|Primary Characters:||B’Elanna Torres, Chakotay, Tom Paris, Harry Kim and others|
|Warning:||m/m sex, violence, non-con, adult themes|
|Description:||Voyager’s crew find an M class planet and go on shore leave. They discover advanced technology that could take them home. But everything comes at a price.|
Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres were sitting in the mess hall, having lunch. For a while, their workshifts had been so hectic they had rarely had time to see each other throughout the day. At last there was a change of pace.
Harry was busy stuffing his face with mushrooms, real Earth mushrooms, not the replicated kind, or some Delta Quadrant equivalent. It was as if he feared someone would snatch the delicacy right out of his mouth, if he didn’t chew and swallow quickly. B’Elanna had felt the same about the fresh fruit they’d found on the counter, as they walked in. Apparently, the work in the hydroponics lab had – literally – borne fruit.
Since she’d already swallowed the last tasty morsels, she decided to bring up the topic that had been worrying her for some time now. If – no, when – they returned to Federation space, she’d face a tricky situation, legally. She knew that the Captain had tried to negotiate some sort of deal with the top brass at Federation Headquarters, but for all she knew, she and the other members of the Maquis would still face years of imprisonment – or – if that was the deal the Captain had struck – exile on some primitive new colony miles away from Earth.
That didn’t seem too appealing, especially if they weren’t allowed to leave the planet they’d been sent to. It was all within the bounds of possibility, where the authorities were concerned. If she had any say in matters, she wouldn’t accept being banished to some dump miles from civilization. Not her children either.
She glanced around surreptitiously, but fortunately, no one was within earshot, at least no one from Starfleet. It had been years since she last thought about the crew in terms of where they’d come from, but she knew she had no choice. When it came to Harry, her lover, it was different. He might be Starfleet through and through, but he was also – hers. Part of the family.
The thought of family made B’Elanna recall Harry’s parents and her face fell. How could she force Harry to make such a heart-rending choice? On the other hand, she couldn’t stand by while she was taken away to imprisonment or exile.
While she was debating with herself, Harry had finished the mushrooms and was now studying his lover, a look of concern on his face.
“What’s wrong, darling?”
“Nothing. Now. It’s just that – have you thought about what will happen if – when – we return to Federation space?”
“Yeah, a whole lot. Haven’t you?”
“Come on, Starfleet, you have to know what’s in store for me and Chakotay and – the rest of us.”
It was clear that Harry hadn’t. His contented smile vanished.
“I – hadn’t really thought about that. Don’t you think the Captain will have -“
“I’m sure she’s tried, but – I guess I don’t trust the authorities anymore.”
“No. So, what have you come up with? You’ve obviously thought a lot about this.”
“Yes. Well, for one, I’m not going to get caught, that’s for sure. If – when – we enter Federation space, I was hoping I would be far away. Of course, there’s you and junior to consider. It just hit me, you have your parents back on Earth. I have nothing waiting for me. All I have, is out here.”
“If it comes to that, I’ll go with you. I’m sure mom and dad will understand. I could send them a subspace message – or – I could ask someone to tell them in person.”
“Who could you trust not to give us away? Of course, if you’re just going to tell them you’re not coming and why, it won’t matter.”
“Oh. Samantha Wildman? She has to -“
“Go see her husband? Yeah. What about Gerron, though? He’s Maquis too. At least as far as Starfleet’s concerned.”
“What do you mean? Isn’t he Maquis?”
“Sort of. He was recruited and agreed to join, but – it’s a long story and I’m sure he would prefer that as few people as possible knows about it.”
“So you’re saying he wasn’t with you for very long?”
“Right. For a couple of days, maybe. No. Depending on how you look at it, it was longer than that. He left with us, so as far as the authorities are concerned, he’s as guilty as we are. It’s just that he didn’t really have time to do anything.”
“Oh. That means Samantha might not be going back either.”
“It’s possible. I haven’t discussed it with her or Gerron. Maybe we should.”
“Yes. Chakotay too.”
“Oh, he’s going back, no matter what. No way he’s going to leave Janeway.”
“Until they lock him up.”
“I’m never getting that promotion, am I?”
“Doesn’t look that way. Who cares? Titles and regulations and uniforms are stupid. What is it Tom says? They – stick? Sink? Stink, maybe.”
“Yeah. Oh, you mean suck?”
“Suck. Thanks. All that sucks. Exponentially.”
B’Elanna grinned happily.
“We’ll make a Maquis out of you yet, Starfleet.”
“How about just being self-employed?”
“Maybe we’d better stay clear of those snoops. So, sure. No problem. The war will be over by now anyway. There should be plenty to do for someone with our qualifications.”
Suddenly, someone sat down at the table next to them. B’Elanna glanced sharply at the newcomer. To her surprise, it turned out to be Samantha Wildman. Her daughter was right behind her. Over by the counter, Gerron was trying to stack a few trays so he could carry them back to the table. He wasn’t having much success. Samantha noticed and got up to help him.
B’Elanna saw her chance to have a word with Samantha, so she kicked Harry’s leg under the table.
“Harry will do that, won’t you?”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.”
“That’s very kind of you, Harry, but I can -“
“It’s no trouble, is it, darling?”
“No. It’s ok. No problem.”
“Naomi. Why don’t you go and help Harry and Gerron too?”
Naomi stared at her future mother-in-law, at least that was how she chose to view B’Elanna Torres, looking a little puzzled, but she shrugged and turned around and followed Harry Kim. After all, he was Harry Junior’s dad.
Samantha studied B’Elanna thoughtfully.
“Was there anything you wanted to discuss with me?”
“Yes, but not here. I was thinking, Naomi is so fond of little Harry, we could have dinner tonight, in our quarters. If you’re not busy.”
“Oh. That would nice.”
“Good. I’ll talk to you later, then. About that. Anyway, we were just going back to work, so -“
“Then I’ll see you all later.”
Two minutes later, Harry and B’Elanna were leaving the mess hall, deep in thought.
Dinner was a success. Even Gerron thawed out a little and began to talk more animatedly than usual, at least around other people. He knew B’Elanna, but that didn’t make him much more comfortable around her. Worse, he owed her his life, but that was something he preferred not to think about. Still, it felt good, being around his own people, despite everything. And Harry Kim was a very nice guy.
