Based on the 'Farscape' episode 'PK Tech Girl'
Written by Nan Hagan
Read whichever one of these you get first. They both start at exactly the same point, almost.
The only things you really need to know before you head into this are:
1) Aeryn just caught John kissing a female Peacekeeper Tech that got stuck
with them on a wrecked ship in the middle of a crisis; and
2) The wrecked ship they're on, the Zelbinion, is under attack by the Sheyangs, and it only has a minimal Defense Shield operating for both it and Moya.
Pretty much covers it. There's other stuff going on we didn't include, stuff with Zhaan and D'Argo and Rygel, and a couple scenes with Gilina in the middle, but they didn't need any expansion because they were so straightforwardly emotional.
So you should still watch the ep, it's cool.
John Crichton is a naive bloody *fool*.
I warned him. I told him whose side she was on. Does he really think that five hours in his company is enough to make her trustworthy? To make her suddenly change sides? Even if she is helping us, it's not like she has any choice. *She's* not stupid, all of _her_ self-preservational circuits are activated and working, that's clear. Maybe they're bonding on some technical specialist scientific level I don't understand, but that doesn't mean he should start bonding with her on the level I *do* understand.
Bad enough that I'm shunted down to grunt work, fetch and carry and find the damn wiring. But to also have to follow a tech's orders on this forsaken wreck of what was once glorious is just priceless.
I'm still pulling my weight, more than my weight, damn them. This bloody component weighs as much as Moya.
Meanwhile the two of them slack off, twined around each other tighter than Ecydisian skin snakes!
"Aeryn! Would you wait? What the heck's the matter with you!?"
Oh, bloody wonderful.
I turn back to face him, amazed that anyone - even a being as oblivious as Crichton occasionally is - could feel the need to ask. "I'm sure you can see how heavy these things are. There's at least ten more of them back there. Do *not* come down that corridor without one!" If you're going to waste time when we're about to get killed, Crichton, don't expect me to cut you a break for weak Human muscles. I turn back down the corridor and pick up the pace.
"Would you stop! Hey. Hey! What happened back there was ---"
"None of my business!" I do not want to know, Crichton. I really do not want to know, and I do not want to hear the pathetic justifications you're going to construct to explain it. It's none of my concern.
"Yes, it was!"
I stop and let the component drop, resting my aching arms as I stare at him.
"You and I are shipmates." John's staring at me with that open, appealing look that makes me want to hit him, as if someone should listen to him just because he's being honest. I hate that. That he can catch me off guard with that tactic. As well as the way he will suddenly declare himself to be on my side, like he did earlier, when Gilina accused me of being a traitor. I don't expect anything from these people, from my erstwhile 'companions', and Crichton keeps surprising me by offering me more than I want to share in return. It makes me look cowardly by comparison. That's what I dislike most about him.
That, and his ability to be completely idiotic. Like now. Big blue baby-eyes begging me to understand his hormones being in overdrive.... "What I'm trying to say is... Haven't you ever just clicked with a guy?"
"What? 'Clicked'?" This isn't about me. Why is he asking about me?
"Yeah, you know. Found a guy attractive?" He's looking at me like he's not sure I ever have. What is this?
"Yes, it, but it--" Oh, that's not fair, asking me that. "I didn't let it--" --get in the way of the job, or our survival, not like you and that tech were-- "In the beginning I found you-- interesting." Right. Interesting. Yes. Not appealing, not intriguing, not---
Did I just say that? Aloud?
I did say it aloud. Bloody damn hell damn hell bloody damn. Don't look so shocked, Crichton, it's insulting.
"...yes. But only for a moment!" Because I realized what a mess it would be to be trapped on a ship in the middle of the Uncharted Territories with you, with someone I might despise if things didn't work out. Because you're not Sebacean, even if you look like it, and there are aspects of that biological reality that I am not equipped to cope with yet. Because you're a tech and a scientist and you don't have the first comprehension of military necessity, or survival, or the things we'll probably have to do if we're to get out of this mess the Moya's in. Any relationship that we'd have would be doomed by the differences between us, and I realized it within three hours of when we first met.
