Disclaimer: I own none of these characters; various other people own them. I use them with love and respect, but I make no money off them.
Spoilers: Up to and including the fourth season through "John Quixote."
THE PEOPLE VS. JOHN CRICHTON
"Chiana!" John Crichton stood beside the boarding ramp of the transport pod. "C'mon, Pip, I said two arns and two arns only."
He felt a tap on his shoulder from behind, and he craned his head to peer over his shoulder. Chiana's lithe, pixie-like form was there, behind him, leaning against the pod. Her bluish lips were turned up in a smile, her wide eyes dark in contrast to her pale gray skin and shock of white hair. When he turned to face her, she leaned in close to give him a playful kiss on the cheek.
"What are we waiting for, Crichton?" she purred.
"You, actually." He shook his head. "You know, the last time the two of us went out on one of jaunts around the Uncharted Territories you picked up that V.R. mind-screw game left behind by Stark." He swung toward the boarding ladder, paused and tilted his head toward Chiana. "How did we end up with that thing anyway? Isn't it a little bit of a coincidence that, in this whole damn vast universe, that game ends up in your lap?"
She shrugged. "Yeah, let's think about that on the way back to Moya. I'm ready to go."
He scowled. "All right, Pip, what did you do?"
She batted her eyelids innocently. Was that a universal female thing or something? "What makes you think I did anything, Crichton?"
"Well, you're all of a sudden in a hurry to leave. And I know you. The only one who's even more of a klepto is Rygel."
"I didn't steal anything. I swear." She swatted his backside. "Go on, you fekkik, get on in there."
"Hands off the butt."
"Oh, you liked it and you know it."
A quartet of figures rounded the corner of a building and marched onto the landing pad. They wore official-looking uniforms. Like all the native Hokivans, they had elongated heads with eyestalks and gaping maws with the flat teeth of herbivores. The eyestalks resembled horns, giving their heads a slightly bovine appearance.
"Uh oh, here comes the Minotaur patrol," Crichton murmured. "Pip, what did you do?"
"I…I don't know," Chiana replied. "I think it was trespassing or something. I was just minding my own business, and I took a shortcut through some kind of garden. How should I know I wasn't supposed to do that?"
"Dammit, Chiana, don't you read the Keep Off The Grass signs?"
The approaching troopers would look pretty harmless were it not for the long rifles they carried. Crichton moved away from the boarding ladder and planted his feet in a wide stance, arms folded across his leather-jacketed chest. He felt naked without Winona on his hip, but as per the city's local ordnance his beloved pulse pistol was locked up on the transport pod.
The aliens halted their march several yards away. The Minotaur--Hokivan--with silver epaulettes on his shoulders regarded Crichton. "Peacekeeper."
Crichton had grown quite weary of explaining to everyone in the Uncharted Territories that, no, he wasn't a Sebacean, he just looked like one. So he played along.
"Ex-Peacekeeper," he said.
The Hokivan grunted. "You are the male responsible for this female, yes?"
Crichton exchanged glances with Chiana. "How do you mean?"
"Is she your mate?"
The human laughed, and Chiana laughed with him. "Oh no," Crichton said. "No, no, no."
"So she is male-less," the Hokivan lieutenant (or sergeant, whatever) said. "Having a female run loose without a responsible male is unacceptable."
At his gesture, one of his men shouldered his rifle with the muzzle directed at Chiana's head. Crichton stepped forward and pushed the muzzle toward the deck with a swipe of his hand.
"Hold on, buckaroo, back home we don't even put our dogs down on the spot for running loose. As long as they don't bite your ass, that is. All she did was trample some grass, n'est pas?"
"She defiled the Divine Stalks."
Crichton looked at the Nebari girl. "Pip, you didn't tell me you walked through some kind of sacred garden."
"I didn't know," she said.
The human redirected his gaze to the Hokivan lieutenant. "So, what if I were the male responsible for her? Would you stay your street execution?"
"There would be no need to terminate her life," the lieutenant said. "There would be a trial to determine the guilt."
"Then she's my female," Crichton said. "I claim responsibility for her."