As soon as she’d eaten, Naomi asked if she could be excused so she could go and play with the children. B’Elanna found it a little hard to believe that the thought of a possible future marriage to Harry jr could make Naomi so enthusiastic about two toddlers. She thought it far more likely that she was missing a younger brother or sister. But as long as she was happy and the babies were happy, there was no reason why she shouldn’t be allowed to amuse herself and them.
The two men were still talking, but B’Elanna turned to Samantha anyway and decided to bring up the topic that had been on her mind for so long.
“You know, I was wondering if you’d made any plans for later. When we – return to Federation space.”
“Oh. Well, nothing in much detail, but of course. My husband – Greskrendtrek -“
“Yes. The reason I was asking is -“
She hesitated. It was perfectly possible that Gerron wouldn’t want to recall the circumstances under which they’d first met. He might not even want to be reminded of his days in the Maquis.
Unfortunately, that wouldn’t matter, once they were back on Earth. In the eyes of the Federation authorities, he was as guilty as the rest of the Maquis, which, now that B’Elanna came to think about it, wasn’t fair. But since when were those pompous old fools ever fair?
In any case, the mention of Samantha’s husband’s name had made Gerron pay attention. He and Harry had fallen silent and were now listening to what the women were saying. B’Elanna decided to face Gerron directly. She couldn’t speak about him as if he wasn’t there.
“Harry and I have been talking about what will happen when we return – to Earth. To Federation space.”
Gerron’s face, which had begun to relax a little in later years, tensed up. The look in his eyes became wary, but he seemed willing to discuss the matter, so B’Elanna went on.
“I guess I don’t have to remind you what will happen to us – to you and me – and the other members of the Maquis, if – when – we get back.”
“No. I’ve thought about it. It’s just that – it wouldn’t be fair to Samantha and Naomi to ask them to -“
He broke off, unhappily trying to avoid meeting Samantha’s gaze.
It seemed Samantha – like Harry – had neglected to take the special circumstances of the Maquis into account, when she thought of the return home. Her face looked stricken.
B’Elanna was once again reminded of how little Starfleet officers really had in common with the Maquis. This wasn’t their problem. Why should they concern themselves with a bunch of criminals?
But she knew she wasn’t being fair. Harry cared about her. She was sure Samantha cared about Gerron.
Samantha placed her hand over Gerron’s on the table and unlike what B’Elanna had half-expected, he didn’t pull back. Instead, he took Samantha’s hand and squeezed it.
“Darling, I’m sorry. I never really – I guess I always thought there would be some kind of amnesty, because of the work you and the others have – Without you, I know we never would have come this far.”
Harry couldn’t help chiming in.
B’Elanna forced herself to relax and just like Samantha, she put her hand over her lover’s. She knew she could count on him, but this had to be discussed.
“If they manage to come to an agreement, that’s fine. I’m just worried there wouldn’t be anything they could do. The Federation isn’t all we have to worry about. Now that the war is over, they might be forced to accomodate the Cardies,”
Gerron’s Bajoran face seemed to lose all trace of color. B’Elanna was sorry she had to remind him of his traumatic past, but he’d be in worse trouble if he ended up in jail.
“I’m sorry to stir all this up, but I was just thinking we need to make up some sort of plan. You know, just in case.”
To her surprise, Gerron managed to pull himself together. He nodded in agreement.
“Yes. You’re right. Do you have any suggestion?”
“We could always jump ship when we get closer. Close to Federation space, it will be easier to get by. As long as we avoid the Romulan or Cardassian sectors, we should be fine.”
“Of course, but I was thinking more about – a ship. Or some way of buying one. My replicator rations won’t stretch to any strips of latinum.”
“No, but we are skilled officers. We should be able to find work somewhere. A ship of our own isn’t strictly necessary, but it would nice.”
“Yeah. You, all of you, have skills. I don’t. Not any I’d like to put to use. So -“
B’Elanna and Samantha, who both knew what Gerron was getting at, spoke at once.
“You do. Have skills.”
B’Elanna fell silent and let Samantha continue.
“You’ve been made Provisional Ensign so, naturally, you’ll be able to find work, just like me or Harry or -“
Gerron looked embarrassed at his outburst. He knew he was over sensitive when it came to his past, but by constantly drawing attention to the fact, he was only making things worse.
“I’m sorry. Yes, I should be able to – never mind. Go on.”
“That was – I was just trying to sound you out. To see how you feel about – this emergency plan.”
Samantha looked anxiously around the table, before continuing.
“I – there must be some way I could get in touch with Greskrendtrek and – I know he’d love to join us. He doesn’t have anyone waiting at home, so -“
B’Elanna nodded. It might not be the wisest of courses, trying to encourage more people to come away with them, but somehow, she knew it was a good idea to at least get the opinions of other Maquis. This was a matter that concerned all of them.
Tom too, even if he wasn’t, strictly speaking, a Maquis, as much as a – common criminal. Of course, Janeway might be able to call in a few favors to save her newest lover’s hide. In that case, Tom wouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Over the next couple of weeks, all the Maquis discussed the need for a plan and most of them decided they would rather take their chances somewhere else. B’Elanna was surprised they were able to keep their secret from the rest of the crew, especially considering how many of them were now involved with Starfleet officers, but somehow, they did. They were even able to keep it from the Captain’s ears, which was a bit of an accomplishment.
Of course, at least for the time being, Chakotay and Tom Paris were kept in ignorance of what the rest of the Maquis were planning.
When the planet first appeared on their scanners, the crew didn’t have any particular expectations. It was an M class planet, which was always nice, but other than that, there was nothing special about it, or at least there didn’t seem to be.
As always, Janeway hailed the natives and when the response was positive, it was decided that the Voyager would orbit the planet, which was called R’asc’iye. After the ship had taken on supplies and the senior officers had participated in a seemingly endless array of banquets and formal meetings, the crew was allowed to get some shore leave.
B’Elanna wasn’t particularly tempted to risk that, considering what had happened the last time, but there was no denying it would be pleasant to be able to do something to take her mind off her work and her plans for the future.
She and Harry reported to the transporter room together and found, to her considerable dismay, that Tuvok was going to transport down with them. For a second, B’Elanna was tempted to turn and leave, pretending to have forgotten something – with or without Harry. That, if nothing else, told her how unsettled Tuvok’s presence made her.
The Vulcan was, as always, oblivious to the emotional reactions of the non-Vulcans. His face expressed nothing but serene calm.
