Cinder-Rocket Jockey

By Rebecca Helton
Copyright 1999

Author's Note: One day, I'm gonna write me a serious, full-length Farscape story, with a plot and everything. Someday. However, today is not that day. So, with apologies in advance...

Yeah, I know. I'm sick. Timeline really isn't applicable. No spoilers. John/Aeryn romance-type stuff, sort of. Thanks to beta-readers Koren and Jill! < waves >


Once upon a time, there was an astronaut by the name of John Crichton. He lived on a living ship called Moya, and his main purpose there was to solve all the problems that originated and get absolutely no appreciation from the others living on Moya with him.

Because he wasn't from that area of space, and he didn't know as much about biomechanoid technology as the others, John got stuck with all the drudge work. Pilot tried to stick up for him, but he was usually busy working the controls in his chamber, and didn't have much time for John. The poor astronaut was at the mercy, such as it was, of D'Argo and Zhaan, who considered him a complete incompetent.

One day, John was busy cleaning some of the DRDs. They didn't really need cleaning, but it was the only job that Zhaan and D'Argo could think of that he couldn't damage something while doing. John didn't really mind, though, because something very special was going to happen tonight. Moya was orbiting the planet PiKayia, where in the city of Craiston, there was going to be a big, blow-out party. Why? Because at this party, Princess Aeryn was going choose a mate.

John didn't think that he had an ice cube's chance in hezmana of being chosen as the mate of Princess Aeryn (though he could always dream), but he hoped he would at least get to dance with the rumoredly-beautiful princess. Whistling as he thought about the princess, John continued cleaning.

Finally, *finally*, the day was over and night started to fall on Drena. John had only managed to clean about a quarter of the DRDs, but he figured that D'Argo and Zhaan would grant him a reprieve to go to the party. John stored the cloth and DRD-cleaning fluid, then went to find the priestess and the warrior.

The two aliens were on the command deck, wearing their best party clothes (which, since they were escaped prisoners with next to no belongings, weren't any different from their regular clothes, but just go with it). Zhaan asked John what he wanted, and if it could wait, since they were in something of a hurry.

"Can I come with you to the party?" John asked. "I've finished cleaning almost half of the DRDs." His conscience chided him, but he told it to shut up.

D'Argo and Zhaan looked at him, then to each other. They burst out laughing.

John still wasn't too sure about alien mannerisms, but he had a feeling that this wasn't a Good Thing.

"Good joke. For a human," D'Argo finally said.

John's stomach dropped to his boots. "It wasn't a joke," he said reproachfully.

Zhaan and D'Argo again looked at each other, expressions of contrition upon their faces. "Oh, John," Zhaan finally said, "we're sorry. But you can't come to the party." John's face fell. Zhaan reached over and patted him on the shoulder. "There are many strange people and things at the Royal Palace of PiKayia. With your tendency to muddle everything you touch--well, you see that we just can't let you come with us. We might get on *more* people's Wanted lists." She smiled sympathetically at him.

John sighed heavily. "I understand," he said softly, even though he didn't. He managed to force out, "Have fun at the party."

"You can make yourself useful up here by cleaning *all* the rest of the DRDs," D'Argo said, standing up and taking Zhaan's arm. They started to leave the command deck, chatting amiably.

John was stunned by the immensity of the task D'Argo had laid before him, and didn't manage to think up a suitable reply until the Luxan and the Delvian were nearly out of sight down the corridor. "But you said the DRDs don't really *need* to be cleaned!"

John sighed dejectedly and leaned against a console. Ever since he'd been thrown across the universe, he never got to have *any* fun. It was always work, work, work, always drudgery, because he didn't have any other skills. He didn't even have a ship that worked anymore, seeing as how the ship he had arrived in had been damaged in the run-in he'd had with a Peacekeeper prowler. The other lucky stiff had walked away unscathed...

John was just about to get back to cleaning the DRDs when he heard a loud, squishy pop.

John stared in amazement as a small being wearing a diaphanous, light blue robe (do NOT ask) riding in what looked like a flying chair appeared before him. 'Man, this place just gets weirder and weirder every day.'