"Crichton?" Chiana questioned.
"When in Rome, right?"
"We're not in Rome. We're in Tor City, on Hokiva. I've never heard of anyplace called Rome."
"Never mind. So, sheriff, when's her trial?"
"Your trial will occur when the next adjudicator is available," the lieutenant replied.
"Should I get her a lawyer?"
"She doesn't need a litigator, Sebacean. You do."
"Me? I didn't walk on the grass."
"She's your female. You claimed her. You bear the responsibility for her transgressions."
"What, so she goes Scott free?"
"She is your female. You are considered one entity by our laws, and the two of you will both be tried. Do you understand now, Sebacean?"
Crichton stared straight ahead as the Hokivans shackled the pair. "Next trip, Pip, you're staying on the transport pod."
* * *
D'Argo was bent over one of the command panels, palms planted firmly on the console, as he peered at the main screen. He was fully comfortable with the role he had been selected to perform. He wasn't sure who the three besides himself were who voted to name him captain, but he had an idea. And of those on Moya whose opinions really mattered to him--John, Chiana, Aeryn, Pilot, Moya herself--three out of four (Moya had abstained) was an honor. He guessed Pilot had been the one vote for Aeryn out of the DNA link she shared with him from the experiment performed upon her by NamTar. Rygel had clearly voted for himself. And who else would vote for Scorpius except Sikozu, who didn't know the prisoner like the rest of them did? And the Divine Eternal? That vote had to have come from the annoyingly eccentric old woman Noranti. He missed Jool even more.
He only hoped to live up to the trust some of the most important people in his life had for him to bestow this honor on him.
"Pilot, any word from John and Chiana yet?"
"No, Ka D'Argo, I'm afraid our hails are getting no response," said the soothingly even voice of Pilot.
"You know what happened the last time those two went out together," Aeryn Sun said from behind the big Luxan.
D'Argo turned from the main screen to face the dark-haired Sebacean woman. "What are the chances of that happening twice in less than ten solar days?"
"On this boat? I wouldn't count it out."
D'Argo smirked at Aeryn's use of what could be called a "Crichtonism." The small smile vanished, however. This was the woman who had crushed the heart of his best friend, just like his own heart had been crushed more than a cycle ago by Chiana and his own son….
He cleared the thought with a shake of his head.
"Is there a problem, D'Argo?" Aeryn asked.
"No. I'm just starting to get worried about John and Chiana."
"I think the only pair on this ship who can get into more trouble than John and Chiana is Rygel and Chiana."
"And that's what worries me."
The familiar hum of a hovering throne sled sounded from behind them. "Why are we not moving?" Rygel demanded.
"Speak of the devil," Aeryn said.
Another Crichtonism. Was that her way of keeping a part of John with her while he was so far away, both physically and emotionally? Yes, D'Argo had noticed that John had been keeping his distance from her. Giving her the cold shoulder, in John's unique parlance.
"Well…Captain?" Rygel said. "Are you going to deign give a lowly crew hand an answer?"
"We told John we'd rendezvous at these coordinates, and we're going to wait for him," D'Argo replied.
"How many times are we going to indulge in this wormhole obsession of his?"
"Now that he can predict wormholes," the Luxan growled, "he needs charts to put that ability to use. That obsession of his may get you to Hyneria to regain your throne."
Rygel's brows perked with interest. "Yes, then by all means let's indulge."
Satisfied, he left the command deck, the hum of his hover sled receding.
"You just have to know how to talk to the little slug," D'Argo said to Aeryn.
"That's why we named you captain, Captain."
* * *
"Hey, do I get rights?" Crichton asked as he and Chiana were sealed in a windowless ten-by-ten cell of mortar bricks. He scanned the walls and ceiling, looking for any sign of listening and/or video devices that anyone outside may be using to monitor them. "Hello?"
He gave up, lowered himself onto the low cot with the thin mattress. "Just once I'd like to run into an alien species with the concept of a Bill of Rights."
"I guess we get to share a bed," Chiana said.
Crichton, caught off guard, looked at her. "What?"
