Chapter 3.

 

Janeway realised as they traveled that the permission was not particularly useful, except that the ship in orbit might be ignored. If they wanted to quote permission, they had not been given the name of the Captain, the Paoli ship had no obvious name, and only Neelix had permission to be there anyway. But it gave her a little comfort to have avoided any confrontation.

Pipa guided them towards the planet, not that they needed it, but it seemed polite to allow him some authority. When they were close he said, "I'll have to go back to the Silent Hunter to use the communications."

"We can easily access the planet's communications from here," said Tom, who had gradually adjusted to thinking of Pipa as somehow male.

"It might be a bit of a shock for them to see me in these surroundings," said Pipa, "and you never know whether a Paoli might be with them. Safer to open up proceedings from my ship. You can monitor us, and join in if it's safe."

Janeway agreed, and he walked to the shuttle bay with Harry Kim. Harry also found it disconcerting to walk with this beautiful woman who talked like a man, but his naturally reticent personality enabled him to show no discomfort. He pointed out areas of interest on the starship as they walked. Pipa moved quickly to the communications bay, and opened a channel. Harry stayed out of view for the moment.

A woman's face appeared, and Pipa asked to be put through to Vishat Sawlo. The face of a middle-aged man appeared.

"Hello, Aryon Pipa," said Pipa, answering one of Harry's unspoken questions about how the people of the planet identified each other.

"Hello, Vishat Garr," replied the other. "What is the problem?"

"A contact," replied Pipa. "Are you alone?"

"Yes," answered Garr guardedly. "What sort of contact?"

"A large ship. They claim to be intragalactic travelers, far from home, and wanting to trade."

"Can you transmit a picture from your outside camera?" asked Garr.

"Difficult," said Pipa wryly. "I'm inside their ship, in a shuttle bay."

"A large ship indeed," said Garr thoughtfully. "Do they know the Paoli?"

"They do now," said Pipa. "There is a ship nearby, but a Talaxian aboard convinced them he was the only one aboard. He have him permission to visit the planet."

"Can I speak to whoever is in charge of the ship?" asked Garr. "Apparently they speak Xalian, if you have been communicating with them."

"They have little badges which are universal translaters," said Pipa softly. "They have a lot of advanced technology which we have never seen."

The screen in front of Vishat Garr suddenly split, and an image of Kathryn Janeway appeared in half of it.

"Hello, Vishat Garr," she said. "I am Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the Federation starship Voyager. We do have some needs, which you can allay, and would be keen to do some trading if you are willing to engage in trade. I understand this may pose some danger for you, so we will understand if you are reluctant."

Vishat Garr paused for an appreciable time.

"I do not know of this Federation," he said at length.

"It is about 75 light years away," replied Janeway, "which is our basic problem. We have no source of supplies or repair materials. Our sensors reveal your planet has large deposits of dilithium and pernstrom. We would be able to trade information or goods, but we are prevented by our prime directive from giving weapons or technology beyond your present level of development."

"We could not accept weapons," said Garr, "but you are welcome to whatever those things were you said. Your translators did not render them as anything intelligible, so I presume they are minerals we are as yet unaware of. What sort of information were you offering?"

"We can offer DNA information, for producing varieties of grains and flowers. We have an extensive library of the literature of many races in our quadrant. We can produce a number of artifacts which may be useful."

"All of those sound interesting," said Garr. "There will be a problem with hiding your starship once it lands, and it will need to land somewhere far from civilisation. We don't want it seen by the Paoli or their sycophants. Perhaps some of you could accompany Aryon Zyric in his vessel?"

"We can get ourselves down unseen," replied Janeway. "What we need is your permission to land and trade."

"You appear to look like us," said Garr. "If you dress like us, there should be no trouble. The Paoli may be savage, but they are not bright. Perhaps your crew might like to have some rest and recreation."

"There are over one hundred and fifty of us," said Janeway, and Garr looked taken aback. "But perhaps we can come down in groups for some shore leave."

The exchange continued for a while, then Vishat Garr turned off his communications system. He leaned back and thought. It was certainly dangerous to have visitors, but it was a little thumbing of the nose at the Paoli, which always helped morale. Perhaps these visitors might be encouraged to engage the Paoli somewhere sufficiently far away from inhabited worlds so that nobody could be blamed. It seemed they might have the technology to take on those animals...

