|Primary Characters:||B’Elanna Torres. Tom Paris, Harry Kim and many others.|
|Warning:||some strong language|
|Description:||The crew of the Delta Flier find a strange shuttle, and meet an odd assortment of people. Due to various circumstances, they end up traveling together.|
When they’d been on their way for about ten days, their scanners picked up another small ship. It seemed to be making a thorough study of some small planetoids in a belt of similar minor planets. They must have been left over after a star had exploded. Since the Delta Flier was in need of supplies, they decided to risk hailing the other vessel. This close to Federation space, they didn’t expect to run into any trouble, but they played it safe anyway. With children aboard, they weren’t about to take any chances.
Aboard the other ship, they could read seven lifeforms. Five Terrans, of which one was a child, a Ferengi and – a Cardassian. The latter might be cause for alarm. Since they wanted to know who they were dealing with, they decided to go to full screen. At the helm they saw a dark-haired, blue-eyed man that looked slightly familiar to Tom. Flanking him were two young men.
“Greetings. We’re not looking for any trouble. Is this a good place to take on new supplies?”
“Sure. There’s enough for everyone. And just so we’re clear. We’re not looking for any trouble either. Your ship looks unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Tom grinned smugly. No, he’d bet the guy hadn’t. Where had he seen him before? It must have been years ago, long before he ended up on Voyager.
“Actually, I built it.”
“Interesting. I don’t suppose I could take a closer look?”
“I’ll discuss it with my – crew. By the way, you look familiar. Have we met?”
The man appeared to be considering his question, then he shrugged.
“Not that I can recall. My name is Tom Riker.”
Riker. Suddenly, Tom had an unnerving flashback to his days at the Academy or rather at the end of his days at the Academy. The Enterprise had been – It was an occasion Tom would much rather forget, but the man was associated with the ship. A man very much like this one had been First Officer on Enterprise. Had his name been Tom? Tom didn’t think so. He usually remembered anyone bearing his own name. What was that guy’s name again? Not Tom. Bill? Will? That was it. William Riker.
“Are you any relation of William Riker? First Officer on the Enterprise?”
“You know Will? Long story, but yes, you could say that we’re related. Interesting. You’ve been on the Enterprise. What are you doing out here, if I may ask?”
“I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t know you. What I’m doing out here is my own business, but – I’ll tell you what. We could meet down on one of those planets. Does any of them have a breathable atmosphere?”
“No, but there are mines. We could meet there. Come to think of it, you have the advantage over me. You know my name.”
“I’m Tom Paris, and this is my friend Harry Kim.”
“Paris? Any relation of the Admiral?”
Tom looked pained, but he was the one who’d started it with his questions. He might as well do the polite thing and exchange information. After all, unless you were at war, that was the custom out in space.
“Yes. He’s my father.”
“Ah, the wayward son. But I thought you were lost in the Delta Quadrant. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have an interesting story to tell. Actually, so might we. It might not look that way, but we’re rather a motley crew ourselves. No pun intended. Let me introduce my associates – Terry Byrne and Ryan Connor. Our other companions might be even more – unique.”
“Now that you mention it, we couldn’t fail to notice that you have a Cardassian aboard your ship. I can imagine there’s quite a story behind that.”
Tom Riker laughed.
“That’s the weirdest story of them all. I think we should meet and talk. It might prove profitable, as one of our other companions would say. When would you like to meet?”
“We’ll get back to you when we’ve discussed your proposal, but I will definitely look forward to meeting you all.”
“So will I:”
They placed the Delta Flier in a sort of orbit around the biggest rock. Tom and Harry went to talk to the others. When Tom caught sight of Seven and the other Borgs, it struck him that they were just as motley as the others. Maybe more so. Here they were, one half-Klingon, a quarter-Klingon child, a half-Ktarean child, not to mention Icheb, Brunali, as well as a dour Bajoran kid. Added to that was the fact that some of them were former Maquis and one of them – himself – an adventurer of rather varied background. They’d definiltely have a story to tell the others.
He’d liked the older Tom from the start and the two younger men seemed ok too. Especially the older of them. The other one seemed to be a little too much like Gerron, unpredictable and moody, but in the time he’d known the Bajoran he’d learned that Gerron could be quite likeable and so might the other young man.
