Spoilers/Time Frame: Terra Firma.
Disclaimer: The characters and universe of Farscape are the
property of the Henson Co. I have not made any profit off this tale,
and I am giving the characters back the way I found them.
Test Drivers: Shester took this one out for a quick spin to make
sure it would at least run before I posted it. Thank you so much!
A time crunch prevented me from running this past my usual test
driver or giving it a better level of proofing and editing, so all errors,
omissions, and typographical errors are my fault.
Starburst Challenge 55 (hosted by JJ): Make a background story
to the "Terra Firma" Episode involving any alien character. Take
them on an adventure on Earth, along with their reactions and the reactions of those around them. Points if
you can make it funny. Serious bonus points if you can get one of our aliens to name their principal weapon.
* * * * *
John Crichton had agreed to this expedition only because D’Argo had badgered him into it. A television
commercial had led to an intense, extended campaign by the luxan to arrange a visit to a place called The
Startled Owl. It had taken four days to decipher what he was talking about. It had taken an additional three
weeks to beat John down to the point where he was willing to give in. He had done his best to talk D’Argo out of
it, explaining repeatedly why he found the place distasteful, why he did not want to go, why he felt it was a waste
of their time. By the time he offered up his surrender, he had concluded that it was like dealing with a five-year-
old. Every argument against the idea had served to increase D’Argo’s interest, until the only way to get some
peace was to give in.
D’Argo leaned across the table toward him. “John, this is” -- he looked around the building for several microts,
searching for an adjective -- “magnificent! I cannot understand why you did not want to come here.”
“Do you want me to list the reasons?”
“Seriously, John, what is there to not like about this place?” D’Argo was practically bouncing up and down in his
seat. The similarities to an excited five-year-old were increasing.
“How about we start with the fact that it’s tacky, chauvinistic, and the flashbacks to when I was being breast fed
as an infant ruins my appetite?”
D’Argo clapped him on the shoulder and burst out laughing. Heads turned in their direction. With one or two
exceptions, everyone in the building was looking at them. The good news was that they were a long way from
Florida and the herds of paparazzi that followed the alien visitors everywhere they went; the bad news was that
John had not been thinking clearly when he selected a location. At the time, all he had cared about was getting
at least half way across the country from the ever-present cameras and anyone who knew him. He had chosen
Tulsa because it was a reasonable distance away from Florida but close enough that it was a quick evening’s
jaunt in D’Argo’s ship. He probably would have done better to choose a major city like New York where tanktas
and a qualta rifle would not have drawn a second glance. From the expressions of the other customers, he was
guessing that Tulsa was not a hotbed of multiculturalism. No one seemed pleased by the presence of a
bellowing, laughing alien in a booth near the center of the room.
John made a shushing motion with both hands. “Chill, D’Argo. I’m getting the sense that we’re not welcome
here. Let’s try the low profile route.”
“John, how can we not be welcome here? Look at these women. Look at the way they’re dressed!” He twisted
around to watch one exceptionally well-endowed woman trot toward a table near the front door. He turned
back, tanktas flying in all directions. “John, this is wonderful. There are places like this closer to your home,
aren’t there? Can we go to one tomorrow? Can we go every night as long as we are on Earth?”
Crichton was rescued from the dilemma of producing an explanation by the arrival of their waitress. She was
young, beautiful, physically fit, and she was dressed in the standard uniform of tight orange shorts and a
skimpy white top that strained to cover all the relevant bits of her anatomy. D’Argo seemed hypnotized by the
expanse of skin between the hem of her shirt and the top of her shorts. Sound and motion had ceased for the
“My name is Candy,” she said. “What can I get you --” She looked at D’Argo, considered for several seconds,
and finally tacked, “--boys” onto the end of her sentence.
“Candy,” D’Argo repeated, rubbing his hands together and grinning at the waitress. “This is Candy.”
“Don’t!” John held up a hand in D’Argo’s direction, signaling for a halt. “Don’t go there.” He turned his head to
look at the young woman. “Beers. Make it Bud or whatever you’ve got on tap. And wings. Ten for me, a
platter of fifty for him.”
She scribbled down their order, looked as though she was going to ask a question, then seemed to reconsider
and retreated toward the bar.
