All of Me, Chapter 8.
By Edward McArdle.
Light from outside splashed all around the room. Vishat Bill Sawlo was chatting with Aryon Syssal Zyric and two friends, in a comfortable lounge room. They were feeling properly relaxed for the first time in a while, even though they had enjoyed the vicarious excitement of having the visitors from the stars among them.
"He's left the hospital," said Vishat Bill. "He still can't understand how he could have done it!"
Aryon Syssal stirred her drink, and grimaced. "Everyone was smiling at him, and fussing over him. I don't feel it's right."
"Who knows?" asked Bill vaguely, tossing back a drink which seemed to have a very relaxing effect. "He may get the feel for doing good deeds. Our visitors saved the day, but I'm glad that they've gone on their way."
"And Blessic can stop making eyes at the Vulcan," said Syssal wryly.
Suddenly there was a shimmering in the air, and Janeway, Tuvok and Chakotay materialised in the room. To the two visitors who had not seen this before, it produced a moment of terror, but they saw that the other two were taking it calmly, and settled back.
"Well, speak of the devil!" said Vishat Bill, with a touch of peevishness. He had thought them gone.
"We didn't expect to be popular," said Janeway, "but I hoped for better than that!"
"No, you're very welcome," lied Vishat Bill. "But you have what you wanted, and so do we. I'm worried the Paoli will spot your ship in orbit."
"Don't worry, we have that in hand," said Chakotay.
"We do?" asked Janeway in surprise.
"We are a very powerful race who are just looking for that villainous Talaxian who stole our ship," explained Chakotay. "We promised to go on our way without landing on the planet."
"And we will soon," promised Janeway. "Vishat Bill, I want to put something to you privately, as a senior member of your government."
"These people are all to be trusted," said Vishat Bill. "And Redic Barl is also a senior member of the government. What is your proposal?"
"We said we cannot give you weaponry, and you said you cannot take it."
"It seems we can. It has become obvious to us that you are a very advanced civilisation being held back by the Paoli. Our suggestion is that we outfit perhaps three of your small spacecraft with primitive warp drives, and a level of weaponry which we calculate you could have achieved if not for the Paoli, and take those ships far away."
Aryon Syssal leaned forward, all attention, and drew in a breath as she asked, "And who would pilot those craft?"
"More to the point, what would it achieve?" asked Redic Barl.
"Aryon Pipa has already named your ship the Silent Shadow," answered Janeway. "The crews can be the Secret Hunters. Our suggestion is that these ships should make a base far away, or not have a base at all. They would raid Paoli ships in transit, living where they find themselves."
"I like it!" exclaimed Aryon Syssal.
"But what can three ships achieve against an empire?" asked Vishat Bill.
"The Paoli depend on getting around their empire," interposed Chakotay. "If they become afraid to travel, the empire will collapse on itself. With warp drive these three ships could be anywhere in the empire in weeks, and with the appropriate sensor equipment they could find Paoli ships anywhere in a parsec."
"Three ships?" repeated Vishat Bill doubtfully.
"The Paoli would not know it was only three ships," put in Tuvok. "With the warp drives those three ships could be bobbing up all over the empire."
"Especially if they all had the same writing on them," added Chakotay. When the others looked at him, he said, "Sorry. Inside joke."
"The Paoli are not an intelligent race. They can probably not develop their own resources to fight back," said Tuvok. "There are however, some dangerous protocols that would have to be adopted."
There was a short silence before Janeway continued.
"The people who flew off in those ships would have to leave home forever, or until the Paoli empire collapsed. "The ships could not be seen landing here. And if by chance one of these ships was about to be captured, it would have to be destroyed. You couldn't let them know where the crew was from."
"It is a lot to ask.." began the Xalian who had not yet spoken, but Aryon Syssal interrupted. "I want to do it! We all do! There'll be no lack of volunteers to rid Xalia of this curse!"
Vishat Bill looked at Janeway. "I cannot make such a decision, but I think it would be gratefully accepted. Even if nothing else happened, to know that the Silent Shadow existed would lift people's hearts!"
"I said three ships," added Janeway, "because that's how many we can fit aboard Voyager. But once we show you the technology eventually you'll be able to build your own, and evolve the technology. Make your empire a good one!"
"Kes has given us a copy of your Federation's Constitution," remarked Vishat Bill. "We will try to emulate it, if the time comes!"
"This is all a bit early on," said Aryon Syssal. "We're still just prisoners. But we'd like to volunteer to be on one of those ships."
"That'll be up to your leaders," said Janeway. We can probably rig up the ships in a few weeks, as we travel, and Voyager apparently has an excuse for staying a few more days to find the ships and crews, and leave you the relevant information."
"I'm sure we'll vote to do it," said Vishat Bill. "All of me are in favour!"
