All of Me, Chapter 7. By Edward McArdle.

 

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat in the meeting room, working out some timetables on her padd. Tuvok stood, impassive, watching her. They were waiting for the appointed meeting time. It was probably not good protocol for the Captain to have arrived first, but Janeway had very little organisational work at the time. She felt comfortable being back in uniform, and aboard the Voyager. Tuvok, she suspected, felt comfortable anywhere.

The door opened suddenly. She looked up, expecting the first of the senior officers to have arrived, but it was Kes.

"How are you, Kes? Is there anything I can do for you?" she enquired.

"Neelix would like to know whether you want some savouries served during the meeting?

"I don't know how friendly the meeting is going to be," said Janeway, with a half-smile. "But they couldn't do any harm. Bring in some drinks later as well." She hesitated as Kes swung away to leave, then called, "Kes, did you read all the books about the Silent Shadow in the week we were there?"

"I think so," said Kes, thoughtfully. "I found them while I was looking for something else. I was looking up the name Pipa gave his ship. Secret Hunter was the Silent Shadow's vehicle."

"You learnt to speak Xalian well enough to read books, in less than a week?" asked Janeway disbelievingly.

"Ocampi are good at learning languages quickly," replied Kes. "That's strange, when you think about it. We were stuck underground for centuries on our own. It was just at the end when we started getting a string of visitors."

"How many books did you read?" Janeway persisted.

"Only forty or fifty," she said calmly. "I wanted to get a flavour of their literature. It wasn't on computer, so I couldn't download it, and read it later on board."

"Only forty or fifty!" repeated Janeway. "You were on a lovely planet and all you did was read books!"

"Oh, no!" said Kes with a smile. "I saw quite a lot of the place. Aryon Blessic and her others showed me around quite a bit. They talk about each other just as if they were all different people. Aryon Ross was very amused at the way Blessic tries to be intelligent to please Tuvok." She glanced at him. "She hasn't gathered that he doesn't impress easily."

Tuvok raised one eyebrow, but did not comment since he had not been asked a question.

"And how did you know about Zorro, and the Scarlet Pimpernel?" went on Janeway. "Don't tell me you've read all the books in our library!" she finished sarcastically.

"Oh, no," laughed Kes, and Janeway could almost hear a 'you silly!' on the end of it. "I started with English literature about the time of Robinson Crusoe, and Pamela, but I've only got up to the early twentieth century. The number of books started to grow exponentially, especially after all the would-be writers started to publish themselves on a thing called the Internet. It'll take me years to read them all, and then there's all the other languages."

Janeway grimaced. She was aware that Kes did not have many years, but it did not seem to disturb Kes. "Oh," she said after a moment, "thanks, Kes! Don't forget to give Neelix that... I'm sure you won't forget!"

Kes smiled, and moved gracefully out.

Janeway said, without looking at Tuvok, "I can't believe it! She must absorb information like a sponge! How could she read all those books, in her spare time?"

Having now been asked a question, Tuvok replied.

"She does, in fact, require little sleep. It does seem logical that a highly-developed race with a seven year lifespan must be able to synthesise information quickly. It has occurred to me that her race may have deliberately imposed upon itself the limited lifespan."

Janeway looked at him in surprise. "Why?"

"They had limited space. If they grew old, and had children, they would have exceeded their society's capacity. The choice may have been either to not have children, or not to grow old."

"You think they might have genetically engineered themselves?" The thought startled Janeway, although nothing about alien races should be surprising. It was just that she had begun to consider Kes and Neelix part of her family - part of Voyager's family.

"That is one possibility," agreed Tuvok. "It may have been some instruction buried deep in their subconscious. There may be other possibilities."

Janeway would have liked to continue the discussion, but the door alarm sounded, and she had to finish with a "Fascinating. Come in!"

She was intrigued to notice that the three officers who came in were nervous, even embarrassed. Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres sat down when she indicated, but Chakotay elected to remain standing.

"What is it, Mister Christian?" she asked with a slight smile, hoping to ease the tension.

"It's not a mutiny, Captain," replied Chakotay, showing no amusement.

"That depends on your answers, of course," interposed Tom Paris, picking up on her invitation to a little light-heartedness.

"How does a long ride in a lifeboat sound, Tom?" she asked.

"Actually, I think it's you that gets set adrift, Captain Bligh," he responded politely.

"Oh, that's right," she said, sitting back in a less formal way. "I'd better listen."

Chakotay had missed the gist of the repartee. He had not heard of Bligh or Christian, but he had allowed the small repartee to run its course. Now, however, he brought the meeting back on track. B'Elanna had come mostly as moral support, not intending to join in the argument, so she continued to say nothing - especially as she had never heard of the mutiny on the Bounty either.

"It's not a mutiny," repeated Chakotay. We would like you to hear our arguments, though. Then make your decision."

Janeway came to the point. "You think we should ignore the prime directive."

Chakotay replied, after a glance at Tuvok, "Yes."

"Why?" asked Janeway.

"The three of us were all Maquis," replied Chakotay. "This is exactly the situation that we hate. A planet held hostage to a race of terrorists."