I'm not stupid, John. Not like you.
"Good. That's... good." You sound so baffled, and from the look on your face, you never even considered it. I could be humiliated or angered by the fact that you never even *thought* of me that way, when the second Sebacean woman you've met has you willing to jump up and do tricks for her. But it's just so damn typical of you that I'm glad it didn't cross your mind. Who knows what kind of stupidity you would have tried if it had, if this is any example of how you usually handle your sex life.
Crichton is still blinking at me. "I mean, it's good to be on even terms," he stutters.
"I agree!" And if you ever bring this up again I will rip your lungs out. Or whatever you have in place of lungs.
"Yeah, umm.... It's also a good idea to... clear the air...." That's it, skulk away back to your girlfriend, Crichton. I don't give a damn *what* you do with her, as long as you don't get us killed in the process.
I lift the component above my head again, grimly glad that I never mentioned this to Crichton before. And that I now know what an _idiot_ he can be about women. It'll make things easier the next time the problem comes up. I'll know that he can't be counted on when it comes to females of Human-idiot-compatible species. Clearly, John's intelligence does not extend to having any comprehensible sense of appropriate timing. Or discretion.
I shift the component again, disgusted to realize that I'm still stuck with the fetching and carrying, and snap at his retreating back, "Very. Clear. Air!"
"Aeryn, where are you?" D'Argo sounds intensely irritated, no surprise there. Given our current situation, he's going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. And if he only knew what Crichton had been up to earlier he'd be more than irritable. Lucky for Crichton that D'Argo doesn't know, isn't it?
"Maintenance bay. What's the problem?"
"We think one of the Sheyangs got on board the Zelbinion."
Hell. I drop the last component in place, powering up my weapon as I head for the door back into the Zelbinion, not even bothering to reply. If there is a Sheyang on board, there's only one place it'll head....
"How the hell did that happen?" Crichton demands over the com channel.
"Not important," Zhaan replies, her voice tight. "What is, is that he may be heading right toward you."
Sheyangs are no threat to a Peacekeeper carrier, or even a Marauder that's prepared, and not caught by surprise. It's lowering to know that for once, I'm on a ship that could actually be *threatened* by a species so negligible. The Zelbinion's a wreck, and Moya's only defenses are speed and trickery. We can't use either right now. Somewhere, we _have_ to find some armament for her....
I jog down the passageways toward the upper decks, my gun locked, nightscope scanning the area for any signs of intrusion. Not that it's easy in this mess. Time and thieves have finished the job that the Zelbinion's unknown enemy started one hundred cycles ago. This ship is more of a skeleton than anything else, all evidence of its noble past shredded for parts. I'd feel badly about our contribution to the destruction if the situation weren't so desperate.
Climbing a staircase, I can hear the wheezing sound of alien breath through the steam drifting between the decks. I turn abruptly, and find myself nearly on top of the Sheyang. A young one, if I'm any judge. The bulging eyes still have the sheen of youth, and the skin hasn't begun to brown yet. He spots me and straightens, his thick mouth widening in a placating smile, arms open to show his lack of weapons. My lips thin as I think of Keranda, and his ruined corpse on the lower level. "On the ground, *now*!" He grimaces at me, making no move to do so. "Do it!"
I have an instant's warning as his head rears back and he begins to crouch. Then I dive out of the way, the heat from the belch of flame palpable through the leather of my boots. Why did I do that? Why did I warn him? Damnit! You're not a Peacekeeper any more, Sun, you don't have to give them a choice-- you probably just made the same mistake Keranda did--
The Sheyang isn't wasting any time losing me, scurrying down the ramps in the same direction as Crichton and the tech. Bloody. Can't go down that way, he'll fry me from below. Have to cut him off before he gets to the defense shield grid.
