Disclaimer: All the characters in this fic, with the exception of J.L. belong to someone else. I am just stealing them and I promise to return them quickly and without injury. I am a SACCer after all. :-)
Big Honkin' Thanks to: Kelly and George, for doing what they do best and beta'ing this thing. If you enjoy this fanfic, thank them! Also thanks to SACC for once again putting up with their obsessive leader, and my best friend Amanda who continues to tell me I'm funny and no I'm not a geek.
Authors Note: This takes place sometime in the middle of the second season. It's number four in my Coffee Shop Stories, and while it stands alone you may want to at least read the first one so you know what this place is about! Thanks, and feedback is a wonderful thing!
The Null Void Coffee Shop can be not only a place to relax and enjoy some time off from a hectic show, but an opportunity to meet new characters and make friends. Yet like any place where a large variety of beings can interact, tensions can arise and problems brew as quickly as affection.
To anyone who pauses a moment to look at Pa'u Zotah Zhaan, most will see simply a calm priestess observing the crowd of patrons at the Null Void Coffee Shop. Sipping quietly from her glass of water, Zhaan is the epitome of tranquilness.
On the outside.
Her outer shell of peacefulness only falls away when the main entrance to the shop opens to allow her friend and shipmate John Crichton inside. As the human enters the shop looking distracted, Zhaan can barely get to his side fast enough. Her calm features disintegrate into an anxious look as she joins him at the bar.
Before she can speak Crichton says with exasperation "Ya know Zhaan, sometimes I wonder about the fanfic writers out there. Not only do I have to put up with all kinds of crap, but then they go ahead and declare everyone I know deceased." He rolls his eyes as he grabs a few beer nuts to munch on, "My Dad is dead, my Mom is dead, sisters are dead, DK is dead...I wouldn't be surprised if they gave me some brothers just to kill them off!"
Zhaan is momentarily distracted and asks "*Is* your family dead?"
"Last I knew my family is living happily in Colorado Springs." the human grins a bit, "Wonder if Dad knows he's now among the dearly departed."
"I sympathize with your problem, John." Zhaan says as she lowers her voice, "But I need to speak with you about another, more pressing matter."
Crichton turns from his beer nuts to the blue priestess to ask, "What's wrong?"
"Where to begin." Zhaan murmurs, eyes wandering around the Shop as if searching for the start of her problems. "I need your help."
"Anything I can do I will." Crichton says, "Come on Zhaan, what's going on?"
Zhaan sighs, "Chiana, Rygel, and Pilot are refusing to participate in the new show tonight."
This news startles Crichton, who for a moment simply continues to give Zhaan a blank look. Finally he says, "Uh, wait. Run that by me again? Chiana, Rygel and Pilot are...?"
"They will not partake in the show." Zhaan finishes, "I have not spoken to Chiana in some time, and Rygel and Pilot will not leave Moya."
"OK, wait a minute and back up." Crichton runs a hand through his hair, takes a deep breath, and says, "We've lost half of our cast? Why?"
"I do not know all the reasons." Zhaan's voice takes on a hard edge, "Pilot told me to talk to Rygel. Rygel began to tell me, but was so caught up in informing me how important he is to our show that I soon lost patience. Chiana simply informed me she would not be joining us this evening, and then left swearing."
"Wow, you know Chiana and Rygel I can understand pulling a stunt like this but Pilot?" Crichton starts to smile, "Well I can go and try to talk to Sparky, but shouldn't D'Argo attempt to reason with Chiana? I mean, he may be a better choice to influence her."
"D'Argo has already tried." Zhaan's shoulders almost slump, "They sat in a corner for less than 50 microts, then D'Argo grabbed his Qualta Blade and left in a hyper-rage. Aeryn is following him trying to calm him down. I do not know what Chiana said to him, but I have not seen him that angry since Crais took Talyn."
Crichton rolls his eyes, "Chiana is very good at pressing everyone's buttons, there are a whole bunch of things she could have said." He looks around the Shop, "We don't have long, let me go try to talk to her. Where is she?"
Zhaan points to a far corner of the Shop, "Goddess be with you John." Her voice takes on a sad, sarcastic edge "She certainly is not with me."