B’Elanna’s Klingon blood reasserted itself. She had every right to go down to the planet. No one could grudge her that – not Tuvok, and certainly not Tom.
She forced herself to stand next to Tuvok, just to prove to herself that she had done nothing wrong. The Vulcan acknowledged her presence, by nodding in a way that no doubt passed for amiable on Vulcan.
“Lieutenant Torres. Ensign Kim.”
If Tuvok picked up on the chill in B’Elanna’s voice, he gave no indication of it. He merely looked away into the distance, as he awaited the initiation of the transport.
Since Tuvok clearly wasn’t about to give the order, B’Elanna did it herself.
The familiar tingling spread throughout her body, but before she had time to register it fully, it was over. She and Harry looked out across another alien planet.
It was just as well that she hadn’t joined the Maquis to see the sights. This planet didn’t look very special to her. It was a sort of dull, greyish brown, only broken by sparse patches of something yellow she assumed was vegetation.
The architecture was – lumpy. Here, apparently, dwellings looked as piles of dirt or small hillocks with little or no vegetation covering them.
Further off, she now saw what must have been other dwellings or at least buildings of a kind. They seemed to be carved out of the rock. She wondered idly if this was a desert area, or if the entire planet was the same. Up on Voyager she had been a little too busy trying to get her work done before her shore leave, to really pay attention to the telemetry.
Turning to Harry, she was hoping to be enlightened.
“Is it all like this, or did we just beam down to a desert?”
Harry looked slightly embarrassed. Apparently she hadn’t been the only one who had been too busy to find out where they were going.
“Never mind. I guess we’re about to find out.”
One of the natives arrived and bowing courteously, he – they assumed it was a he, but it was a little hard to tell – looked as if he was well suited for life in the desert. His skin was thick and looked calloused somehow. The predominant color was greyish black.
“You are from the alien starship?”
“Yes. Lieutenant Torres. This is Ensign Harry Kim.”
The native bowed again.
“I am Krztyzlu. At your service. If you would come this way, please.”
B’Elanna gave a mental shrug. She might as well. After all those months on Voyager, she had begun to suffer from cabin fever. No matter what this planet looked like, there was a sky and a horizon and fresh air – of a kind. It smelled a little too much of ozone to really qualify as fresh air in her book, but at least she could feel a slight draught on her face. So far so good.
They followed their guide to one of the lumps of soil or whatever they were. Once inside, she found that they were some kind of bungalow. Again, she was painfully reminded of her last shore leave. This time she would make sure she never left Harry’s side and she’d stay as far away from others as possible. If some kind of alien estrus came over her, she’d make sure she only – got intimate with her own lover.
The refreshments were not really similar to the ones on that other planet, but close enough. B’Elanna looked away. She wasn’t hungry. At least there was water – again slightly different from what they were used to. It tasted a bit earthy, or rather sandy, but not too bad.
Their guide still hadn’t left.
“Inside the city, you will find many types of recreation and entertainment. I hope some of them will meet with your approval.”
B’Elanna and Harry exchanged glances. R & R was why they were here, so why not?
Harry followed their guide outside, then turned to make sure his lover was coming too. The inside of the city carved out the rock, was at once more ‘normal’ to B’Elanna’s eyes and more – alien. There was technology that she would love to get her hands on, but also phenomena she had no idea if they were technology or illusion. Before she left, she wanted to find out what it was, and how it worked. But now she would stop being the eager engineer and just relax and have fun. There was no doubt she needed that, and had been needing it for a long time.
She had assumed their guide was a native. Now suddenly she wasn’t so sure. In the bustling indoor city, she saw dozens of species, all in the first half hour or so. As the evening wore on, she had to amend that number upwards. It was more like twenty or so. All very different, none familiar, except in general terms. They were all bipeds, most had two eyes, no matter how they looked. All seemed to breathe some sort of mixture of what she recognized as air, though some seemed to be semi-amphibian. Others were almost avian in their appearance and even had rudimentary wings on their backs.
The first evening was spent experiencing the amusements of the huge indoor city. In the morning, there were tours of the likewise indoor plantations. Here the vegetation was more orange than yellow. Up close it seemed some of it was fungus and lichens. There were also some sort of diminutive fruits or berries. All yellow or orange, naturally, though hardly as bright as Earth peaches or apples.
Something about the visitors was attracting B’Elanna’s attention. Were they all native to this planet? Did she know of any planet that was home to at least twenty radically diverse species? Could they come from the same system? She found that unlikely too. So where did they come from? Had some huge passenger liner crashed here, leaving species from further off stranded on this seemlngly barren world?
She decided to find out. One of the tour guides, who was wearing what she now recognized as some kind of uniform. passed by, to ask them if there was anything they needed or if they wanted to use the facilities.
“Are all these species from your world?”
“No. We are the only species native to this planet.”
“I see. What about the others? Are they from this system?”
“This is the only planet with indigenous lifeforms. We have colonized one of the other planets and one of its moons, but that’s all.”
“Then where do all these people come from?”
To B’Elanna’s dismay, the guide appeared to be rather like Tuvok or the tiresome Holodoc. He began to recite the names of each species’ homeworld, then proceeded to outline their exact coordinates. When he seemed about to display a star chart to further illustrate his facts, B’Elanna thanked him hurriedly and began to walk away, pulling Harry along with her.
“Ow. You’re hurting me. I’m going to get bruises there.”
“Don’t be such a baby. Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to grab you so hard.”
“It’s ok. Never mind. What’s wrong?”
“Didn’t you hear him?”
“Uh – yes. What’s so important about that?”
“Wake up. They’re from so far away these people must have some kind of warp drive. A superwarpdrive more likely.”
A look came into Harry’s eyes, as the realization of what the discovery meant, but he made a visible effort to restrain himself.
“Let’s return to the ship and report to Captain Janeway.”
“Maybe she already knows.”
“Yeah, maybe, but if this world has some kind of warp drive, and one as powerful as this seems to be, then -“
“Do you think -“
“Voyager. Two to beam up.”
Two minutes later, they were standing outside Captain Janeway’s ready room. She was talking to Chakotay, but when B’Elanna stormed in with Harry in tow, they stopped talking and stared at them.
“Lieutenant. Ensign. What seems to be the trouble this time?”
“No trouble. Have you studied the tricorder scans from the planet?”
