Title: Star Voyager
Disclaimer: Star Wars etc. belongs to George Lucas. I don't earn anything by this and it's just for fun. I'll put everything back onto the shelf like a good girl when I am ready :)
Summary: Voyager rescues a man from a long time ago and a Galaxy far far away.
- Whatever stars shine, the brightest will always be the special one that shines above your home. -
Katherine Janeway, Captain of the Federation starship Voyager, stranded in the Delta Quadrant, stared at the viewscreen. There, before her ship, was the nearest terminus of a wormhole that had proved to be yet another false hope. The wormhole was large enough, and was apparently stable, but the few signals received from the probe told them the other end was further from home, not nearer.
"Captain, the probe has stopped transmitting signals." Tom Paris's voice barely hid his disappointment.
The captain turned towards the young man. "Very well, Mr. Paris. Log the readings, and put us back on course for home." Her voice was calm as always, a source of stability to her crew.
Suddenly the voice of Harry Kim cut though the air. "Captain, something is coming though the wormhole! A ship!" Janeway turned swiftly back towards... a small ship tumbling into view. "Readings, Mr. Kim?"
"One life form, lifesigns decreasing rapidly. The hull is badly damaged, and she's lost life support."
"Wow," Tom Paris muttered, staring at the ship. "That's a radical design -- I've never seen anything like her."
Janeway was almost able to hide her grin. It was one of the constants of the universe: Tom Paris's fascination with starships. Janeway inquired dryly, "Mister Paris, I assume from your remark that there is nothing like that in our database?"
Paris hastily ran a search in the ship's database
Kim's voice cut in, "Captain, lifesigns have dropped to critical levels. And the ship's hull is starting to buckle."
"Beam the occupant straight into sickbay. Inform the doctor that he has a new patient."
A flash on the screen. Everyone on the bridge threw hands up to cover their eyes -- a reflex no one, even the logical Tuvok, had made any effort to suppress. The shock wave from the explosion slammed into Voyager. The ship rocked, lights flickering until the emergency systems came online. The wormhole entrance collapsed.
"DAMAGE REPORT!" Janeway's voice cut through the clamor.
Tom Paris's jaw dropped. "Was all that energy from that one ship?"
B'Lanna Torres's voice over the intercom lost nothing of its snap. "Life support is out on decks three to five. Warp drive is offline. We have 40 percent of impulse power." The Klingon snarl increased, "Repair crews are already working."
The captain interrupted, "When you have things under control, I want a full report. Janeway out."
Katherine Janeway glanced at Kim and raised an eyebrow. Kim nodded, "Transport successful."
The injured man awoke. He found himself staring up at a balding man with a supercilious .....
"Where am I?" The patient's voice boomed through the sickbay, giving no clue to how weak and disoriented he felt.
"You are aboard the starship Voyager. We beamed you aboard just before your ship blew up, after it came through the wormhole."
The injured man felt medical apparatus restraining him.. But he stared at the medic. To his perceptions, there was no one there! "You aren't a life-form. WHAT are you?" he growled menacingly.
The doctor answered in his most "cheerful" voice. "I'm the Emergency Medical Hologram onboard this vessel. If you relax, the diagnostic readings will be more accurate. You...."
Janeway strode into the sickbay, the door sliding closed behind her. The doctor was talking to the new arrival. Under the medical apparatus, the patient wore what seemed to be a variety of a pressure suit, damaged by the explosion. Or were those disrupter burns? "I'm Katherine Janeway. I'm captain of this ship."
The injured man twisted slightly under the medical restraints. "Dispense with the pleasantries, Captain. I do not wish to discuss anything. Signal the nearest Imperial base. Have them send a shuttle to pick me up."
Janeway blinked at the tone of voice. The man sounded like an admiral of her acquaintance, not someone who would have been piloting himself. She decided to play safe. "I see. We're not familiar with all of the minor local political groups, so if you'd be so kind as to give us a direction for a beamcast, we'll be happy to call your people for a pickup." She added softly, "Can your ships make warp seven, or should we wait for them? What name should we give them?"
The patient's voice lost its authoritative tone for an instant. "What's 'Warp seven'?" Then the damaged body twisted violently, shoving the medical restraints aside. "Give me an outside comm line, immediately!" The patient tried to sit upright.
The doctor quickly applied a hypospray to a spot just below the armored helmet. The patient subsided, returning to his rest position on the diagnostic bed.
"Did you do that?" Janeway inquired.
"The patient is in no condition to walk around, and there was no time to reason with him." The doctor walked around to study the diagnostic readings. "Fascinating. This man is lucky to be alive."
Janeway walked over to the diagnostic table. "Is his species in our databank?" she asked the EMH. What she saw was a pressure suit of a dark flexible material, a leather or a plastic, with instrument modules that had lights blinking at intervals. His face mask was a stylized face, and emitted a breathing noise not at all synchronized with his speech. The suit was badly burned. Her voice softened, "How badly is he injured?"
The EMH nodded curtly. "He seems to be an Earth-human." The doctor flipped a switch and an image appeared above his desk. The doctor pointed out features of the suit. "The pressure suit is nearly a full life support system. According to my readings, he has suffered several amputations as well as a number of broken bones and extensive internal damage."
"You seem displeased, Doctor..." Janeway observed.
The doctor lost his carefully programmed cool demeanor.... "How can a culture with advanced space travel be so backwards in their medical science? They've nearly turned him into a cyborg by adding prosthetic parts, instead of applying regeneration techniques. The readings show that he is in constant pain." The hologram shook his head.
Janeway looked down at the unconscious form. "Can you do anything?"
The doctor scowled down at the newest resident of sickbay, then turned toward the captain, his statement changing to a satisfied smile. "It will take a great deal of expertise and effort, but I should be able to improve this patient's condition considerably."
Janeway nodded, "Talk to him about it, once he's awake again, and calmed down."
Captain Janeway returned to the bridge while the doctor continued his scans and set up a security screen to be sure his new patient would stay in sickbay. He checked on his readouts again, finally finding something that was definitely not earth human standard, the brain had additional front lobes. He stored this information for further use. The comm link was signaling from bridge, a unobtrusive query from bridge if everything was all right. He confirmed the query and started to apply a hypospray to the patients neck in order to wake him up.
The injured man woke up to find himself staring into the face of this "doctor". But this time he was prepared...
"Captain," Harry Kim called out, "Security breach in sickbay! The patient's attacking the doctor and tearing sickbay apart." Kim frowned and touched his screen. "The comm's been cut off."
Katharine Janeway looked surprised. "The force fields have been activated?" she inquired in a low voice.
Tuvok's calm voice answered "Yes, Captain, they are still activated.
The Vulcan was already in the turbolift before the Captain left her chair.
He tapped his comm badge. "Security, meet me in sickbay." Security acknowledged, and the comm cut off.
"If we can access the doctor, he might be able to give us further information." Captain Janeway offered.
Tuvok held the turbolift for the Captain. As the doors slid shut, Janeway tapped her com badge. "Computer, location of the EMH?"
"The Emergency Medical Hologram is currently located on Holodeck 3," came the always-calm voice of the ship's computer..
Janeway looked at Tuvok. She snapped "Holodeck 3" to the lift control.
The Holodeck doors opened. The EMH was pacing up and down in the center of the room, arguing with himself -- and losing. The captain snapped, "Doctor, report!
Captain, I cannot treat this man!" He took a deep breath -- a human mannerism that Janeway hadn't seen before. "First, he demanded to see me in person. When I explained that I was a medical program he refused treatment at my hands. Then, when I tried to scan him, he went berserk. He literally ripped the diagnostic bed apart... Then he came toward my office. When he encountered the force fields, it enraged him more." The doctor's voice rose half an octave, "Somehow, he then started destroying my holo-emitters, through the force fields. I was barely able to transfer myself here before he short-circuited the entire sickbay..."
Tuvok's eyebrow lifted. "The transporter readings showed no energy weapon on him when he beamed aboard."
The doctor snapped at the Vulcan, "He clenched his fists and sparks flew from my instruments. Do you have another explanation?"
Tuvok's face went completely blank. He spoke quietly but urgently into his comm badge.
Janeway tried to understand the situation. The rescuee seemed to be almost psychotic in his distrust of others and, in addition to his violent nature, possessed special powers she had encountered only rarely before -- Q came to mind. Janeway shuddered. But Q would not be in such a damaged body.
Janeway then turned to the doctor. "You have no idea why he's so violent? He won't let you treat him because you're a hologram?"
The doctor scowled. He hated to admit he couldn't handle a patient, but... The captain continued, "these telekinetic powers of his. Tell me about them..." A moment later both the captain and Tuvok had a better understanding of the newcomers unique abilities.
The EMH bristled. "The man is obviously irrational," he started, then calmed, "but it might be because of pain. And, no, he won't let me treat him."
Janeway chewed her lower lip for a moment, thoughtfully. "If we can keep our visitor from killing him, I'd suggest having Mister Paris talk to him. He doesn't have your expertise, Doctor, but I think Tom is dying to talk to him about his ship anyway..."
Tuvok's eyebrow rose at the word "dying" but the doctor considered the idea. "We should beam him out of sickbay and into a secure cell, one he cannot destroy" Tuvok suggested.
Captain Janeway nodded and gave orders to beam their guest straight into a cell.
Voice from the com panel, "Captain, transfer complete. He's in the brig."
The doctor had disappeared before the stranger's eyes. That startled the injured man enough that he paused in his rampage. Then a bright light surrounded him. "Stunner fire," he thought.
He expected to awake, if at all, drugged into cooperation, and restrained in the bargain. Instead, he found himself in the exact position he had been in sickbay, but in an entirely new location. and his perceptions told him there had been no time lost.
The puzzle brought him out of the rest of his rage, and he studied his new surroundings. "Teleportation? Impossible! Unless..." He growled to himself, remembering legends from the mists of time. But he could feel no others of his training around -- the presence of such a one would be a beacon in this sea of the mind-mute.
Unless somehow that self-styled doctor was powerful enough to transport him as well as shielding his own thoughts. That partial-sneer, as if the doctor was toying with his prisoner...
Well, he was more of a prisoner now. The same type of energy field that had confined him in sickbay surrounded the cell, with a second, punishing field inside it when he pressed too hard on the invisible wall. The second field also interfered with his trying to manipulate the controls on the console where there should have been a guard.
The prisoner sat back and collected himself. As the adrenaline wore off, he hurt. He knew that his outburst had not improved his health. Getting off this ship and back to his fleet was his first priority. He needed maintenance for his cybernetic units... and he needed a stiff drink.
Janeway's voice came from a com panel. "Your conduct in the sick bay has forced us to move you to more secure quarters. But I'm certain you realize you are still severely injured. Will you permit our doctor to treat you?"
The prisoner snarled, "I have not yet seen a medic on your ship. find me one, and I will decide." Janeway could hear the stranger add under his breath, 'Rebel scum.'"
In the holodeck, Janeway looked over at Tuvok. She countered, "We're Starfleet, not Maquis...."
There was a long pause. Then the voice from the brig said, "Find me someone with medical equipment. I am able to treat my own injuries." Again, the undertone, "...and some Corellian Brandy."
Janeway nodded before she remembered that this was audio only. "I will send someone..."
When the captain asked, Neelix was eager to help, but the notion of taking alcohol -- not synthahol! -- to the brig was more than a little unsettling, and he fretted more when on his way he heard snips of conversation about a disturbance in sickbay. "I hope he likes the brandy. I've never heard of Correll, myself. Maybe he means Corbell? But they make sparkling wines, not brandies..."