Crichton gives Zhaan a smile and pats her on the arm in sympathy, then turns towards the corner she pointed out. After he weaves through some patrons sitting at the tables he spots the lone Nebari in the corner. Chiana is using a flat rock to sharpen a small knife she holds in her hands, and is mumbling angrily under her breath in words too nasty for normal company.
Crichton clears his throat loudly to announce his approach, and with a glance at the knife Chiana holds he says "Hey little girl."
"Go away Crichton I am NOT in the mood." Chiana continues to sharpen her knife, not even glancing up at the human approaching her table.
Crichton slowly sits down in the chair opposite his friend, then motions to the knife "So is that just in case D'Argo doesn't do the job?"
"That frelling idiot will NOT sneak up on me again!" Chiana hisses in anger.
"I don't let any of my friends touch me there, there is no way in Hezmana I'm letting some new freak!"
"Who touched you where?"
"The next time he sneaks up on me like that I'm going to stick this where he'll remember it for a long time!"
Crichton is exasperated, and finally bangs his hand down on the table to growl out "WHO?"
"That new guy, Darien something...the one who can turn invisible." Chiana pauses in her sharpening to point the knife in Crichton's direction "And let me tell you, when I catch him again even turning invisible is not going to help him!"
"Fawkes?" Crichton says in surprise, "What did he do?"
Chiana rolls here eyes in irritation, "How much clearer do I need to make it Crichton? I'm sitting in my quarters, not bothering anyone, when I suddenly get grabbed like I'm some tralk!"
"Ah, well now I see why D'Argo was so upset." Crichton says, trying to stay calm himself, "So what did you do?"
"What do you think I did? I went to smack him, and THEN find out about his little invisibility trick!" Chiana lowers her eyes to return to her knife sharpening, "He made some frelling comment about how he'd show me some of his body if I would show him some of mine, and finally took off when I went farbot firing my pulse riffle."
"Good for you!" Crichton grins.
"I swear, Crichton, I will NOT be in the same lineup as that freak!" Chiana says, ignoring the compliment to once again point at Crichton with her knife, "Either he goes or I do!"
"Come on Chi, you can't really do that!" Crichton's grin drops, "We need you in tonight's episode. Don't let some bad manners from the new guy get on your nerves!"
"Bad manners? Bad manners!?" Chiana's voice rises several octaves in anger, "I won't be sastifyed until D'Argo cuts off the hand that touched me! And I will NOT be on the same channel, none the less lineup, with him! End of discussion!" and with that final statement the Nebari stalks out of the Coffee Shop heading for Moya.
"Oh, that went well." Crichton mutters under his breath as he returns to Zhaan's side.
"I see you were unsuccessful." Zhaan says sadly as Crichton takes a seat at the counter.
"Well I found out what was wrong, I just don't know how to fix it." Crichton sighs, "Any luck with Rygel and Pilot?"
"Rygel is coming over to discuss the problem." Zhaan says, "I had to agree to buy him dinner to do it, but at least we should find out what is wrong with both him and Pilot."
"Let's just hope they haven't been groped."
Zhaan gives Crichton a confused look, but before she can say anything the main entrance opens to allow Rygel to enter on his floating throne. With a few semi-graceful turns and some high flying, the tiny monarch glides over the patrons to join the Human and Delvian at the counter.
As J.L. arrives to take his order, Rygel says "Let me just say that while I do appreciate dinner, our position cannot be changed with bribes."
"Sparky, we're still trying to find out what your position is!" Crichton says.
"Uh, you three need a minute?" J.L. asks, giving the three beings curious looks.
"Just get me whatever is on special this evening." Rygel orders with his normal, pompous air, "And don't skimp on the fries this time!"
"Let me remind you Rygel, the prices are not open for negotiation." J.L. says stiffly to the Hynerian, "Not even after you've eaten! This time you'll pay the whole price *without* the argument."
"It's OK, J.L." Zhaan raises a hand to gently interrupt the shop owner, "I am paying for his meal."
This statement startles J.L. for a moment, but he simply nods and heads away to place the order. Rygel reaches out to grab the bowl of beer nuts Crichton had been muching on, and starts eating.