Circling around, I try to cut him off at the next corridor, but another burst of flame drives me back under cover, seething. If I had even one other Peacekeeper for backup, this scum would already be dead. There's only one of him, it's not like an entire squadron got through the shields. Keranda and the techs were ambushed, and if there'd been more of them... Another turn, and I'm almost lost, and I have to retrace my steps back away from the Zelbinion's gutted cargo holds.
"Aeryn, where are you?" Crichton's voice comes over my link, strung tight with nerves. He's no warrior; combat winds him up like a child's toy, ready to snap or uncoil in any direction. Which is sometimes useful, but it doesn't exactly make him a reliable ally.
"He keeps blocking my route, forcing me to take the long way around! You may have to defend yourselves---"
"Look, Aeryn, it's a long story, but I kind of got my hands full here," Crichton responds in a frustrated tone. "So you're just gonna have to get here--" His voice breaks off, and then he adds, more grimly, "Better get here fast, because froggie's at the door right now."
Froggie? Blast. The bastard outflanked me. I swing around another corner as Crichton's voice comes through the link again: "Aeryn's gonna get here. Come on, Aeryn, come on."
On my way, Crichton. Just hang on.
A yelp from him on the link, then, ominously: "They spit fire?! How come nobody tells me this stuff?! How come nobody tells me they spit fire?! Aeryn!"
Damn, damn, damn.... I run, jumping down staircases, taking the steps three at a time and plunging from landing to landing in my haste to get there before the Sheyang kills both of them. Even I -- non-tech-speck that I am -- know what delicate work defense grid repair can be. And even if Crichton or Gilina could stop in the middle of it, it still wouldn't matter: neither of them has a weapon, or the wit to use it.
"Come on, Aeryn, c'mon." Crichton's voice is rising in panic, spurring me on to greater speed, running the obstacles in front of me like they're the Commando course, one after another after another. If I can just get there first, get between the Sheyang and the techs -- I'm not giving him a second chance to char me like the others--
"Come on Aeryn, come on Aeryn, come on...." It's become a chant now, and I can hear Crichton below me, off to one side, as well as over the link, desperate for me to save him. I jump over fallen beams, stepping between broken bits of metal and ducking hanging chains, knowing I'm not going to be in time, looking frantically around for a staircase down, a ladder, anything, wanting to tell Crichton to shut the hell up, I'm doing my best, just be quiet, I'm almost there, please let me be there in time---
Crichton's annoying chant suddenly stops, scaring me to death until I hear him say, "Hi there, big guy."
John, you *idiot*. Don't try to negotiate with him! Run!
"Look, as you can see, it's not likely we'll hurt you---" I look down through the frames of the levels below me. Oh. That would be why you're not running. You can't. The electromagnetic grids are operational, and the job isn't finished yet. One wrong move, and we're ashes drifting in space.
"---so just take anything you want ---"
Damn, damn, *damn*. They're trapped. The Sheyang has them cornered in the middle of the defense grid. Bloody hell.
"---but if these two panels touch---"
They're almost directly under me, and as the Sheyang attacks I cry out, my yell drowned as both John and Gilina dodge the burst of fire. John's yelling at him again, and the Sheyang is blustering, swollen with its own arrogance. He's going to kill all of us with his greed. My hand clutches one of the dangling chains that hang from the topmost level of the bay.
And below me, it's a clear three-story drop down to the deck. Child's play.
I grab the chain, loosen the slack, and jump. Three seconds of free-fall, and then my heels hit the deck and I fire before the Sheyang can react. The second shot connects, and the Sheyang has time for one very surprised look at me before he makes a lovely, huge explosion, all that gas going up like a supernova, bits of him raining down around us as the echoes fade. The enemy's body falls over with a squashy thud.
That was *really* satisfying.