Meditation helped the injured man suppress the pain a little. He was able to sense something beyond the walls of his cell... When he was finally away from here, he would take this bit of technology with him, in case he needed to hide from someone with similar powers of perception. Or to confine one...
A non-human -- humanoid form, unfamiliar race, but something with whiskers along the side of its face and nearly human expression -- entered the cell block control room carrying a small tray with a bottle and a cup.
Neelix found the armor the prisoner was wearing unfamiliar, but not nearly as bizarre as some he had seen in his travels. But he realized that he didn't know what to call the stranger! Well, try something the fellow would correct him, Neelix was sure.
"Ahh, hello Mr. Pilot! My name is Neelix, I am the ambassador-at-large onboard Voyager. Ambassador, cook and morale officer. Captain Janeway told me to bring you the re......"
The pilot lifted his hand to silence this annoying being. Something in the "ambassador's" voice tones were even more annoying than his nervous chatter. The prisoner lifted his hand and spent some of his hard-won concentration to silence the newcomer.
Neelix tried to continue but his vocal cords would not cooperate.
"Continue your duties in silence," the prisoner spoke in a low whisper. ".....now...open the cell........."
Neelix blinked several times rapidly. He felt a sudden urge to cooperate, but he knew it was wrong, so he fought it off. The block on his vocal cords lessened, allowing him to answer.
"Sir, I am sorry but the Captain gave me no authorization to open it and....I do not have the access codes."
The prisoner showed that his thought process, at least, were understandable -- he sighed heavily in frustration.
"Then how did you intend to deliver the..." the prisoner saw what could only be a beverage container on the tray, and guessed, "...brandy to me?"
The injured man watched intently as Neelix used the food delivery system built into the force field. And, yes, it was brandy -- he had picked up enough from the thoughts of this "ambassador" to be able to decipher the label. And these same thoughts told him that the brandy had not been tampered with. Now, to get it into him, past the breath screen. "You may now leave."
Neelix was a little affronted by the brusque manner. He nodded curtly and left.
"Doc, for someone who was on the critical list, your last patient certainly tore thing up in here."
The EMH's eyebrow rose, while Tom Paris packed a small carryall with assorted medical supplies. "Indeed. I am not yet certain whether he was able to confound my instruments, or use these 'powers' of his to heal somewhat."
Paris paused, "Not very much if he still needs me to patch him up."
If the doctor had been human, he would have sniffed. "He needs the supplies you're taking to him, Mister Paris. I don't think we will appraise him of your exact level of medical expertise.
Paris rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Doc." He closed the carryall with a soft click. "Wish me luck."
Paris was in front of the brig door when it slid open in front of him. The young man was nearly bowled over by the exiting Neelix, looking less than his usual sunny self. The door slid closed behind the Telaxian before Paris could get even a glimpse of the prisoner.
Neelix recovered first, and a quick smile spread on his face. "Mister Paris! I see that you've been asked to help with our guest."
Neelix was a little too instantly cheerful for Paris's peace of mind. Paris drew him to the side of the corridor. "What's going on?" Paris already had the doctor's side of the story, and more information could prove useful. Neelix's smile fell a bit, as he glanced back over his shoulder to the closed brig door. "He seems calm now, but I heard our newest passenger caused considerable disruption in the sickbay."
Paris nodded, "That he did. But did he say anything to you, anything that might tell you why he went on a rampage?"
"No, but..." Neelix looked over his shoulder again, "I had the strangest feeling, as if he was ordering me to do something without saying anything out loud." Neelix started to add something, but stopped with the words unspoken.
Paris clapped the Telaxian on the shoulder. "He's safe in the cell, right?" Neelix didn't answer before Paris swept by him, into the brig. The brig door slid shut behind the young human.
Another visitor, but this one was human, and in one of what was apparently the standard uniform of this rebel unit. The prisoner studied the young man. Maybe this one would have less resistance... Then the prisoner saw the carryall. "Those are the medical supplies I requested?" he rumbled in a conciliatory tone. Perhaps the newcomer would open the force field to treat him, and then...
"The doc said you were intending to fix yourself up. I saw the mess you made of sickbay. You seem to be a lot calmer now, though."
The prisoner moved closer to the entrance. The earlier visitor had set the bottle down just there... "Please move to the back of the cell," Paris requested. The medical supplies were far to large to fit though the food delivery gap of the security field.
Half a snarl, "What?"
"Please move to the back of the cell," Tom repeated. "I have to lower the screens, and I'd rather not have to stun you before I do it."
The prisoner moved backwards, prepared to rely on his speed to close with the young man before he could deposit the supplies and re-activate the force field.
Paris nodded and touched a control on the security console. A second field sprang up between the prisoner and the entrance, before the first force field dropped. The prisoner choked back a snarl. Calm, calm... lull this youngster... the closer he came, the better contact could be made with his mind.
Paris got his first good look at the prisoner once the second field was up. "I'm Lieutenant Tom Paris, acting assistant medic. The doctor sent me with the supplies you requested." Paris could see the scorch marks, and even some blast damage. "Are you sure you won't let the doc give you a hand?"
"Okay. That's your choice." Paris dropped the first force field and brought the carryall in. Its contents were soon arrayed on the tiny table provided for meal trays.
Paris picked up the empty container and left the cell. He brought up the forward force field before he dropped the one in the rear of the cell. "Would you like privacy?"
The prisoner was studying the supplies. "Yes," he murmured, almost absently.
Paris dropped the carryall on the security console and left the brig.
The medical equipment supplied was strange, utterly unlike any the prisoner had seen before. Only his own uncanny ability with mechanicals and electronics gave him any hope of success. The supplies were easier to use -- there were only so many formats possible for bandages and wound-cleansers.
A bit of surgical tubing enabled him to get some of the brandy into his emergency liquid input lock. It wasn't as good as his own private stock, but the captain apparently had the potential to set a fine table on her own. Not that he could ever take advantage of that fact. He doubted that the rebels could supply him with the elaborate life-support chamber he would need to entirely shed his life-suit.
With what repairs he could make with the materials and equipment at hand, and another good pull of the brandy, the injured man let himself slide into a light healing trance.
"Fascinating..." Tuvok murmured, studying the image from one of his security cameras.
"What is it?" Janeway asked softly. She cradled her cup of coffee; she hadn't had any sleep since her latest passenger had arrived.
Tuvok pointed at the screen. "I have routed a certain number of medical sensors into the brig. According to them, our prisoner has somehow managed to heal himself to a certain degree." Tuvok paused, then continued, "I have tried minimal mind probes in his direction. What I perceived... was completely unfamiliar to me."
The doctor supervised the reconstruction of his 'beloved' sickbay, driving everyone crazy.
Tom Paris looked up from where he was assisting the repair of sickbay. The doctor was hovering and fussing, worse than a mother with an injured child. Then again, for many years the sickbay had been his only home, and even an extension of himself... or was that the other way around?
Tom looked up from the scattered pieces of medical equipment. The doctor's whining was getting on his nerves. But... he had an idea that might get him out from the doctor's thumb for a while and improve relations with the patient at the same time. "Let me talk to the guy. I think he was the pilot. Maybe he'd like some company, someone else he could discuss ships with."
Acerbly, "Considering he called us 'rebel scum', I'm not sure that won't provoke additional hostility. He'll think you're interrogating him."
Paris grinned, "Who, me?"
The doctor turned around with a frown. "Mr. Paris, I am not yet convinced that this man isn't a dangerous lunatic. Judging from the way he was able to rip consoles apart from a distance, he could kill you on a whim, before you or anyone else could stop him.
Paris spread his hands, grinning. "He's injured, we have medical supplies. He'll figure out that cooperation is a good idea."
The doctor scowled. Looking around his wrecked sickbay, he said, "That's what we thought when we brought him aboard."
Tom shrugged, but determined to talk to the captain about his idea.
Janeway looked up from her desk into Tom's youthful features. "And you really think you can talk to him?"
Tom grinned broadly. "Well, someone has to deal with him, unless we're going to stun him unconscious every time he gets rowdy. I wouldn't mind backup -- I've seen what he did to sickbay -- but he'll remember I brought him supplies before. Even if I'm a 'rebel', I've helped him."
Janeway studied her young officer, and fought back a grin. Tom was dying to ask the other man about his ship, that was clear. "Very well, Mister Paris. I'll have security standing by to beam you out of there at the first sign of trouble." Thoughtfully, "And see if you can find out anything about this rebellion he's been accusing us of supporting. If we're about to cruise into a war zone, I'd like to know it."
Paris shrugged. "His ship came out of the wormhole. I don't think his enemies are likely to be hot on his tail."
Janeway took a sip of her coffee. "And that makes it equally unlikely that we can return him to his friends, either, doesn't it. You might mention that to him, Tom. It might make him more cooperative." /
"And if he goes on another rampage?"
"We have some heavily shielded cargo bays on deck 12. I imagine one can be refit into minimum living quarters."
The brig door slid open. The prisoner's meditation was disturbed by the entrance of the man who had introduced himself earlier as "Lieutenant Paris." The injured man blinked. For a moment he thought he saw his son but then he realized that this youngster was a little older, more mature.
"What do you want, 'Lieutenant'?" he growled.
Paris shrugged. "To talk. First, do you want to stay in this cell forever?" The other man listened, the mechanical breathing his only answer. Tom continued, "You made a real mess in sickbay. And you've driven our EMH close to a nervous breakdown."
Paris could almost hear a chuckle. The injured man seemed much calmer now than he had earlier. Resigned? Or biding his time? But Tom at least had his attention. "So I thought I'd stop in and say hi."
The gravelly voice was puzzled, "Because of your 'EMH'?"
Tom grinned, "I didn't mean it to sound like that. But, yeah, he gets on my nerves sometimes."
The armored helmet nodded slowly. "There has been a droid or two in my experience that have not dealt well with organics. As your hologram doctor is a computer program, I would imagine the same thing might be expected."
Paris thought, "'Droid? 'From android?" That was certainly something to discuss -- Paris had made some contact, at last. He tried another foray. "It might be easier if we had something to call you, you know."
The pause was filled with the labored mechanical breathing.
The injured man was stunned. Did this man -- this entire crew, actually not recognize him? He was far from home, indeed. The Captain might have been able to dissemble, but not this one. "Call me... Anakin Skywalker."
Tom caught the pause, and wondered what had been deleted. A rank? From the commanding tone of voice this Skywalker was in the habit of using, he was at least a Captain, if not an Admiral. In fact, the more he knew of the man, the more Tom was reminded of his own father, Admiral Owen Paris. Tom nodded. "Admiral Skywalker." He waited for a correction. None came. "You might not believe this, but if you hadn't torn up the sickbay, you'd be a guest right now, not a prisoner."
"Implying that if I behave myself, my status might be upgraded?" The tone wasn't wistful, more an "aha, I've found the trap in the gift."
Tom shrugged. "I can't speak for the captain, but you might want to consider the possibility. If nothing else, you do still need medical attention."
The helmeted head nodded. Deep, smooth voice, "You introduced yourself earlier as 'acting assistant medic.' What is your usual post?"
"I'm the helmsman. And I'm working on a new shuttle design I've named the Delta Flyer."
The armored body froze for a second. "Your ship design is entirely foreign to me. But I've designed a ship or two myself." A pause, "When I was young, I designed and raced the winner of Boonta Eve."