 

A week later, all of the crew of Voyager had had at least a visit to the surface, and the visit had remained peaceful. Any local Paoli had been avoided, and the city where they were staying had proved interesting, as had the people.

They had tended to deal with a small coterie of Xalians, although a wider group were aware of their presence, and had traded very successfully for the goods they wanted. All of the crew had taken some shore leave. Kathryn Janeway and Tuvok strolled down a city street.

The streets were wide and well-vegetated, even in inner-city areas. The city was reminiscent of earth in an earlier age, except that there was no street lighting, and most houses relied on keeping light dim by the use of blinds rather than on lighting for its own sake. Lights did exist, and had their uses, such as in mines. But the Xalians did not sleep as such. Each person had six personalities - it seemed the standard - and each would normally remain dominant for about six hours, then dormant for about thirty. It seemed that each was entirely distinct. Each must exist in a certain area of the brain, but have access to the combined knowledge of the body.

"This has to be our most relaxed visit to a planet," said Janeway with a sigh.

"And our most successful," added Tuvok. "There was not much we could offer these people that the Paoli would allow them to have, but they have been very generous in their demands."

"Some library material, some DNA information, a few goods from the replicators," agreed Janeway.

"The young lady whom we first met has been very attentive," remarked Tuvok, "and has been a good source of primary information. From what she has told me, and from my own research, I am somewhat disturbed by what I have discovered about this planet."

Janeway smiled. Aryon Blessic had latched on to Tuvok like a limpet. Tom Paris had briefly attempted to win her favour, when he could work out that she was Blessic, but she had focused grimly on Tuvok. She had a need to be wanted and noticed, and since it was impossible to get this from Tuvok, and easy from Tom, she latched onto the former. She attempted to win his attention by being a fountain of information, since she intuitively realised that was what would win his attention, but did not realise that her relatively limited intelligence would prevent his showing any greater interest, even had he not been married with a family. But Tuvok could also not be bored or irritated, so he did not repel her attentions in any way, and she had, as he said, provided him with a lot of information.

She would have asked him to explain, but Vishat Sawlo was hurrying up, so she asked him to tell her later, and turned to greet their host.

"Good day, Vishat Garr," she said, from force of habit, then mentally reprimanded herself, even before he replied, "No, I'm Vishat Bill. How are you? I'm sorry your stay is drawing to a close, but it is something of a relief as well. We have taken some risk allowing you here."

Vishat Bill was a pleasant, but timid, personality, a worrier. All of Vishat Sawlo's personalities that they had encountered were male, and Janeway wondered how unusual it was for Aryon Zyric to have a mixture of male and female personalities.

"I am not clear why you have taken this risk," said Tuvok, "although we are grateful that you have."

"Basically, because the Paoli would not approve," chuckled Bill, "and anything they do not approve we want to do."

"We have not encountered any Paoli, fortunately," said Tuvok, "but I gather they walk unmolested among you. You can do nothing to break their hold?"

"We are planet-bound," said Bill with a shrug. "They roam throughout space, and if we revolted they would have a fleet here in a few months, or a couple of years, and eradicate our planet."

"Months or years," mused Janeway. "Then they don't have... They cannot travel fast."

"They have ships which can achieve about two thirds of the speed of light," retorted Bill. "That's pretty fast!"

"Yes," replied Janeway with a frown. She had assumed that a race with a planetary empire would have warp speed. The Voyager crew were technically in breach of the prime directive! All the same, they had not affected the development of either race. And soon they would be on their way. In any case, the Xalians had approached them, they had not made the overture.

"We cannot progress at all scientifically," continued Vishat Bill Sawlo. "We cannot build weapons or improve our spacecraft. There has been one positive side-effect. We have become one nation on the planet. All our squabbles were reduced in perspective when we became virtual slaves."

"What do the Paoli demand of you?" asked Tuvok.

"Goods and services," replied Bill. "They are not particularly intelligent as a race, but they have enough sense to let us alone as long as we do our duty. They do not harass their subjects into mutiny, but they punish insurrection unmercifully!"

"So you can do nothing?" asked Janeway.

Bill chuckled again. "But we can spread a little subversion. We provide entertainment to the empire."

"Entertainment?" repeated Janeway in surprise.

"We produce moving pictures. Old hat stuff to you, I suppose."

"Why do you say that?" asked Janeway in surprise.