Living like this suited him. Not knowing from one day to the other what encounters lay in store for him or what experiences. As long as those experiences were pleasant he was all for variation. But he reminded himself that he was now a father. He couldn’t allow himself to take any risks.
It turned out all were in favor of meeting the others, though Gerron didn’t have much of an opinion, and neither did Samantha. They’d scanned the ship and it didn’t seem to have any weaponry that might pose a problem to them. Besides, Tom had had a feeling that while Tom Riker was a man much like himself, who liked to take chances, he was also a good guy.
After the youngest children were in bed, Tom, B’Elanna and the Borgs decided to transport down to the mine Tom Riker had sent them the coordinates for. Their scans of the planetoid didn’t reveal anything alarming.
They materialized inside a huge cavern. It was obvious that it had at some time been mined, but by now, it looked as if it had been abandoned for some time. The air was good and there was even functioning lighting.
When the others materialized, Tom recognized the other Tom, the older of the two young men, a Ferengi and – interestingly – the Cardassian. The three newcomers greeted them politely and the two new faces were introduced to them.
“Quark, at your service. If your ship needs supplies, I can help you out. Just let me know your needs and I will accomodate you at a very reasonable price.”
Tom Riker cast a glance at the Ferengi, revealing he had mixed feelings about his companion.
“Ok, that’s enough. I thought I’d told you this isn’t a marketing venture.”
The Ferengi merely grinned, looking unremorseful.
Riker pointed to the remaining male.
“This is Garak, from Deep Space Nine – so is Quark -”
Smoothly, the Cardassian took over the introduction.
“I am a tailor by profession, and I can assure you that I have no hostile intentions towards any of you. I couldn’t fail to notice that you have a Bajoran aboard, and I would like to assure him too, that I have no wish to offend him in any way. I have long since become a naturalized Federation citizen.”
“Tailor, my ass. If that was all there was to you, you wouldn’t be here, I’m sure, but hey, who am I to question your cover.”
“My friend, you do me an injustice. I am merely a tailor and if anyone – one of the ladies perhaps – would like to see my fabrics and possibly order something for your wardrobes, I’d be pleased to help you out.”
“What is this? A conference for Ferengis? I think we’d better get round to the interesting part, but – I’d be curious to know what three former Borgs are doing here and a lovely half-Klingon lady.”
B’Elanna scowled. That oily compliment was even worse than her Tom’s pickup lines. With some effort she kept her temper in check and waited patiently while the Borgs introduced themselves.
“My name is – Annika Hansen. This is Corey Tainton and Icheb.”
“Ah, Icheb. What species are you, if I may ask?”
Garak looked genuinely interested.
Icheb felt a little at a loss. His background was the last thing he wanted to think about. Working as a part of the crew he’d learned to push thoughts about his past to the back of his mind. Now the Cardassian’s question had reminded him again.
“Brunali? I see, it’s not familiar to me. Oh, well. At least you’ve now escaped and are experiencing individuality.”
“Yes.”Riker showed them to a room that looked as if it had been an office and they all sat down.
“I suppose I might as well start. I’m – my background is a little unusual, and I’ll get into that later, but I’ve been a rolling stone for years and I pretty much go wherever I please. Just for the fun, really. Unlike my – unlike Will I’ve never had a taste for uniforms. When I was visiting the area around DS9, I ran into Quark and Garak. Thair stories will take time and I suggest we leave it for later, if you don’t mind. We also met Terry here, and his two friends. Would you like to -”
Terry Byrne studied each face around the table, before he began.
“I won’t go into any details right now, but my friends and I ran into some trouble while we were serving on the Pretoria. We felt it was best to resign and start a new life. Lucky for us, we ran into Tom and the others and – here we are. On Pretoria I was Chief of Security and I have to tell you that – associating with us – at least some of us, might be tricky. We’re not the Gamma Quadrant’s most wanted, but – if we ran into Starfleet officers it might be awkward.”
Riker nodded and took over.
“Yes, it’s only fair to tell you that we, all of us, have run into some trouble, one way or another. We’re not wanted for treason or murder or anything like that, but at times, I suppose I’ve – been a little free in my interpretations of the law. I’ve never really understood what Quark’s trouble was, but I think it was sometihng to do with acquisitions, am I right?”
