave him the perfect view of what was about to happen. The wormhole's increasing gravity pulled the command carrier towards it like a magnet, and their forward momentum made them unable to stop.

"Sir!" The lieutenant shouted. "The wormhole is pulling us in!"

Braca began to panic. "Do something! Take evasive action! Pull hard to our left."

"It's too late, sir!"

The Zelbinion rocked and buckled as it's mass hurled directly into the mouth of the wormhole. Braca looked around at the viewscreen's broadcasting images all around them. On one monitor he could see the smoking remains of the Martian Gammak base. Beside the base was the giant face staring up at them.

Braca blinked. Perhaps it was the distortion caused by the edge of the wormhole distorting the image as they entered it, but he could swear·

It looked like the face was smiling at them.

***

"You did real good, Batman."

John checked his comm. He did not recognize the male voice speaking to him. "Who is this?"

"Just a friend repaying a debt for his brother. You got a lot of work ahead of you. Make it count."

The voice sounded like the one that had given them permission from the Zelbinion to fly down to the Gammak base. "I'll do my best," he finally said.

Tauvo Crais watched from a distance as the leviathan hybrid picked up the Batman. He set the controls of his Prowler for Earth. It had been a long time since he saw his brother. It would be good to catch up on things.

"Much fortune," he said quietly.

***

Epilogue: And so it has Begun

"Where do you think they went?"

John did not hear the question. He was watching Moya's control collar finally fall away. After being picked up by Aeryn and Nightwing, those on Moya had assisted with picking up survivors from the Gammak base, Peacekeepers included (though they were under house arrest). The wormhole that had sent Zelbinion to another part of the galaxy had closed up again, as if it were never there.

He turned to Aeryn. "What did you say?"

She smiled. "I said, where do you think the Zelbinion ended up at?"

"According to the bell ringing in my head, they are currently drifting through the edge of the Uncharted Territories, where they have no jurisdiction."

"What happens when they reach Peacekeeper High Command?"

"I'm sure they will tell their leaders to beware of the Batman," D'Argo said, walking up to them with Zhaan and Rygel. "You did good. For a human."

"I'll take that as a compliment. I heard you had quite an ordeal up here yourself while I was on Mars."

D'Argo held up a hand. "Don't go there."

John laughed. It really felt good for the first time in a long time. "Now that Moya is free. Where will you all go?"

Zhaan approached from behind. "If the coordinates you gave Pilot are accurate, we will enter a wormhole between the planets Neptune and Pluto, exit into known systems and after several starbursts we will all be returned to our home worlds."

"Is there any way we can repay what you did for us?" D'Argo asked.

"Tell your leaders what happened here. Tell them the Peacekeepers can be beaten. And if you happen to come across Zelbinion trying to come back, tell them I'll be waiting."

"Rather dramatic for a species like yours," Rygel said. "But I'll be sure to pass that on."

"What about you, Officer Sun?" Zhaan asked. "Life will be very dangerous for you on Earth."

"I'm used to that," Aeryn said. "Besides, Earth is part of my heritage. And he needs someone to show him how to do things right," she indicated to John.

He shook his head, not amused. "Whatever. It's time to go now. Good luck to all of you."

"Moya and I are forever grateful to you, Batman. And to you, Officer Sun," said Pilot, appearing on the nearby clamshell. "Do not worry about us, Nightwing says he will accompany us back to the Uncharted Territories."

"That's good. I figured he could use a mother," Aeryn said. "Mother's are important to a child."

***

After taking them behind Earth's moon, Moya departed in a spectacular starburst, her first in many cycles. The Batscape was more than able to make the journey back in stealth mode.

"What happens now?" Aeryn said. "Word will spread fast now that Scorpius is gone and the Zelbinion is no longer around. There could be anarchy."

"We'll be there. I would say tomorrow is going to be very interesting," John replied.

The Batscape's comm system began beeping, indicating a signal coming in.

"Who could be calling? No one knows we're coming back, not with stealth mode on."

John turned the screen on and Bruce's face appeared. "Hello John. If you are receiving this, it means you and Aeryn were successful in your mission. In fact, I knew you would succeed, because you are the best at what you do. You will be happy to know that I always have a Plan B for any situation, so if you follow the coordinates I'm broadcasting, you will find your secondary base of operations. ALFRED is waiting with a hot meal for both of you. There is a hangar for the Batscape and my program has been uploaded into the new computer so I will still be around to provide you with information, assistance and the occasional morale boost, so don't think you've gotten rid of me so easily."

