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Chapter Three

Who's With Me?


"Okay, guys," said John. "All ready?" There were murmurs and nods from the collected crewmembers, with the exception of Stark, still mumbling. John tried to get his attention. "Stark?" No answer. "Yo, Stark?" Still no answer. "Hey, Zhaan, little help?"

Zhaan nodded and gently placed a hand on the Bannick's shoulder, as if to drag him into the land of the living. It seemed to work. He opened his eyes, stopped muttering, and smiled.

"Ready now?" Stark nodded. "Good. Now, I know you hate it when I do this, so I'll try and make it brief, but just so you know, this one isn't dangerous or life-threatening. However," he added, quickly. "That does not mean you can leave. Sit, Crais."

The Sebacean sighed heavily and sat down between Jool, who was still leaning on the console, and Aeryn, also sitting on the floor. John eyed him warily, judged the difference between them, and continued.

"You'll all remember about two monens ago when I told you about that Earth ceremony. First person to name it gets a prize!"

Aeryn was the only one who put her hand up; after looking around her, she self-consciously put it down again. John pointed to her and spoke in a cheesy game-show-host voice.

"The lady with the pulse pistol, what's the answer?"


"Close enough. Glad to see at least one of you remembered." The others were unfazed by the comment, so he continued. "Anyway, this monen, on Earth, is called 'February', and today it's around about the sixth day of that monen. In February, we have a traditional day on the 14th called 'St. Valentine's Day.' I never much went in for it myself, but I figure it could be fun, and God knows, we need something to do!"

D'Argo tested the phrase in his mouth. "Sunt Fahllentyn's Day?"

"Again, close enough. And yes."

"Am I gonna have to decorate again?" asked Chiana. "Because that whole Kris-mass thing was frelling difficult to organise."

"As long as it's got food, I couldn't care less." That was Rygel, naturally.

"That's the spirit, Rygel" said John, sarcastically.

"All right, John," ventured Aeryn, talking over the already chattering crewmates. "So explain this thing to us."

When the noise had died down again, he cleared his throat. "Well, I don't know the physics behind it, as it were, and over the years, the whole damn thing has become a commercial vehicle, and left thousands of teenagers broken-hearted for cycles. DK hated it with a passion. There was never anything in his mailbox. Me, on the other hand" He seemed to drift off for a moment. Everyone looked completely bemused.

At that particular moment, Chiana's foot, which had been resting on the top on the console so she could rest her head on her knee, slipped, and slammed into Jool's back, hard. The Interon's hair gloweda vivid red, as she began to spin to face her, yelling:

"Will you stop frelling kicking me, you annoying little tralk!!"

Her intention was to smack Chiana good across the face, but, unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. Instead, her foot caught on the tail of Crais' trench coat and she went flying. In the brief time it took her to realise this, however, she decided she wasn't hitting the ground alone, and grabbed Chiana by the leg.

They both descended with a shriek. Chiana ended up on the floor. Jool had a much softer landing, finding herself in Crais' lap, much to his annoyance. Aeryn (and everybody else) barely managed to repress their smiles at this, especially Pilot, who now had room to work again.

"Thank you, Joolushka," he said. Jool was too irritated to hear him, and still hadn't noticed where she was sitting.

Crais looked up in Pilot's direction. "Oh no, Pilot. I think you'll find the pleasure is all mine" Jool finally figured it out, but made no discernible reaction. Crais waited two microts, and then "GET OFF ME!"

Jool stood in a matter of nano-seconds and went back to where she'd been standing. When nobody said anything, she frowned. "Come on, Crichton. We haven't got all frelling day."

"Uh, yeah" said John. "Where was I?"

"Something about broken hearts and mailboxes," offered Zhaan. Stark nodded.

"Oh. Thanks, Blue." He tried again. "Anyway, the whole point of the day is to show whoever it is you uh like that you do." He was meant with blank faces. "It's like courting." Silence. "You don't do courting out here?" More silence. "That doesn't surprise me" He attempted it one more time, by example. "Okay let's say I like Aeryn." He was met, this time, by a collective groan (and possibly one from Harvey, too), but he continued. "It's just an example. Okay, fine, I like someone, and I can't build up the courage to tell them, so instead, when the big V comes around, I give them a little something - a note, or a present - to let them know. Get it?"

There were various nods.

"It sounds utterly pointless," said D'Argo. "If you're not brave enough to tell the person you like them, you don't deserve their respect."

"You're a true romantic, D." John rolled his eyes and sighed. "Like I said, it's just a bit of fun. Nobody ever takes it seriously, anyway."

"Well," said Crais, "it can't possibly get any more tedious around here. I'm willing to participate."

Everybody stared at him, open-mouthed. John was the first to recover.

"Great! Come on, guys! If Crais can lower himself to one of my crazy ideas, it can't be that bad, right?" They all exchanged glances. "It won't hurt you, for God's sake! Just humour me!"

"It sounds like a wonderful idea, John," said Zhaan, smiling. "I would be happy to join in, too."

"Me too, me too!" enthused Stark now that Zhaan had offered.

"That's three. How about the rest of you?"

Pilot, still multi-tasking, and without looking up, said, "Moya is curious, therefore, I will also participate."

"Nice one, Pilot!"

"I guess I'm in, too," said Chiana. "If D'Argo is." The Luxan sighed, but nodded his assent anyway.

"It sounds fahrbot," complained Rygel. "But if I must, I must."

Jool shrugged. "Whatever."

"I'll take that as a 'yes'" said John, and did a mental head count. Everyone had agreed now, except for the one person he'd planned this whole thing for. Without her, he wasn't going ahead with it. "Aeryn?"

The ex-Peacekeeper looked up at him. For a fleeting, horrible moment, he thought she was going to refuse. Instead, she shrugged. "Much as I know I'm going to regret this I suppose-"

He didn't let her finish. "Yes!"

"So what, exactly, will this entail?" asked Crais, apparently bored enough to be interested as well.

"If you'll all bear with a me a few more microts, I'll let you know"

Mildly annoyed that their escape had been thwarted again, everybody settled down again to listen as John explained what they had to do.


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