"Sorry about the mess." I brush one of the chains out of my face, unable to suppress a smile, then I carefully pick my way through the debris as I head back toward to the maintenance bay. No smartass comebacks are forthcoming from Crichton or the tech. I don't even bother to look at them as I walk to the exit. They know I just saved their lives.
Nothing more really needs to be said, does it?
After Gilina has gone back to the Zelbinion, I lie on my bed staring at the ceiling for a long time, then get up to wander aimlessly around my room. I have one all to myself here. If I were back on Crais's ship, I'd be bunking with four other officers, listening to the sounds of the carrier, letting it ease me into sleep. I'm used to being surrounded by people, doing things all the time. Not like things are now, with crises followed by stints of tedium and silence. The people who were around me less than five weeks ago were known from our years of training together, serving together, saving each other's lives without needing to think about it or even thank each other for it. That's how close we were.
Instead of being with them, I'm on a lone cruiser with a crew of escapees, four of which have reason to actively hate me for having been a Peacekeeper. Rygel tolerates me at best, despises me and all I stand for at worst. D'Argo doesn't give a damn about me as long as I'm not threatening his freedom. If I ever do, he'll shoot me in the back and then step over my corpse without a second glance. Zhaan... Zhaan has an impersonally kind regard for everyone, but she's a pragmatist. I don't think she'd kill me, but she'd probably maroon me somewhere --- with regrets, but she'd still do it--- if she thought it was the best thing for the rest of the crew. Pilot only cares about Moya's safety and welfare.
And Crichton? He may not hate me, but I'm certainly not his favorite person in the universe. Whoever that person may be, they're probably back on his home planet. He'll leave as soon as he finds a way to go home, if he manages to live that long. I don't like his chances, not with Crais after him.
I am only with this crew through chance, not choice. The people I chose to be with are a thousand light-cycles away, and I left them without saying good-bye.
Now Keranda's dead, and the rest of my unit hates me. They'd have to: I betrayed them, even if I didn't betray Sebacea or the Peacekeepers. I escaped and left them to Crais's tender mercies in order to save myself. Whatever my reasons were, they could never forgive that, not when it cost them their rank and honor. I wouldn't forgive me either. If I ever see any of them again, it will be with their weapons pointed at my head.
Moya's too quiet. There's only five of us on this huge ship--- six if you count Pilot, who's actually part of Moya, so I don't suppose that's quite accurate--- and there's never enough noise for me to relax. I'm always tense, waiting for the next emergency. I can never believe that someone else will take care of the crisis, that I'll be given orders I can follow and understand, or that whatever else happens, even if it's the worst, I'll have done my duty. Done the best I could.
I was telling the truth when I told Gilina that I wished I'd been smart enough to lie when Crais first questioned me. If I had chosen to lie to Crais as soon as he found John and I on the commerce planet-- claimed that I didn't know him, or that I had no idea who he was-- Crais still would have taken Crichton into custody. But maybe I would have had a chance to give testimony that Crais's brother's death was an accident, to someone who wasn't obsessed with revenge; maybe I would have been able to lodge a statement where the Captain couldn't erase it, later on. Maybe I just would have found a way to live with Crichton's execution. But I don't know. I'll never know.
If I'd stayed in custody after I told the truth, I would have died. I understand why I would have been executed, and on some level I can't argue with the logic behind that order.
But I didn't. And now I have to live with that choice as well.
I'm staring out at the view through Moya's forward screens when John comes in to check a readout on the main console. Probably something to do with the DS. He doesn't seem obviously depressed about Gilina's departure, but that could be misleading, and in any case it's not a subject I want to explore. "Hey," he says to me, nodding.
Hey. That's what he called after me in the hallway, when he was attempting to convince me to turn around and listen to him. Right after I caught him with Gilina. John's use of language occasionally forces me to consider that everyone from planet Earp might be as odd as he is. A frightening thought. "A greeting I shall never understand."
