All of Me. Chapter 1.

Lieutenant Tom Paris was still carrying a mug of coffee as he entered the bridge, but at least he had managed to do up all of his shirt buttons. His hair was tousled, the result of a hurried combing. But he did not have to worry too much about his appearance, it seemed. Nobody looked his way as he entered, the doors swishing quietly closed behind him.

"Here I am, All ready for another challenging day of driving as far as possible as fast as possible in a straight line," he said cheerfully as he walked across to his seat.

Harry Kim looked up and smiled at him, but still no one else acknowledged his presence. Captain Kathryn Janeway was deep in conversation with Neelix over some maps, and Tuvok was studying his panel. His relief helmsman was concentrating on navigation, but he looked up with a grateful smile as Tom stood by him.

"Have a good time, Lieutenant," he said, as he swung himself out of the seat, and Tom slid into it. "Interesting times ahead. We're on impulse."

"Lieutenant Paris reporting in, captain," he said, and Janeway looked over at him.

"A bit of a struggle to finish breakfast, Lieutenant?" she asked, with a smile to lessen the implied reprimand. He acknowledged it by draining the last of the coffee, calling "Computer, trash," and throwing it into the receptacle which opened. As with everything aboard Voyager, it would be recycled completely.

"Didn't want to rush it, Captain," he added. "Any special instructions for the day?"

Captain Janeway wrinkled her nose in annoyance.

"'As far as possible' may not be a long way, for some time," she said. "The star maps we have show a cluster of stars ahead, but not much else. Neelix tells me they may cause problems."

"I haven't been out this far myself," added Neelix, taking a mention of his name as a cue to interrupt, "but we have traded with the empire. They can be pretty mean to strangers. They're hard enough to get along with even when you know them!"

Paris did not have to ask who 'we' was. The Talaxians pursued their trade as widely as their vessels, usually reconstructed space casualties, would take them.

"Another empire?" he asked with a sigh. "The place is lousy with them!"

"Well, back home we do have the Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, Tholians, Cardassians and we've met the Borg," said Janeway.

"As well as us," added Harry Kim.

"Point taken," said Tom. "What are this lot like?"

"Ruffians," said Neelix. "They have only a smallish empire, by some standards, a few hundred planets."

"A few hundred planets is a pretty good empire by my standards!" exclaimed Tom.

"Yes, maybe," said Neelix testily. "They are not as advanced as us. They can't travel at warp, but they keep enough of their ships around that they are never far away from any trouble. And they deal with trouble sufficiently ruthlessly that there isn't much of it!"

"Do they have a name?" asked Tuvok.

"They call themselves the Paoli," answered Neelix. "It doesn't seem to relate to any of their home planets."

"Well, we'll avoid them if possible," said Janeway. "Although we may have to try to trade with them. We're short on supplies again. A map would be useful, but I doubt they hand them about."

"What's the problem with our maps?" asked Paris. He knew they had only basic maps, but these had proved adequate so far.

"It's quite a big globular cluster ahead, and would take us a long way out of our way to go around it." Janeway sighed. After a moment she continued, "But it might be best. We'd have to go through so slowly that the long way may be best. We'd rarely be able to warp. Too many gravity wells."

"And inside a globular cluster there are less likely to be class M planets," observed Tuvok.

"Well, here's one now!" exclaimed Harry Kim, who had been monitoring their progress through the ship's instrumentation. "There is a double star planetary system just ahead, and one of the planets is Class M!"

"How unusual," said Tuvok. "It is rare to find a class M with two stars."

He might have been going to add more, but the door whooshed open, and Kes entered. She was a beautiful young Ocampa who had joined the crew with Neelix soon after their arrival in Delta Quadrant. As attention had been diverted from him, he did not bother to finish his observation.

"Hello, everyone," said Kes, with her usual smile. "Good morning, Neelix. Breakfast was delightful."

With a smile to take the edge off his words, Tom Paris said, "Don't you ever wake up grumpy?"

Kes flashed back his smile. "Well, no. But I have been up a while. I like to get up and read books from the library. Life is too short to sleep away."