The small being, who was munching on a food cube and carrying what looked to be a scepter with a glowing red crystal in it, looked at John with a bored expression. "Sho yor th' yoom--" he swallowed, then repeated, "So you're the human I've been sent to help." Under the being's appraising glance, John felt like a piece of meat in a butcher shop.

"'Help'?" John wasn't sure if he liked the sound of that or not. "Who are you?"

The being's chest puffed out, and he settled himself proudly in his chair. "Rygel the Sixteenth, Dominar of--" he broke off, apparently remembering something. With markedly less enthusiasm, he continued, "Your Hynerian godparent."

John raised an eyebrow. "'Hynerian godparent'?"

"Can't you say anything for yourself?" Rygel asked, irritated. "I know I'm quotable, but there is a limit." He sniffed. "Now. You're the one who wants to go to the princess's party, correct?"

"Uh, yeah."

Rygel waved his scepter around and mumbled something that John's microbes translated as "Bippity, boppity, boo." Suddenly, Farscape1, John's former ship, appeared on the viewscreen.

John stared in awe, his mouth dropping open slightly.

"Well, don't just stand there, you've only got until midnight!" Rygel said.

"Why? Does it turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes twelve?" John asked, broken from his his haze of amazement.

"A wha--?" Rygel started to ask, but John cut him off.

"Never mind. What happens at midnight?"

Rygel sighed heavily, extremely put-upon at having to explain something so simple to this human yotz. "The party ends," he growled.


Rygel's image started to fade, but then came back into focus. "One more thing," he said. "You can't have D'Argo and Zhaan recognizing you." He waved his scepter around in the air. "There," he said, giving John a critical glance. "You'll look like yourself to everyone except them, until midnight, of course."

"Thanks." John was grateful, but wondered exactly *what* he would look like to his two shipmates.

Rygel nodded and disappeared in a puff of helium. Once John had gotten his voice back to normal, he called Pilot over the comm. "Hey, Pilot? Can you bring in that ship out there with that docking web?"


John was thirty minutes late to the party, but nobody noticed his quiet entrance. He busied himself at the snack table for a while (whatever this food was, it was certainly a dren sight better than the food cubes he and the others had been subsisting on ever since the escape).

Finally, after a royally annoying amount of time, King Crais appeared at the top of the grand staircase that dominated the great party hall. His presence commanded silence. Once a suitable amount of respectful quiet had passed, Crais began to speak.

"Welcome, galactic citizens, welcome. As many of you know, tonight is when my daughter, Princess Aeryn, will choose a mate. What you may not know is that Sebaceans are not allowed to marry outside our species. All aliens hoping to marry my daughter--you're out of luck, so don't even try it."

John felt a momentary pang of disappointment, but it was soon gone, for he realized that he had never stood a chance of marrying the princess anyway. At least he looked enough like a Sebacean to get a dance with...her....

John's train of thought was completely derailed as Aeryn appeared at the top of the stairs beside her father. She was absolutely stunning. She was wearing a long, flowing, black dress (John managed to reflect that black wasn't a usual princess color--not that he cared--for a brief instant before his attention was again distracted) which matched the rich and incredibly silky-looking black hair that cascaded down her shoulders. He was pretty sure he could see black combat boots under the dress. The ensemble was topped by a sparkly tiara perched atop her head.

If the room had been quiet before, it was like a tomb now. Whether the rest of the guests were in awe of her beauty or the power she would wield when her father retired was unknown to John, but he didn't much care.

"I present my daughter, Princess Aeryn," King Crais said unnecessarily.

Aeryn watched as the vast majority of the males in the room rushed to the grand staircase, a bored expression on her face that mirrored her feelings. Parties were useless and banal, and if her father expected her to choose a lifelong mate on the basis of one night, he was insane. Holding back a grimace, she started to descend the steps.

Aeryn was almost at the bottom of the staircase when she noticed a man near the back of the room, a Sebacean who, oddly, was not with the crowd near her. He was staring at her, and had an extremely goofy grin on his face. Aeryn kept her gaze on him for a moment longer, then decided that he was either mentally deficient or, hezmana forbid, infatuated. She inwardly shuddered at the thought and made her way into the throng of suitors.