This Skywalker had Paris's full attention now, not as a prisoner or patient, but as a fellow pilot and ship designer. "I don't think I ever heard of that particular race, but... You are farther from your home system than you might have realized yet. The wormhole you came through has dumped you thousands of lightyears, minimum, from where you entered it. It's going to be a real challenge to get you home."
Something in Paris's voice told Skywalker that "challenge" might be the greatest understatement of the younger man's life. And if it were true, then these people were not the rebels that were no doubt carving up the Empire right now, after his master's death.
Skywalker returned the subject to medicine. "I prefer medical droids, generally. They are programmable, and easy to silence."
Paris nodded his head. "Sometimes the doc gets on my nerves, too, but he's got instant access to the entire Federation medical database, and that speed's saved lives. It's just his bedside manner that needs getting used to."
The breathing from the mask seemed eased, even though it was still raspy. "Lieutenant Paris, how did it happen that a ship designer and pilot got tagged to be an 'acting assistant medic'?"
Paris grinned. Maybe the barrier was finally breached. "Well... that's a long story."
The older man sighed, "I believe my schedule is clear for the next few hours."
Standing next to the security station on the bridge, Janeway glanced at the viewscreen. Tom and Skywalker had been talking for hours.
Tuvok remarked, "It seems that Mister Paris has found a way to communicate with our guest without provoking hostility."
Captain Janeway nodded, smiling. "Yes. Admiral Paris would be proud of how his son is turning out."
Vader's mind attacked the new information Paris had presented. Here he was unknown, as was the Rebellion, even the Empire itself. A totally unknown region of space?
His first impulse was to take a vessel and head back towards home. If he could even find a way back! He was angry, upset, and weary. Being a prisoner was not something he had ever contemplated, much less endured. Worse, he had mostly himself to blame for the confinement. He had been warned many times that his anger could work to his detriment, even though it strengthened his use of the Force.
"So. Are you going to be reasonable now?" asked the younger man.
"Indeed," Vader rumbled. "You know, of course, that I need to leave this vessel as soon as possible, to return to my own people."
Paris's eyebrow rose. "Admiral, you came through a wormhole. Getting back might not even be possible."
Paris wondered suddenly how his patient managed to talk if his breathing was that far out of synch with his words.
Captain Janeway had listened to both Tuvok and Paris while deciding on how to deal with the prisoner. Tuvok favored the comm, but she felt that some kind of gesture would be appreciated. She would meet this menace eye to eye.
Vader felt Janeway's approach even before she entered the detention area. The Dark Lord decided to stay seated -- he would seem less menacing. He remembered the captain from their brief encounter in sickbay. Her presence permeated the ship, as if it were an extension of her self. Obviously not the submissive type -- not even to an Admiral.
"Mr. Paris said you wanted to see me."
"Indeed, Captain." He hesitated... apologies were alien to him, but... "My first estimation of the situation was wrong. I apologize for my behavior."
Her answer was a curt nod and a thin smile, making him feel even more awkward.
"I wish to leave this cell, of course. And find a way back to my home." After talking with Paris, Vader had hopes that sympathy would create common ground between himself and the captain.
Her posture changed when he mentioned 'home' -- she lost some of her military stiffness and projected more of a mother's strength. And she was facing him -- either very brave or very foolish. A thin smile slid onto his face... Or he was so far from home she saw nothing to fear in him. His smile faltered.
"You are a very dangerous man, 'Admiral Skywalker.' " Janeway waited for the prisoner to correct her. "I have no intentions of endangering my ship and crew. But perhaps you can earn our trust."
Captain Janeway saw the prisoner stiffen, then relax. "Surprised, Admiral?"
Vader ignored the question. "I am willing to cooperate, Captain," he rumbled. "What do you have in mind?"
"Mr. Paris seems to think you know some engineering. Main engines, or support systems?" The large man's shoulders relaxed more, shedding even more tension. Had he thought she would have him scrubbing bulkheads, in his damaged condition? She added, "Admiral'?"
He sighed deeply, "Just call me Skywalker. Anakin Skywalker"
Janeway nodded. "Very well, Mr. Skywalker. My question?"
Despite the mechanical breathing, the prisoner's voice was matter-of-fact. "Fighter engines, mainly. But your systems are radically different from ours."
Janeway nodded. "You'll learn." She nodded once more, "I have the feeling we all will." Janeway touched her comm badge. "Doctor, the brig, please." The air shimmered and the EMH appeared in the console area of the brig.
"I need a duty status on this man, Doctor," the captain asked. "What is he fit for?"
The doctor sniffed. "I'm astonished that he's still alive, under Mr. Paris's tender ministrations." The hologram waved an instrument up and down in the air in front of the force field. He scowled, "I assume you want him assigned to some work status, not simply put on the permanently disabled list."
The EMH studied the instrument. "As far as I can tell from these readings, he's capable of minimal duty -- sitting at a desk, if it's not for too many hours a day." The doctor looked from Vader to the captain, "I don't think that will damage him any further."
"What can you do to help him?" the Captain inquired.
The EMH lost his carefully re-built calm. "Captain, this is a dangerous madman! I don't dare enter the cell -- he'll figure out a way to completely and permanently disrupt my program this time! I can't treat him under those conditions -- could you? If a patient was holding a phaser to your head?"
"I don't think he would misbehave. Not," said the captain, watching the prisoner, "if he knew he could be beamed into space if he attacked you."
"Captain," the madman said wearily, "I am damaged, and would really like to get out of this cell. Does your culture have the concept of 'parole'?"
"If you mean a promise from a prisoner to behave in exchange for some limited freedom, yes. Are you offering me your parole, Mr. Skywalker?"
Vader's curt answer was short. "Yes."
"I accept your parole. Doctor? Minimal duties?" she asked.
"I must insist that he receive additional treatment for his injuries first," the EMH insisted.
Vader's patience was wearing thin -- he clenched his teeth to keep from grinding them in frustration. "My ... injuries will heal if given sufficient time."
"No. You will permit the doctor to treat you." A slight change of tactic, "A prisoner deliberately prolonging his disability could be considered breaking his parole. Is that understood, Skywalker?"
"I will permit the hologram to treat me," Vader growled in a low voice.
Captain Janeway nodded. "Doctor, we will beam your patient into sickbay. Please be ready to treat him when he arrives."
The doctor flickered, then disappeared. The captain turned back to Vader. "You know what I have to do if you violate your parole, Skywalker." It was not a question.
Vader nodded. "I understand, Captain. The safety of your ship is your main responsibility."
"Keep that in mind," Janeway said. "It will make your stay here much more pleasant for all of us."
Vader had noted with interest that the doctor blurred into scanlines before he disappeared. Janeway spoke into the air -- apparently, if she didn't talk directly toward the force field, the field muffled -- deliberately muddled? -- her words. The captain turned toward the prisoner. "We're transporting you to sick bay... now."
Vader was again surrounded by a bright light. The lack of sensation as he was "transported" still surprised him, but now the process only intrigued him.
When his eyes recovered, he found he had been moved to a mostly-repaired sickbay. The "doctor" was waiting for him. "Welcome back, Mister Skywalker. Try not to break anything this time." The hologram waved at a table. "Be so kind as to get up onto the biobench, please."
Vader shook his head in frustration. "My wounds are beyond normal medical treatment, hologram. The most I expect of you is putting some Bacta on the external injuries."
The doctor's expression drew in in annoyance. "Assume I have some medical procedures you aren't familiar with. Up on the table with you. Or should I tell the captain you've decided to withdraw your parole?"
Vader grumbled, but climbed onto the bed-platform. The suit made it impossible to be comfortable, but he was used to that -- it was a familiar discomfort, almost a reminder of home.
The doctor continued, "Thank you. Now, if you will answer a few questions, we can start to repair you."
The doctor noted the function of the breathing mask. It would be impossible to treat more than superficial injuries while the man was still armored, so... The doctor raised the oxygen level inside the local force field.
Vader stared at the readings of his own instruments. The doctor had correctly analyzed his need for higher levels of oxygen if he were to survive outside his suit. There might be hope after all.
In silence, the doctor helped the patient remove his armor.
Captain Janeway made her way back to her ready room. She got a cup of coffee from the replicator, and relaxed for a few moments, gazing out at the stars, at where the wormhole had deposited its fragile gift. For fragile he was -- the doctor's complete report marveled constantly over the patient's survival in his current condition. Then she touched the comm on her desk. "Mister Tuvok, Mister Paris, my ready room, please?"
When Tuvok and Paris arrived, the captain signaled sickbay. "A moment of your time, Doctor, if you please."
In the viewscreen, the doctor nodded. "My patient is unconscious at this moment."
Janeway took a sip of her coffee. She began. "Our 'guest' has given me his parole, and has agreed to be treated by the doctor. He's also agreed to make himself 'useful.'"
A grin flashed across Tom's face. "Captain, don't tell me you're expecting him to wash dishes?"
Captain Janeway smiled at the archaic concept. "In a way, Mister Paris. He'll be given low security work, mildly technical, not menial. I'm not risking putting him in Main Engineering. But humiliating him won't help him adjust to being here. It doesn't work on young lieutenants who overstep their bounds, either. Does it."
Obviously not a question, and obviously aimed at Paris, who had the grace to blush and grin, but otherwise not answer.
Even Tuvok's Vulcan control could not purge all the tension from his stance. "The prisoner has abilities we have not yet explained," he warned.
Janeway agreed. "They are unexplained now. I expect to learn more about him... as he will certainly learn more about us. Doctor, you're prepared to begin serious treatment?"
"Already begun." the doctor's voice seemed almost smug. "Simply upgrading his prosthetics was easy. Healing him so he no longer needs them will be more of a challenge, but nothing requiring any medical breakthroughs. Just good, solid, medical technique." The doctor was ready to continue when the captain raised her hand.
"Thank you, Doctor. I'm looking forward to reading your report. But I think we've distracted you enough from your patient."
The doctor stopped in mid-word. "Yes, Captain." The viewscreen flickered, then went blank.
Cold. Vader woke to a sensation of cold, on his face, on his chest, his arms and legs. The sensation was so unfamiliar he couldn't even identify it for a long moment. He tried to raise his head to look at himself, but the diagnostic table confined him.
"What..." Vader stopped. He could hear his voice. Using his voder, he could modulate what he sounded like. This was nearly his natural voice, but stronger, less constricted... less damaged. And his breathing was not part of it, not autonomous any more. He drew in a breath and tried again. "Doctor. Status?" If the hologram could do this much, Vader would grant him the title of "doctor".
A voice from across the room. "Ahhh, the patient is awake! You will be pleased to hear that I was able to repair some of the damage to your system immediately. To finish healing you, I will have to perform more surgery in the next few days, but I can promise you that you will soon be as good as new."
The hologram moved into view.
"I feel cold..." Vader muttered. There was no anger or distress in his voice, but almost wonder at the unaccustomed sensation.
"We can take care of that for you, Mister Skywalker. Computer, raise the temperature around this bed by five degrees." The hologram's smile was friendly, no longer sneering. Vader felt tired, and as he felt the warm air flow around him, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Janeway entered sickbay. She had read the doctor's report, but wanted to check on Skywalker's progress personally. "How is your patient, Doctor?"
The Doctor could hardly hide his satisfaction. "He's sleeping now. But I am quite satisfied with his progress."
The doctor handed the captain a mask. "He's under a high partial pressure of oxygen, Captain. Wear this."
Janeway put on the mask before stepping through the force field. The man lying on the table... His skin was a maze of scars, and there were countless tubes penetrating the pallid flesh. The mask didn't keep out the faint smell of antiseptics.