There was a slight awkward pause. Life was indeed short for the Ocampa. Kes was two years old, and could expect to live only another five years. Her people had lived underground in an artificial environment, but all the others had evolved on planets where there was day and light, so the ship was rigged to have a "day" and a "night". Where it stopped at a planet the ship could adjust its subjective time so that those going planetside would not suffer a sleep deprivation period. Kes seemed to be able to do with a minimal amount of sleep.

"Captain," said Harry suddenly, "the planet is quite rich in minerals. Our sensors show good amounts of some of the heavier metals, including dilithium and pernstrom."

Captain Janeway moved quickly to his side to look for herself at the readings. The ship, as usual, was running short of some essential minerals, and the planet seemed to offer a supply of many of them, as well as, possibly, some real food and other vegetable supplies.

"It is an unusual planet," said Tuvok with interest. "An M-class planet in a binary system is quite rare. The surface gases are likely to be burned away. If there are intelligent inhabitants it will be interesting to investigate their sleep patterns."

"Their sleep patterns?" repeated Janeway in surprise.

"All the races we have encountered have a regular sleep time, evolved because some time on their planet was in darkness. All starships have an artificial day-night schedule to cater for this. Our ship is regulated to cater for the sleep patterns of humans, but it is sufficiently like those of Vulcan and Bajor to provide no discomfort for non-humans aboard. All races we know have evolved to use that time for sorting the things learned during the waking time, discarding memories not seen to be useful."

"I see," said Janeway, who was aware of this knowledge, but had not seen its relevance. "Why should the sleep patterns of the inhabitants here be different?"

"The planet has settled into an orbit where one axis points toward the sun. On that hemisphere there will be eternal day. The other side also has daylight, from the other sun, albeit with a very long day. The planet rotates somewhat eccentrically, so that there is no definite light-dark line. Curiously, most of the life readings are on the side which is permanently lit."

"If there are no intelligent life forms," said Janeway with a frown, "we may be able to go down and do some mining and harvesting ourselves. It would take a while."

"It'll be just our luck that there'll be inhabitants too primitive to show ourselves to" said Tom, "and the prime directive will stop us getting any of these things."

"That does not seem to be the case," observed Tuvok. "A ship approaches. It is primitive in design, but has been able to discern our approach. There appears to be one inhabitant, humanoid. It is unarmed."

"Are they hailing us?" asked Janeway.

"No," answered Tuvok. "They have primitive equipment in that area also, and may presume we would not have similar capability. I can access their communications if you wish."

"Do it, Mr Tuvok. Is there visual as well as audio?"

"Yes. You should be able to see the occupant now."

The startled face of a beautiful young woman appeared on the main viewscreen. As she swung around to face the camera, Tom Paris said appreciatively, "Very humanoid!"

It did not take long for the impression to be conveyed that this was a young lady of not outstanding intelligence, and while Tom's thoughts said , 'bimbo', Janeway wondered how she could have come to be the lone person aboard a space vehicle. The girl was in a space suit of a fairly primitive kind, in that it was not form-fitting, but still it was evident, to Tom and Harry at least, that she had a very attractive figure as well as a beautiful face. She was blonde, and somehow managed to convey the impression that she had been doing her nails, or some such activity, before they had interrupted her.

The girl said in surprise, "How did you do that?"

Janeway took her captain's stance, and said, "Hello. I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the starship Voyager. We come in peace."

The girl was obviously baffled, and said, "You can't."

"We can't what?" asked Janeway in surprise.

"You can't come here. You're not allowed."

"We mean no harm," said Janeway. "We are a lone ship. We would like to visit your planet, and trade if we may."

"No, you're not allowed." The girl seemed near panic.

Neelix interposed. "The Paoli don't allow strangers to visit their planets. Their subject planets, that is. We could go to the homeworld, wherever that is."

"May I ask who you are?" asked Janeway. "I like to know to whom I am speaking."

"I'm Blessic," said the girl in confusion, "um, Aryon Blessic Zyric."