Tom Paris was inordinately pleased to hear Chakotay include him in this statement. It had remained a sore point that he had betrayed the Maquis - although he had not, he had simply been caught first mission. This was the first time Chakotay had included him unreservedly among them.

"If we hadn't become involved with them," continued Chakotay, "we might have been able to go past. But they took us in and we nearly destroyed them."

"And they forgave us," remarked Torres.

"All of the Maquis have commented to me, and even some of your crew. We owe these people something. They would have died for us!"

Janeway was perturbed by the reference to 'your crew', but she put it by for the moment. Paris spoke next.

"There must be something we can give them."

"We can give them some weapons to fight back," said Torres, forgetting her resolution to stay out of the discussion.

"But the crux of their position is that they cannot fight back," said Janeway earnestly. "If we gave them phasers, a fleet of ships would simply come and bomb them out of existence."

"Not necessarily," replied Torres. "We've given this some thought."

"The prime directive has been the cornerstone of Federation belief," said Janeway. "We can't just ignore it. This is, after all, only one world out of a trillion."

"But it's one we've met," said Paris. "They are a highly intelligent race under the thumb of a pack of low intelligence thugs. I think we should make this an exception to the prime directive."

He folded his arms, and pursed his lips. There was a moment's silence, then Tuvok spoke.

"I disagree."

There was another short silence, then Paris, disappointed and distressed, flung out the words, "Oh, that's right. Logic will always win the day!"

Tuvok remained, as always, calm. "That's very perceptive of you, Mister Paris. However, the reason I disagree is that I do not believe the prime directive applies in thsi situation."

There was a moment of astonishment. Tuvok was immune to pleasure, but his innate sense of theatre made him pause. Janeway was the first to break the hiatus.

"Doesn't apply?" she said disbelievingly.

"Chief Engineer Torres and Lieutenant Paris have already enumerated two of the arguments," Tuvok said.

"Did I say something?" asked B'Elanna Torres in bewilderment.

"The prime directive prevents our interference with the natural development of any race," continued Tuvok, without answering. "I believe that the Paoli have done exactly that. They are, as Mister Paris pointed out, a race of thugs. They have somehow obtained technology which enabled them to subjugate a thousand planets. But if you study their history, as the Xalians are encouraged to do, you discover that they simply stole that technology five centuries or more ago, and have not developed it at all. They have stagnated themselves, and have prevented other races from developing."

"But the Paoli empire exists as an entity," argued Janeway. "We don't have the right to interfere. It is a huge organisation which covers a vast area."

"Calling it an organisation is a bit kind!" muttered Tom.

"The prime directive has always been directed at races, planets," Tuvok went on. "It has been intended to prevent our coming in on an unsuspecting planet and taking them too quickly upon the path of development. There has never been a case where this might apply to an empire. All empires we know of have almost our own level of development. They have warp drive."

Chakotay wondered whether 'we' referred to the Federation, or to the Vulcans. Paris broke in, trying to be helpful.

"And the Paoli do have subspace transmissions, even if they stole it from someone."

Tuvok ignored this assistance. "The germ of my argument, however, is that the Xalians have still managed to evolve. Our term of reference has been the attainment of warp drive technology. The scientific development of the Xalians has been circumscribed in that direction, restricted to the making of entertainment. But in that field they have excelled."

"Kes remarked that their special effects depend on very clever advanced electronics," offered B'Elanna Torres.

"And their advances have been made without war," added Tuvok. "This is almost unprecedented. Most civilisations advance when forced to do so by war."

"You believe that the level of their entertainment is equivalent to warp drive technology?" asked Janeway disbelievingly.

"No," Tuvok replied. "But the level they have attained leads me to an induction that they would have attained such a level if the Paoli had not constrained them. I believe that we should help them to attain the level of development which they ought to have reached."

"But what did I say?" asked B'Elanna plaintively. "I don't remember saying anything."

"You said, 'They forgave us'. This is the crux of my whole argument. The Xalians are a most civilised race. When we almost destroyed them - and as far as they knew we had- there was no jump to blame us. They took the blame upon themselves, and looked to move not only us out of harm's way, but also the Paoli who had precipitated the whole incident. A race of this advanced an ethical state must be considered almost our equal in development."

Janeway sat silent for a minute. She felt within herself some doubts, but she respected the views of the others enough that when they were unanimously aligned against her, she would bow to their opinion.

"I still feel a little uneasy," she said at last, "but with every one of you convinced for the other side, I won't stand in your way. In fact, I guess I agree with you."

Paris jumped to his feet in joy.

"I always said Tuvok's logic could be depended upon to win the day!"

"I do not remember your saying that even once," Tuvok noted drily.

"Wouldn't want to sound sycophantic," said Tom with a smile.

"It would not have disturbed me," said Tuvok.

"Gentlemen," said Janeway sharply, "I hate to interrupt this mutual admiration, but it seems premature to me. I don't see how we can help the Xalians. B'Elanna, you said you had a plan?"

"Yes, I do," agreed Torres. She explained.

 

On to the last chapter! or wimp out now and go back.