The doctor stood on the other side of the bed, no mask necessary. "He's well on the road to recovery. I'm astonished he lived long enough to reach us. Even with all the medical procedures he was subjected to among his own people..."
"He was too stubborn to die."
"Good morning, Admiral." Paris seemed to be more cheerful than usual this morning -- once he had recovered from seeing Vader's face.
The patient had had his breath mask removed, exposing bare flesh. The facial muscles seemed unresponsive -- Skywalker didn't use his face to signal emotion much, apparently. He had probably transferred that function to his voice. Although there was an expression there now. The patient was obviously uncomfortable about having a naked face. His eyes showed expression, though, sometimes glaring, sometimes sparkling with humor.
Vader nodded. "Lieutenant." Vader picked up the next data crystal and slid it into the reader.
"What do we have you reading? You are supposed to resting and recovering."
Vader looked up from the reader and lifted an eyebrow. "I'm to familiarize myself with Federation technology," he said dryly.
"Surely not before breakfast, sir."
Paris cleared enough space in front of Vader to settle the tray from the replicator. He handed Vader a napkin. Vader scowled a little. "Were you told I needed a nursemaid?"
Paris only gave one of his typical "what of it?" smiles.
Vader looked at the young man and sighed. "Very well, Lieutenant. I will take nourishment before I continue my studies."
Vader forced himself to tolerate the interruption -- Paris was right: to heal, he needed nutrition. But this new technology -- wherever this 'Federation' was hiding -- was fascinating. He enjoyed learning it and was eager to absorb as much as possible before going home. This new information could prove most useful.
But he still wondered about these strange people who helped strangers with so much enthusiasm. There was no reason for them to spend time and resources on his well-being. And they didn't seem to think about it. Not helping had never crossed their thoughts.
Vader looked down at the blanket covering his legs. During the last few days, he had been operated on quite a few times. Every time he woke up, he was surprised, finding himself in far better shape than before. He had even, this morning, gotten up and walked a bit!
He could breath almost like a healthy man again, eat and enjoy food without tubes or more technical assistance. The doctor had even mentioned making him look more normal again. A hesitant glance at one of the reflective glass walls in sickbay had shown him that some scars had already been removed.
"Mister Paris. Is this ... Federation ... of yours always this ... generous?"
Paris smiled. "Cooperation is one of the major principles of the Federation, yes. And the Captain takes those principles very seriously."
Vader's voice became pensive. "I see...."
There was a lot he had to think about....
Vader felt restless. He wanted to get out of sickbay, wanted some physical activity that wasn't the necessary but despised "physical therapy."
"Doctor. When will I be allowed to leave sickbay? I thought limited freedom was included in my parole."
The doctor adjusted a few settings on the medical equipment. "I have a meeting scheduled with the captain this afternoon. That is the third item on my agenda."
Vader nodded. "Very good."
Captain Janeway met the doctor in her ready room, out of the patient's earshot.
The doctor worked his way methodically down his list. After all, the health of the entire crew was more important than that of one rescued passerby. Finally, "Captain, Mister Skywalker is fit enough to be transferred out of sickbay, to one of the convalescent quarters. And he's requested that he be allowed to walk around the ship. Supervised, of course -- as much for medical reasons as for security ones."
"Do you think he is ready for light duty, Doctor?" Janeway had seen Skywalker's improvement. The newest member of her small family was not very talkative and seemed almost as detached from humanity as Seven, but he had been true to his word, once given.
The doctor answered, "I believe so, Captain. I also believe his specialty is engineering?"
Janeway nodded, "So I understand."
The doctor continued, "Given his temper, I would not recommend putting him directly under Lieutenant Torres. Two such volatile personalities together..."
"I had in mind his helping Mister Paris with the Delta Flyer. They seem to get along well."
"As long as he does not try to lift heavy objects or twist into tiny spaces, he should be able to work for three hours a day."
Janeway made some notations on the duty roster. "We'll escort him to Stores and get him fitted for some basic clothing. Com badge... that can be set to monitor his life-signs, and if necessary, we can beam him directly back into sickbay."
"I'll send someone to take him to Stores."
"Very well, Mr. Skywalker. You are to wear this comm badge every time you leave your quarters or sickbay. If you do not, it will be considered a violation of your parole."
Vader took the comm badge and kept it in his hand. He sighed inwardly. "I understand, Doctor. There is no need to constantly remind me."
Paris entered the sickbay. He looked toward the huge form of Admiral Skywalker. "I'm supposed to take you to Stores and then show you around, if you're feeling up to it."
Getting out of sickbay was a prospect that lifted Vader's mood considerably. "Lead on, Lieutenant." Tom nodded and swung toward the door, which opened in front of him. Without further word, Vader turned on his heel and followed Paris outside.
The ship's corridors were well-lit. They were only moderately spacious -- a squad of twelve men would have to pass three abreast. Federation design, again.
On their way to Stores, Vader observed crew passing them, male and female, human and other species. They didn't seem as military as he was used to but still appeared disciplined and in good shape. Morale was not an issue on this ship, it seemed.
He shook his head inwardly. The Empire would have never allowed females or non-humans to serve on a military vessel, but here it seemed to work out quite well. He made a mental note for later consideration.
A female voice, "Tom, I've got some popcorn for tonight." Vader stopped. A uniformed female of unknown species was talking to Paris in a less than professional tone. Vader tried not to eavesdrop.
Paris turned towards him and introduced the woman. "This is my wife, Lieutenant B'Lanna Torres."
Vader lifted an eyebrow. Open fraternization on board a military vessel? With a mixed crew, it was no doubt inevitable. This Federation was indeed very strange. Vader nodded politely. "Lieutenant."
Torres frowned for a moment. This man had cost Tom quite a bit of overtime, which came out of their time together. She nodded her head once, curtly, "Mr. Skywalker. Tom has told me about you." The rumors about the newcomer on board, his strange abilities, were quite ridiculous -- like the stories of someone called "Q" -- so she didn't mention them.
After a few more words, Tom and his wife parted and the two men continued towards Stores. Paris saw Vader shake his head.
"What is it, Admiral Skywalker?" he inquired.
"Your Federation allows marriages between crew mates?" Paris could hear the curiosity in Skywalker's voice.
Paris nodded. "Yes, they do."
Paris fought down a grin. That last had sounded just like Tuvok.
When they reached Stores, Vader was handed two sets of mechanic's coveralls. The tall man smiled thinly. These clothes looked almost familiar. The needs of mechanics were the same, no matter where in the universe one currently was.
"You'll still need something for social occasions." Tom looked through the replicator listing, trying to decide. Then he chose something his own father wouldn't object to.
Vader was stunned. A prisoner was supposed to have the opportunity for ... social occasions?? These people were not only strange... they were completely out of their minds! Tom added a suit -- something in a style similar to a uniform, but with no insignia and of a different cloth -- to the stack in Vader's arms.
A pair of low boots and a few sets of underwear, and they were done with Stores. "Time to head to your new quarters."
New clothes in his arms, Vader followed Paris back though the corridors to his new convalescent quarters. He could see the entrance to sickbay from his door. When they entered the cabin, Vader looked around. It was small by his standards -- junior officer's quarters rather than flag officer's quarters -- but looked quite comfortable, more comfort than he had seen in a very long time due to his own physical condition.
He placed his clothes into one of the drawers -- years as a pilot kept him from leaving gear unstowed.
Paris made sure the older man was familiar with the refresher and the other facilities in the cabin. The thing that caught his attention was the replicator, a device that could apparently produce almost anything.
"Well, Admiral, the one here has been set to replicate only food and drink." Paris added slowly.
Vader's eyes shone in interest. "Any food or drink?"
"We don't have unlimited power for the replicator rght now, so don't go overboard with it. Order what you want, but eat what you order."
Vader nodded. These people were generous but they had their limitations. He walked up to the replicator and frowned for a moment, trying to remember something from his past he had liked. "Ruby bliel..."
"That item is not in the database. Please enter the item's nutritional parameters or choose a different item," answered the ship's computer. Vader sighed. He expected as much -- if the Federation had never heard of him, he could hardly expect them to have drinks from his back-of-beyond homeworld.
Tom watched the older man standing next to the delivery slot. "Problems? I should have warned you: the replicator won't produce real alcohol."
"No, that's not it." Vader frowned for a moment. "Does your replicator have some sort of sweet drink containing a stim?"
A smile flashed over Toms face. "Computer, one Coca-Cola. Tall glass, ice."
A glass materialized with small cubes of ice and a transparent mildly bubbly brown liquid. Vader took the glass and took a cautious sip. His eyebrow rose. It wasn't too bad. The bubbles were an interesting addition.
The men sat down and Tom called up the schematics of the Delta Flyer on the viewer. He started talking about the ship.
Vader watched the younger man. He was obviously very enthusiastic about his flyer. As well he should be -- it was well-designed. Vader absorbed what details he could and asked questions.
Some time later, Paris looked up and saw the eyes of the admiral blinking, trying to stay open. It wasn't that late... He reminded himself that Vader was still recovering from his injuries. "I think I'll leave you for the night. You need the rest."
Vader looked up, a hint of surprise in his eyes. Despite days here on Voyager, he was still not used to his captors being considerate.
Paris was already standing next to the door.
"Good night, Admiral. I'll pick you up tomorrow morning at 0700 to go take a look at the Delta Flyer."
The former Dark Lord watched as Paris walked out of his new quarters. The door slid shut behind him.
Silence, except for the omnipresent ship systems hum and ventilator hiss, both well-muffled.
Vader looked around his new quarters. He was indeed exhausted. His eyes burned and his back was aching. He stretched himself out on the bed.
"Computer, light out." Vader was asleep by the time the computer dimmed the lights.
Vader woke up and stretched. He smiled -- after so many days in sickbay with no difference between sleep wear and day wear, he had forgotten to change. Not that the clock had ruled his clothing habits for a long time before that -- maintenance schedules, yes.
He spent longer than he expected in the fresher, enjoying the privacy and the sensations against his bare skin. Bare skin! and no breathing apparatus!
Hunger finally drove him out of the fresher. He stood in front of the replicator... something familiar first, a breakfast the doctor had put on his permitted menu several times. "Pancakes. Maple syrup." And what was that beverage...? "Hot cocoa."
The air above the replicator platform sparkled and solidified. Vader nodded -- it looked and smelled the way he remembered. He took the dishes over to the table and started eating, bringing up the viewscreen with the Delta Flyer schematics.
"Good morning, Mister Skywalker."
The sudden voice with no entry noises or comm chime startled him. He leaped up into a combat-ready position -- overturning his food and drink as well. Vader snarled when he realized it was only the EMH.
The doctor was standing in the middle of the room. He scowled for an instant at Vader's reaction. "I trust you slept well?"
The guest had slept well, despite his usual nightmares; the readouts were clear on that. The Doctor had learned that asking about his patient's condition helped maintain a good doctor/patient relationship.
"Yes, Doctor. I slept well." Vader straightened into a more relaxed position. "But I would appreciate it if you would inform me of your visits before you arrive." The growl in Vader's voice was clear.
The doctor paused, processing this. He nodded, smiling. "Certainly, Mr. Skywalker. A person needs privacy. I was still thinking of you as a patient in need of urgent care rather than a convalescent."
"Do you want me to report to sickbay?"
"No need." The EMH scanned him with a medical tricorder. "Would you prefer your medications in pill or liquid form?"
Vader hesitated. Then, "Liquid."
The EMH nodded. "Replicator. Twice a day, medication ess-kay zero one, liquid form. Signal the patient when the dose is due to be taken."