D’Argo leaned to one side to watch her leave, tracking the progress of her orange shorts. “Do we have to
make do with just one, John? Can we get more than one? One for you and two for me? One for you and three
for me? Can we ask them to come home with us?”
“No, you can’t get more than one. It’s not that kind of place. I tried to tell you before. They’re waitresses.
Servicers. They just bring us food and drink. They’re not here for … for … for other activities. They’re not
tralks,” he said, resorting to a word he hoped would not be understood by people sitting close enough to
“You are pulling my leg,” D’Argo said. “John! Look at the way they are dressed! Look at that one, John. Look
at her!” He was starting to bounce up and down in his seat again. Tanktas began to fly about.
Crichton placed one hand along the side of his face like a blinder, trying very hard not to look where D’Argo
was pointing. If his friend was this excited about a woman, he was certain what he would see if he turned his
head. “Dude, a little reserve would be good right now.”
Another luxan laugh reverberated around the room. Diners scowled; several people glared in their direction.
“John, I thought you enjoyed” -- D’Argo cupped both hands and gestured toward his chest -- “loomas. There
was even that time when you were in Aeryn’s body --”
Crichton jumped in, interrupting D’Argo before the description could go any further. “I do like them. I’m male.
Of course I like them. I get downright fixated on them at times. But it matters to me who they are attached to.
This is …” He looked around at the staff and then shook his head. “This is sort of like Halloween. Too much of
a good thing rots your teeth, gives you a three-day sugar buzz, and makes you sick to your stomach.”
“Aeryn,” D’Argo said, nodding in understanding. “This is about Aeryn again.”
“It’s not just about Aeryn. It’s about decency, man. The treat you’re talking about should be explored with one
woman, in private. Having them flying all over a restaurant like this is distracting. I don’t know where not to
look. I’m constantly afraid something is going to pop out of a shirt and I’m going to get caught staring when it
Just as the last words came out of his mouth, Candy arrived at their table with their beer. She glared at
Crichton, who was trying to look anywhere but at her shirt, slammed down two mugs of beer, and headed off
toward another table.
“I hate this. Can we go home yet?”
A waitress hurried past their booth, headed for a table on the other side of the room. D’Argo reached out,
trying to snare her. She slapped his hand away and sped on. He watched her stride away. “Spirited. I like
“Embarrassing. I can’t stand this.”
“Brighten up,” D’Argo said.
“The phrase is lighten up.”
“Lighten, brighten, it’s the same thing. You are not with Aeryn right now; I am not with Chiana. Neither of us
knows how long this situation will last. Take advantage of the moment and enjoy the scenery.”
“If I wanted scenery with my dinner, I’d visit Mount Rushmore.”
D’Argo grabbed one of the mugs of beer, spun it around so he could grasp it near the top with both hands and
raised it off the table. “You are behaving like an unmated flibisk,” he said.
“No! Not with a beer!” John yelled, trying to stop him. It was not the first time he had heard that accusation. He
remembered the ritual that had accompanied it the first time.
D’Argo slammed the mug down against the table top. Beer erupted. Foam flew in all directions.
John shook his head, flicking droplets out of his hair, and mopped a little of the Bud off his shirt with the already
damp rectangular drink napkin. “One word for ya, big guy. Carbonation.”
“That was not what I expected,” D’Argo said, dripping. “It is supposed to knock any sediment to the bottom of
the glass.” Fizzing streams of beer swirled across the table. His mug continued to disgorge foam. The flow
was headed, lava-like, toward the edge of the table.
“Cold filtered,” John said. “No sediment.” He wiped several droplets off his nose with the back of his hand.
Candy and several other waitresses were already headed in their direction, all with towels in their hands and
scowls uniformly fixed in place. Customers in booths all around them were gesturing for assistance. The
Budweiser showers had spread well beyond their booth. The number of glares aimed in their direction had
increased, as had the level of animosity.
“Sorry,” John said to the clientele at large. “They don’t have bubbles in outer space.”
It did not seem to placate anyone. If anything, the level of antagonism surrounding them was rising.
“We might want to skip the rest of the evening,” he said to D’Argo as he slid back into the booth. “I think we’re
not wanted here.”
