The Rules

"You have some nerve to talk to me that way." - Jool

"One of my very, very best friends has just gone. Right now, I'm . . . I am nothing but nerve." - Chiana

Self-Inflicted Wounds: Wait for the Wheel

Joolushko Tunai Fenta Hoovalis stood in the center of her new quarters, glancing around at the walls with obvious distaste. Twenty-two cycles she had been asleep, her cousins were dead, and she did not know what had become of the rest of her family.

And now she was stuck here. On this living ship. With a crew of fahrbots.

"Ugh," she said, lifting the bed covering with two fingers to examine it. "Not even fire-silk. Primitives."

Before she could turn to try and make something of these sparse and unwelcoming bedchambers, she felt the cool metal of a pulse pistol against the back of her neck. She froze.

"Let's go over the rules, Princess, shall we?" the sultry little purr could only belong the Nebari that called herself Chiana.

Pushing her fear away in the sure knowledge that she was far superior, Jool spun around, causing Chiana to take a step back--though her weapon did not lower.

"Are all the species on this ship so inherently violent?" she sneered.

Chiana laughed and titled her head back slightly. "You're gonna preach to me about violence? I'm sorry, Princess, but aren't you the one that tried to kill the guy that saved your life?"

Jool tilted her head back as well, though not in amusement so much so that she was able to look down her nose at the other woman. "I do not know what you're talking about."

"We have rules," Chiana said, not unaware of the irony that this speech was now coming from her. "Rule Number one--you do not try to kill any of us. Technically, you've already broken this rule, and if it were up to me, I'd just as soon space you out an airlock for it. But Crichton, he's a lot more forgiving than the rest of us."

"What was I supposed to do?" Jool demanded, her superior demeanor breaking for a moment beneath the weight of her distress. "My cousins are dead."

"Not his fault," Chiana snapped. "He's the best person I know."

Jool narrowed her eyes. "Why do I think that doesn't count for much?"

Chiana stepped forward and knocked Jool backwards onto the bed, then aimed the pulse rifle at her chest. She pretended as though Jool had not spoken.

"Crichton has a . . . thing about strays. You see, he's the only reason I wasn't dropped off on the first commerce planet we passed when I first came aboard, and Stark, well he'd still be spinning in Scorpius's Aurora Chair if not for him, and you . . . you would be sitting frozen in a laboratory for the rest of all eternity, or at least until someone with less compassion than Crichton needed a donor and you fit the profile."

Chiana leaned further into her space. "So, you see, you tried to kill your biggest ally, on the first day. . ." With a derisive laugh, she adjusted her grip on the pulse rifle and aimed it higher. "Maybe you're not so smart."

Jool slid backwards along the bed nervously--reassessing the idea she had been holding that Chiana was no real threat. "That creature told me . . ."

"Rule number two," Chiana interrupted. "You never, ever, listen to Rygel."

"Are you saying he lied then?" Jool snapped. "My cousin did not die to save your inferior friend?"

"My inferior friend," Chiana growled. "Has more worth in him than someone like you will ever understand. And he demanded no donors be used, he would rather have died--but we did it anyway, and I would certainly have demanded they use your cousin to save him. I would do it every time--you want to know why? Because your cousin was never going to live, and Crichton still had a chance."

"I lived," Jool hissed.

"Only because of him. We didn't feel like dragging around a couple of cryo-pods filled with corpses, but he insisted. And look what it got him. A whiny little Princess that tried to kill him first chance she got."

"I did not want to kill him," Jool shouted, tears forming in her eyes. "But my cousin--"

"You did not have all the facts," Chiana yelled right back. "You were willing to kill him because Rygel told you his version and you never stopped to think maybe it wasn't the complete truth. I thought you were supposed to be an enlightened superior species, isn't that what you say?"

"I was scared," Jool admitted, forcing the words between clenched teeth.

"Well, you get one chance to frell up," Chiana said. "Crichton says you can stay--but you listen to me, I've just lost one of my best friends, I will not lose another. Certainly not because of you."

"I am not going to hurt any of you," Jool insisted. "I only want to go home."

"You and everyone else," Chiana snapped. "But we don't know how to get you there, so you're stuck. Deal with it. Which brings us to rule number three--we tend to have a crisis once a weeken on this ship, so you either learn to stop screaming and make yourself useful, or stay the hezmana out of our way."

Jool bristled. "Is there anything else?"

"Yeah, rule number four--don't cross me, or any of my friends. If you do, I'll make sure you regret it."

Jool glared at her. "I would not 'cross' you, whatever that means--so would you please put away your weapon now?"

"No," Chiana said. "Because the rules aren't the only reason why I'm here. I did mention I was angry you tried to kill my friend, right?"

Jool looked away.

Chiana pressed the muzzle of the pulse rifle to Jool's neck. "This is just a warning, but Crichton means a lot to me, and if you hurt him again I'll kill you . . . that is, if you're lucky . . . and Aeryn doesn't get to you first."

Jool froze as she watched the Nebari, suddenly rightly terrified. She resisted the urge to scream, worried Chiana might pull the trigger just to shut her up.

"Now," Chiana asked. "Do we understand one another?"

Jool nodded warily.

"Good," Chiana said with a grin and a little satisfied nod of her head. She lowered the weapon and tossed it to Jool. "You can keep this one," she said. "Chances are you'll need it."

Then with a smug grin, she backed out of the room. "Enjoy your stay, Princess."

The End.