Kathryn Janeway tapped on her communications badge, and called, "Commander Chakotay?"
"We have a visitor arriving in cargo bay 1. Would you escort her to my ready room?"
"On my way," answered Chakotay.
A few minutes later he escorted the visitor into Janeway's room, and Janeway and Tuvok rose as she entered.
"Welcome to Voyager, Aryon Blessic Zyric," said Janeway with a smile.
"I didn't explain myself," said the other with a small answering smile. "Unlike most other races, it seems, we have six personalities each. You've met Blessic, and I'm Syssal. There are four others still dormant."
"And one of them is Pipa," said Janeway in sudden understanding.
"Yes," agreed Syssal. "Until the Paoli arrived, we assumed, rather naively, that any other races in the galaxy would be like us. Which raises the point again, you look just like us, and you speak our language. How can that be? In our science fiction we assumed that aliens would have multiple personalities like us, but we never imagined they would speak one of our languages!"
"I'm afraid we are not speaking your language," said Janeway. "Our communications devices also contain Universal Translators. We hear you in our language, and you hear us in yours."
Syssal was amazed.
"They're so small!" she breathed. Her mind was already working rapidly. These aliens could easily pass for Xalians, even the one with the pointy ears. They had technology which appeared superior even to the Paoli. It was worth the risk to let them visit, although she would have to ask permission first.
Tuvok broke in. "There is some evidence that a past race seeded part of our quadrant with human-like races. They may have also done so here. But it also seems that there may only be a relatively small number of viable DNA variations which give rise to viable life forms. It may be analogous to the number of stable atomic isotopes. At first glance it seems that the number should be very large, if not infinite, but in fact the number is small."
"I'm overwhelmed," exclaimed Syssal. "I am hardly a representative of my race, Captain. I can't invite you to land, myself, but I can ask the Council. I don't think they'll object. But we will have to report your visit when you have gone. As I said, while you are there we can pretend you are threatening us, and making us give you whatever it is you want."
"We'll trade," said Chakotay. "We don't want to just take."
"We must point out," interrupted Tuvok primly, "that we have a Prime Directive which forbids our interfering in a planet's development. We cannot give you technology or weapons which are beyond the level to which you have developed."
"I don't know if there is much you can give us," said Syssal grimly. "Anything new the Paoli would just take away, and we're not allowed any sort of weapons beyond bows and spears. You'll have to meet them, of course. They'll come after you. We can't keep you a secret. Even if we didn't have some Paoli around, there are traitors."
Janeway added, "If you had not developed space flight, we would not have been allowed to contact you at all."
"Commander Chakotay was telling me you are far from home, and may not be back for a long time," asked Syssal curiously. "Do you still have to follow these rules?"
"They are what we believe," replied Janeway simply.
"Well, as I said, we could not have accepted weapons. You'll have to discuss with the big-wigs what to trade. Something the Paoli don't care about."
"Tell us more about the Paoli," said Chakotay, and Janeway wondered whether he was feeling sympathy because of his background in the Maquis. "You said they wander around among you."
"Not many," she said. "But if one of them is harmed they just pull out of that city and raze the place from space. No planet has hurt more than one of them, as far as I know."
"So they terrorise you?" asked Janeway.
"No," she said. "They aren't that bad when we behave ourselves. I suppose they realise that if they made themselves unbearable there would be rebellion."
"Who exactly are thay?" asked Tuvok.
"They came about five hundred years ago," said Syssal with a grimace. "We were just on the verge of space travel, but we had no weapons to fight back with. They are a race of barbarians. They have tusks, and no external ears, but they're two-legged like us. They just added us to their empire, and put in overseers to make sure we behave and contribute. They tell us what to grow, what to mine, what to make."
"Can you travel about their empire?" asked Chakotay.
"How?" She smiled thinly. "They don't let us develop better ships, or have weapons to defend ourselves."
"Well, we'll just try to avoid them," said Janeway. "Would you like to see the bridge while you're our guest?"
Chakotay interrupted, "I'll have to get back to what I was doing. I'll see you later, Aryon Syssal."
She smiled at him, and turned back to Janeway. "Pipa would appreciate it more. I'll wake him."
"This.. waking," said Janeway awkwardly. "Do you all exist... separately?"
"We are separate, but we share.. knowledge. What one learns we all know. But we all have different abilities, personalities, intelligence. The dormant personalities are resting, but sometimes they are conscious, sometimes not. How strange to be talking about ourselves like this!"
Tom Paris and Harry Kim were both concentrating on their consoles as the three entered the bridge. They looked up, and both found their attentions riveted by the sight of Aryon Zyric.
"Mister Paris and Ensign Kim," announced Janeway, "I'd like to introduce Aryon Pipa Zyric. She'd like to see the bridge."
"I'll show you anything you like," said Tom with a grin. "Er, is it Captain Zyric?"
"Before you get too interested," said Aryon Pipa dryly, "I'm a male personality. My name is Pipa, but if two syllables is beyond you, you can call me Pip."