"There's only one bed, Crichton. We'll have to share. I promise, I won't bite."
He patted the mattress beside him and stretched out on the cot. He didn't feel like arguing, and no sense in one of them facing the judge sore from sleeping on the floor. Chiana slinked into the cot beside him.
"Good night, Crichton."
"Good night, Pip."
* * *
"What was the name of that place he said he was getting the wormhole nexus charts?" D'Argo asked.
"That freighter captain we ran into on that last planet mentioned someplace called Veran," Aeryn replied.
"He's long overdo. Pilot, set a course for Veran."
"Yes, Ka D'Argo. Prepare for starburst."
"Are we sure those coordinates the freighter captain gave us are accurate?" Aeryn questioned.
"Who cares," D'Argo said. "Those are the coordinates John took, so those are the coordinates we'll take."
* * *
A light slashed through the darkness through the open door, alerting Crichton that something was amiss. He dragged his eyes open, blinking as the cell's overhead lights suddenly snapped on. Chiana, cuddled on the cot next to him, was also aroused from her slumber.
"Good news," a uniformed guard said. "An adjudicator is available to see your case."
"Oh man, couldn't it wait until morning?" Crichton grumbled.
A Hokivan in a bright red smock walked into the cell. "You are the Sebacean named John Crichton?"
Crichton levered himself to a sitting position, the heels of his palms on his eyes. "I am."
"I am Adjudicator Te'Mav, and I am assigned to try you for allowing your female to defile the sanctity of the Divine Stalks."
Crichton pushed himself to his feet. Chiana stood beside him, an arm around his waist.
"All right, we may as well get this over with so we can get back to Moya," he said. "Take me to the courtroom."
"Courtroom? I shall try you here, Sebacean."
A bad feeling crept into Crichton's gut as a pair of guards moved forward to shackle his wrists and upper arms. He was placed against one of the walls, with Chiana protesting in vain, and the ominous image of a firing squat came to mind.
The adjudicator produced a pair of small metal disks, which he placed on Crichton's temples. The dread mounted, accompanied by flashbacks of the Aurora Chair.
"Oh no!" he cried. "Hey, what're you doing?"
Te'Mav touched a brooch on his smock, and sharp electrical needles lanced through John's temples, his skull, his brain. A scream escaped his throat, and his knees buckled out from under him.
"Stop it!" Chiana pleaded, lunging before she was held fast by a guard.
When the pain subsided, Crichton peered up at the adjudicator. "This is a trial?"
"A trial in the face of the Eternal Icaren. If you survive three days of the trial, it means Icaren has forgiven you for your female's transgressions against his Divine Stalks."
"Oh man, I just dropped into the Salem witch trials."
Te'Mav touched his brooch again, sending another wave of electrical pulses through Crichton….
* * *
Moya had come out of starburst near the planet Veran. A brief scan from orbit couldn't find the transport pod anywhere on the surface.
"What if we missed him?" Aeryn asked.
D'Argo accessed the journal entries in Moya's database, finding the entry John had transcribed about the run-in with the freighter captain who had first told them about the nexus charts on Veran. The name the freighter captain had given was Harek, a Veranian scientist.
"Then we'll head back to the rendezvous coordinates after we talk to this Harek," the Luxan said.
* * *
Te'Mav removed the disks from Crichton's temples, and the guards unshackled the listless human and dropped him to the cot.
"We shall administer another session in six arns," the adjudicator said.
Chiana was released by the guard who had been holding her, and she moved immediately to the cot to roll Crichton onto his back. His eyes were open, rolled up so only the whites showed.
"Crichton?" she said weakly, shaking him. "John?"
His eyelids fluttered, and he jerked upright. "Go to hell, Scorpy!"
"John, no, Scorpius isn't here. He's still on Moya."
He shook his head and pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes. "Sorry. Aurora Chair flashbacks. Damn it!"
She sat on the cot beside him, holding him as she lay back on the cot, bringing him down with her. "Get some rest."
"No. I have to get out of here."
The door opened again, admitting a Hokivan in a white smock. He carried a cylinder in his hand.