John kept telling himself to ask Aeryn for a dance. Every time he worked up enough nerve, he caught sight of her and was struck by a major case of shyness in the face of her grace while dancing with someone else (even if she was doing it rather stiffly), the elegant way she carried herself, and/or her incredible beauty. Eventually, he just decided to remove himself from the situation and walked out of the palace.

After nearly four hours of being polite and sociable and COMPLETELY BORED OUT OF HER MIND, Aeryn couldn't stand it anymore. She told her father that she was going out to get some air and think about who to choose as a mate. King Crais wisely allowed her to go, promising to keep everyone else in the great hall. Aeryn nearly ran out the doors to the courtyard located just outside.

They were all greedy, power-hungry little trolls, as far as she could tell. Not that she had been expecting anything else, but she was sick of being known for what she represented, not for who she was. And her father wanted her to marry one of these people?

Aeryn sat down heavily on a conveniently-placed bench, bumping into something warm as she did so.

"Hey, what's--" the person she had knocked into broke off when he realized who he was talking to.

Aeryn reached for her pulse rifle (which King Crais had no knowledge of, she made sure of that) before remembering that she couldn't bring it to the party. She realized that the person she had bumped was probably not an attacker, and said, "Excuse me, I wasn't watching where I was going." She started to stand up.

"It's okay," the other person said quickly. "I don't mind if you sit here."

Aeryn cautiously sat back down, careful not to bump into the man again. In the dim light from the garden lamps, he looked vaguely familiar...ah, yes. He was the one who had that stupid smile on his face when she'd first arrived at the party. Well, this should be entertaining.

John was at a loss for words. All night, he'd been trying to get up the courage to ask the princess for a dance, and now they were alone together! "So...what brings you out here, Princess?" he finally managed to get out.

"Oh, please don't call me that," Aeryn said. "I've had quite enough of it for one night."

"O...kay," John said slowly. "So, Aeryn, what's up?"

She glanced at him sharply. "'What's up?'" She arched an eyebrow in confusion.

"Sorry. Human expression." John shrugged. Old speech patterns died hard, and he'd been explaining his to the others on Moya ever since he'd gotten stranded in this part of the universe.

"Human?" This was definitely more interesting than she had anticipated.

"My species," John explained.

"You're not Sebacean?" Aeryn wondered what the difference was. He certainly *looked* like a member of her own species.

He shook his head. "Nope. I got here through a...very strange set of circumstances."

"Will you tell me?" Aeryn asked. She smiled slightly, sardonically. "I rarely hear of anything that goes on beyond PiKayia, thanks to Daddy dearest."

John thought it was almost too good to be true. Someone who didn't immediately think him an idiot, who was actually interested in how he'd gotten here...he was suddenly intensely grateful to his Hynerian godparent.


The thirty remaining minutes until midnight passed very quickly for John and Aeryn. They passed with excruciating slowness for all the suitors. They passed regularly for King Crais and everyone at the party who wasn't interested in marrying Aeryn.

When the chronometer's numbers turned over to show midnight, King Crais called his daughter back into the great hall. She reluctantly came back in, John following a few steps behind. He stopped at the bottom of the staircase, while she continued up to meet her father. She stood before him, her head bowed slightly.

The entire hall got quiet. King Crais finally asked Aeryn, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, "Have you chosen a mate?"

Aeryn raised her head, a slight smile on her face. "Yes, Father. I believe I have."

She looked out over the amassed group of suitors for a long moment before fixing her gaze on John. She quickly walked down the steps and took his hands in her own. "I choose you."

John's surprised "What?" (as well as D'Argo and Zhaan's "Crichton?!") was drowned by the howls of outrage from half the males in the room. King Crais, ever-so-slightly miffed at his daughter having chosen a mate whom he had never seen before and who was probably not even from PiKayia, descended the stairs to talk to the man she had chosen.

Crais overheard the last part of the man's protest: "But Aeryn, I'm not even Sebacean!"

"Oh, really?"

John and Aeryn looked at him with expressions not unlike that of a deer caught in the headlights of a large truck. Aeryn quickly turned to John, her expression mutating to her soon-to-be-patented John-you-IDIOT one.