"Acknowledged," came the cool computer voice. A small cup of brown liquid appeared on the replicator platform. The hologram picked it up and handed it to Vader.
"The replicator will produce medicines?"
The EMH lifted an eyebrow -- it just had, hadn't it? "With the appropriate overrides, yes. Drink up. I'm told that the flavoring makes it not unpleasant."
Vader sipped. A little sweet, like so many of these people's foods and drinks. The doctor watched until he finished the dose. "If you take your medicine on schedule, I won't have to hunt you down with a hypo-spray."
"I understand. Is there anything else?"
"You're in better shape than I expected." The hologram looked at the cocoa dripping onto the floor. "I don't imagine Mister Paris told you how to use the housekeeping facilities."
Vader half-grinned, "No. He didn't."
Vader listened carefully. Cleaning spills was a matter of using Voyager's transporter technology to remove the errant material. "Ingenious."
The EMH nodded. "It does simplify keeping the sickbay sterile." The doctor clicked off the tricorder. "Tomorrow morning, then. And I will announce my arrival."
Vader blinked -- the EMH was no longer there. Not that the doctor's sometimes abrupt manners surprised him any longer -- he was reminded of more than one medical droid of his acquaintance.
Vader sighed. He was glad that Voyager didn't employ hologram crewmen in more positions. Dealing with the doctor left him edgy -- his Force perceptions had nothing to relate to, not even the electrical flows of a droid.
Being required to deal with more holograms would drive him mad.
Vader ordered fresh servings of his meal. Then he switched from studying the Delta Flyer to Federation history. The species mentioned in the chronicles were all unknown to him -- Vulcans, Romulans, Andorians, Betazeds, Klingons, a hundred more, including the more recent enemies the Ferenghi, the Cardassians, and the Borg.
The Federation expanded by using diplomacy, not conquest. The tactics of the Klingons or Romulans were more familiar, but it seemed this Federation was more successful than more combative societies.
Vader finished his breakfast and had put his dishes into the reclaimer before Tom Paris arrived. The door chimed, then opened. "Good morning." The younger man sniffed -- the aroma of the cocoa was still in the air. "I see you're an early bird, Admiral."
The inference was obvious, if a touch planet-bound. "Long ago, I found I could get work done uninterrupted if I started before normal 'office hours.' And I do not care much for sleep." Sleep was either nightmares or a little death -- both hateful.
"Then I take it you're ready to meet the Delta Flyer?"
Vader's face broke into a grin. "Certainly."
Paris led the way to the hangar. Once inside, he let Vader spend time looking the ship over.
Vader compared the flyer with the schematics in his head. It was larger than he expected -- he was still having trouble converting his measurements into Federation units.
"A very nice ship, Mister Paris." Vader's hand slid gently over the smooth surface of the vessel. Small craft had been his first passion, swiftly and agilely dancing, along a race course or though space.
Tom Paris didn't try to hide his broad smile. The Admiral had the heart of a pilot, and it showed.
"Yeah, I'm kind of fond of it. Care to look inside?"
Vader, half-crippled, almost beat Paris to the hatch.
A simple inspection at first, comparing Federation instrument layout with Imperial standard. He asked Paris why some readouts were at what angles, but the younger man just shrugged. "Some things have just been that way for ages. It's easier than re-training your existing pilots to radically new designs every few years."
Vader nodded. "Ideally, training insures that your hand goes to the right place, before you have a chance to think about it. I understand."
Paris opened a panel in the cockpit and let Vader have a look inside. The components looked mostly Federation-standard, but there were some odd-looking bits... "Neelix donated those. They work better than the chips I had earlier."
"Neelix. Your cook."
"Neelix is a lot more than just a cook." Paris's voice was strange, filtered through the baffles of circuitry. "Among other things, he's got his own ship. Any pilot is a jackleg mechanic if he intends to get to his next port -- unless he's got a big enough crew to have an engineer."
Vader hmmed. "I've been in that situation myself." Hesitantly, "Can I have a look at your warp drives?"
Paris opened up the repair panels on the flyer's warp drive. Vader studied the visible parts, then reached out with his Force perceptions. The energy conduits were clean, but...
"Give me a quick rundown again on warp theory, please?"
Tom grinned. "You want the Naomi Wildman version?"
Vader made a noise that Paris chose to interpret as a "yes."
"Naomi says the engines make a bubble, and the bubble lets the ship float on top of normal space, like a bubble floating on water. The ship moves like there's wind blowing the bubble, except that the ship aims itself, instead of the bubble going where the wind blows it."
Vader pulled his concentration back to Tom's words."What?"
"Naomi's one of the pre-adolescents on board. Her mother's one of the crew. But Naomi's got a good, non-technical grasp of how a warp drive works."
Vader nodded. "Any faster than light drive has to drop the ship out of normal space. I thought I read that your drives dive into and out of normal space at a high cyclical rate."
Vader shrugged, "I worked mostly on normal-space fighters."
Paris's eyebrow rose. Didn't remember, didn't know, or wouldn't say? "Let's get you up to speed on our STL engines first, then, before we introduce you to warp drives."
Tom glanced over at a console. "Time for lunch. I think you've worked long enough for your first day on the job, sir."
Vader ignored the implied invitation. "You may leave if you wish, Lieutenant." He continued tracing circuits, comparing them to his memorized studies.
Tom grinned at the automatic reply. This guy had to have been a commanding officer. "You don't want me to get into trouble with the doc, do you?"
Admiral Skywalker turned towards Paris with a puzzled look on his face. Then the situation sank in. "No," he answered evenly, "we would not want that, would we." The prospect of having to allow himself to be lectured by the EMH for missing a meal was not at all pleasant.
Vader helped Paris secure the open panels, then followed him out of the flyer. "I think Neelix has some things on the stove that you might enjoy."
Vader shook his head. "I would prefer to dine by myself. It's a luxury I treasure after days of having the doctor hover over me, making sure I finished my vegetables."
Tom sputtered with laughter. "I see what you mean."
Paris escorted Vader to his quarters. "I'll check the duty roster and see when your next assignment is. In the mean time, you've got the doctor's instructions for physical activity."
"Yes, I do." Vader sighed. Paris's company had suddenly become less than pleasant -- the younger man's tone had slipped from that of a fellow pilot to that of assistant medic. "Go. Have lunch."
Tom shrugged. "Later, then."
Vader watched the young man depart and shook his head. So much like other young officers under his command.
Vader turned to the comm console. Something had occurred to him while in the hangar -- the database of Voyager could be searched, the same way those at home could.
It took only a moment of concentration to set up a search. Vader rattled off a long list of planets, systems, and historical names -- including Anakin Skywalker --, asking the computer for any local correlations. As an afterthought, he added the the words "Sith" and "Jedi," and, finally, the names of some foods and drinks.
Actually, food sounded like a good idea. "Replicator. List of available foods. Randomize the list."
The names of some of the dishes sounded appetizing, some less so, some were utterly repellant. Vader chose one, tried it. Then another. A third, then a fourth. Some of these were quite good, but none had the taste of home.
The computer console chimed. "Requested search completed. Display or verbal report?"
Vader's pulse leaped. "Both. Verbal first. What did you find?"
B'Lanna was already waiting for Tom at a table. "Hi. Where's your shadow?" Tom read that as happy he was here, unhappy he was late, happy he was alone, worried that there was something wrong with the man Tom, after all, was responsible for.
"He wanted to eat by himself. Said he'd had enough company in sickbay to last him a good while."
B'Lanna scowled. She knew the doctor could be infuriating, but... "You're spending an awful lot of time with him." The undertone was, "Instead of with your wife."
Tom turned to pick up some food, stopped. "Not here."
B'Lanna simmered, but kept quiet. This was a family matter, and Tom was right -- it shouldn't be aired in public. "You let him see the Delta Flyer."
Tom smiled. Mentioning the flyer usually mellowed him out, even in the middle of a fight. "B'Lanna, you should see this guy... He's a natural engineer. He touches a machine and just knows how it ticks. If it's totally new to him, he needs some basic explanations but he picks up on it so quickly... I don't know how he does it."
B'Lanna snapped, "Maybe he's using those so-called 'powers' of his everyone's talking about. Is he still as hostile as he was? It doesn't look like he's torn you to pieces."
"As far as I can tell, he thought we were his enemies when we brought him aboard. He was less than half conscious, and nearly dead from his injuries. I can remember when attack would have been your first response, too.
"Now, he's a lot quieter. I think it's finally occurred to him how far from home he really is. Further than we are, B'Lanna."
Captain Janeway noticed Paris and Torres sitting together at the table when she walked in. She looked around for a third, larger diner.
She walked over to Tom and B'Lanna. "Where's Mister Skywalker?"
Tom was startled at the sound of his captain's voice. "He said he wanted to eat alone. I don't think he's comfortable eating in company."
Janeway nodded. "I guess I have to go to him, then, if I want to talk. Tom, I expect to see a report on his reaction to the Delta Flyer before lights out."
The captain waved amicably at the pair and left the messhall, never noticing B'Lanna's scowl at her back.
The door to Skywalker's quarters chimed, then slid aside. Janeway entered the room just as a dish of something green and leafy went sailing past her head, impacting the corridor wall behind her.
The pitcher was easy enough to identify. The convalescent had another missile in his hand, this one a cup of cocoa?
Janeway snapped, "Skywalker!"
Vader froze, then snarled, wordlessly. But he didn't throw the next missile, either.
The doors slid behind Janeway. Skywalker's hand dropped slowly, and he put the cup on the console beside him -- a console with a library document on it, something from a fairy tale? Why would that have set off his temper?
"Explain yourself, Mister." She waved at the assortment of dishes first... "You were told we were on short replicator rations." She had to steel herself not to grin at the childishness -- she had seen admirals throw temper tantrums in private before, and this had all the earmarks.
"And even if we weren't, if you feel the need to exercise your throwing skills, we have sports facilities." She looked over her shoulder and saw marks of earlier collisions of food and door. "I'm waiting for an explanation."
"A fairy tale," Vader snarled. "I had your computer search for my region of space, and there is nothing similar in your database except the mention of a group called the Sith -- but they were Earth mythology long before you achieved spaceflight."
That explained the temper-tantrum, but not the buffet. And it excused neither. "I see. You've just discovered you're farther from home than we are. So you react like a child separated from his mother for the first time against his will."
One of the lump-filled stains behind Janeway on the door was still sliding down. "First, you're going to clean up the mess you've made. Then... I'm afraid this will cost you your replicator privileges for a while. You're to take your meals in the dining hall."
Counting the dishes with only a bite or two (or sometimes none) taken from them -- not that she blamed him, since he had managed to order Klingon gakh, and it was still moving -- "Neelix will arrange for you to sample everything on the menu if you want, without having to order entire servings."
Vader bent and picked up one of the plates -- some of the food was still clinging to it, in a sticky sauce. "I do not care to eat in company."
"When your behavior improves, your replicator privileges will be returned. Even those will be limited at first"
Silence, but the man continued to clean up the mess he had made. Someone had apparently showed him how to use the housekeeping utilities -- had he thrown another tantrum that hadn't been reported? She would have to grill Paris -- or maybe the doctor had not bothered her with a report of a minor incident.
"Very well. Someone will escort you to the dining hall at 1800. Computer, suspend replicator function for this suite for the time being."
Judging from the tone of voice, that wasn't a protest of loss of privilege, but something else. "Yes, Mister Skywalker?"
"The replicator is programmed to issue medicine to me twice a day. I would prefer to still receive that here, rather than having to report to sickbay."