"So, Zhaan tells me you and Pilot are boycotting tonight's episode." Crichton begins conversationally.
"I do not know why anyone would attack a small boy with a bed, or what that has to do with anything!" Rygel snorts, "But if you are asking about the episode for this evening, I will not be participating. And neither will Pilot!"
"Why?" Zhaan asks.
"We have decided not to be a part of any evening lineup with that woman!" Rygel huffs, then downs a few more nuts.
"Deja vu." Crichton mutters, then says a bit louder, "OK, what woman and what did she do to you?"
"That frelling shapeshifter." Rygel's earbrows drop in anger, "The one who hosts our lineup."
"The Scifi Prime Lady?" Crichton supplies.
"I do not understand." Zhaan asks, "I admit the woman is mildly annoying, and sometimes condescending, but what could she possibly do to anger both you and Pilot so much?"
"I'll tell you what she did!" Rygel's voice rose in hostility, "She insulted us!"
Becoming annoyed with having to pull answers out of everyone, Crichton rolls his eyes and asks again "What did she do?"
"Pilot and I were wondering why she never would turn into one of us." Rygel finally launches into the story, "You know how she turns into someone to announce the show coming up? Well it's always you." He points to Crichton, then to Zhaan, "Or you, or D'Argo, or Aeryn. But never a Royal Dominar? So we asked her, and do you know what she had the mivoinks to say?"
Rygel pauses dramatically. Both of his listeners stay silent. When it becomes obvious Rygel will not continue without prompting, Zhaan asks "What did she say Rygel?"
"She said she does not turn into *unimportant* characters!" Rygel says, his voice full of rage, "Unimportant? It's bad enough we're the only ones who have not had a love interest on the show, but to call us unimportant?" Rygel scoffs, "And as if that was not enough, she went on to say that as long as she was the *star* of the Friday night lineup, she wouldn't turn into a minor character!"
"OK this chick needs some lessons in manners." Crichton mutters, "Star? When did she ever do anything but repeat the same few phrases over and over..."
Zhaan interrupts Crichton before his anger gets the best of him, "I understand the reason for your animosity Rygel, but tonight's episode must continue. And to try to do it without you would only add truth to her words."
"Yea, the show must go on and all." Crichton says, "We can get that chick back somehow, but for now..."
"No." Rygel says as J.L. arrives with his food, "Our position is final. Either she goes or we do."
Crichton motions to Zhaan to step away from Rygel. As the Hynerian digs into his fries, the two move to another table to talk quietly. "OK so we've got a problem."
"How do we remove the Prime Lady from the lineup?" Zhaan voices their predicament.
"And Darien Fawkes." Crichton adds, then explains quickly "He went nuts and grabbed Chiana."
Zhaan's eyes widen in understanding, "So that would explain D'Argo's sudden hyper-rage."
"We don't have much time, and all three of them are just stubborn enough to go through with their threats." Crichton says glumly, "Do you have any ideas?"
At the sound of a violent curse from Rygel both turn to see one of the problems enter through the front door. Standing at the entrance, hands resting on her hips, dressed head to toe in tight black leather, and nose high in the air stands the Prime Lady. With a dismissive glance around the Shop she strides to the counter. Rygel is quick to remove himself and join Crichton and Zhaan at their table.
"There she is, that tralk!" Rygel hisses, "How dare she have the chutzpah to walk in here after what she said!"
Crichton gives Rygel a strange look, but before he can speak Zhaan stands graceful and says, "Perhaps a bit of reason will smooth this situation over. If she can be persuaded to apologize for her remark, would you join us for tonight's show Rygel?"
Rygel ponders the question momentarily, then says, "If she groveled enough, then yes I believe so."
"The excuse me." Zhaan smiles, then moves to sit down next to the Prime Lady.
Rygel turns to Crichton, "Do you think she will apologize?"
"Not a chance in Hell, Sparky." Crichton says with a sigh.
"My feelings exactly." Rygel agrees, "So what are we going to do about it?"
"Hey, don't look at me to carry out your revenge! I'm just trying to get you, Pilot and Chiana back in the credits for tonight!" Crichton grumbles.
"And I want to be there, Crichton." Rygel says, "But I also want to see that tralk pay for what she has said!"