John and Aeryn looked at each other, total surprise etched on their faces.

"Oh, and welcome home· Batman."

A gentle hand touched Johns. He looked over at Aeryn who smiled thoughtfully and everything suddenly fell into place. Home beckoned to both of them.

***

October 31, 2038

The night was surprisingly quiet here.

There were no sounds of traffic or klaxons or people shouting in the streets. Nor was there the deathly silence of the Batcave while he slept. Here, there was a gentle breeze blowing through the trees outside the windows and the chirping of crickets in the meadow nearby.

On the outside, Bruce's old summer mansion in the far mountains north of Gotham still looked like it was abandoned, as it had been thirty years before. Inside, ALFRED and the utility robots had been busy converting the insides into the new base of operations. It was quite homey inside, but with all the necessities the Batcave had provided. Bruce always managed to find homes with large basements and underground hangars. How he managed it he would never say.

John watched the shadows of the trees as they played against the windows near the bed. His body still felt stiff from the ordeal on Mars, but he felt more relaxed than he had in years. There was a completeness to everything he did that had not been there before.

He turned his head to listen to Aeryn sleeping quietly next to him, the scent of evergreens in her hair filling his senses before he fell into slumber. She was soft and warm to the touch as her chest rose and fell with the rhythm of her breathing. For once, he felt like he was home.

Tonight was Halloween in Gotham, though few really observed it anymore, for fear of Peacekeeper intervention. He decided tonight would be different. It would be his surprise to the Peacekeepers and humans alike. He had meant it when he said he expected the next day things would be interesting.

He rolled over and drifted into sleep with his arm around Aeryn. It was a calm and peaceful transition for him- the nightmares were gone.

***

In the last days of Peacekeeper occupation, there were rumors of massing by resistance forces on all the continents, even talk of races from the Uncharteds coming to lend assistance. All supply lines had ceased and the ore mining and other harvesting had halted.

***

Bialar Crais watched the light in the sky from his office. He was not overly concerned. If anything he was pondering what to have for dinner with his brother, who was currently visiting. He merely left orders to all security forces to prevent looting and make certain no one is hurt if rioting breaks out.

He shrugged his shoulders as he closed the curtains. Maybe he would take his brother to look at the ocean tomorrow. Earth was such a beautiful place, after all.

***

Selina looked up at the sky from where she sat on the old building, enjoying a glass of wine. She had been waiting for years to enjoy this moment. She could almost cry, as it reminded her of the old times- back in her wilder days. But the sight usually meant it was time for her to run. This time around, she looked forward to seeing the Peacekeepers do the same.

"Good work, Johnny."

***

Vicki Vale had tucked in her daughter for the night when she looked out the window and saw the sky. She wanted to wake Caitlin to share it with her, but decided to let her sleep. After all, the nights were much safer now for the humans. Caitlin's hero, the Batman, lay beside her as a stuffed doll Vicki stayed up to make.

"Sleep tight, sweetheart. He's back for good."

***

Humans all across Gotham flooded into the streets to look at the object in the night sky. Prowler and Marauder patrols circled above trying to locate the source that the light came from, but there was none found. It appeared to be a hologram of unknown origin. But Gotham citizens, both old and young, recognized the Bat signal, as it held steadfast against the passing clouds.

The humans across the city all cheered and celebrated. Witnesses were said to have seen the expressions of the Peacekeepers as they looked up and saw fear there for the first time.

Finis

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Farscape/Batman: Dark Knight, Rising Son, Pt. 4

By: Spacelord

Rating: PG-13 (Adult situations, profanity and violence).

Summary: THE CONCLUSION. Batman and the Huntress liberate a leviathan prison ship and race to a Gammak base on Mars to face Scorpius for a final confrontation. Just when the situation turns darkest, help comes from someone quite unexpected.

Spoilers: None, this is AU.

Disclaimers: See part 1 for details.

Comments: I apologize for the long wait it took to finish this story. Personal issues, procrastination, writer's block, etc· It took the end of season three and the first half of season four to give me the brainstorm I needed, and what a brainstorm. I hope you feel the ending was worth it. Thanks again to Mreen for her beta work. Enjoy.

 
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