Title: Everyone in Their Places (Jumping to Conclusions Disco Hustle)
Author: Lizbeth Marcs
Summary: Irony can always be found in 20/20 hindsight.
Characters: Chiana, Nerri, John Crichton, Aeryn, D’Argo, Zhaan, Rygel, Pilot
Rating: PG, for Farscape-style swearing
Notes: Story takes place at some vague point between “Durka Returns” and “A Human Reaction” in Season 1. Spoilers for Season 1 and Chiana-related story arcs in Season 2. Section headers are quotes spoken by John to Chiana during “A Clockwork Nebari” in Season 2.
Disclaimer: Chiana, Nerri, John Crichton, Aeryn Sun, D’Argo, Zhaan, Rygel, Pilot, Moya, and all associated characters and organizations are the property of The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment. Any mention of real life events and real people is not meant to imply that the people or incidents in question as they are used in the story have any relationship to reality. All original characters and the plot are mine. No payment was asked for or received in the writing of this story and no profit was earned. No copyright infringement on The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment is intended.
Original ficlet: Will the Real Junior Miss Tough Chick of the Universe Please Stand Up? by simplystars
John: Chiana, why didn't you tell us about this before?
Chiana: That my people were planning to frell over as much of the galaxy as they could? You barely let me stay aboard Moya as it was.
—from “A Clockwork Nebari”, Farscape Season 2
Yes, yes I know. You can "kick, kiss and cry" your way out of any situation.
Aside from the obvious physical tells there was still a piece of Chiana that was Nebari personified, like her tendency to size up people and file them into categories within an instant.
Everyone in their places, and a place for everyone.
It was maybe the only true thing that anyone speaking with the authority of The Establishment ever said. Well, Chiana believed it anyway. Nerri always had his doubts. It was the only thing of any substance they disagreed about.
When she and Nerri were nothing more than a pair of trapped slum kids in the sub-Waldren Prides, the categories boiled down to a grand total of three: people who supported The Establishment, people who were mind-frelled into supporting The Establishment, and people who hadn’t yet been mind-frelled into supporting The Establishment.
See? Simple categories for a simple planet. Everyone had a place, even if it was a place they wouldn’t have been if they were at all in their right minds.
After she and Nerri left with their exit papers for what they thought was a life away from The Establishment and the fear that it would get them in the end, she still found herself placing people into neat little categories. The only difference between freedom and Nebari Prime were the number of available categories to choose from.
Sizing up a mark and filing them in the correct category with nothing more than a glance was her specialty, which was why she was usually successful at scamming whatever she needed to scam from the unwary. What she couldn’t scam from a too-willing sucker, she could always steal.
Occasionally she’d guess wrong and place the wrong person in the wrong category, and that always led to trouble. Trouble usually meant she and Nerri would have to move on to another planet. Trouble also came with a helping of Nerri putting on his big brother airs and lecturing her about how people — as in people who weren’t Nebari — weren’t so easily categorized.
She’d laugh at him then, sometimes while sitting next to him in their comfortable first-class seats using tickets she’d picked from the pocket of some mark, more often while crouched next to him in the bowels of a cargo transport they managed to stow away on at the last moment. “So, I just guessed wrong this time. Nebari Prime? Out here in the Uncharted Territories? Some things remain the same no matter where you go.”
Nerri would huff, roll his eyes, and respond the same way. “One of these days, little sister, you’re going to learn that it’s not that easy, not even on Nebari Prime. One of these days, you’re going to find out just how wrong you are.”
He could say it all he wanted, but she was still usually right when it counted. That was enough, because thanks to her and her talents they were still able to get what they needed and get by.
Why are your people so jazzed about getting you home?
The Establishment had found a neat fourth category for her and Nerri: a fellip nectar trap.
She raged as Nerri explained about the contagion, and how The Establishment used them and others like them to spread it out into the Galaxy on hundreds — possibly thousands — of worlds. All it took was one instance of carnal contact and away their playmates would go with a viral timebomb. Those quickly-forgotten playmates then would move on to playmates of their own and share the contagion with others.