“A misunderstanding. Nothing more.”
“As for Garak, I have no idea what his game is, but so far he’s been a good travelling companion and if he’s wanted by the authorities -”
“No, no. In my case, it’s just a case of – restlessness. I’ve been in one place for too long. However, my own people, if I may say so about the Cardassians – for various complicated political reasons, I’m not the most popular person there. As far as I’m concerned, I’d like to stay well clear of Cardassian space.”
Riker watched the people from the Delta Flier with interest. No doubt he was hoping to learn more of their reasons for being here.
Tom exchanged glances with B’Elanna, wishing Harry had been with them, but decided to risk confiding in the others. After all, they’d been quite forthcoming about their own situations.
“Well, my story is rather similar to yours, Riker, so you could say that I’m in some trouble too. I’d rather not return to Earth, in any case. As for my companions -”
“Some of us are in a bit of trouble too.”
B’Elanna wasn’t sure if admitting to being a former Maquis would be a good idea, so she left it at that.
Corey took it upon himself to explain the reason for his and Seven’s presence there. Icheb was with them for much the same reasons, except for one. Earth wasn’t his home.
“We’re former Borgs, as you can see. I’m also a former Starfleet cadet. S – Annika and Icheb were assimilated so young, they’ve never really experienced anything other than space. We felt that continuing our travels would be more – logical. No, we would simply prefer to be out here. Voyager is returning to Earth, naturally, but there’s really no place for us there, so -”
“Surely you have family on Earth or somewhere else in Federation territories?”
“I have no memories of my family. Some memories are just gone, even though I was about twenty when I was assimilated. There are some relatives inside the Federation, but my parents are dead and I have no siblings. They know I’ve been found, but I don’t think we were ever that close, so -”
“Amazing. Later on, you might like to share some of your experiences as Borg and – tell us a little about how you came to be individuals again.”
“Yes. Why not?”
“Now, if you like, we’ll tell you where to find the supplies you need. We’re here to take on supplies ourselves. Don’t worry about the sales pitch. That information is free. There’s enough for all of us.”
The Ferengi looked irritated, but he made no comment.
B’Elanna and Tom felt that so far, the new people seemed ok. They might get to know each other better in the time they’d spend in the system. This was exactly why she liked to be a free agent. No orders. You could just take each day as it came. Meeting new people. If she could have been an explorer, that would have been fun, but travelling like this with Harry and Tom and the others was great. She didn’t miss the dull routines of the workshifts in Engineering.
So far, so good. Maybe their new acquaintances could tell them about the surrounding systems and advice them which ones to visit. In any case, she was more excited about the future than she’d been for years. She couldn’t wait to see more of the Gamma Quadrant. If they lay low, there was no reason Starfleet would pick up on their presence. Finally, she felt she was in the right place again.
Over the next few days, the crews of the two ships worked together and no friction between them could be detected. In fact, after being cooped up on Voyager for such a long time, the Delta Flier’s crew were quite pleased to finally meet new people.
They were introduced to the three remaining people on Riker’s ship. Tom had already seen young Ryan Connor on screen, and up close, his impression of the young man as being a lot like Gerron was strengthened. They were almost the same age, though Ryan seemed to be about two or three years older. Their moody personalities were almost identical, though it was hard to say what had caused Ryan’s behavior.
Tom had heard from B’Elanna what Gerron had been through, if not in so much detail, and though he realized there were similarities between their experiences, he didn’t think he himself came across quite that – volatile.
It was a while until the female, an Asian-looking young woman, appeared. She seemed to be spending much of her time alone on the ship, apparently going through some research or studying documents of some kind.
The only ones remotely interested in them was Seven – and to some extent Icheb. He was hoping she might be able to tell something about his background, from his language structure. Unfortunately, he was disappointed. Despite that, Sunee Khun Depigny, proved highly interested in studying his speech patterns and distinctive grammar.
Sunee had a child and the little girl was a huge success with Naomi. Even though there was quinte an age difference, Naomi was thrilled to meet another child. Sunee herself was half-French, half-Thai, which made her child a quarter of the same and half English.