D’Argo had drained the remnants of his own beer as well as all of John’s while Candy was mopping up. Two
more were delivered to the table just as Crichton sat down. D’Argo went through the first in a single long
swallow, and then belched. It was a luxan-sized carbonation burp. Crichton could remember earthquakes that
had been less violent.
Four young men at a nearby table stood up and began making gestures toward the booth where Crichton and
D’Argo were sitting. Tense muscles, jutting jaws, and clenched fists all told a story of rapidly evaporating
tolerance. They were still at the talking stage, milling about gathering up a sufficient store of outrage and
anger to approach the two strangers. It was only a matter of time, though. Crichton was certain that it would
not take much longer for the foursome -- and any others who decided to join in -- to convince themselves that it
was time to get rid of the alien creature and his human companion.
“D’Argo, can you fire up Lo’la from here?” The ship was parked in the farthest corner of the parking lot where
they hoped no one would walk or drive into the cloaked spacecraft.
“Why would I want to do that?” D’Argo said.
“Quick get away?”
D’Argo snorted out a fast commentary about that idea. “We have not eaten yet! You ordered food, and I have
just begun to enjoy the scenery. Have a drink!” He tried to shove the full mug across to John.
“I don’t want to drink.” He shoved it back.
“Is there something wrong with this beverage?”
“It’s not the beverage. It’s the aftermath. I’m afraid I’ll wake up in a window wearing fishnet stockings.”
D’Argo bellowed out another laugh, and gulped down the contents of the mug. Another belch rocked the
Not counting the remnants of the initial beer-volcano, D’Argo had just finished his third beer in a matter of
minutes. John spent several seconds contemplating how bad a ride home in a Lo’la could be if there was a
drunk pilot at the controls before deliberately closing his mind to the idea. The possibilities were too hideous to
consider. If he thought it through in advance, he might refuse to board the craft when it was time to leave. Plus
he had other things to worry about. The foursome at the table had made up their minds. They were
advancing, and reinforcements were on their feet all over the restaurant.
The tallest and most aggressive looking of the four young men spoke first. “Time for you to leave.”
“We don’t like your type here,” a second said.
“We don’t like your type near our women,” said another, looking directly at D’Argo.
“If someone starts playing Dueling Banjos, I am out of here so fast you will never even see the door swing
open,” John said.
“Say goodnight,” D’Argo said, replying to the leader of the foursome.
“That mean you’re leaving?” the first man asked. All four were now arranged near the end of the booth’s table.
“No, it means you’re done for the night,” D’Argo said. There was a single hissing snarl, a single streak of
movement, and four loud smacks. Four bodies crumpled to the floor.
“A triple ricochet? One zap, four targets? How long did it take you to learn that trick? Is there anything you
can’t do with your tongue?”
“Yes. It cannot take care of that.” D’Argo pointed.
John looked up. The entire population of the restaurant was on its feet. Everyone looked angry, and everyone
was moving slowly but inexorably toward where they were sitting. “Whoops! Overstayed our welcome.” He
squirmed out of the booth. D’Argo was on his feet as well. “Call us a cab.”
D’Argo spat out a command in luxan. Within seconds, the howling windstorm scream of a luxan ship powering
up began to reverberate outside the building.
A specific element that had gone into a number of their past escapes occurred to John. It seemed like overkill
in this instance. “You’re not going to blow a hole in the wall, are you?”
“I thought we would use the door.”
“Great idea. After you. Let me get that for you.” He yanked it open, stepping well out of D’Argo’s way. He had
been mashed against a wall by the luxan’s mass more than once over the cycles. It was always an accident,
often his own fault, and each time it left him sore and bruised from head to foot for several days. They did not
have time to scrape him off the paneling tonight. D’Argo rushed past him and disappeared into the dark.
John paused to look back at the crowd. A number of men were tending to the four unconscious figures on the
floor. Others were advancing toward the door. Candy was standing off to one side, a platter with their meal on
it perched on one shoulder.
“You ship overnight express, don’t you?” He reached into his pocket, peeled several twenties off a small sheaf
of bills, tossed them on a table, and then fled into the night.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
|The Startled Owl
(First posted August 14, 2011)