"Make who pay?" Chiana's sultry voice asks as she approaches the table.
Noticing the Nebari is no longer murderously angry, Crichton asks, "Hey Pip, feeling any more like joining us this evening?"
"Not until I get my own revenge." Chiana says simply as she takes a seat, "Who are you two plotting against?"
"Her." Rygel points to the counter where Zhaan is now returning from her talk with the Prime Lady, "You won't believe what that tralk said to me!"
"Hey Zhaan, any luck?" Crichton asks, hoping for the best but not expecting much.
The look on Zhaan's face confirms Crichton's fears, and as she comes to stand behind Rygel she says angrily "Of all the self-centered beings in the universe, she would be the worst I have ever encountered."
"What's going on?" Chiana's face is now lit up with curiosity.
"The Prime Chick said some rather ugly things about Rygel and Pilot." Crichton fills in quickly, "They're threatening to join you in your little boycott unless we can get some revenge."
Rygel gives Chiana a curious look, "Why are you not participating this evening?"
Before Chiana can answer a strange voice floats out of the empty air behind her, "Oh that would be my fault." As Chiana's eyes narrow in anger, a figure suddenly appears out of nothing. Tall, thin and dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, he looks at Chiana and gives her a grin that made everyone's skin crawl. He looks a bit manic, his hair an unruly mess and his eyes are a deep, solid red.
"Goddess, I didn't know humans could suffer from the madness." Zhaan says in surprise.
Ignoring everyone except the lithe Nebari, Darien Fawkes slowly advances on her, "Miss me?"
"Take one more step..." Chiana begins to say, but Crichton quickly jumps up to stand in between the two.
"Whoa! Hey, hold on a second! Perhaps you should just back off mister..." Placing his hands on Darien's shoulders, Crichton tries to restrain the taller man. Insane red eyes focus on the astronaut, and the lust on Darien's face turns quickly to anger. When Darien suddenly takes a swing at him the two end up in a wrestling match that ends as quickly as it begins. With one swift motion Zhaan breaks into the fight and grabs Darien's head in her hands, beginning to chant.
Untangling himself from the chanting Zhaan and the mesmerized Darien, Crichton moves quickly to Chiana. Noticing the Nebari is reaching for her knife, Crichton says "OK Pip, why don't you just put that away."
"But he's right there!" Chiana almost whines.
"Where did he come from?" Rygel asks, confusion on his face.
Before anyone can fill in the backstory, Zhaan suddenly releases Darien's head and the two stumble away from each other, shaking their heads as if to clear them. Zhaan looks tired, but unharmed. Darien's eyes are now clear, but his face is half guilt-ridden, half amazed.
"Wow." Is all that Darien can say.
Crichton can't help but grin, "Makes sex look boring, huh?"
"Does that help ease your mind?" Zhaan asks.
"Actually, yea." Darien looks up and smiles at Zhaan, "Better then a needle in the arm. Thanks."
"I can't believe this!" Chiana says indignantly, "This creep grabs me, and you help him out?!"
Darien turns to the angry Nebari as his smile drops, "Yea, about that." he pauses to clear his throat and look uncomfortable, "Listen I'm really sorry. I have this tendency to go kinda...well...nuts. And...uh...is there anything I can do to make it up to you?"
Chiana looks at the taller human in a mixture of shock and anger, then a sly smile appears as she slinks up to him. Placing her arms around Darien's neck, she croons softly "Well there is one thing you can do."
Darien looks a bit worried at this sudden change of attitude, but can't help but grin and say "Anything."
With a devilish smile, Chiana looks Darien right in the eyes as she brings up her knee right into his privates. Crichton winces in sympathy as Darien crumples to the ground, curled up in a ball. Chiana stands over him in triumph and announces "You can remember that the next time you decide to go peeping in my quarters." She looks at her shipmates, and says with a grin "See you at the show tonight!" and then struts out of the shop.
As Rygel laughs, Crichton reaches down to help his fellow human on his feet. "Ah crap." Darien wheezes as he sits down gently, "Guess I deserved that."
"I guess you did." Crichton says, "Consider yourself lucky. I saw the knife she was sharpening for you earlier."