“Yes. There should be nothing harmful in the atmosphere or anywhere else for that matter. Typical M class planet.”
“I know. That’s not – Did you get any information about their technology?”
“In detail? No, why? The reports are here somewhere, but – at the moment we’re just focusing on taking on supplies and performing those long overdue repairs. As you should know.”
“They seem to have some kind of superwarpdrive.”
“Really? What makes you think so?”
“All those species. They’re far too diverse to have originated on the same planet or even in the same system. I asked one of the tour guides down there and apparently some of the visitors come from almost as far away as Earth, only in another direction.”
“Naturally. Chakotay, let’s take another look at those reports. This sounds – intriguing. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
“Do you need our help?”
“Not at this point. You go back down and enjoy your shore leave.”
B’Elanna nodded thoughtfully.
She and Harry returned to the planet, had lunch, and visited some enormous caverns, which were apparently completely natural, then returned to their bungalow to sleep. During their outing, they had been offered all kinds of sexually explicit entertainment, but had declined. Apparently, despite all superficial differences, this world was not unlike Riza.
Captain Janeway called a meeting in the conference room. Chakotay, Tuvok and B’Elanna were all invited. Most of them had been involved from the moment they’d had the first inkling of what they’d find on the planet, but only Captain Janeway, Tuvok and B’Elanna knew the full truth. Until now, B’Elanna had been forced to keep the knowledge to herself, but she had a hunch that from now on, her discovery would become common knowledge.
After B’Elanna had hurried inside, late after a minor emergency in Engineering, Janeway began speaking without any preliminaries.
“I know you will all be familiar with the reason for this meeting, so I won’t go into the background. I’ve briefed Chakotay and Tuvok so we’re all up to speed. We might have found the means to return to Earth before we’ve all reached the retirement age.”
Tuvok had been present during Janeway’s meeting with the R’asc’iyan authorities. He knew what his commander was about to announce and regardless of the end result, he felt as serene as any Vulcan.
“Your hunch was correct, B’Elanna. They do have advanced warp technology. If we could have Voyager’s engines adapted – or fully rebuilt according to their specs – you’ll know best what is possible – we’d be back home within three months, give or take a few weeks. At least we’d be well inside Federation space after that time.”
It wasn’t just the prospect of soon being much closer to home which made B’Elanna smile enthusiastically as she prepared to make her own report. The technology itself excited her. It was the most amazing and marvelous solution she could ever have imagined.
“From what little I’ve seen so far – they haven’t exactly been eager to let me have full access to any of their ships – but anyway – my guess is we’d need to rebuild the warp core completely. This makes our technology seem dated, to say the least. It’s an elegant solution. I only wish I’d thought of it myself.”
“Thank you, B’Elanna. The problem is, they’re not just going to part with such a major investment. Apparently, it’s not for sale. I’m told they only developed the techonology less than ten years ago and I can tell they’re going to get whatever profits they can, before it’s freely available.”
Chakotay forgot himself and spoke without even asking permission.
“But – surely there must be something we can offer them in return. This sort of opportunity – We can’t miss it. It might be our only chance to return to Earth.”
Janeway regarded her First Officer coolly, then appeared to let the minor trespass go with just a mental shrug.
“Let’s hope so. However, it seems the drive is under export restrictions. Even if a friendly power puts in a request, there would be at least five years of waiting. Apparently, there’s a waiting list.”
B’Elanna, who didn’t answer to her Captain except professionally, couldn’t help commenting.
“Where’s a Ferengi when you need one?”
Janeway smiled crookedly, seemingly amused, but not about to be sidetracked.
“Naturally, I’m going to do what I can to negotiate a deal with them. During the course of our journey, we’ve – acquired all kinds of knowledge which might interest them. Perhaps all we need it is to find the right offer. I’m not about to give up without a fight. Anyway, that would be all. Dismissed.”
B’Elanna still felt euphoric by her encounter with the alien technology. Normally, her work was just that. Something to do. Something which she took pride in, but still, just a job. What made her passionate, these days, was her children and her lover. Even so, the thought of staying for five years and learning all about the R’asc’iyan technology hovered in her mind. Not just the drive, but everything. She had a vision of herself learning their tricks, then triumphantly bringing them back to someplace far enough away from Earth to be safe, but not enough to be completely alien.
Her mind filled with these tempting fantasies, she wandered off back to Engineering. Captain Janeway hadn’t said anything more about keeping the discovery a secret, so she would tell Harry. She knew he’d find the drive as fascinating as she did. If she could, she’d definitely bring Harry down to the surface so he could catch at least a few tantalising glimpses of the fantastic technology.
It wasn’t long until news of the mind-blowing discovery had travelled through the ship. Soon no one talked about anything but the planet and its exceptional drive technology. For most of the crew, that was, quite naturally, what was most interesting. B’Elanna hadn’t expected anyone outside Engineering to see the beauty of the technique, so that didn’t bother her.
She’d been right. Harry was just as excited as she’d expected him to be. Over the following weeks, he managed to find pretexts to come down with her. While the drive was still restricted, many other discoveries were old enough or considered mundane enough to be freely available to anyone who was interested.
Together, they spent hours soaking up the new ideas. They found enough inspiration to help them come up with several useful devices and gadgets, but that didn’t get them anywhere with the major problem.
Captain Janeway and Chakotay did their utmost to negotiate a deal, but the R’asc’iyans were just as ruthless in business negotiations as any Ferengis. They were also as brilliant scientists as many Vulcans or Romulans, not to mention Terrans.
To make matters worse, Voyager’s officers knew exactly where the data concerning the drive was kept. There was a planet-wide database, accessible only to natives with the equivalent of the highest Starfleet security clearance. Anyone could get into the building housing the mainframe, but to actually access and download the information would take far more subtlety than a direct approach.
The negotiations ground to a halt and Janeway was about to give up, leaving the crew devastated, after having this wonderful promise given, only to be taken away again.
Tom Paris looked furtively over his shoulder as he got to work on the access panel in Shuttle Bay Five. If he did this right, his absence and that of the shuttle would go unnoticed not only by his fellow crew members, but also the computer. He estimated he’d need no more than two hours for the whole escapade. His shift was over and he wouldn’t be missed until 0700 hours the following morning, so he should have plenty of time to do what he set out to do.
The R’asc’iyans were used to the Terrans’ comings and goings and would find nothing unusual in his arrival. With a little luck he should be able to pull it off.