When they’d taken on the last supplies and everyone except Tom Paris, Tom Riker and Terry Byrne had transported back onto their ships, another ship showed up, decloaking just within firing distance. With no warning, it began to attack both orbiting ships.
B’Elanna transferred all power she could to the shields and Harry and Corey began taking evasive maneouvers. The other ship wasn’t particularly well armed, but since everyone wasn’t onboard yet, they couldn’t blast off. In addition, Riker’s ship wasn’t capable of the same speed as the Delta Flier. Since the Delta Flier’s shields were up, no one could transport in, and they couldn’t leave anyone behind.
That left them at a disadvantage.
Ryan Connor did his best at the helm, but neither Quark, nor Sunee were trained to pilot a ship. That left the deceptively mild tailor, who turned out to be surprisingly familiar with the running of a ship, even under attack. Their evasive maneouvers were as impressive as the ones Harry and Corey were performing.
B’Elanna was standing behind Harry, shouting orders at him, while bracing herself against the nearest bulkhead.
“We have to get Tom up before we can -”
“I know, but what can I do? They’re firing so intensely I can’t – Damn.”
“Another ship. We can’t keep avoiding being hit.
“This is useless, I think -”
“We’re not leaving anyone behind.”
“I know. Let’s hear what the others have to say.”
“Ok, go ahead. They have two people down there too. That Cardie seems to know what he’s doing.”
“Ryan, Garak? Any suggestions?”
It was the Cardassian who replied. The young man at his side appeared to be too intent on his work, to spare any attention for the other ship.
“Yes. We’ll try to divert them, while you raise your shields for a moment. The others will be able to transport in. Then we’ll try to escape.”
“Ok. Give us some advance warning and we’ll beam them up.”
The ruse was only partially successful. They were able to beam the three men up, but in the meantime, Riker’s ship took a bad hit, and looked as if it was losing propulsion. It began to drift, dead in space. Another hit made it blow up. B’Elanna stared horrifiedly, thinking of the four people who were left on board. Then she noticed a smaller craft, speeding away, around one of the smaller planetoids. An escape pod, no – two.
“Harry. Corey. If we circle that -”
“Got it. Hold on.”
“We’ll let them dock, then -”
Suddenly, the Delta Flier was hit and the lighting flickered for a few moments. Despite the shaking, B’Elanna was able to make her way back towards the engines and diverted a little more power to the shields. The hull was still intact, but they really needed to get away.
“Lanna – I’ve put a tractor beam on the pods, but we’ll need to pull them in before we can blast off. Will you -”
She found Terry Byrne waiting in the cargo hold. He appeared genuinely concerned about at least a few of his companions.
The first pod contained Garak and Ryan Connor. The younger man had a feral look on his face. He was pale and tense and he seemed to be looking at something no one else could see, as if he was reliving some traumatic memory.
Terry Byrne placed a hand on his shoulder and began to talk to him, in a way that led B’Elanna to believe he was familiar with this type of condition.
“Hey, man, you did great. Nice work. What do you say, we go and see if there’s anything we can do to help? Come on.”
For a while, it looked as if Ryan wasn’t even aware of his friend’s presence, then he blinked and seemed to relax a little.
“Sure. What took you guys so long?”
“Well, you know, it’s more fun this way.”
A brief smile appeared on Ryan’s face. The two young men began to walk off towards the helm. Garak thanked B’Elanna for her help and followed the other two.
Left to herself, B’Elanna helped open the last escape pod. As she’d guessed, or at least hoped, it contained the other three passengers. The Ferengi – Quark – got up more agilely than she would have imagined. He bowed ingratiatingly at her, and walked off, without offering to help Sunee and her child up.
B’Elanna picked the child up and smiled reassuringly at her. The child returned the smile, rather hesitantly, then turned around and looked for her mother. B’Elanna held out a hand to Sunee and helped her up.
Sunee took her daughter back and began to examine her for possible injuries, but there appeared to be none.
“Are you ok? We have some medical equipment and my – I mean – our Tom is a medic, as well as everything else.”
“Thank you, but we’re both fine. Excuse me, is there anywhere we could sit down or – anywhere I could put Marielle to bed?”