"Well all this madness had one positive result." Zhaan says as she also takes a seat at the table, "Chiana will now join us tonight." She turns to Rygel, her face hopeful.
Rygel snorts a bit as his laughter subsides, "As amusing as this display was, it scarcely solved *my* problem!"
"You think we should call Chiana back and have her kick the Prime Chick?" Crichton snickers.
"That would hardly be adequate!" Rygel says.
"Wait, are you talking about that annoying announcer woman at the start of the lineup?" Darien asks, recovering from his close encounter with Chiana's knee.
"She said some rather unpleasant things about two of our crewmembers." Zhaan informs, "As well as everyone in general."
"Yea, I'm not surprised." Darien says, "My partner isn't too happy with her either. She made some crack about how she wouldn't turn into minor characters, and something about his lack of hair."
"This sounds familiar." Crichton says, "So what are we going to do?"
As the four ponder the situation, J.L. arrives with a receipt in his hands. He goes to speak with Zhaan, but notices how distracted everyone appears and starts to move away. Crichton looks up to see the uncomfortable shopkeeper. "Hey J.L." he says, "What's up?"
"Oh, well I was just going to drop off the bill, but y'all looked so preoccupied I figured I'd come back later." J.L. gives the four a curious look, "What's all the deep thinking about?"
"We're trying to figure out how to get revenge on the Scifi Prime Lady." Crichton says.
"Ah, the android." J.L. says.
This catches everyone at the table by surprise, and a chorus of "What? Android?" assault J.L.
The owner looks astonished, and says "You didn't know she's a replicant?" he chuckles, "What, you think they could get someone to stand there repeating the same thing over and over? The Scifi Channel built her."
"No wonder she felt so cold and soulless." Zhaan says, "I thought my perceptions of her attitude were clouding my judgment."
"Why anyone would program her to be so annoyingly superior is beyond me." Darien shakes his head.
The idea strikes Crichton so quickly a lightbulb practically materializes over his head. "Can she be shut off?"
J.L. chews thoughtfully on his lower lip for a moment, "Yea, she does have an off button..." he trails off, looking at Crichton.
John snickers, looking at Rygel, "Hey Sparky, you think we should do a little reprogramming?"
Rygel's eyes light up in mirth, "Excellent suggestion, Crichton."
"As much as this replicant needs a program alteration, I'm afraid it will not be that simple." Zhaan says, "She would undoubitly resist any attempts to shut her off."
"Hey J.L." Darien turns to the shopkeeper, "Where's this off button?"
"Right at the small of the back I think." J.L. points to a spot on his own back to clarify.
Darien grins, "Well then, no problem." He starts to stand up.
"You would help us?" Zhaan asks in surprise.
"Well you already helped me out." Darien says, then looks a bit uncomfortable, "And I do kind of owe you for how I treated Chiana." He looks at Crichton, "You distract the Chick, I'll turn her off."
"Second time today you'll be turning a woman off." Crichton can't help but jab as he stands as well.
The remark earns Crichton a glare, and even as Darien slowly disappears he says "That's not funny." A silver coating quickly glides over his body, and within seconds he is completely invisible.
"Damn, if only I could do that." Crichton says, "Think of the look on Scorpy's face..." With a sigh Crichton turns and walks over to the bar where the Prime Lady is still sitting, back ramrod straight and an air of self-importance on her face. She's sipping what looks like tea, and when Crichton slides into the seat next to her she doesn't even look at him.
"Hey, how about you and I ditch this joint and go get a beer?" Crichton asks.
Turning to look at him, the leather-clad woman says "We are not interested in socializing with you. We have more important work to do."
"Hey it's not like you don't do the same things every week." Crichton says, "We'll get someone else to fill in."
The woman scowls at John, "We are the star of the Prime Lineup, and cannot be replaced. We do not appreciate you telling us..." her words are abruptly cut off by a soft click, and with a surprised expression she suddenly goes limp. Crichton quickly reaches over to grab her shoulders and keep her from falling on the floor. Within seconds Darien is visible, a silly grin on his face, and the two haul the Prime Lady over to the table where Rygel and Zhaan wait.