He parked the shuttle on a stretch of land, looking no different than any other, even close to the city. There was a space port, but that mainly catered to the local cargo traffic and passenger commuter shuttles from within the system. Visitors from further afield would usually stay in orbit. The natives used land transports for shorter distances and small fliers for longer trips, but the shuttle from Voyager was no larger than the small fliers which could be parked anywhere.
All he had to do was protect the shuttle from the sandstorms which could blow up from nothing to a major traffic hazard in less than five minutes. He raised a force field around it and began to walk the short distance to the database’s main building. In the exteriorwise plain but interiorly more impressive library-like building, the main hall was too populated for his purposes.
During his explorations he’d discovered a far better place to make his attempt. Behind the main hall there were several smaller rooms, intended for students from the university. Post-graduate students and researchers would spend months there preparing their theses. One of them, if it was empty, would be perfect for his purpose.
Ten minutes later, he was inside one of the small rooms, getting to work on the encryption codes. He’d brought a handy little device which could run through billions of sequences in a nano-second.
No one appeared to have noticed his entry, through an unassuming side door.
He smiled contentedly as the little device clicked to indicate it had succeeded in breaking the code. His hands busily entering the manual override code, he pulled out the small storage device and hooked it up to the terminal.
All that knowledge could be compressed and stored on such a tiny memory stick. The last teraflop of information downloaded into the memory stick and Tom began to disconnect it. Suddenly, he heard the sounds of footsteps coming down the corridor in his direction. He snatched up the storage device and pocketed it, prepared to sneak out, before his pursuers caught up with him.
Too late. The door wavered and vanished and he felt the acrid fumes from the vaporized material.
Six or seven uniformed guards were covering him with stick-like objects he knew were the R’asc’iyan equivalent of a phaser.
Tom drew himself up, hoping against hope, to be able to talk his way out of the sticky situation. After all, that was, more or less, his speciality. One of them anyway.
“Excuse me? What seems to be the problem? I must have gotten lost as I was -“
The guards raised their weapons in a way that told him his attempt hadn’t been successful. Without bothering to speak, they indicated for him to walk ahead of them outside. They led him towards another entry to the rock city. Four of them escorted him into a lift, then placed shackles, mainly consisting of a forcefield, around his wrists. One of them pointed towards a low bench facing a desk.
There he was left alone for at least an hour. By that time, Tom had come to the conclusion that the door was sealed in a way he couldn’t break through, and that Voyager couldn’t have been alerted to his situation.
Finally, a man walked in, surrounded by an air of authority. Tom wasn’t familiar enough with the R’asc’iyans to be able to tell exactly how old this man was, but he guessed the equivalent of somewhere between fifty and sixty in Terran years,
“Mr Paris. Ensign Paris? Is that your name?”
“My name is Tom Paris. Ensign is my rank.”
“Thank you. Tom Paris, you have been caught in the act of stealing valuable restricted technology. For this act of industrial espionage, a R’asc’iyan citizen would have been sentenced to a lengthy prison term. You present – something of a problem. According to interplanetary law, we can’t judge you by the same laws as our own citizens. However, your Commander’s application to use the drive, will of course be placed on hold, for – at least as long as it takes to solve this judicial conundrum.”
“But – it’s not fair that you punish my people for my mistake. I – I’m afraid my wish to return home, to my father and my home, clouded my judgment. Please don’t let my people suffer for my crime. I have a daughter and -“
“That is hardly our concern, Ensign Paris.You might have thought of your daughter and your father, before you committed this serious crime. I don’t mind telling you that a bit of drunken foolishness or other minor trespasses would have been a totally different matter. We are prepared to be lenient towards our visitors. After all, the tourist trade is our main source of income. However -“
Tom sensed there was an opening and he eagerly seized the opportunity to probe that slight possibility of mercy or at least –
“There might be another – solution. I shall discuss the matter with your Commander. In the meantime – you will be taken to a holding facility.”
Tom was taken to a subterranean level, which was feebly lit by a sort of lighting that seemed to flicker uncertainly. He had an uncanny feeling it might go out entirely. Down here, the air was more humid than up above and he found it hard to breathe. The corridor was filled with small cells, and he was thrown into one of them. At least he was alone in it. He’d noticed that the other cells were filled with up to five prisoners. The small cells were so packed that the prisoners could hardly sit down.
After the door had slammed shut behind the guards, a deafening noise broke out. The translator had trouble converting the noises and catcalls into English but Tom had no trouble catching the drift of what the other prisoners were yelling at him.
“Hey, sweet face. If you get lonely over there, you’re welcome to sit on my lap.”
“I have something for you, rosebud.”
‘Rosebud’? Tom had a distinct feeling the translator had screwed up there, but whatever the man had really said, it must have been something relatively similar. In any case, his meaning was unmistakable. Tom wasn’t familiar enough with the R’asc’iyan physiognomy to be able to tell if the man was serious or was merely trying to intimidate hm. In any case, it didn’t matter. He was intimidated.
These R’asc’iyans were big and looked strong. They had teeth that reminded Tom of carnivores on a dozen planets. On their hands they had fingernails which were more claw-like than anything else.
Besides, during the course of his explorations in the entertainment districts of the city, Tom had happened to notice that the R’asc’iyan males were well endowed to say the least. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also seemed to have incredible stamina.
If that guy was serious about – his intentions – Tom knew he’d be better off with Tuvok during a fresh outbreak of Pon Farr.
Chakotay was with Janeway when she received the astonishing message from the planet. Why should the third continent’s Prefect – which translated as some kind of mayor – want to have a face-to-face meeting on the surface? Could it be that their final offer was going to be accepted?
“Right. I’m going down. You’re in charge.”
“I’ll keep you posted of any developments you’ll need to know about. Dismissed.”
Chakotay nodded. He was far too used to his lover’s ways, to be offended. During their workshifts, they were merely colleagues, not lovers. If she chose to speak to him as if he was just about anyone, he could accept that, as he accepted everything else about the woman he loved, without questioning her.
She was shown into His Excellency, Taor Vay’il’s office and offered refreshments, which she turned down. If this was what she was hoping for, she was eager to get started. B’Elanna Torres and the rest of the team in Engineering couldn’t wait to get to work on the rebuilding of the warp core. Janeway had only the vaguest of ideas as to how long that would take, but the sooner they got started, the better.