By this point, the only sign of the tantrum left was a stain on the corridor wall outside, where Skywalker's suite couldn't clean. She nodded curtly. "Computer. Restore medical replicator functions to this suite."
Then she looked at the stack of dishes still on the table-top. "Were you looking for something in particular?"
Vader relaxed when the captain reprogrammed the replicator -- dealing with the EMH would not improve his temper right now. "I was trying to see if any of your foods were at all similar to what I had at home." There was a catch in his voice at the last word. "Nothing. Your tastes are alien."
Janeway's eyebrow rose. "You had no chance to experiment while you were still in sickbay?"
Vader snorted. "The doctor had some very definite ideas as to what was suitable. And not much imagination."
Janeway laughed. Vader was startled, then joined her. He looked at the stack of dishes, and had a sudden vision of what Governor Tarkin's reaction would have been to the food-throwing. Or Motte's or... Or his son's. Or even Tom Paris's.
Janeway swung the computer display to face her. "I'm not familiar with this fairy tale. Is there an Irish equivalent?"
Tuvok was waiting for Janeway just out of line-of-sight of the convalescent quarters. She smiled at his predictable behavior. "The doctor reported some non-typical readings from our guest. I thought it best if I were here for a swift response."
"If our guest goes on a rampage, your best response would be a heavy stun to his location, then we can sort out the combatants."
"Yes, Captain." Tuvok touched his comm badge and told a listener to stand down. "And in this case, Captain, who was Skywalker attacking?"
"His own failing morale, Mister Tuvok. He had the computer try to track down his home, and there is literally nothing in our databanks leading to anywhere he knows. He's either from a different galaxy entirely, or from somewhere else in time. The past, so far that no records remain of his Empire, or the future."
Janeway grimaced, not caring for the possibility of another visit from the "Time Patrol," her name for the enforcers of the Temporal Prime Directive. Still, if Skywalker were from the future, the temporal police had a chance of getting him home. In her estimation, Voyager didn't.
The two Starfleet officers walked toward the turbolift that would take them to the bridge.
"There is still another possibility, Captain," Tuvok continued. "You have read the reports of the parallel universe encountered by Captain Kirk, wherein the Federation was instead an Empire, in which promotion was by assassination?"
Janeway shook her head. "I'm familiar with the parallel universe, but it isn't his. The place names and races were nearly identical to ours -- he would have found equivalents."
"I agree. I present, instead, the theory of a universe less than parallel, but which was able to intersect ours by means of that wormhole. Such an opening might never occur again. Or, if one end opens -- our end, or it is irrelevant -- , the other might not return him to his own place."
Janeway nodded. "I'm not sure whether we should try to get him home, or just persuade him to resign himself to exile."
"Voyager does not have the resources to spend on extensive experiments in wormhole 'cultivation.' You are responsible for the welfare of more than this one man, Captain. No matter how intriguing you find him."
Janeway lifted an eyebrow. She wasn't sure she liked the implications of that last statement. Nor if she dared contest it.
Tuvok's expression stayed blank. Janeway expected no less.
The dishes were absorbed by the recycler in his quarters, and Vader had spent more time in the refresher, letting the hot water pound his muscles. Finally, he shut down the shower and stepped into the dressing area. "Computer. The doctor has authorized physical exercise for me as therapy. What are my options?"
The list, in the computer's blandly pleasant voice, was lengthy but unhelpful, consisting mostly of sports unfamiliar to him, half of which ended in the word "ball." Then the words "martial arts" caught his attention. "Computer. Is there a combat form with sticks a meter to a meter and a half long, or blades the same length? Hand grip to accommodate two hands."
The computer listed several, unfamiliar names of course, but... "Display the equipment used for each of those combat forms. Are any of them still used in real combat? Or are they only sport now?"
The screen flickered. One of the forms was something called "kendo", and the illustration of the origin of the sport included a combatant in a suit of samurai armor.
Vader stared at the picture, scarcely breathing. Then, "Computer, show me of this 'kendo' sport."
"He's doing what?" Janeway in her ready room, as Paris and Kim stopped in to report on the convalescent.
"Skywalker is in one of the gyms, practicing something that looks a lot like kendo kata. And you know, Captain, the helmet that was with his life-support suit looks a bit like a samurai helmet."
Harry Kim nodded. "I'm not that familiar with Japanese, but none of the names he mentioned sounded like it. So he's not from some lost Japanese space colony. People who would take the culture with them even to the extent of armor designs would hold onto their language."
Tom grinned, "A pity. If it had been an Earth colony, there would be a chance of a shortcut home."
Janeway nodded. "Computer. Locate Skywalker."
"Anakin Skywalker is in gymnasium three."
"Can we have a visual?"
A viewscreen lit. There was an image of Skywalker, in overalls, swinging a bo-ken through obviously stylized movements. "That's odd..."
"I see it, too, Mister Kim. He isn't paying any attention to edge surfaces. It's as if he expects the blade to cut from any angle."
Paris's voice, cheerfully, "Maybe he should try the singlestick instead of a sword."
Janeway took another sip of tea as she studied Skywalker. "I wonder how he would do against an opponent? Computer! Is there anyone on board who'spracticing this martial art?"
"Not at this time."
"When was the last time the equipment was used?"
"Three years, seven months, four days."
Janeway nodded. She was reluctant to ask who, lest it be one of the crew who hadn't survived this long.
"Are there any others practicing weaponed forms of any martial arts?"
Tom groaned just before the computer spoke. "Lieutenant B'Lanna Torres practices with the Klingon batleth at semi-regular intervals."
Janeway turned and looked at Paris.
Paris shook his head. "That's a very bad idea, Captain. They would kill each other."
Kim, puzzled, "I'm sure there are holodeck programs of kendo classes. Why don't you just suggest one of those to him?"
Janeway hastily swallowed her mouthful of tea. Paris was trying to keep a laugh from exploding. "That... would not be a good idea," he finally choked out.
Janeway started to nod, stopped. "I don't know. Do you think he might appreciate taking a swing or two at a hologram? I'm sure he's been tempted by the doctor."
"What is this place?"
Tuvok was watching, Paris knew -- Paris hoped. "It's called a holodeck."
Skywalker scowled. "More creatures like your EMH?"
"In a way. but I think you'll like this program. Computer. Kendo One."
The walls shimmered and became translucent panels in thin black frames, with woven-fiber mats on the floor. At one end of the room knelt a man in whatmight be Jedi robes! The four students(?) facing the robed man wore short wrapped tunics very similar to Padawan practice clothing.
Paris watched Skywalker. The older man's shoulders bunched and relaxed, and then bunched again. "What is this? Do you mock me?"
"Is it familiar? This is the standard beginners' class for the weapon form you were practicing."
"The details are wrong... and the people are not here. They're like that doctor of yours, not real at all."
"Exactly like the doctor. Programmed with a set of behaviors." Paris said, "Program, begin."
The kneeling man in robes rose, approached Paris and Vader. He bowed. "Welcome to my school. Which of you wishes to become a student?"
Paris bowed, a little lower than the hologram, and Vader followed suit after a short hesitation. "I'd like you to test Mister Skywalker here, and find outwhere he belongs in our lessons, sensei. He's trained, but in a slightly different form."
The sensei nodded curtly. "Very well. I will test him."
One of the "students" approached and led Vader to a changing room, where he was given a practice uniform. The material felt very familiar, and the cut... "You are a student here?" Then he reddened. He was trying to have a conversation with a computer program.
"Yes, I am a student here." The student rattled off a set of rules, something it called "courtesy of the mat." Vader nodded, barely listening. "Come with me."
Back to the dojo. Paris was sitting on the sideline, watching. The student stopped and bowed just as it entered, not to the teacher but to the room.
Vader hesitated and then bowed. Paris nodded, ever so faintly. Good. No disasters on the scopes, not yet...
The teacher -- sensei? -- rose to his feet again. "I will test you now." One of the students approached with a wooden sword in his hand. Damn. Vader had been so accustomed to a lightsaber that he had no skill with an edged weapon. He glanced over at Paris. At least the young man didn't know that Vader had borne high rank in his own form, embarrassed to have to begin again.
"Show me your practice forms. In kendo, they are called 'kata'."
Vader swept through a dozen poses, concentrating on leading with the edge of his wooden weapon. Only once did the teacher signal for him to stop, and correct his angle of attack. "I see. You have experience, but in the combat form rather than the sport."
"How can you tell?"
"You are more focused in arriving at the next pose with strength than with grace. I will now test you against an opponent." The sensei raised a handand the student returned. "Armor him."
Vader returned to his quarters tired but pleased. He had fared better than he had expected in an unfamiliar form. In fact, the holographic nature of his opponent threw him off more than the single-edge striking surface.
Back into the refresher, to sluice off the sweat of training. He heard the door chime through the rush of water but ignored it.
A voice, in his room? How dare they?
"Admiral, it's dinner time. Are you ready?"
Vader cursed under his breath. Janeway had removed his solo dining privileges. So he had to go out among the crew, and let himself be gawked at. It was almostenough to cost him his appetite.
In fact, it had. The only thing keeping him from turning Paris around and then retreating into either studies or sleep was the prospect of facing the doctor -- twice as annoying as any assortment of strangers.
"Just a minute."
One of the coveralls was still pristine -- one had been a casualty in the food wars, making it useable for crawling around the flyer but not for dinner. Vaderdressed himself.
Paris was waiting. "Once I've taken you a couple of times to the dining hall, you can go on your own. Same for the dojo."
Vader lifted an eyebrow. "I was able to find my way to the gymnasium with only the computer for a guide. Is the dining hall more difficult?"
Tom quirked a grin. "Not exactly. The real labyrinth is inside -- the social interactions. I wouldn't feel right just steering you to the door and running off."
"Excellent. Then I won't suggest you spar with me."
Paris blinked. Was that humor? Or a veiled threat? "O--kay. Follow me."
One of the crew members passing seemed familiar -- it? he? she? reminded Vader of the trip to Stores. "Can armor and a practice weapon be replicated so I can keep them in my quarters, to practice?" Vader asked. Slyly, "It will be easier for the doctor to monitor my condition, to prevent me from over-extending myself."
"Hm. With your size, it might not be a bad idea, at least for the armor. But I think the computer can be set to monitor you in the gym, too. And the gym will certainly give you more room for swinging that stick. I'm not sure you can exercise your weapon's reach in your quarters without hitting the walls."
"I had not considered that. Are the holodecks rationed like the replicators?"
Tom didn't have a chance to answer. The door in front of them opened into a small hall, capacity perhaps fifty people. There were only a handful of diners at present. And the person behind the counter was the too-cheerful non-human who had delivered the brandy to Vader, in the cell.
Neelix looked up and saw Tom Paris... and was that Mister Skywalker? Neelix had never seen Skywalker outside his pressure suit, but there was no one else of that size and build on board -- Neelix would have been told of any other strangers arriving.
"Welcome, Mister Skywalker! You're looking well. What would you like for dinner?" Neelix rattled off a dozen different selections, none familiar to Vader at all.
Tom had his orders. "Neelix, set up a plate with a little bit of everything. If the Admiral likes something, he can ask for more of it. And give us a couple of Cokes, to start with."
Neelix grinned and set to arranging small amounts of different foods in a pleasing pattern on the plate. Paris sighed and ordered the drinks from thereplicator himself. "What other drinks have you tried?" Paris settled down into a chair and put the two drinks on the table.
B'Lanna fumed. This was too much. "Computer, where is Tom Paris?"