"Hey, the adjudicator said six arns!" Chiana protested.
The Hokivan held out the cylinder. "This alleviates the residual aches from the trial."
"Aches!" Crichton scoffed. "I have full-fledged pain over every inch on my body from you sons of bitches."
"Please," the Hokivan said, gesturing with the cylinder.
"Why are you worried about his pain?" Chiana demanded. "I thought that was part of the trial."
"The trial is in recess. We're not cruel; there's no reason for you to suffer."
Crichton sighed and gave a single nod. The Hokivan administered the cylinder to the human's neck. Crichton's haunted face suddenly relaxed, and he actually began to smile.
Chiana shifted to look into his eyes. "Crichton?"
"I'm good," he said, grinning.
The Hokivan departed, the door closing behind him.
* * *
Harek, the Veranian scientist, was startled by the sudden appearance in his laboratory by a Luxan male and a Sebacean female. The scientist scooted back, his nose twitching, his pale green skin becoming a deep green.
"Oh no," he whined. "Two Peacekeepers in less than two days can't be good. Can't be good."
The Luxan and the Sebacean exchanged glances. "There was another Sebacean here?" the woman asked.
Harek nodded. "Yes. With a Nebari girl. Asking for wormhole nexus charts, of all things. What made him think I had them?"
The woman leaned forward, an intensity in her eyes. "Where is he?"
"I don't know." Harek threw his hands in the air. "I don't."
Before Harek could blink, the woman had the collar of his tunic in her grip, pulling him close to her face. "Where is he?" she enunciated slowly.
"Okay, okay. Look, a Sebacean and his Nebari trelk came looking for wormhole nexus charts. That's all I know. I don't know how he thought I had them. I'm looking for nexus charts of my own."
"We got your name from a freighter captain," the Luxan said.
Harek looked from the Sebacean to the Luxan. Could it be that the Luxan was actually the reasonable one of the two? "Small fellow?" the scientist asked, holding his hand out, palm facing down, at shoulder height. "About this tall? Bad teeth? Purple hair?"
"Yes," the Luxan said. "That's the one."
"Ah, I see the misunderstanding now. Feren was always a bit of an addle-pate. I told him to keep an eye out for nexus charts for me in his travels. But that was, oh, three cycles ago. Your friend was probably told by Feren that I must have them by now, but I don't. I hadn't seen that moron in three cycles, and I now have a lead on where a chart can be found."
The woman drew Harek closer. Normally, the scientist would be fascinated by the proximity of this beautiful female Sebacean, but the hostility in her eyes dispelled that.
"Did you tell John about this lead?" she asked quietly.
"Hokiva," Harek murmured. "I told him I heard about some nexus charts being on Hokiva."
The Sebacean finally released him. Without further word, she strode out of the laboratory. The Luxan gave the scientist a parting nod of thanks before following her out the door. Harek sighed and leaned against a table, his nose twitching.
If he ever saw another Sebacean, it would be too soon.
* * *
Crichton sat quietly, staring blankly ahead, a strange smile on his face. Chiana watched him with concern. She felt a strange stirring within her as she watched the human who had been her friend, her protector for the last three cycles. She inhaled deeply, smelling a sweet musk that seemed to be emanating from him.
Dren, the painkiller drug has a side effect not just for him, but for those near him.
John turned his head toward her, his blue eyes boring into her own. His smile deepened.
Before she knew it, she attacked him, her fingers finding the fastenings of his clothes. And he didn't protest, his own hands clawing at her fasteners.
* * *
Te'Mav watched the bodies writhing together on the large screen in his office. Without looking away, he gestured to his assistant.
"Are you recording this?" he asked.
"Yes," the assistant said. "Of course."
"Ah. This should fetch a decent price off-world. A full two arns of footage and still going. And that Nebari girl is quite limber, is she not?"
* * *
The first thing Crichton noticed when he awoke was the headache lancing through his skull. The second thing he noticed was his lack of clothes, and that Chiana lay in his embrace in the same state of undress. He quickly extricated himself from her and snatched up his pants. Tugging them on, watching her stir, he felt himself drawn to her again. He knelt down and placed a soft kiss on her blue lips just as her eyes opened. She smiled, her arms going around his neck.