Intterrupting her reverie, His Excellency walked in, accompanied by a small man, who was apparently his secretary. Vay’il waved him out, impatiently, then turned to face his guest, a fierce grin on his face.
“Ah, Captain Janeway. I trust you have been well looked after in my absence?”
“Yes, of course. Thank you.”
“Excellent. I’m afraid I have some bad news. Some hours ago, a member of your crew was caught in the act of attempting to steal restricted technology. I’m sure you realize what I’m referring to.”
For once, Janeway was taken aback. Momentarily, she was at a loss as to what to say.
“One of my officers? Which one?”
Confusedly, Janeway imagined that it was B’Elanna Torres. That girl had been bewitched by the drive technology. Something like this wouldn’t be entirely unexpected.
It was a while until the reply fully sank in. Tom. Impossible. The stupid disobedient fool. What was she going to do about him? If he cost her the means of returning to Earth –
“I see. What will happen to him?”
“Ah, yes, that is the question, isn’t it?”
“I must apologize for his rash behavior, but I hope you won’t hold the rest of our crew responsible for the mistakes of one man.”
“It’s not a matter of how I feel about it. The law is clear. We will have to put an immediate hold on our negotiations. I won’t lie to you. This might mean a delay of – a decade, most likely more.”
Janeway felt a sudden searing flash of anger towards her impetuous young lover. The stupid fool. He should have trusted her to bring the negotiations to a successful close. Now he’d jeopardized their return home. If the R’asc’iyans were going to punish him, she might just let them. If not, he might wish they had.
“I was afraid of that. Isn’t there anything we can do? Your Excellency, we need that technology. We’re lost far away from home and this drive could be our only chance of returning in most of our lifetimes. I don’t think I need to add that the Federation would prove a most grateful ally if we were able to use your drive to get back.”
“Well – Now that you mention it, there was something -“
Janeway recognized that tone, and even if she hadn’t, there was a look in the man’s eyes which told her he wanted something. Whatever it was, within reason, he could have it. No price was too high to pay for their safe return home.
“Your young man – he’s very exotic looking. Is he considered attractive by your standards too?”
Janway stared in confusion. Had she heard that correctly? Was the translator malfunctioning? Surely this slimy politician wasn’t suggesting –
“Uh – yes.”
“Of course. As it happens, I have taken a liking to him and – I think I might be able to influence the negotiations in your favor, should you be inclined to – let him stay for a while, and – get to know me better.”
Janeway thought quickly. This was – exactly the petty, sordid behavior she might have expected from this pompous fool. On the other hand, Tom had been very bad. Hadn’t she been considering letting the R’asc’iyans punish him, only moments ago? Perhaps it was only what Tom deserved, for risking their return journey?
After a few more moments of thought, Janeway decided to agree. Their relationship involved exactly this type of obedience. She had a right to ask anything of him and he – short of leaving her – had no way of refusing. After what he’d done, it was no more than he deserved anyway. At least she kept telling herself that.
“Hm. A while? I suppose we could delay our departure a bit, if we were sure to be able to use your technology.”
“I’m sure you will. As you can imagine, I do have some slight influence over the Council. Trust me. I will see to it that your crew don’t need to suffer for this man’s mistake.”
“Thank you, Your Excellency. That is – highly satisfactory.”
She could have sworn that the old fool was as good as rubbing his hands. For a second, she allowed herself to imagine what it would be like to be – at his mercy, sexually. The thought left a foul taste in her mouth. At least this would teach Tom what happened when he disobeyed her orders. She would leave him down on the planet for – a week or two. After that, surely Taor Vay’il would have tired of his new toy and let him go?
Tom looked up to see the guards returning. He had known Kathryn would come for him. She must have managed to come to some sort of agreement with the R’asc’iyans and he was going to be allowed to leave.
To his surprise, they put the shackles back on him.
“Hey, guys. This won’t be necessary.”
The guards didn’t even bother facing him. They shoved him towards the door and herded him into a lift. This time, he was taken to what appeared to be a luxurious private apartment, with a real window facing a slightly shaded valley. He had an impression this was as fancy as accommodations came on this world, unless there were some beachfront properties which were even more valuable.
Finally, the shackles were removed. The guards retreated towards the door and before he had time to ask them what he was doing in a place like this, the door had closed behind them. Puzzled, he got up and walked over towards the big window. He’d seen nicer views, but at least this was a change from the lower levels where there was little or no natural light.
“Impressive, isn’t it?”
He whirled around to find the guy he’d seen before staring at him, rather than the view he’d mentioned. There was something in that look that worried Tom. The guy looked so – hungry, he was wondering what was going on.
“Yes. Very nice.”
No harm in being polite.
“Excuse me, but what am I doing here?”
“Come. Let me show you something else.”
Despite himself, Tom followed the guy into another room, this time without a window. It was filled with a lot more furniture than the first room, and there was a sort of heavy, perfumed smell in there that bothered him. The furnishings were a mix of shelves and other storage facilities, probably intended as showcases for various ornaments, presumably valuable, and what might be used as sofas or beds. Again, this didn’t particularly allay his concerns.
What his host had intended to show him turned out to be an image display device, which showed a sort of dwelling, located directly fronting a body of water. A pond, or something like that. There was even a bit more vegetation there, than Tom had seen since his arrival on R’asc’iye.
“This is my house on D’tlya – a moon we have colonized. It’s one of only a dozen or so dwellings there. So far, the moon has been restricted to a select few property owners and a number of carefully selected entrepreneurs.”
“I see. Very impressive.”
The guy looked as if he’d expected that reaction, and merely nodded rather smugly.
“Now – why am I here? When can I return to Voyager?”
“Ah, yes. You see, I was hoping you’d stay and – keep me company.”
“For how long?”
Tom could have kicked himself. He sounded like a teenager, not a Starfleet officer. He should have refused the honor and just walked away. Except he had a feeling the door wouldn’t just open for him and he’d be surprised if this guy let him go that easily. The whole situation made him uneasy.
“Oh, let’s just take one step at a time, shall we? Here. I’ve taken the liberty of ordering some refreshments. I’ve been told this drink is popular with your people.”
He indicated a container of a fluid that might have been wine, or possibly beer. In any case, like everything else here, it had a yellowish tinge.
“I’m afraid my ship has to leave soon and I’m needed up there, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to -“
“You’re not going anywhere.”