"Lieutenant Paris is in the dining hall."
That was unexpected. "Where is Skywalker?"
"Anakin Skywalker is in the dining hall."
B'Lanna snarled and stalked out of their quarters.
"And what is this?"
Neelix looked at the plate, trying to remember which food he had put where. "I think that was the pot roast. Would you like some more?"
"What kind of animal is a 'pot'?"
Neelix kept the same cheerful expression, but one of the other diners giggled. "It refers to the original method of cooking, pre-replicator. The actual meat is beef, from a cow."
Vader nodded. He had encountered cow meat before. "Yes. More pot roast."
Tom looked up just in time to see the door slide open and an angry female Klingon/human engineer stride in. He gulped back a "yikes!" and stood up."B'Lanna! I'm sorry -- my orders changed, and I got side tracked before I had a chance to tell you."
She took a deep breath, ready to launch a tirade... Something about the stranger caught her attention. She scorned her mother's Klingon superstitions about sensing the warrior spirit in others, but this man...
Why hadn't she noticed it, when she had met him on his way to Stores?
"Lieutenant Torres." The stranger's voice was deep. "Your mate has been ordered by the captain to herd me to the dining hall. His duty is fulfilled -- I release him to your tender mercies."
The outrageous statement completely disarmed Torres. She laughed. "Don't tell me he hasn't been enjoying it."
"You knew that of him before you claimed him as a mate. Why would you change him now?"
Paris's jaw dropped. B'Lanna was actually considering Skywalker's words. He'd seen ships counselors take longer, with less dramatic results.
Then again, no doubt Skywalker knew the psychology of anger very well from the inside. Paris's eyes narrowed. And was willing and able to use his knowledge to manipulate others, for his own comfort.
Seven of Nine observed the new menber of the crew. During her last routine medical examination, she had been forced to listen to the doctor babble on about his newest patient, one Anakin Skywalker -- expecting her to be interested because of Skywalker's cyborg components.
Those particular components were almost laughably primitive compared with Borg technology, but she felt some sympathy with the stranger -- Captain Janeway was apparently forcing him into a social situation he did not feel ready for, not unlike herself. But the doctor had not mentioned any mechanism for linking into a group mind, so the stranger could not possibly as alone as she felt herself to be.
Skywalker looked over at Seven and looked puzzled. He leaned over toward Tom Paris and asked him something in an undertone. Paris looked up and then answered him. Tom then nodded toward her, with a little gesture that he had used before to try to summon her. She quirked an eyebrow at Paris, and turned slightly away, consuming the nutrients she had selected for this meal, so she could return to duty.
Someone stood in her light, standing and not passing her to the food counter. She looked up. And up. She came to her feet, backing up.
It was Skywalker. He stood silent, watching her. Finally, Seven spoke. "Do you require something?"
"You are the only one in this crew who has cybernetic implants."
"Yes. I was formerly a member of the Borg Collective."
She saw his lips move slightly with the word "Borg," but there was no fear, no hate, just curiosity. "Your cybernetic implants -- do they cause you difficulties?"
"At times, yes. But the doctor has not been able to enable my body to funtion entirely without them. My current condition is a compromise."
She studied him in return, almost in self-defense. There was no sign he saw her as a female, any more than he reacted to the label "Borg." In fact, his curiosity... "You are an engineer."
"In my own 'collective', yes." He moved to where he could see her ocular implant better. A small group was gathering around them -- this was a novelty to a crew too well used to each other.
Paris came up and stood next to Skywalker. "Admiral, let her finish her dinner. You'll be with us for a while -- plenty of time to talk to her."
Skywalker half-turned his head to notice Paris, then nodded ever so slightly. "You are right, Mister Paris."
Seven turned and left the dining hall, her meal unfinished.
This Seven female... Vader saw the obvious implants, but the Force-flows around her were... unusual, to say the least. He was used to the feel of Paris and Janeway, and was even resigned to the "empty air" of the EMH and the kendo instructor and students. His face quirked in a twisted grin. Torres had a fine depth to her anger -- if she had had any talent for using the Force, she could have been an interesting apprentice.
But Seven... Almost a void in the Force, a bubble where it wasn't. It couldn't be just the implants -- even ignoring his own case, there were many of the old Jedi who had had artificial limbs or even artificial organs like hearts or lungs.
Was it possible the Borg had learned a shielding technique? It certainly wouldn't be useful for concealment, but it made her utterly unreadable by any technique Vader knew that didn't require physical contact.
Vader re-read the database entry on the Borg.
"Doctor, I would like to examine the medical records of the crewman called Seven of Nine."
The EMH's voice was filtered through the comm system, removing some of the deeper tones and sharpening the remainder. Yes, it was possible for his voice to becomemore unpleasant. "I'm afraid I can't authorize your access to those records unless I get a release from Seven herself."
Vader nodded curtly, "Do so," and cut the comm.
The EMH sputtered. How dare Skywalker order him -- order him -- order him --to get Seven's consent to release her records to a mere medical layman? The doctor had had quarrelsome patients before, but this Skywalker was inventing new ways to be annoying at every turn.
The hologram filed Skywalker's "request" on his job queue -- somewhere after having the airfilters on empty crew's quarters analyzed for stray microbes. Then the doctor went back to his routine.
Vader scowled slightly. The Borgs' "collective" was literal rather than just another name for a government. He had erred in refering to his own culture as a"collective" when he talked to the Borg... The former Borg. She used singular pronouns to refer to herself.
Vader had encountered hive beings before. They didn't feel like this. Then again, those hives had been natural collectives, not technologically created ones.
There was no early history of the Borg available on the ship's database, only the chronicles of Federation encounters. Perhaps Seven had more information.
The earliest mentions of the Borg also mentioned a being named Q. This Q was attributed with unlikely powers -- not even the Emperor could propel a ship thousands of light years in an instant, with a mere thought.
Vader ah'd. That explained some of the unspoken remarks directed at him -- they were afraid he was one of these Q (the records were vague on how many there were of them). Idiots! If he were that powerful, their cell would have held him long enough to stride through the force field, if he bothered to walk instead of just blinking to another location. And why would Q simulate physical damage to himself?
Another location. Vader sighed, a little melancholy. Maybe Q could return him to his home. But did Vader want to know the price Q would put on that service? No. Some things were too dearly bought. If staying with these Federation people for the rest of his life kept Q from interfering with the lives of Luke and Leia, it was an easy choice.
Unless Q could be controlled... Tuvok had powers that overlapped Jedi skills. Vader hadn't tested his screens, or resistance to control. Q was, obviously, untested as well. And would remain so, if Vader had a say in the matter.
"Who was that man who was talking to you in the dining hall, Seven?"
Seven looked down at her questioner, Naomi Wildman. "Anakin Skywalker."
Naomi waited. Eventually, Seven continued, "His ship exploded after a trip through the wormhole we encountered recently. He has spent most of the intervening time in sickbay."
Naomi was too used to different species to find mere appearance remarkable. "What did he mean when he talked about 'his collective'? Is he a Borg, too?"
"He is not a member of the Borg collective. Nor do I believe he has been in the past. His usage of the word collective was an inaccuracy in the vocabulary supplied by the universal translator."
Naomi paused. Then, tenatively, "What did he want?"
"He asked about my Borg implants. I understand that he also has cybernetic implants, much more primitive."
Naomi thought that over. "Maybe he wants to upgrade his technology."
"Perhaps. Although the doctor is researching removing them entirely as Skywalker's health improves."
"Why can't the doctor do that for you? Don't you want to give your implants up?"
Seven turned and looked down at the little girl. "The Borg implants have proved difficult to remove without damaging me. Perhaps Skywalker will have more luckwith his.
"Now. What is the answer to the fifth problem?"
Naomi turned back to her lesson.
Janeway studied the doctor's report. Ah. Skywalker had been startled and overturned a drink this morning, reason enough to learn how to use the housekeeping utility. If the doctor visited her unexpectedly...
She activated the holographic sensei. He was a limited personality for social purposes, but could discuss his students with ease. "Tell me about your new student, sensei."
The sensei bowed, which Janeway returned, even though she remained seated. "The pupil Anakin is well-trained in a form of kendo with certain unusual characteristics. The chief of these is his lack of preference for edge over flat of the blade in attacking. This would indicate that he is accustomed to an impact weapon like a bo-ken rather than a cutting one like a katana, except that his follow-through is that of a cut."
"I've seen combat with flameswords -- that would produce a non-preference like the one you describe."
The sensei bowed again -- a sign that he was going to contradict a superior. "He would not be able to parry with such a flamesword, and he shows great skill in defending himself -- again, with no preference of edge or flat."
"Do you know of any weapon that would fit the characteristics you've observed?"
"I have not."
"Thank you. Is there anything else I should know?" Such a question was a stretch for this kind of instructor, but once in a while, Janeway got some surprisinglyuseful answers.
This particular hologram was programmed to read body language from a wide range of species -- essential when waiting for an attack. "He spent significant amounts of time studying the uniforms of the other students and myself, as if he found them almost familiar. And his glance went first, in each case, to the belt. But he knew nothing of the ranking system of white, brown, or black belt."
"I see. Thank you. You may go."
The hologram bowed and disappeared.
Paris grumbled. B'Lanna was mad enough about his spending time with Skywalker -- now the captain wanted him to do a technology breakdown of Skywalker's obsolete life-suit. And especially to look for weapons.
Some of the components were obvious -- air supply, voder/vocoder, some medical readouts. Half the interesting bits were too damaged to analyze -- then again, if they had been intact, they wouldn't have been so interesting.
Ah. Paris found something the captain had specifically asked about. He commed Janeway. "Captain, you were right. There's some kind of fixture at the waist, like a hanger for a tool."
The captain's voice from the comm, "Is it fairly easy to break-away? As if it would support a weapon for quick access?"
"It might be -- hard to tell, it's one of the scorched areas."
"Thank you, Mister Paris. I'm eager to see your report."
Tom was sure he's thumbed the comm off when he muttered, "Why don't you just ask him?"
The captain's voice, "An excellent idea, Lieutenant. I think I will."
This time, red-faced, Paris made sure the comm was disconnected -- and even then he didn't mutter for an hour.
Janeway laughed -- she had a good idea of how embarassed Tom was right now. Some months back, she'd noticed that many of the comm circuits didn't cut out instantly -- a situation too trivial to bother Engineering with. Now, she always waited a moment listening before closing the comm on her own end. It was one way to monitor the crew's morale, even if less than purely ethical.
"Janeway to Skywalker. We need to talk."
The answer was neutral, at least over the comm. "As you wish. I'm in my quarters, unless you'd prefer to meet elsewhere."
"Stay where you are."
Before she left her ready room, she reviewed Skywalker's dining habits, especially what he drank. She sighed. No pattern at all, not yet -- he was still testing possibilities. She noted a few beverages that he hadn't encountered yet.
The door chimed but didn't open. "Mister Skywalker?"
"One moment," came a deep voice over the comm. "You may enter." The door slid aside.
Janeway looked around -- no obvious reason for the delay -- perhaps Skywalker hadn't been entirely dressed.
He was standing, and bowed slightly at her entrance -- one of the sensei's mannerisms. "Captain."
She jerked her chin ever so slightly toward the replicator. "May I offer you a drink, Mister Skywalker?"
She walked over to the replicator. "Tea, Earl Grey, hot, two servings. Cream, lemon, and sugar on the side." A small tray appeared, two steaming cups of liquid. Janeway carried it over to the table. "I usually take my tea with sugar, but some favor it with either cream or lemon as well -- not usually cream and sugar at the same time, though." She seated herself and mixed sugar into her cup and sipped.
