By Leonard Dickens
Copyright 1999

D'Argo held Chiana in the air, and was shaking her like a doll. "You will find that we are not quite that stupid. If we wanted your opinion..."

John walked in, followed by Aeryn. "Hey..." He saw D'Argo. "Hey D'Argo, can you put her down?"

"I see no reason to..."

"Humor me." John said, flatly. D'Argo looked disgusted, but placed the Nebari girl back on her feet. John said, "Thanks."

Aeryn said, "Rygel is talking to them now. He says he has convinced them of our good intentions. At least," she shot a withering look at Chiana, "our good intentions in general. He has negotiated with them for the weapon in question, and they are willing to part with it -- for the right price, of course. So, he is wrapping that up into the rest of the negotiations. It will cost us."

John said, "But we were going to pay for it one way or another, anyway. This is better. There's more, though. It seems that justice is not yet served. Our little thief here needs to repay a small debt."

Chiana said, "So, you're selling me out. I didn't do it! All you...."

John said, "Sssh."

She kept talking, " ... people are so convinced you are right, well, it wasn't me! And you can stop treating me like a..."

John put his hand over her mouth. "Chiana..." She bit him. He jerked his hand away, and looked for a second as if he might hit her face. His nostrils flared, but he did not. Instead, he said: "If you would shut up for a second, perhaps you would like to know what they have in mind?"

D'Argo said, "You -- shut up." He moved slightly forward.

John massaged his hand. The skin was unbroken. "What they have in mind, Chiana, is not a big deal. You need merely go to one of their priests, confess the crime, and repent. That's it. Then you will be even with God, or so they think. No jail, nothing, except back to the ship until we are done here."

"Forget it," she said. "I didn't do anything. You do it."

Zhaan said, "They don't think John did it. They think you did it."

"Because you told them I did! Well, you can just forget about me doing your confessing for you. I am not..."

Aeryn said, "There is another option, you know."

Zhaan said, "And what is that?"

Aeryn said, "If we disown her, and turn her over to them, then they can do what they want. As long as we hold onto her, then we are responsible for her deeds, 'atonement' must be made, and the deal cannot go through."

D'Argo looked at Chiana. "Did you understand that, Nebari? That is your choice. Confess and help us. Or we leave you here."

Chiana said, "You think you can force me into your confession? Well, you can forget it. I am not doing anything. Leave me here if you want. I can break out in half an arn, steal a ship, and be back on Moya before you are!"

D'Argo shrugged. "We find you back on the ship? You're dead."

John said, "Come on, people. Chiana, you can choose to stay here if you want. I don't think it would be best for you, though. Your other choice is helping us."

Chiana said, "My choice is that one of you confess. I didn't do it."

Zhaan said, "You don't have that choice."

D'Argo said, "She has no sense."

Aeryn said, "Brat."

John held up his hand for silence. He looked at Zhaan, then D'Argo. "Guys, can I speak to her alone?"

Zhaan looked at Aeryn, who shrugged. Then she looked at D'Argo. D'Argo looked thoughtful for a few seconds, then said, "As you wish," wheeled, and stalked out of the room. Zhaan followed closely. Aeryn gave John a strange look, then followed the others. The door slid shut.

There was a brief silence. John was looking at Chiana thoughtfully. He sat down on the bench across from her. After a few more moments of silence, he put his hands together, raised his index fingers and touched his chin.

After a while, she said, "I thought you wanted to say something."

"I do."

After more silence, she said, "Well, you're not saying anything."

He regarded her closely.

She said, "What do you want?"

"I want you, Chiana, to go to a priest and get us out of this mess."

"You think I'm guilty."

He sighed. "I don't give a rat's ass whether you're guilty or not. This isn't about guilt. It's about doing what they want, so that they will let us leave. Until we are right with God, they won't trade with us. And without the trade, we can't pay them back for that weapon that you... that disappeared. And until we pay them back, or hand you over -- we're getting into big trouble."

"So, leave me."

"I don't think that is what you want."

"Frell you! Don't tell me what I want!"

"You remember when you first got here? After Durka shot you, and Zhaan patched you up. I told you then: we have rules. You said you would follow the rules when you saw us follow them. Well, here we are. One of rules is, you don't do anything that will endanger the ship, or the others. Understand? And right now, you are endangering us. Every second that goes by without that apology, without that deal being made, is dangerous."

"So? You do it."

"I would if I could. We have been through this already. They think you did it."

"I didn't!"

"I don't care!!" Then a pause. He smiled. "Don't jump -- you can't survive a fall like that except in the movies."

"What? Jump?"

"Forget it. Look. I don't understand why you are resisting this. It is a small thing. It means nothing. Just don't let them know you think that it is empty, and we are all fine." He looked slightly worried. "You can do that right? I mean, go in there and act like it is a big deal?"

"Sure I can. I got off Nebari prime, didn't I?"

"Good. So... are you with me? I will be there the whole time. We don't think there is any danger, but just in case...."

"No. If I confess, the others will think I did do it."

John was frustrated. "They already think you did it. This 'confession' will make no difference. They'll know you did it only because we made you. If you do it, though, then maybe they will start to think you are part of us, part of a team. Do you understand that?"

"Just leave me here. I don't want to be part of your 'team'. I want to be myself. I'll just break out... the locks here are pathetic. And then I'll see you back on the ship. Then we just starburst away and they can forget about their stupid confession."

"So, that's what you think? That's your plan?"

She said, "Yes."

"Well listen up, Indiana. Unless you play it our way -- unless you play it my way -- it doesn't matter what you do. 'We' are not starbursting anywhere if we find you up there, understood? Yes, we could -- but we won't. And do you know why? Because we don't want -- I don't want -- someone up there with me that I can't trust! I don't know if you have asked anyone about what happened before you came on board. But let me tell you. For a while, nobody trusted anyone and we almost managed to get ourselves dead more times than I care to remember! We are past that, I hope -- but now here you are! The others didn't want you. I stood up for you, because you trusted me once, against Durka. Since they trust me, they extended that trust to you. But not because of you -- because of me. So if I say you go -- you go. Got that?"

She looked down.

"Your choice, Chiana, is to make that confession, and make it good -- or stay here. It's that simple."

"That's not much of a choice."

"No. It isn't."

"That's not fair."

"No. Life isn't fair. Doesn't change anything."

She was silent.

"Trust me. You did before. Do so again."

More silence.

"Look, take a minute and think about it, OK? I will be right back." He stepped out of the cell.

D'Argo and Zhaan were there. She was saying, "... is closer to her mental state than you or Aeryn or..."

"Well?" said D'Argo.

"Well... nothing yet. But I think I at least got through to her what the options really are. Confess or forget about us. She was still thinking she could choose neither. Where's Aeryn?"

"She went back to watch Rygel. She doesn't like leaving him alone, either."

"Hmm. Well, I guess we shall see if our little thief is sensible or not. I told her I would give her a minute to think it over."

"What do you think she'll do?"

"I think ... hmm. Dunno. I think she will confess. We'll see."

The door slid back, and Chiana stepped out. John looked at her. "Decided?"

"I am sooo sorry," she said. "I don't know what got into me. I promise promise promise that I won't do it again, and I am really repentant about it." She hung her head, looked guilty. Then she brightened. "Even though you can all go to hezmana, 'cause I didn't do it!"

John laughed. "Great! You had me there for a second. Let's go get it over with, shall we?"