Nerri quickly figured out what the contagion meant. When enough beings on enough worlds were infected, The Establishment would pull the trigger. Everyone who’d ever frelled anyone who had the contagion would be mind-cleansed and ready to embrace their new Nebari overlords.
Nerri had always been smart, even if he was smart in an entirely different way than she was.
Luckily for them, Nerri managed to find the right person in the right category who had the cure. As soon as they were clean of the contagion, she and Nerri split up and ran in opposite directions just in case The Establishment found out that they had broken their last link back to Nebari Prime.
Chiana went a little crazy after that. Between Nerri leaving and the knowledge that in the end The Establishment still found a place for the two of them even without the obligatory mind-frell made her take risks that maybe she shouldn’t have taken, as if she needed to prove to herself that The Establishment had filed her in the wrong category.
She figured she must’ve raised her profile too high with her some of her scams, which were becoming less and less successful as she got more and more desperate. It was the only way to explain how The Establishment found her. Clearly the right sort of someone in the right sort of category had decided that she was too disruptive to be allowed to roam free and that she needed to be placed in a whole new category.
Specifically, the Chiana-is-a-Loyal-Little-Nebari category.
For the Greater Good, of course.
Lucky for her a Leviathan got between her and Nebari Prime. The chaos that followed took care of the rest of her problems.
Just like that, she was free and speeding away from The Establishment inside a pregnant Leviathan that couldn’t starburst and in the company of a crew that wasn’t quite sure what to do with her.
For now she was ensconced in temporary quarters that were warm and comfortable. She was clean, her clothes were clean, and the Delvian priestess — Zhaan was the name she heard — had fixed her injuries. She also had access to plenty of food for the first time since she and Nerri parted ways. Okay, it wasn’t food so much as it was food cubes, but at least it was food of a kind. It was better than some of the dren she’d eaten in the recent past.
Tomorrow the crew would decide what to do with her. She had to convince them to let her stay until she figured out her next step. Should she keep running like Nerri told her to? Or should she just frell it and go look for him?
But all that was tomorrow and she’d deal with it when tomorrow came like she always did. Just read the room, see who was ripe for picking, and go from there.
She clutched her abdomen as if she could somehow dig out Nerri’s life disk with her fingers. It was a stupid impulse. She could feel the slight warmth telling her that Nerri was still alive, but even if she could see the life disk it couldn’t tell her anything more than that.
She hoped that Nerri, wherever he was, managed to hold it together better than she did.
Look, everybody on board has secrets. We all have secrets. You got one? That's fine. Keep it.
Chiana took the opportunity to mentally sort the crew into categories as they argued back and forth about letting her stay until she found a planet she liked, or dumping her on the first habitable planet they found.
The Luxan and the Peacekeeper of course wanted her gone. They were soldiers. They were used to giving orders to people they considered beneath them, and taking orders from people they thought were superior to them. They had obviously decided that Chiana wasn’t a superior, so they were never going to do anything she told them to do. They had just obviously figured out that she wasn’t one to take orders. They acted like they were already annoyed that she’d never obey anything they said, even though they had yet to try ordering her around. It was just as well. If either one of them had tried, she’d wind up blowing the whole sweet deal before she even had a chance to make her case.
The Luxan at least wanted to wait until they reached the first habitable planet. The Peacekeeper wasn’t shy about saying that she’d prefer getting Chiana off the ship via airlock.
Judging by the others’ reactions, it wasn’t an argument anyone took all that seriously. If she had seen otherwise, Chiana would already be running for the launch bay and mentally reviewing how to hotwire that drad prowler.
“Aeryn, we are not shoving Chiana out the airlock,” the human — Crichton — forcefully countered. “I think we’ve seen enough blue blood pooling on the decks to last us lifetime. I don’t know if you noticed, but Sideburns was a bleeder. Now I don’t know if that’s a Nevari thing—”
“Nebari,” Chiana corrected.