He smiles, more of his attention on the console than on me. Which is good. I'm too disoriented to welcome attention from him or anyone else right now. "It's kind of an all-purpose greeting. Lets the other person decide what they want to talk about," he explains.
"What if they don't want to talk?"
Still looking at the board, he answers absently, "Then they say 'hey' back."
I consider it. It seems fairly straightforward. "Hey."
Crichton stops what he's doing, and shoots me a bemused look. After a moment, he goes back to playing with the console. Then he comments, "Well, now the first person that doesn't want to talk can be trumped if the other person senses that they really need to." He lifts his eyebrows at me. "Hey."
I almost smile, but manage to stop myself, even though our conversation is verging on the absurd now. John watches me for a moment, then grins to himself and goes back to the board, not pushing me. For once.
Part of what's bothering me is easy to explain, and even though I don't owe him any apologies or justifications, I hear myself say, "I hate being ambushed."
John shakes his head, missing my meaning. "Well, you got him in the end. That's what counts," he says dryly.
"I wasn't talking about the Sheyangs." I look away from him, remembering my first sight of the Zelbinion when we found her, and how I'd wanted to know what had caused her death. We never did find out. A pointless effort.
Instead, I received an object lesson on life; specifically, my life, and how it has changed over the last five weeks. We've been living hand-to-mouth ever since we escaped, always planning for our survival, for the next few days, the next week at the longest, never thinking beyond the next desperate life-or-death experience. And now I have to wonder: why am I doing this? What am I trying for? Just survival? There's no point in that. There has to be something worth living for.
Only now I know that everything I was ever living for, everything I wanted, is lost for good.
John stops adjusting the board and takes a step back from it, looking at me, hard, then he glances away. When he speaks his voice is full of sympathy. "You know, on my world, they say that loss is the hardest emotion to deal with."
I nearly snort at the idea. "In my world, showing pain is a sign of weakness." And an invitation to experience more.
"How could you not feel pain after all you've been through?" John demands, reverting to his habit of pushing me again, his earlier restraint gone. One more thing that annoys me about Crichton....
"Don't presume to understand me, John," I warn him. You are not allowed to know about this. I do not give you permission to see into my heart.
He pauses for a long moment, then turns to study the same view I am contemplating. When he finally does speak, his voice is slow, his tone casual, with a rueful edge; almost as if he were talking to himself, and not to me. "If I ... somehow. Someday, get a chance to return to my world... And walk around my old neighborhood...."
We both know how unlikely a possibility that is. But I don't suppose he can stop himself from thinking about it any more than I can stop wishing to return to Sebacea. I tilt my head, listening to the thoughts behind his words as well as what he's saying, unwillingly caught up in his fantasy.
"See my old house, Dad's truck... best friend's bike on the lawn... and then I get a chance to go inside... and walk through the living room upstairs to my room.... and then I think: what if everyone were dead?" I feel a chill across my skin, stop myself from drawing in a sharp breath. "What if all my friends and family were lying there, dead." He's quiet for a moment, and I almost glance at him, but I can tell that he's watching me, so I don't risk it. "What would it be like to go home then?"
It hurts to be this exposed, this naked in front of someone else. It hurts even more to sympathize with John's feelings, and his sense of loss. And it hurts worst of all to have no idea what to do about either emotion, to not be able to offer any comfort, or dare accept any. We are all alone here, in our own ways, even if we are trapped together. I have no illusions in that regard. That may be the greatest distance between John and myself, that he refuses to recognize that, and keeps reaching toward the rest of us in spite of our differences.
But the least I can do is acknowledge the truth.
"I stand corrected," I say quietly, refusing to let my voice shake. Then I turn and walk off the bridge, leaving him alone, unable to bear his presence or his insights any longer.
I head to the terrace, where the view is even clearer than through the forward screens. And I empty my mind of all memories, all dreams, all pain, watching the Zelbinion fade into the distance as we strike out in another uncharted direction.
Go to PK Tech Girl: He Said