"What species are you, then?" Crais asked, rage boiling under the cool, calm, utterly malicious exterior.

Figuring he couldn't make things much worse, John started to reply, "Hum--" but was cut off when Aeryn's hand came down on his mouth.

"He's a little confused from all the excitement, Father," Aeryn explained sweetly.

An aide with a portable medical scanner handed the readouts to Crais. He glanced at them for a moment before fixing his daughter with a DeathGlare (tm). "Actually, Princess, I believe you are the one who is a little confused." He held out the scanner. "These readings show evidence of non-Sebacean characteristics, such as a brain." The scanner began beeping loudly, a new set of readings appearing on the screen. Crais' eyes widened as he saw his daughter's vitals laid out before him.

The king's eyes narrowed again, and he looked at his daughter. "The scanner is showing evidence of alien contamination in your body. It appears you have...grown a brain." His glare intensified. "This damage is irreversible. You are not fit to call yourself my daughter anymore!"

In the ensuing shocked silence from King Crais' outburst, John whispered to Aeryn, "Now would be a good time to run, I think."

She didn't even nod before grabbing his hand and exiting the palace, dragging him along. This is where those combat boots she was wearing came in handy.

They had gotten a good ways away from the palace (only stopping long enough for Aeryn to grab her pulse rifle from the hedge in the garden it was hidden under...what, you thought she could hide it in her room? Puh-lease!) when Aeryn finally asked, "Where's this ship of yours?"

"Uh...I'm not quite sure." In their frantic flight, John had totally lost what few bearings he had gained on the walk from Farscape1 to the palace.

Aeryn sighed. Apparently lack of a sense of direction was a problem for all males, not just Sebaceans. "Do you remember what entrance you came into the palace from?"


"Oh, for mud's sake!" a new voice said. John was very happy to see Rygel appear before them, flying chair, magic scepter and all.

Aeryn, however, being the cautious, type A personality that she was, immediately raised her pulse rifle at the little being. "Who the hezmana are you?"

Rygel's...eyebrows...raised in what might have been fear. John answered, "He's Rygel. My Hynerian godparent." He places his hands on the pulse rifle and slowly pushed on it in an effort to get Aeryn quit aiming at what might be their salvation.

Reluctantly, Aeryn lowered the weapon. "Your Hynerian godparent?"

"Ah, it's a long story," John said. "I'll tell you later."

Rygel resettled himself in his chair, harrumphing loudly while doing so. "Since neither of you seem to be competent enough to figure out where the ship is, I suppose I'll have to do it." He waved his scepter, and Farscape1 appeared a few feet away from them.

"Thanks, Rygel!" John called back to the Hynerian as Aeryn pulled him toward the ship. "We appreciate it!"

"Hmph," Rygel muttered as he watched them climb into the ship. "They'd better."

Once they were back on Moya and out of John's ship, Aeryn said, "You know that Crais isn't going to rest until he has both of us in custody."

"Oh, don't worry, we're already on the run from Peacekeepers," John replied, shrugging. "Not a whole lot of extra pressure there." Suddenly remembering that they were still orbiting PiKayia, John called, "Pilot?"

"Yes, Crichton?" came Pilot's disembodied voice.

"Are D'Argo and Zhaan back up yet?"

"They have returned. Should Moya prepare to Starburst?" Even though he was physically confined to his chamber, Pilot *always* knew what was going on.

"That would probably be a good idea," John agreed. "And will you tell Zhaan and D'Argo that I'll explain everything later?" Pilot replied affirmatively, and John started toward the command deck, Aeryn right beside him.

Moya promptly Starburst the minute they were all on the command deck. Unfortunately, that meant that nobody had time to grab onto anything. John landed on the floor, and Aeryn landed on top of John. When they were able to think, they decided that it wasn't such a bad position to be in.

Once the noise from the Starburst died down, John said, "One thing. Does all this mean we're engaged?"

Aeryn craned her neck and met his gaze. "If you want to be."

He smiled slowly. "Sounds good to me."

And they all lived happily ever after. Mostly. Usually. Except for that incident with the pulse rifle. But let's not go into that...

** The End **