“Whatever.” Crichton waved her off. “All I know is that I don’t want to find out if leaving a lake of blood behind when you die is a Nebari trait.”
“If I may interject, commander,” the Pilot’s image blipped into existence on the monitor, “the DRDs cleaned up and they are not capable of complaining, so I do not understand your objection to ‘the mess’ that resulted from Salis’s murder.”
“Not helping, Pilot,” Chrichton said as he shot Chiana a meaningful look.
Chiana knew that looking completely innocent was a little bit beyond her capabilities. She settled instead for looking like she wasn’t capable of murder, even if the corpse belonged to Salis.
“If she turns out to be even half as dangerous as Salis said, the DRDs will be cleaning our pooling blood off the decks,” Aeryn sniffed.
“Now we’re going to take the word of Interstellar Elvis who’s all about using scrubby bubbles to clean the universe’s dirty mind?” Crichton asked. “Something tells me this guy would be advocating the death penalty for jaywalking.”
There was a beat of silence as the entire crew plus Chiana stared at the human and tried to puzzle out what his words meant. She also noticed that she was the only tapping on her ear as if she could stimulate the translator microbes into coming up with a slightly better interpretation, which meant the others were used to Crichton not making any sense.
Chiana decided to take a shot that jaywalking was a minor crime. “Salis would order a mind-cleanse even on people who’d already been mind-cleansed for coughing while he was talking.”
Crichton snapped his fingers and pointed at her. “Exactly my impression.”
Aeryn threw up her hands. “I wasn’t advocating putting her out the airlock without a space suit.”
“Really? You could’ve fooled me because I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear the words ‘space suit’ cross your lips once in this conversation,” Crichton said.
“And I might add that the addition of a space suit is hardly an improvement. Out here it would still be a death sentence,” Zhaan quietly interjected.
“Either way, I think we’d all be safer if she were off this ship. The sooner, the better,” Aeryn insisted.
“I agree,” the Luxan rumbled.
Crichton gave the Luxan a disappointed look. “What happened to ‘the first habitable planet’, D’Argo?”
“I still say we leave her on the first habitable planet,” D’Argo said. “I’m not nearly as bloodthirsty as Aeryn.”
Aeryn snorted her disagreement.
Chiana resisted the urge to point out that no one was as bloodthirsty as a Peacekeeper.
“Kids, kids. Let’s not fight. You both like ripping people into itty bitty pieces during moments of pointless violence,” Crichton said. “And for the record, I say we let Chiana stay until she thinks it’s safe to leave. I don’t know if you noticed, but after our latest brouhaha we managed to piss off yet another planet, the same planet which just so happens to be looking for her.”
The Hynerian hovered out of his corner on his floating chair and looked down his nose at Crichton. “Ahhh, but they don’t know that we were involved with this fekkik.”
“Hey!” Chiana protested.
“Insulting it may be, but accurate.” The Hynerian turned his haughty eyes to her. “After all, you let them catch you.”
“Need I remind you, dear Rygel, that you were a prisoner of the Peacekeepers on board this ship, as were D’Argo and I,” Zhaan interrupted.
Chiana’s eyebrows rose at that. Prisoners? Peacekeeper prisoners? Then what the hezmana was a Peacekeeper doing hanging around with this bunch? Unless the Peacekeeper wasn’t a Peacekeeper any more. If that was the case, then soldier-girl was headed for execution if her people caught up with her.
Chiana fought to keep herself from smiling. Things were already looking up, and they weren’t even done debating what to do about her. These guys had even more motivation to steer clear of the Peacekeepers and run-of-the-mill planetary authorities than she did.
Rygel spun his floating chair about and swooped over to Zhaan. “That was completely different! I was stabbed in the back by my traitorous cousin! He—”
“Took your throne, threw you over to the Peacekeepers for safekeeping, and when you get back to exact your revenge you’ll have 600 billion armed and angry loyal subjects ready work when you whistle. Heard it. Memorized it. Don’t care about it,” Crichton rudely interrupted. “Which is to say, Zhaan completely has a point.”