“You could put her with the other kids. I’m sure Naomi would love to have her there. She’s very fond of other children. On Voyager, she was the only kid for so long.”
“No problem. It’s over here.”
B’Elanna made sure little Marielle was comfortable among the other children, then excused herself and joined the rest of the crew. To her surprise – Sunee hadn’t struck her as very sociable. – the other woman followed her.
The rest of the crew were already discussing the new situation. Harry was going over their tools and spare parts. It was clear that they’d need to find some calmer part of the region to perform all repairs. While still listening to the others, B’Elanna joined Harry and began to plan the repairs. Their first step would be to perform a detailed diagnostic. Tom would want to be a part of that, even if he was no engineer.
Riker’s eyes measured his namesake across the table. He hadn’t had the impression that Tom was the Captain here, any more than he had been the Captain of the other ship. It was merely that he was the owner, in a manner of speaking. That smooth-talking Ferengi had more or less bought a share in it and now that the ship was gone, he’d never hear the end of it. Investments. Acquisitions. It was all a bit alien to him. His life wasn’t about making a profit, it was about experiencing things.
Even if Tom Paris wasn’t the Captain, he was the designer of the ship. They’d have to come to some sort of agreement. Out of all the people aboard the Delta Flier – which come to think of it, was an interesting name – he’d have to ask more about its top speed and other technical details – later – it seemed to Riker that he was the only one who was more or less capable of becoming a Captain. Acting Captain. But here he was, no more than twenty minutes aboard it, and already making plans to take it over.
On the other hand, handling a ship without having some sort of chain of command would be risky, and in some situations it could be suicide. Someone would need to take charge. He didn’t see the Ferengi doing it, and he’d be damned if he placed his life in Garak’s hands, any more than he already had.
No, it would have to be him or Tom Paris. Ryan Connor was clearly unstable and Terry, while a good guy, a bit too temperamental too. Sunee wasn’t even a trained officer. He didn’t know the others very well, but the young Bajoran didn’t strike him as Starfleet material, neither did Annika and Icheb. The latter was no more than a kid anyway. The two engineers seemed capable enough, but would have no training for leadership of any type of vessel.
Tom Paris was thinking much the same. He’d built the ship, so obviously he was the owner. If anyone was going to captain it, he was the obvious choice. Riker seemed very capable too, and there were other Starfleet officers available. Not that they’d need a real command structure. As long as they had enough people to man the ship, no formal ranks were needed. Besides, he was only an Ensign.
He wondered what rank Riker had held. As far as he knew, his brother – if that was what William Riker was – was the First Officer on the Enterprise. Of course, his knowledge was old. By now, the other Riker might have his own ship or have moved up in rank.
He might as well ask.
“Listen, Riker – I know your – brother – was First Officer on the Enterprise. What rank did you hold? Before all this, I mean.”
To his surprise, Riker laughed.
“Well, you might say I was a Lieutenant, just like my – just like Will was at the time. Or – you could say I never had any rank at all. Take your pick.”
“I don’t understand.”
Tom frowned. It was as if Riker was having a joke at his expense. What was going on?
“I’m sorry. You see, my background is a bit – complicated. Ok, I might as well tell you. No one else has asked, but it might be time to put all cards on the table. Will isn’t my brother so much as he’s – me. Put another way, I’m his double. His – well, twin – but not in the ordinary way.”
Seven leaned forward eagerly and it seemed Garak strained his ears a little more than usual, though he always gave the impression of being very alert.
It was Seven who got her question in first.
“Are you a clone?”
“In a way. But not one created intentionally. I was the result of a transporter accident.”
Tom raised his eyebrows. By now, Harry and B’Elanna had decided the repairs could wait, at least a little while. As always, anything to do with technology interested her.
“What sort of transporter accident?”
She remembered the one that had caused Tuvok and Neelix to merge. That had been a really weird experience, and though she never liked to be reminded of Tuvok, she realized it must have been even weirder for him.
“The beam was diverted back down to the place where he’d been. At least part of it. To me it seemed as if the transport failed. I was back where I started. Of course, I thought I was Will. He – up on the Enterprise – didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. After a while, I realized no one was going to come for me. I thought they had given me up for dead. It was hard to get a lock on any vital signs, and since they had no reason to look for me – By chance they returned – eight years later – and found me. That’s when I learned i wasn’t ‘their’ William Riker. Since he had two names – William and Thomas – I decided I’d be Thomas Riker. Starfleet let me have Wills old rank – lieutenant – just like I told you.”