"You have a very fast starship. You allowed Pipa to fly his ship down, but nobody saw any craft of yours arrive. Yet you are here. You want minerals for which we know no use, nor do the Paoli."

A thought struck Janeway. When they had left, the Xalians would no doubt investigate deeply the uses of those minerals. Still, without the technology, they should not find uses for them yet. She changed the subject.

"So you try to influence other planets in the empire to revolt?"

"Not necessarily. All would have to revolt at once, which is unlikely, since we can't communicate. We try to influence the Paoli themselves. If we can make them better people, they may relent."

"That may not be advisable from their point of view," commented Tuvok drily. "Revolutions generally arise when the oppressors relax their oppression."

"Whatever it takes," smiled Bill. "Would some of your people like to see a film in progress? There is some location work nearby."

"I'm sure they would," said Janeway. "They can't all come. I'll notify some of the senior staff."

She called all her command staff, and found that most of them were in a group together. Harry Kim was on duty aboard Voyager, but she arranged to meet the others at the location given by Vishat Bill.

When the three of them arrived at the street they found the others already there ahead of them, watching filming take place. Aryon Blessic was with them, although she did not identify herself immediately. Tom Paris spoke first.

"Good evening, or morning, Captain, whatever it is."

"Whatever it says on your watch," she replied. "How do you find the place now that you've been ashore a few days?"

"Weird," he said. "Their houses are all space. No beds."

"What are beds?" asked Vishat Bill with interest. The communicator had failed to find an apposite word in Xalian, or whatever the local language of this area was.

"When we sleep," explained Janeway, "we lie down on a sort of couch. We cover ourselves, because our body temperature generally drops."

"What does sleeping involve?" he asked.

Tuvok chose to reply. "It is like your dormancy. However, since we have but one personality each, when that personality becomes dormant, the body becomes unconscious."

Vishat Bill hesitated. They could see that this had been a baffling reply, and he struggled to comprehend it.

"How horrible!" he said at last. "It just lies there... vulnerable?"

"We generally put it away somewhere safe," said Tom sardonically. "In the dark. In bed. And lock the door."

"In the dark?" asked Bill rhetorically, bemused.

"Tom said he was going to show me what a bed is like," commented Aryon Blessic, and Chakotay was amused to see Tom flush beetroot, and smile in embarrassment. Vishat Bill missed this reaction, because he had his own train of thought.

"That explains a small mystery," he said. "The Paoli regularly shut themselves away in a dark area. That will be why. They would be vulnerable then."

"So you are never unconscious?" asked Kes, who was arm-in-arm with Neelix.

As he was about to reply, Vishat Bill suddenly yawned. "Oh excuse me!" he said. "No. One of us is always in charge. Unless there is some accident. A fall, or a blow to the head."

"Well, if we didn't get back to the ship for a sleep occasionally, I don't think I'd last," remarked Tom Paris.

"Oh, so you have had a sleep in the past week?" asked Chakotay with a grin.

Paris grinned back. "Been busy with research."

"On what they use instead of beds?"

This little exchange had gone unnoticed by most of the others, who were watching with interest as the actors went through their paces again and again.

"They do take a long time to set up their shots," said Neelix.

"They use quite advanced special effects," replied Kes, "so the original shots have to be quite right."

Neelix noticed that the others were listening to them, and he asked, "How do you know that?"

"I've been reading about it," she answered simply.

"Oh, that's right," said Neelix, rather more loudly than necessary. He was proud of Kes' accomplishments, and liked to advertise them. "You've been spending all your time reading in their libraries, when you could be out enjoying the sunshine."

"All sunshine and no reading is bad for the skin," answered Kes primly, but with a glimmer of amusement in her eye. In fact, coming from a society which lived underground for centuries, she knew her skin was somewhat sensitive to sunshine.

"Do your translators help you read our books?" asked Blessic in wonder. "They must be clever!"

"They would," said Kes shyly, "but I've picked up enough of your language to read them without the translation. It's always better to read a book in its original language. You may miss the flavour otherwise."

Blessic look impressed, not surprising since the idea of reading a book voluntarily impressed her in itself. She wondered if she should carry around a book, and actually read it. It might be the thing which would impress Tuvok. She looked at him speculatively. However, all their thoughts were dragged rudely from the film, and reading. Vishat Bill Sawlo exclaimed, "Damn! It's Commissioner Klett!"

 

On to Chapter 4, or back to the Writing page, or back to the start.