“She most certainly does not.” Rygel’s bushy eyebrows lowered as he fixed a glare on Crichton. “And I resent being compared to this tralk.”
“May I say something?” Chiana asked.
“No!” the crew unanimously shouted at her before they returned to bickering.
“Listen to me Slug-o,” Crichton said, “If we drop Chiana off on the first available planet, and if her people catch up with her, the first thing they’re going to ask is, ‘Where’s Salis and his walking, talking Clockwork Orange experiment?’”
At that, everyone in the room turned to look at Chiana.
“Which is exactly what I was going to say,” Chiana said. “Except for that thing about orange clocks.”
“Of course you’d sell us out to save your own skin,” D’Argo growled at her.
“If The Establishment’s agents catch me there is no saving my skin.” Here Chiana looked at Crichton, since he seemed to be sympathetic to her cause. If she could build on that sympathy, she’d at least have someone solidly on her side until she was ready to bolt. “They’ll drag me back to Nebari Prime and mind-cleanse me. Once that happens, they won’t have to ask me what happened to Salis. I’ll tell them. I’ll want to tell them.”
Crichton seemed to bounce in place. “Remember declawed Durka and his hit version of ‘What’s So Funny ’Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding’.”
“Durka’s will may have been temporarily subverted, John, but he was hardly a peace-loving soul,” Zhaan protested. “His true colors came out in the end.”
“Yeah, but I bet the Nebari love bombing works a whole lot better on actual Nebari,” Crichton said.
“Quicker, too. They’d be after you within a solar day of me landing on the surface of Nebari Prime,” Chiana exaggerated, if only by a little bit.
Aeryn shared her glare equally between Chiana and Crichton while D’Argo snarled.
Chiana resisted the urge to do a victory lap. She was right. Not one of these people wanted to chance raising their profiles. She as good as had a bed for as long as she needed one.
“Weeeeellll, I suppose she could be useful.” Rygel’s eyes crawled up and down Chiana’s body.
Chiana smiled. She definitely knew how to play that look. A little flattery, a little bump, a little grind, and she’d have Rygel eating out of her hand before he recovered enough to go a second round. While taking a Hynerian for a ride wasn’t her first choice, she’d been with far worse for reasons that weren’t nearly as good.
Crichton’s translator microbes seemed to give him a different spin on Rygel’s meaning. He swung out an arm, caught the Hynerian in a headlock, and squeezed. “We are not pimping her out for gold, jewels, or food cubes in exchange for a berth, Your Sleaziness.”
“You dare compare me to a common pimp?” Rygel wheezed. “I was thinking she might make for an adequate distraction should the need arise.”
Chiana licked her lips. She suspected that Rygel would sing a very different tune once she got him alone and started stroking him in all the right spots.
“Rygel,” Crichton warned.
“John, please stop trying to kill Rygel, tempting though it may be,” Zhaan said.
“Fine.” Crichton lifted his arms in the air, allowing Rygel to quickly float backwards and out of Crichton’s reach.
Once he was a safe distance away, Rygel added, “Besides, I hardly think that we’ll be the ones pimping her out to the highest bidder.”
“You want to watch, Old Man? Maybe bring a few friends?” Chiana purred.
Crichton pointed at her without taking his eyes off Rygel. “Don’t encourage him. He’ll find a way to charge admission.”Zhaan finally seemed to have enough of the bickering. “We are now arguing our way off the path. I say we vote.”
“Right. All those in favor of dropping our unwanted guest off on the first habitable planet we find, raise your hands,” D’Argo said.
Of course Aeryn and D’Argo voted in favor.
“And all in favor of letting the Grey Girl stay until she finds a planet she likes,” Crichton said.
Of course Crichton and Rygel raised their hands.
For some reason, everyone who wasn’t Chiana was surprised by Rygel’s vote.
“You will let her stay,” Aeryn remarked as if Rygel’s vote was the most shocking thing she’d ever seen.