"Are you on patrol?" asked Janeway. "Is that your vehicle, or does it belong to your government?"

"Oh, it's called the Secret Hunter. Pipa named it. It belongs to us."

"We would like to contact your leaders," said Janeway, somewhat exasperated by the laid-back and woolly attitude of the young pilot. "Can we visit your planet? We are in need of some provisions."

"No!" Blessic was desperate. "If.. if you try and land I'll have to shoot you out of the sky. We're not allowed to have visitors!"

"That would be difficult," observed Janeway. "You have no weapons."

Blessic looked stunned. Obviously she was unfamiliar with scans. Janeway began to be troubled. The level of technology of the small ship indicated spacefarers, but it began to look like the planet was more primitive than she had thought. They had not broken the Prime Directive, as the other ship had accosted them, but she wondered whether she should break off. On the other hand, they were running low in essential supplies, and it might be impossible to find another planet until they were past the cluster, which might be months to years.

"Why did you come out to meet us if you are not allowed to entertain visitors?"

"I thought you were the Paoli," said Blessic unhappily. "We have to come out to meet them, if we see them."

"Look," said Janeway, "isn't there someone with more, er, authority that you could put us in touch with?"

Blessic's face lit up.

"Oh, what a good idea!" she exclaimed. Suddenly her face took on a more intelligent appearance, even somewhat severe, and she said, "What? Oh, yes." She looked calmly at Janeway, and added, "Blessic's right. We aren't allowed to let you visit us."

There was a stunned silence, then Janeway said tentatively, "Are you some sort of android? Do you operate for.." She stopped, not quite able to articulate the thought.

The woman smiled thinly. "If we hadn't alreadt had the Paoli come visit, I wouldn't even know what you were talking about. It's odd, having to explain something which is just nature to us, but apparently we are different from everyone else in the empire. They find us amusing." There was no hint of amusement in her voice.

"I don't understand," said Janeway frankly. "What are you?"

"I'm a Xalian," said the woman in surprise. "I assumed you must be too. You look just like us, and speak our language."

"No, we're travelers from the other side of the galaxy," said Janeway, almost by rote. "We're trying to get home. We are very short of supplies, but if you are not prepared to trade, we'll have to pass on, and hope to find another world."

"You can find worlds, just like that?" The woman looked impressed, then thoughtful. "We are a subject planet to the Paoli. Do you know them?"

"We have been told about them, but we haven't met them. It sounds as if that may be a good way to be."

The woman paused a few seconds. "Well, as you pointed out to Blessic, we are unarmed. We're not allowed to have visitors, not that the subject has come up before. If you are armed, you could force us to take you home, and take our goods at gunpoint. Of course, once you left, we'd have to report you to the Paoli. There are always traitors and sycophants who would report us if we did not."

Tuvok broke in. "Of course we could not do so. It would be against our beliefs to so impose upon you."

Janeway smiled as she replied, "I believe there is a subtext to what our friend is saying, Mister Tuvok. We are invited, but we have to keep it a secret."

Tuvok, if he had any feelings, might have been offended that he had not detected a subtext, but he filed the information away, as he analysed what had been said. In the meantime, Janeway turned back to the screen.

"Would you like to escort us back to your home, Blessic?"

"I'm.." began the woman, but she stopped, and grinned. "All right. Follow me. As far as I know there are no Paoli about. We were out on patrol when you arrived, not on escort. It'll take about forty hours to get there."

"We can get there a lot faster than that," said Janeway. "If you would like to join us we can get there in about ninety minutes."

The woman was obviously impressed, but she said, "I can't just leave the ship out here. We'd never be able to find it again."

"I meant, you and your ship. It would fit easily in our shuttle bay, and we don't have as many shuttles as we started with."

"I'm not that good a pilot," the other said. "I'll get Pipa.."

"It doesn't matter," interrupted Janeway. "We'll pick you up in a tractor beam."

After a silence she agreed, and Janeway gave the appropriate orders.

 

On.. to Chapter 2, or retire