The voice had lost its polite overtones and was now barely more than a growl. Tom was uncomfortably reminded of the guards’ muscles, teeth and claws. Most R’asc’iyans were at least two heads taller than the average human, and usually quite a bit bulkier. He knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance in a struggle with this man.
“Why have you brought me here?”
Every trace of courteousness was gone by now. The guy – Tom realized that if he’d been told his name, he’d forgotten – suddenly looked bigger somehow and more menacing.
“Fine. Let’s leave the polite small talk. You are here because you please me. You will stay, as long as you continue to please me. When you no longer do so, then I might consider parting with you. Is that all? No more questions? Good. I hope you’re not going to be foolish enough to resist me. If you don’t know it already, I can tell you that my people are quite a bit stronger than yours. Don’t make me mar the perfection of your skin.”
Tom had a horrible sense of d¯©j¯† vu. This was like that space station all over again, complete with huge, menacing guards. He knew how it usually ended. There were exactly three choices: comply, fight back and end up the same way anyway or – finding a way of ending his own life now. Neither alternative felt very inviting. Crumpling up inside, he decided to pick the first option. There were no guarantees he’d be able to kill himself even if he was willing to resort to that, and fighting back, with no hope of success didn’t make any sense.
“No. I’m not going to fight you. Do what you want.”
The guy’s face was split by a ghastly grin, as he moved closer. Up close, Tom noticed an acrid smell and an unnerving growling noise, which might or might not have been panting.
“Kathryn? Where is Tom? What happened?”
“He’s still down there.”
“Weren’t you able to come to an agreement with the authorities?”
“Yes. I was.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’ll let us have the drive technology. We can return home.”
“But what about Tom?”
Janeway avoided meeting Chakotay’s gaze. She wasn’t used to having to answer to her lovers, but this time, she knew she could have handled the situation better. Leaving Tom down there was – quite apart from the fact that he was hers to give away as she pleased, he was a member of her crew. She’d never left one of her own behind and wasn’t going to start now.
“He’ll be here in time for our departure.”
“We have work to do. Dismissed.”
She snapped at Chakotay, but really she was upset with herself. No matter what the agreement was between them, she knew that this was – too harsh. She should have been able to find another solution. Besides, she had no idea how that vile man was going to treat Tom. If they were anything like – say the Cardassians – Tom would suffer untold agonies. Could be suffering right now.
Chakotay flinched as if from a blow, but didn’t question Janeway’s right to command him. He nodded and left her ready room to take up his duties on the Bridge. All the while, he couldn’t help wondering what was going on. What had really happened to Tom?
Later that evening, in Kathryn’s quarters, he finally learned the truth. He was horrified. For once, he almost questioned his decision to submit to Kathryn. How could she have sold Tom to that man? Naturally, she had the right to demand anything from them, but this? This time, she wasn’t even in the picture. She’d just left Tom to be used by a creature that was both bigger and stronger and for all he knew could be physically like a Cardassian.
He couldn’t help thinking that there ought to be a way he could get Tom back. Kathryn had claimed that the deal only was for a limited time. If so, Tom should be allowed to leave before Voyager was ready to depart. If not –
The thought wouldn’t leave Chakotay alone. He hadn’t enjoyed being left out, when Kathryn had let Tom into her life and, in a way, into their relationship. That didn’t mean he resented Tom Paris. They’d served together for years and he considered the impetuous young pilot a friend.
In the end, Chakotay decided to go and see B’Elanna. She and Tom were no longer lovers and the breakup hadn’t been amiable, but – surely she wouldn’t wish to see Tom suffer like this? Besides, she was someone he knew he could trust with his life. Their days together in the Maquis had proven that over and over again.
When Chakotay showed up in Engineering, right behind B’Elanna, as she was about to perform another painstaking diagnostic of the new warp core, she started.
“Oh, you startled me. Is anything wrong?”
“Could I speak to you in private?”
“Ok. Vorik. Take over, will you? I’ll be right back.”
The Vulcan bowed and got to work.
Harry watched his lover walk away with Chakotay, not really concerned, but idly wondering what their First Officer wanted, that couldn’t be dealt with over the comm system.
They went to the Arboretum, which fortunately was empty at this time.
B’Elanna, never very patient, even at the best of times, barely gave Chakotay time to slow down before she confronted him.
“Come on. What’s wrong?”
Chakotay swallowed hard, wondering how to begin.
“B’Elanna – Tom -“
She suddenly felt cold. What if Tom was dead? Whatever had happened between them, he was still little Lanna’s father. Nothing could erase what they’d once had, even if Tom had changed and –
“Is he dead?”
“No. Of course not. I should have made that clear from the start. You know how he was caught red-handedly trying to steal this technology?”
“Oh, was that it? I didn’t know exaclty what he’d done. I thought it was more likely that he’d been caught at one of his old pranks.”
“No. It was far worse than that. He was in custody, but – their – Mayor or whatever he is – took a liking to him.”
B’Elanna’s eyes widened. Was Chakotay saying what she thought he was saying?
“You mean – he was – attracted to him?”
“But how -“
“That was part of the deal. He was to stay and – In the meantime, we got the specs for the new drive.”
“But that’s -“
“Yes. I think so too. That’s why – I’ve been thinking we should go and get him. As soon as Voyager is ready to leave, we’ll go down there and break him out. I’ve studied a few schematics and I think I know how to do it. Are you in?”
“Are you kidding? This will be just like the old days. We’ll be ready to do a test run the day after tomorrow. If that works out ok, and it will, we’ll be ready to leave the day after or – possibly forty-eight hours later.”
“Then that’s when we’ll do it. Can you delay our departure by say – six hours or so? That should give us time to get in and out without making too much noise.”
“No problem. Leave that to me. These things always take more time than you think. Sometimes much more.”
Chakotay couldn’t help smiling. She was right. This really was like the old days. He could feel the adrenaline begin to pump. Whatever Kathryn would think about this, he knew it would be worth it.
They cloaked the shuttle and after the short flight, they set down on top of the mountain that housed the indoor city. The fact that Vay’il’s quarters were so high up worked to their advantage.
B’Elanna was about to get up and follow Chaktay outside, when he stopped her.
“You’re staying here. I’ll get Tom out, you keep the shuttle ready to take off.”