“I’ve heard all the arguments, weighed all the options, and have found merit in showing mercy.” Rygel turned his chair and floated out the door. “Let it never be said that Dominar Rygel the XVI isn’t a just dominar.”
“You mean a dominar who doesn’t want to get caught by a race who’ll hollow out his brain with nothing more than a dull spoon,” Crichton mumbled.
“We’re still tied,” D’Argo pointed out. “The issue is hardly settled.”
“Pilot?” Zhaan asked.
“Moya and I abstain,” Pilot responded.
“Pilot, are you sure?” Zhaan asked. “After all, you do have a say in who may remain with us.”
Chiana got the distinct impression that Zhaan didn’t want to be the deciding vote.
“Your concern is much appreciated, Zotoh Zhaan,” Pilot responded. “But Moya and I prefer to remain neutral on the matter of crew composition. The decision is entirely up to you.”
“Fair enough, Pilot,” Zhaan sighed. The Delvian then fixed her gaze on Chiana.
Chiana tried to stand up straight, keep still, and look Zhaan in the eye.
Still, Zhaan said nothing.
The microts ticked by.
None of the others seemed all that inclined to rush Zhaan into a decision.
More microts ticked by.
Chiana couldn’t take it any more. “Well?”
Zhaan frowned at her, as if she was irritated that Chiana insisted on getting an answer before she was ready to give it. “I share Aeryn and D’Argo’s concerns, but…” Zhaan sighed. “John’s right. I suppose you can stay.”
Chiana didn’t realize that she’d tensed up until all of her muscles relaxed and she leaned back against the bulkhead.
“But the first sign of you causing trouble, you are off this ship with or without a nearby habitable planet,” Aeryn said. “And the space suit will be entirely optional.”
Zhaan sighed again. “I’m afraid I must agree to this condition.”
Chiana flashed what she hoped was a charming smile. “No trouble. You’ll see.”
Since when do people like us get what we want?
With her temporary haven now secure, Chiana knew that she needed to solidify her potential alliances. Nothing was more important than having people around you who’d make excuses for your behavior and refuse to believe that you were robbing them blind even though your fingers were picking their pockets in front of witnesses.
She already knew that both D’Argo and Aeryn were lost causes, so there was no point in even trying with them. If anything went wrong on the ship, they’d blame her first. Luckily, she already had two potential buffers between her and the wrong end of a pulse pistol if the deal went sour before she was ready to go.
The toad Rygel was on her side, if only because he seemed to have plans to use her for her body. It wouldn’t be too hard to put him solidly in her corner. A stroke here, a lick there, and a few sweet nothings whispered in his ear and she’d have him doing all her dirty work, up to and including stealing some drad, easily concealed hand weapons from D’Argo and Aeryn.
As for Crichton, he was already in her corner. She helped him during that whole mess with Salis and Durka, and in exchange he fought to let her stay on board for as long as she wanted. Although she probably didn’t have to do anything to firm him up as a potential ally, she most definitely wanted to go there. He might look Sebacean, but according to him and everyone else on Moya he was a species called “human”. Here was hoping the resemblance was only skin-deep, because a Sebacean’s idea of frelling around was closer to her idea of a handshake.
Draz, even if Crichton frelled like a Sebacean Chiana might still use him to get the taste of the Hynerian’s shivvies out of her mouth. Looking at it from that point of view, there was no downside to reinforcing an alliance with the human.
She could probably win over reluctant Zhaan, once she figured out what the Delvian priestess’s weak spots were and how to get to them. And even though the ship’s pilot didn’t seem to want to get involved in crew decisions, it wouldn’t hurt to have the guy in charge of flying the Leviathan as a friend.
Right. So she had four potential allies out of a crew of six.
Most likely three potential allies if Pilot insisted on remaining neutral.
Two allies for sure.
It was time to make some new friends, and get friendlier with the ones she already had.
And when she was ready — defined by when she found out where Nerri had got to — she’d grab everything of value she could carry, and disappear from Moya before anyone figured out that she was never really here at all.
It was a plan. The perfect scam, in fact.
Nothing could possibly go wrong.