B’Elanna’s mind began to calculate how that could have been possible and in what way, but had to admit defeat. There were still too many surprises possible. Amazing.
It seemed everyone else was equally stunned by Riker’s revelation.
Tom remembered his original question and forced himself to continue. They’d have to adapt to the new situation and he might as well find out as much as he could.
“So in other words, you are at least as qualified as your ‘brother’? Except for those years you spent out of commission, as it were?”
“Yeah, absolutely. I like to play hard, but I work hard too.”
“I see. Well, I don’t think we need to imitate Starfleet’s command structure, but I must say that for as long as you guys want to travel with us, I’d be happy to have you acting as my First Officer, if you will. Provided no one else objects? Lanna? Harry? Terry?”
B’Elanna shrugged. Harry felt a little disappointed, but he hadn’t really expected to be made First Officer, at least not for another ten years or so. He’d settle for being a Lieutenant, but Lanna was right. Who needed all those stiff rules?
Terry Byrne grinned, but didn’t look offended.
“I’ll keep an eye on your security, if you want, but that’s as far as my ambitions go. Like Tom – Riker – I’m just in it for the fun.”
“If you have need of a Science Officer, I’d be happy to help out, Icheb too, I think?”
Seven didn’t seem the least bit offended, but it was hard to say with a Borg. Icheb too appeared to take the matter calmly.
“Oh, I’m still learning. But I’m not after any promotions.”
Corey moved closer to the table and glanced sideways at Ryan Connor.
“I was just a cadet when i was assimiliated, but if you need me, I seem to recall I spent most of my time on the Bridge. You too, Ryan?”
“Yeah. I was more or less fresh out of the Academy. Pretoria was only the second ship I served on.”
Tom Paris nodded. Most of the people aboard would do nicely and the rest – he wasn’t going to hand out prices or exclude anyone. As far as he knew, Gerron had done his best on Voyager and he was sure he still would, here. Samantha was capable too. The Ferengi and the Cardassian he wasn’t sure about, but what little he’d seen of the latter suggested he had many hidden talents.
Tom Riker seemed to approve.
“Yeah. So far so good. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Besides – why not? I’ve been thinking along the same lines. This is your ship, I’d be happy to help you out as much as I can.”
Tom was glad the guy hadn’t asked him about his rank. It would have been humiliating to admit that he was technically just an Ensign and even if he hadn’t been demoted, he’d still only be a Lieutenant. He was betting Terry Byrne, if not Ryan Connor, was more qualified than he was. But that wasn’t the point. They’d left Starfleet. Starfleet’s rules and regulations didn’t apply, or at least only so far as it could help them survive.
“I’m glad we settled that. You mentioned something about ‘as long as we’re going to travel with you’.”
“I didn’t mean that I want to get rid of you. It’s just that you haven’t really said much about your plans.”
“No. I guess not. To begin with, all we wanted was a means of transportation and to stay out of trouble. As we went along – we’ve only been together for a couple of months – we’ve come up with a sort of plan. Subject to change as we go along. Have you heard of the Ixos system?”
“No. Should I? It’s been a while since I was at the Academy -”
“There are some M class planets or rather they’ve been transformed. They used to be L class, but I hear the terraformers are about done and it’s time to colonize. It’s in a safe zone, but that region hasn’t been very developed until now. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think a new colony like that might be just the place to get a fresh start.”
Until now, Quark had been quiet. Now, a wide grin spread across his face.
“Plenty of profits to be had out there.”
“I should have known. But he’s right. There’s that too. Adventure, opportunity, profits. There should be a need for people like us.”
They continued the discussion for hours, breaking off for dinner. B’Elanna and Harry started the diagnostic and with a little help from their new friends, they took stock of their equipment. The Flier didn’t appear to be seriously damaged. It would be possible to get it in perfect shape within a week or so, give or take a few days.
In the end, it turned out everyone found the plan appealing. For the time being, they decided they wanted try their luck in the Ixos system.