As the two humans sit her down in a chair, Rygel rubs his hands together in glee, "Excellent, I think I'll just reprogram her to repeat what a piece of frelling..."
"Not so fast Rygel." Crichton says, already probing the androids back for an opening, "We have to do this carefully. If the Powers That Be figure out who is responsible, we could be in serious dren. Ah!" With another soft click a small panel on the woman's back opens and Crichton immediately starts to hunt around the mechanics in her back.
"You know how to reprogram her?" Darien asks.
"Can't be as hard as retrofitting Levithian bio-mecanoid parts to the Farscape." Crichton mutters as he continues to work.
Darien gives John a confused look, but before he can ask Rygel speaks up again, "I don't care if they find out who did it, I want my revenge!"
"John is right, Rygel." Zhaan says gently to the Hynerian, "We must be cautious." Her smile turns a bit mischievous, "And this will be all the more sweeter if we can escape without retribution."
"I'm all for not getting caught." Darien adds.
After a few more minutes of tinkering around, Crichton finally closes the hatch and wipes his hands on his pants. He then finds and pushes the power button and steps back. For a moment, nothing happens.
"Crichton I wanted her embarrassed, not broken!" Rygel says after a few moments of silence.
"I did quite a bit of reprogramming." Crichton explains, "Give her a chance to reboot."
Another few seconds pass, and as Rygel is just about to make another derogatory remark the Prime Lady comes to life. She sits up straight again, but her face is blank and expressionless. After a second she says "We are Scifi. You will laugh at us. This is definitely not our underwear."
The four snicker a bit, "Childish, but amusing." Zhaan says.
"Wait, there's more." Crichton grins.
As if on his cue, the Prime Lady spins completely around in her seat. But instead of morphing into a character, she reappears with her makeup smudged as if someone smeared it across the right side of her face. "We continue to be Prime. We will amuse you. My number two engine is on fire. Does anyone know how to fly my thing?" Her eyes appear to glaze over as her mouth forms a huge smile, and then in a low slow voice begins to sing "Daisy Daisy give me your answer true. I'm so crazy over the love of you..."
Slowly, still singing, she rises from her chair and begins to walk towards the exit. Crichton has collapsed into his chair laughing, Zhaan and Darien both have smiles on their faces, and Rygel is looking a strange mixture of confused and afraid.
"She's gone completely farbot!" Rygel sputters.
"Exactly!" Crichton says, "It'll take them hours to fix her. Meanwhile she'll make a fool out of herself, and we'll get to do tonight's show without her!"
After a moment, Rygel finally grins, "For once Crichton, you've done an admirable job!" He immediately rises in his floating throne to follow the Prime Lady out the door.
"Does that mean you and Pilot will rejoin tonight's episode?" Zhaan asks hopefully.
Rygel stops to look at them, "Of course, how could you possibly perform tonight without the star of the show!"
Crichton quickly gets up to chase Rygel out the door, "Wait a minute! Star?! I don't see you getting knocked around every week Sparky!"
Zhaan smiles as she watches the two argue as they walk out the double doors. As they leave two more humans enter, a tall blonde female and a shorter, balding male. Both look around the Coffee Shop warily as if searching for something.
"Ah crap." Darien mutters, "Looks like they found me."
"Friends of yours?" Zhaan asks as the two humans begin to make their way through the Shop.
"Well...kinda." Darien stands up quickly, "Look, thanks for your help. And tell Chiana I'm really sorry. I'll try to make it up to her." He gives Zhaan a worried look, "You don't think she'll try and take out some more anger on me, do you?"
"I suggest you keep your distance, just in case." Zhaan says.
"Hey, if I have any say she'll never see me again." Darien grins, and then in a sudden rush of silver turns invisible.
Moments later the two humans walk by the table, still searching the Shop carefully. The shorter, balding man stops to speak to Zhaan, "You wouldn't happen to have seen..." He trails off with a sigh, "No, you probably didn't see him." And then walks away.
Rising from the table, Zhaan allows herself a moment of calm contemplation. Things were finally back to normal...or as normal as life ever was. And for now she could enjoy an arn of peace.
But tonight another episode will start, and if Zhaan had learned one thing it was never to count on peace after Friday night.