Then, as if they simultaneously realized what was happening, they drew back from each other. They kept their gazes averted as they scrambled to dress themselves.
The door opened as Crichton was shrugging into his jacket. The adjudicator walked in.
"You're free to go," Te'Mav said.
"What?" Crichton asked.
"Our priest had an epiphany from Icaren. He forgives your transgression, and you're free to go."
"Just like that?" Chiana asked.
"Well, tell this Icaren thanks. Come on, Crichton."
Crichton was rendered speechless by the sudden turn of events, and he allowed Chiana to pull him out of the cell. None of the Hokivans impeded their path as they left the government building. Minutes later, they were in the transport pod prepping for launch. They went through the pre-launch procedures without a word to one another.
The pod was ready for flight, but Crichton didn't engage the drives.
"What are you waiting for?" Chiana asked.
"The other shoe to drop," he said.
"Something stinks here."
Chiana sniffed herself. "I don't smell anything. Oh frell, D'Argo will. He'll smell me on you and you on me, and we'll have some explaining to do. And I can't explain something I don't understand myself. What came over us?"
"That's what I intend to find out," Crichton said, rising from the pilot's chair. "They let us go too easily. Nothing's that easy in the Uncharted Territories."
"You call that easy? You were tortured, and they did something to make us…you know."
"Yes, but why? That's what I want to know."
"You gonna sneak back in there?"
"Nope. Gonna use the front door."
He moved to a storage compartment and withdrew two of the Tarkan shield harnesses that he'd had the foresight to pack. He handed one to Chiana and donned the other. When he strapped on Winona, he was ready.
The pair disembarked from the transport pod and returned to the government building. They barged their way through the front door, and a guard leveled his rifle at them. Chiana flinched when the guard fired, but Crichton let the pulse hit him full in the chest. The Tarkan device hummed, there was a brief blue flash, and the shield held.
The pair walked past the dumbfounded guard. Crichton thrust Winona's muzzle into the face of a Hokivan sitting behind a desk.
"Adjudicator Te'Mav's office," he growled.
The Hokivan pointed timidly down the hall. "Fourth door down."
Crichton smiled pleasantly. "Thank you."
Beckoning Chiana, he strode down the hall until he found the fourth door. A pulse blast to the locking mechanism allowed him entry. When he entered none too subtlety, Te'Mav jumped out of his chair. Crichton and Chiana aimed their pulse pistols at the adjudicator. Crichton allowed his gaze to sweep the scene displayed on the wall screen. Chiana, beside him, gasped.
"The fekkik recorded us!" she said. "He recorded us!"
"Why?" Crichton demanded.
"Surveillance of the prisoners," Te'Mav said. "It's not my fault you couldn't control yourself with your female."
"Bull. You did something to us. Why?"
"I already told you, Sebacean."
Crichton looked at Chiana, gave her a wink. He returned his gaze to the Hokivan. "Just because I'm an ex-Peacekeeper doesn't mean I forgot any of the…interrogation techniques they trained me to perform. Chiana dear, do you remember that guy on Alderaan who wouldn't answer my questions?"
Chiana shuddered. "I don't want to think about it."
Crichton leaned closer to the Hokivan, waving Winona slowly before the adjudicator's eye stalks. "Then there was that guy on Dagobah. That was a work of art."
"I couldn't eat for two solar days after seeing what you did to him," Chiana said.
Te'Mav's thick throat convulsed as he swallowed. "I recorded this to sell off-world."
The human scowled, pressing his pistol's muzzle into the Hokivan's throat. "You made us porn film stars! Without our consent! I oughtta shoot you right now!"
Te'Mav cowered under the threat. "Please don't. You would never have known if you hadn't just left when I released you."
"How did you do it?"
"The drug administered to you after we softened your willpower."
"The torture wasn't a test from your god? It was to soften my willpower so you could inject me with your aphrodisiac?"
"Our planet's economy depends on selling these recordings off-world."