“What are you talking about? You’ll need me down there. It’s not something I like to dwell on, but I am stronger than you, so -“”
“I know you are, B’Elanna, but that’s got nothing to do with it. You’re needed up here.”
“No. I want to come too.”
“You’re a mother now. We can’t risk -“
“Don’t be stupid. If the worst comes to the worst, the children have Harry, they’ll -“
“Don’t say that. Losing a parent is one of the worst things that can happen to you. At any age.”
Knowing Chakotay spoke from painful personal experience, B’Elanna bit back the sharp reply she had on the tip of her tongue.
“I’ll be fine. Nothing will happen to me.”
“No, because you’re staying here. Please. Keep a transporter lock on me at all times, then lock on to Tom’s coordinates and beam us out. There’s no way we can do this undetected. I’m lucky if I can get close to Tom, without anyone noticing. This is the only way.”
Grumbling audibly, B’Elanna gave in. Once again, her rash Klingon half had won out over her more cautious human half. Would she ever learn?
“Ok. You got it. Just get back here safely, ok?”
Chakotay had trouble decoding the lock to Vay’il’s quarters, but just as he began to think he’d have to blow it open with his phaser, the lock clicked and the door swished open. His scans had revealed that Tom most likely was alone in the suite. At least his tricorder had picked up the lifesigns of only one human, no R’asc’iyan.
He didn’t dare to shout any louder, for fear of alerting someone to his presence. Quickly, he made a visual scan of the first room and finding nothing, he moved on to the next.
That was where he found Tom, stretched out on what might have been a couch or a divan or something like that. The young man was so immobile, Chakotay almost feared the worst. He reached for his tricorder and the results of the scan reassured him.
Even if he couldn’t see it from this distance, Tom was breathing and his heart was beating. Since Tom wasn’t wearing any clothes at all, the cuts and bruises all over were only too plain to see. Chakotay winced as he imagined how they had ended up on Tom’s skin. Knowing time was running out, he hurried over to the divan. He placed a hand on Tom’s shoulder and shook it lightly. Tom’s reaction stunned and saddened him. The scream that tore itself lose from Tom’s throat was more animal than human.
“Hey, take it easy. It’s me. Chakotay. I’m here to get you back to Voyager. Hang on.”
He bent over Tom, to try and help him to his feet. Tom cowered away from him.
A rasping voice from behind, made Chakotay freeze.
“Very touching. And I thought Tom Paris belonged to your Commander. Clearly, I was wrong. But of course, I should have known. His skills were – let’s just say that I guessed he’d given himself to other men before.”
Chakotay whirled around, hand still on his phaser. Vay’il was standing there, hand on some kind of communication device. Chakotay’s mind raced, trying to think of a way out of the trap he’d walked into.
“No need for hostilities. I’m sure we can come to some sort of – arrangement. Now that I have had a chance to take a good look, I find that Tom isn’t the only Terran male that is pleasing to the eye.”
Chakotay couldn’t believe he was hearing that correctly. Was that slimy piece of trash actually – Amazing. But no matter how he felt about that, he knew this was his chance. If he could delay the arrival of the guards if only by a minute or so, it would give B’Elanna an opportunity to lock on to their coordinates and get them out.
“You flatter me.”
Vay’il seemed to relax slightly, while assuming a posture Chakotay guessed was considered attractive on R’asc’iye.
“Are you all this appealing?”
“You must tell me more about the Terran male form.”
“If you’ll just excuse me, I would like to make sure my – friend – is comfortable.”
“Go ahead. You’ll find that I’ve taken good care of him. He’s been fed and – let’s just say that if he’s – resting now – it’s only because he – exhausted himself earlier.”
“I see. Excuse me.”
Chakotay again bent over Tom and this time squeezed his hand reassuringly, while discreetly pressing his comm badge into it. Tom looked away and snatched his hand back. Chakotay kneeled beside the divan and whispered a few words into Tom’s ear, trying to make it seem as if he was finding it hard to keep his hands off his – friend, as he’d put it.
“As you can see, he’s none the worse for wear.”
“As you say. Now – Tom -“
Tom might have been reluctant to face Chakotay or even to acknowledge his presence, but he knew that the hastily outlined plan was their only chance to escape. He followed Chakotay’s whispered instructions, while tapping the comm badge feverishly.
“B’Elanna. Emergency transport. Two to beam up.”
Before Vay’il’s narrowing eyes, his two prisoners wavered and disappeared. A look of stupefaction spread across his face.
He was about to call the guards to his quarters, when he recalled that his support in the Council depended solely on his reputation. Visitors from certain worlds were negative enough as it was, when it came to certain parts of the entertainment industry. If one of the planet’s highest officials was caught in a compromising position with an off-worlder, or rather two, it might well be decided that he was expendable.
With a sigh, he decided to call his personal advisor. She might be able to suggest a few discreet moves that would ensure his continued access to power.
The EMH made no comment as he treated Tom’s injuries. No one asked him how serious they were or any other details, so he kept those to himself. Naturally, he realized what had happened to Tom Paris, but unless the officer wished to avail himself of the psychiatric part of his database, this was something he wouldn’t discuss with anyone.
In the meantime, Janeway faced Chakotay, rather coldly, across her desk.
“You did what?”
“B’Elanna and I -“
“B’Elanna? I see. So the warp core was ready hours ago. I should have known. First she is absolutely certain it will be up and running within – oh, never mind. B’Elanna Torres is an undisciplined young woman. That’s hardly news and certainly not my concern, unless she jeopardizes Voyager or the rest of the crew. My beef is with you. How could you, Chakotay?”
“I didn’t feel I could leave Tom like that. Were you going to leave him behind? After -“
“You forget yourself. But since you’ve already asked, no. I wasn’t planning on leaving Tom behind, but I was going to use a less crude method of securing his release. If we are pursued – Do I need to remind you that we’re not the only ones in possession of this miraculous new drive? Are you willing to face the consequences if Vay’il will declare war on us?”
“He won’t do that. If he was going to, he’d have done it by now.”
“If we’re safe, it’s no thanks to you. This isn’t the end of it, Chakotay. We’ll discuss this later.”
The subtle emphasis she put on the last word, told Chakotay what to expect. Though his mind rebelled at the injustice, another part of him was excited by the prospects of behind punished by her hand. After all, it was her right. It was what he’d agreed to when he’d become her lover. In any case, Tom was safe. Whatever happened, it had been worth it.