Tom was completely taken aback, and Janeway took advantage of his speechlessness to comment. "Aryon Zyric has six personalities, Tom. You've met Aryon Blessic and Aryon Syssal. I didn't realise your personalities could be both male and female," she added to Pipa. "That must be.."
She decided to stop, and Tom, who had recovered his equilibrium slightly, broke the sudden silence.
"Well, when you're someone else, can I call you Syss or Bless?"
"I don't think they'd like that," said Pipa calmly, and while Tom was nonplussed he returned his attention to Janeway. "I don't agree with Syssal. If you can sell us some weapons, I'm sure there are some Councilmen who will buy them. We have to stock up. Some day we do have to face the Poali."
Captain Janeway did not bat an eyelid. "We'll have to make these decisions when we meet your leaders. But we can't interfere with your planet's development. In the meantime, enjoy the bridge."
She meant this literally. She could envisage no better place to be than the bridge of a starship, and subconsciously assumed that anyone else would share the prejudice. It was a beautiful place. Pipa began to look around with interest, although most of it meant nothing to him, and the labels on the controls were meaningless to him, as he did not have a universal translator. Suddenly Harry Kim broke into the silence.
"Captain! There is a ship approaching from deep space. It is armed, so it must be the Paoli!"
Pipa paled. The Xalians were forbidden to allow alien visitors. He muted his panic as he realised that his ship was hidden inside this vessel.
"He mustn't see me!" he burst out. "And he mustn't know my ship is aboard!"
Janeway thought quickly. She had no desire to add to the roster of new enemies they had been gathering since their unwilling and unwitting entry to this quadrant.
"It would be just as well if they don't see any of us." As the others stared at her, she touched her communicator. "Mister Neelix to the bridge! Quickly."
Neelix heard the summons, and switched off all the stoves, and scurried through the door and on to the bridge. All eyes swung towards him. A Talaxian! Pipa was surprised, but he had encountered one previously.
"Mister Neelix," said Janeway hurriedly, "there is a ship approaching which we assume to be Paolian. They should be familiar with your people, so you are in charge. The bridge is yours. Try to convince him you are alone, or the ship is run by Talaxians. Mister Kim, keep a tight lock on Neelix so that nobody else is in view. The rest of us keep out of camera range."
The few people on the bridge scurried to be out of camera view, and Neelix stood front and centre. He was nervous, but already was enjoying the feel of centre stage.
"They're hailing us, Captain," said Kim. "I'm putting it onscreen."
The view of an unprepossessing alien appeared. He was well-dressed, but had coarse features with, as Syssal had said, tusks coming from either side of the mouth, and an upturned, porcine nose. His lack of ears was hidden by long flowing, dank hair. All of those on the bridge could see him, but he could see only Neelix.
"Good day, Captain," observed Neelix.
"A Talaxian!" exclaimed the Paoli captain. "You should report straight to the capital. What are you doing here?"
"I am indeed heading for the capital," replied Neelix cheerfully, "but my path has taken me past here. I thought I might stop in at the planet I see ahead and obtain some supplies, and stretch my legs, so to speak, if the inhabitants will allow me."
"You cannot trade with any of our planets without permission," said the captain curtly. "That seems a large vessel for a Talaxian."
"We fly what we can scavenge," sighed Neelix. "I found this shell, and got it flying again, but it is almost hollow. Still, very good for a freighter if I can buy some goods to fill it with. Perhaps I can offer you something in return for your hospitality."
"What hospitality?" growled the Paoli suspiciously.
Neelix sighed again. People with no brains were difficult to trade with sometimes. "In return for your hospitality in allowing us to sojourn on the planet nearby."
He realised his slip immediately, even before the Captain said accusingly, "Us?"
"My ship and I, captain," replied Neelix smoothly. "She is my beloved, my wife, my companion."
The Paoli captain was still suspicious, but greed overcame his reservations. "What might you offer me? Do you have some Padassian perfume? Or Orderial spice?"
"No perfume," said Neelix, "but I do have a little spice. I'll have some ready for you, and leave it for you on the planet."
"I'd like to send someone over to examine your vessel," said the Paoli. There was general consternation on the bridge, but Neelix remained unruffled.
"How? I have no way to admit passengers in space. Unless you have some marvellous machine which can transport you hrough the ether?"
"What?" asked the captain. "What ether? Never mind. Very well, you may land. I will contact you for my spice later. If you do not stay, leave it with the Prefect of the main city. I have a little business, then I will be going to Xali myself."
The screen went blank, and there was a general sigh of relief. Neelix relaxed, and wiped some sweat from his brow.
Janeway was all business. "Good. We can stay legally now. Let's go to your planet Mister Pipa. You might like to sit with Mister Paris?"
Paris grinned. "Perhaps Blessic would like to sit with me?"
"She wouldn't understand what she was seeing," said Pipa.
"Who cares?" grunted Tom. To have such a beautiful woman sit with him, and she insisted she was a man!
On to Chapter 3... or don't!