"Back home we've got countries whose economy is based on a single commodity, like oil. But not porn." Crichton made another menacing gesture with Winona. "Why not film these with your own consenting people?"
"My people are not considered to be an attractive race to most off-worlders. Sebaceans, Interons, Nebari, Delvians…footage of those races in intimate bliss are the most sought-after. And to have an inter-species recording…certain elements are particularly titillated by that."
"So this whole trial of Icaren is a big farce?"
"There is no such thing as the Divine Stalks. We saw you and the Nebari land, and we knew we had to have you."
"Uh-huh. Are there copies of this?"
"In the vault."
"I'm the keeper of the recordings. If I violate that trust--"
"I'll violate your skull," Crichton snapped, motioning with his pistol.
Te'Mav nodded and stood.
"I have a question," Chiana asked. "What was all that dren about females being owned by males? Was that a lie too?"
Te'Mav stared at the girl without answering.
"I suggest you answer her question," Crichton said.
"It was," the Hokivan said. "There is no distinction between the rights of males and females on this world because there are no males or females. We reproduce asexually."
"Whoa, and that also explains why you don't film your own people. Still, it's no excuse for what you're doing."
"We needed to determine if there was an emotional bond between you two, and the best way to determine that was to see how far the male would go to save the female's life."
"Why did you need to know that?"
"The serum we administer to the male that arouses his own intimacy and emanates pheromones for the female…it requires the subjects to already have an emotional attachment to one another to work."
"We only have a platonic relationship."
"It doesn't matter. You care for one another, that's all that matters for the serum to work."
"The vault." Crichton punctuated the command with a wave of his pistol.
Te'Mav touched his brooch, and a section of the wall slid aside. Crichton peered inside and saw rows and rows of shelves stacked with thousands of small cards that looked a little like the floppy disks back home.
"Those are all the recordings you've made?" Chiana asked.
"Our economy is in this vault," Te'Mav said. "These are the masters of all the recordings we made. If you'll give me a microt, I'll fetch the recording we made of you."
Crichton looked at Chiana, and she nodded. The pair raised their pistols.
"No!" Te'Mav cried, stepping forward.
Too late. Pulse blasts lanced out of the pistols, dancing across the shelves and shattering the recordings. Their task done, they turned to Te'Mav, who stood with his eyestalks stiffened in shock.
"Now, Smut Boy, these are the masters," Crichton said. "Are there any copies of that recording of us floating around out there?"
The Hokivan's massive head swiveled toward them. Listlessly, he said, "The copies were--"
Four guards chose that instance to burst into the room, their pulse rifles firing. The Tarkan belts protected Crichton and Chiana, but errant blasts pummeled Te'Mav. The Hokivan adjudicator was hurled to the floor.
Crichton and Chiana turned their weapons on the guards, gunning them down in short order.
"All right, let's get out of here," he said.
"You don't have to tell me twice."
They fled the government building, passing by guards who fired at them ineffectually. They bounded up the boarding ladder and raised it. The free-flight had already been completed, so all Crichton had to do was engage the drives. The transport pod rose off the landing deck and rocketed skyward.
"Do you think any copies of us survived?" Chiana asked him.
"I hope not."
"Are you going to tell Aeryn?"
He looked sharply at her.
"I know she didn't tell you about her pregnancy, or about who the father may or may not be." Chiana shifted from her seat to kneel beside his. "But if you keep this from her, and if she stumbles across a copy of the recording on some commerce planet…well…."
He closed his eyes and bowed his head.
Pilot's voice piped over the comms. "Commander Crichton! Chiana!"
Crichton looked up and activated the comms. "Pilot! It's good to hear your voice."
"It's good to hear yours, John," said D'Argo. "Are you and Chiana all right?"
"We're fine, D'Argo," Chiana said.
"What happened? Did you get those charts?"
"No, D, but we had a bit of an adventure," said Crichton.
"The bay door is open and waiting for you."
He closed down the comms, and Chiana rested a hand on his shoulder.
"Are you going to tell her?"
Crichton pressed his lips together. Finally, he said, "Buckle up and prepare to land, Chiana."