A week later, and Janeway was interrupted in her reading by a chime at her door. At her invitation Aryon Zyric entered. Behind him was a male figure, who Janeway knew as Tenet Terris, although she had not met any of his personae.
"Aryon Pipa Zyric," he said.
"How are you, Pipa?" she responded. He knew it was a human formality, and he replied properly.
"I'm well, Captain. Things are proceeding very well with the modifications. I never dreamed this might happen. Thank you!"
"See if you thank me in a year!" said Janeway, with a sigh.
"I will. We will. It doesn't matter if we succeeded individually so much as whether we give the rest hope. The plans you left on the planet are a backup in case we die."
"Did you just come here to thank me," asked Janeway curiously, "or did you have something else?"
"We're heading off today," said Pipa with a smile, "and the council thought you might like a going away present. You asked us for a number of things, but you never asked us for something so basic I assumed you had it."
He reached into his pocket, and took out a data chip, which he put on the table in front of Janeway. She looked at it for a moment.
"Tenet Verya Terris," said the other formally, as he was about to enter the conversation. "It is a stellar map of the whole local globular cluster which you seem to be going to go through. It is actually a lot bigger than the empire."
"I thought you weren't able to travel the stars," said Janeway in pleased surprise. "Where did you get this?"
"One of the commands of the Paoli is that we have to study and admire their empire," said Pipa with a grin. "So they give us all this information."
"They aren't very good psychologists," added Verya.
"This will be useful!" exclaimed Janeway. She rose from her seat, and took the chip out to Tuvok, who inserted it into the ship's main computer, and downloaded all of its information. Verya showed an interest in heir destination, and Janeway called up a galactic map, and showed them the location of the Federation. After some short socialising, Verya left them, and went back to the shuttle bay, where all was in preparation for Voyager's departure.
Pipa seemed to be hesitating and nervous, and Janeway asked him what was up?
"Let us stay with you," he said. "Please."
"Us?" she asked in surprise.
"Aryon Zyric," he answered. "We would all love to join your crew. We have a number of skills, and I know your crew is undermanned."
"You would never see your people again," said Janeway. "We are never coming back."
"None of us will," answered Pipa. "We can never return to this planet in case the Paoli catch us. But we are not lonely beings, like you single entities. Besides, there are plenty of single beings aboard already - Kes, Neelix, Tuvok, B'Elanna, and so on. Let me go with you!"
"Except for Kes and Neelix, all of us are trying to get home," said Janeway, with a sudden pang of sadness. "But I'll think about it. In the meantime, make yourself at home aboard ship. You'll be with us for a few weeks in any case. We can see what happens."
"Thank you Captain," said Aryon Pipa.
"All of you are agreed?" asked Janeway. "I haven't even met all six of you yet!"
"Oh, well, Glutis is.." He seemed at a loss for words. "We all have some good points. She hides hers a bit. But we'd all like to stay."
"Well, I'll have to think about it," said Janeway again. She knew that the Xalians had adequate excess personnel to staff the three small transports, and she could see no real objection, but she had some weeks spare before she had to commit herself. Pipa took this as a dismissal, and set off with a light heart to walk around the ship. He found himself in Engineering, where B'Elanna Torres was concentrating on some problem. He noted with amusement that a lot of the men were giving him appreciative looks.
"Hi, welcome to Engineering," said Torres.
"I asked the captain if I could stay on board," remarked Pipa after a while of desultory conversation. He had not introduced himself.
"Aren't you going to stay to go on one of the Secret Hunters?" asked B'Elanna.
"I meant, to stay with you afterwards," said Pipa. "There are plenty of crew for the ships. Everyone volunteered that knew about it!"
"But wouldn't you miss your people?" asked B'Elanna.
"I wouldn't be out of place here," said Pipa. "I look more like.." He paused awkwardly, about to say "like the humans than some of the crew," but he realised this might not be too tactful to say to B'Elanna. "I couldn't marry and settle down on Xali anyway."
"Why not?" asked B'Elanna curiously. It was a personal question, but she had just been invited to ask it.
"Because half of me are male and the other half are female. It's not a popular combination. Most people are mostly one or the other."
"That's prejudice!" exclaimed Torres hotly, still concentrating on her work.
"It's how things are," said Pipa. "It's not a big deal." He moved up to B'Elanna and put his hand on her buttock, and said, "Has anyone ever told you you're a very attractive woman, B'Elanna?"
B'Elanna leaped backwards as if shot. "What?" she exclaimed.
"Don't worry, I'm a male personality," he said. "I'm Pipa."
"Don't even think about it!" said Torres after a moments pause, and Pipa grinned mischievously.
That is the end of the story.
However, I have added an optional epilogue. It is different in tone to what has gone before, but you might like to read it. Or just go back.