Skywalker sat across the table from her. He lifted the cup and sniffed it first, then took a tiny taste. Slowly, because of the warmth, he sipped it, without adding anything. "Interesting. So many of your drinks are sweet -- I had wondered if your replicator was capable of other tastes."
Janeway smiled, "You asked Tom Paris for a sweet drink the first time, and he told Neelix. You'll have to let them know your preferences otherwise."
Skywalker inclined his head. "I shall. Captain, I do not believe you are here to discuss..." he carefully pronounced, "Tea, Earl Grey. Hot or cold."
She took another sip. "You're right, of course. I was talking to the sensei. Your weapons expertise has him puzzled -- he can't place your style. What's your usual weapon? Maybe we can replicate one for you -- you can teach the sensei the new form."
"It's called a lightsaber." Skywalker detailed a weapon of energy that would cut anything crossing the blade except another lightsaber or certain other shields.
"Sounds like a useful tool, in certain applications. We don't have anything like that."
"I could..." then Skywalker stopped.
Softly, "You could do what, Anakin?"
Her use of his given name set off more alarms, instead of relaxing him like she probably hoped. "Many years ago, I assembled one, under the supervision of my instructor. I had the components there in front of me. I don't think I could assemble one from your standard parts."
"Were they common in your culture?"
"No. I only know of two or three practioners. Of course, it's a wide galaxy."
"Was your lightsaber in your ship? We collected some of the debris -- almost everything larger than a tea-cup. There wasn't much of it, though."
Vader reined in his sudden jolt of hope. "It would look like a rod, the size of a double hand grip, with a glassy end."
"I'll have Tom look over the debris, see if anything like that was recovered." She stood, walked over to the replicator. There were some barely-sweet tea cookies in the replicator files, if she could remember what they were called...
Even with the ventilator on full, the odor of scorched duraplast clogged Tom's throat. The twisted pieces hadn't yielded any "lightsaber", but there was an energy hand-gun of an unknown design that might be instructive. And what had to be a data-storage device.
Tom took the two prizes out of the cargo hold to an engineering repair carrel. He hooked up a ventilation hood and set it on "high" before he walked off to get some coffee. When he returned, the odor was considerably reduced.
"Computer. Analyze the fumes removed. Use the housekeeping function to eliminate pockets of fumes inside the objects." A silent transporter sparkle. Tom left the ventilator on as he hooked up the weapon to the instruments.
"Analyze output and power requirement." The computer scanned the weapon, including the various settings on the handle.
The calm voice started listing characteristics. Tom snorted. "Stun and cut both, not very focused. More of an explosion on the kill end. No disintegrate, though."
Vader's sleep was still haunted with nightmares. They weren't always the same ones, but this one was the worse. This one always started in the Emperor's Throne Room on the second Death Star.
The flow of these nightmares varied wildly, and their events, as if a dozen different realities collided. In the worst, he and his son killed each other, while the ancient Emperor cackled insanely. More often, he killed his son, or his son killed him. The lightsaber slashes were different in each scenario. Often, pieces flew, some flesh and bone, some mechanical, hands, arms, even an occasional head or half-torso.
The closer to his true memories the dreams came, the less nerve-twisting they were. The boy had been trained, by some Jedi master who had successfully hidden from the Emperor. It had to be Kenobi or Yoda -- the style showed, the way the lightsaber made by an armsmaster could be identified. Vader's heart ached to see the flow, the grace of the youngster. Even knowing that his obligation was to break the boy, if not destroy him outright.
When he fought through the nightmare to a more normal sleep, he would see the actual battle. Damage, yes -- he and his son had scraped all too close to each other, and there were painful burns to prove it. But when his strength failed him, there were no great gaping holes, no missing limbs.
Then the Emperor moved. In the mind of Palpatine, Vader sensed greed, more than anything. His master wanted the young one, either as apprentice, or to sap Luke's strength and bolster his own.
But the youngster resisted him. Resisted him! Fierce pride filled Vader, that his son had that much strength. The Emperor was not so pleased. He lashed Luke with Force lightning bolt after lightning bolt.
Palpatine ignored the dark figure huddled on the floor. And the boy cried out to Vader, pleading with him...
Vader's lightsaber was across the room, where an impact had thrown it during the earlier lightsaber duel. Vader concentrated, feeling the strength leaving him... then feeling a strength from outside him helping -- outside, or deep inside. Suddenly, his lightsaber was in his hand, already ignited. He slashed toward the dark figure before him, forward and upwards. He struck flesh, and bone...
The old man shrieked in rage and pain. He turned to confront this unexpected assailant, but as he twisted, his damaged flesh gave way and he fell -- over the railing and down the long shaft that led to the power core.
Flames and wind swept up from the abyss. The very bones of the Death Star rumbled. Vader thumbed off the lightsaber, reached to put it back on his belt... collapsed.
Then he felt a younger, stronger pair of arms around him. "We have to get away from here. The shield's down -- the rebellion is going to blow this battle station."
Vader dragged himself to his knees, felt the flow again, this time knowing it was from his son. "Go, Luke. There is no place for me with your people."
"If you don't leave, you'll die!"
Vader let his son half-support him to the hangar deck. There were several shuttles prepped, of course -- but was Luke able to fly any of them? Then Vader saw an older vessel, one with controls similar to the Millennium Falcon. "Luke. Take that ship." Vader nodded toward a much closer ship. "I can fly this one." He gasped, "If I can stay conscious. If not, at least you'll be away. You'll be safe. Tell... Tell your sister. I'm not your enemy, Luke. Not now that he's dead."
"Let me help you into the ship, at least."
Vader, looking over Luke's shoulder, saw troops approaching, ready to detain and question this stranger. "No. I can distract them from you -- if you run now. Luke! If you die, he will have won. For the last of the Jedi will be dead."
Luke swore under his breath, but stubbornly got his father to the ramp of an Imperial shuttle before he ran to the other ship. Vader watched as Luke's ship lifted and slipped out of the hangar, then dragged himself into the shuttle and onto the pilot's station chair. Direction was irrelevant, as long as he cleared this battle station before it blew.
At that point, the dreams became confused and painful again, but not with a million mixed pasts and futures. Paris had told him about wormholes, and this had all the earmarks of the memories of one.
Exiting the wormhole in his dreams slid Vader into a deep, dreamless sleep. Here, his body and mind could recover from the stress of the dreams, and even heal.
The chime of the door woke Vader -- he looked up, feeling disoriented. "Yes?" He blinked several times to force himself to wake up.
The door opened and Paris entered. Vader saw the young man and rubbed his face, feeling a little embarrassed.
"Overslept?" Paris smiled. "Happens to all of us, now and then. Tell you what -- I'll get us some breakfast here -- it'll save us a few minutes getting to the flyer."
Vader hauled himself out of the bed, nodding as he headed to the refresher. When he came out, Paris had a hearty breakfast of fried eggs, sausages, and toast on the table, with large mugs of coffee. Next to one cup was a small glass of liquid. "Your morning 'tonic'," Tom grinned. "It showed up on the replicator platform when you opened the 'fresher door to come out -- the doc's sense of humor, I guess."
Vader nodded. The medicine next to his coffee was better than reporting to the sickbay every morning for a hypospray. "Thank you for the breakfast."
"And for lunch, I have a real treat for you."
Vader looked up from his breakfast, carefully not frowning. "And what would that be?" He was still uncertain of some of the younger man's ideas of fun.
"We're having a good Irish lunch in Fair Haven, and maybe make some new friends."
Vader shook his head slowly, but finished his breakfast, medicine and all. "What does 'Irish' taste like?"
Paris, for a change, was distracted. Usually the Delta Flyer could catch his full attention, but not today. Skywalker was busy in the pilot's chair, reaching toward one control after the other, never quite touching them. When Paris made no move to stop him -- or do any real work, Skywalker asked, "Something on your mind?"
Paris grinned, and he saw Skywalker relax. The older man wasn't quite as hard to read as Tuvok, but... "Yes, but it's a distraction, not a problem." Paris took the second seat, next to the Admiral. "And if we don't get some work done here, the Captain will reassign me."
Vader considered. "And other potential 'nursemaids' would not be quite so liberal, eh?"
Paris gave Skywalker half of a grin. "I'm not quite that, but it would take anyone else assigned to supervise you a while to get a measure of your skills and lacks. That's a waste of your time and theirs."
Skywalker grinned back. "And I'm an interesting new toy to you, right?"
Paris shrugged. "Hardly that. But today, we have to replace the..."
The two men bent over a panel on the control board.
"We have to dress like the natives."
The clothes offered were less alien than the star fleet uniforms he saw every day on Voyager -- the trousers and boots were almost homelike, even though the shirt was of a different (but comfortable!) cut. Paris handed him a small pouch. "Sullivan wants shillings and pence for his food and drink -- we can't just charge it against our replicator rations." The assortment of coins in the pouch were unfamiliar, but it looked and felt like money to the older man. Vader nodded.
Skywalker and Paris entered the holodeck. The Admiral looked surprised.
Before Vader was a planetscape -- open air, not a confined room on a ship. In front of him was a village, by the apparent tech, some short time before the introduction of spaceflight. He took a deep breath. There was salt in the air, and moisture -- was there a sea nearby?
On a starship??
Vader's laughter rumbled, "Most impressive."
"Thank you. Welcome to Fair Haven."
A small man approached Tom with a pained look on his face. "Aye, Tom, me boy. Could you spare a shilling? Me wife, God bless her, has come down with a touch of the fever, nothing serious, but the doctor..." Vader looked startled at the mention of the EMH "...has a brew which can ease her." Seamus's face grew doleful, "I've not the coin to give the man."
Tom fished in his own pouch and produced a small silver coin, which he pressed into the "native's" hand. "Here you are, Seamus. And a wish of luck for your wife as well."
"Thank you, Tommy-me-boy. She's a mighty fine woman, mighty fine." Seamus, his coin put carefully away, noticed Vader. He looked up. "And a good day to you, sir, as well. Tommy, you've brought a friend to visit us?"
Vader realized that this new acquaintance was another hologram. One with more personality than the sensei, and not as much authority -- or irritating peculiarities - as the EMH. But Seamus seemed to expect an answer, much like the sensei waited for specific responses, either verbal or movement. Vader ducked his head like Tom had done -- the polite greeting, apparently. "A good day to you, Seamus."
"A new shipmate of Tommy's, are ye, now?"
The hologram had a great deal of fluidity in it responses, especially for a mere entertainment. Seamus held out his hand, and Vader took it, letting the hologram guide him -- cultures varied widely as to length and firmness of contact, and amount of movement. "And your name is?"
"Skywalker. I'm Anakin Skywalker."
"Welcome to Fair Haven, Anakin." Seamus ducked his head once more, then headed off toward the center of town.
Vader watched him disappear into a small group of people. He took a deep breath, then looked around, including over his shoulder. As he expected, the entrance was gone, hidden by the scenery.
"This is a recreation? Interaction with a group of imaginary personalities?"
"It's a break from the routine of shipboard life, without the hazards of an alien culture. And there are amusements here... C'mon. We'll find some fun."
Paris went on toward the town, and Vader followed.
At the edge of the town was a cart filled with flowers. There was a girl standing next to it, in the costume of Fair Haven. Tom greeted her, "Good day to you, Maggie O'Halloran!"
"And a good day to you, Tom Paris!"
Vader liked Maggie's vividly red hair. The way the women wore their hair in this simulation was pleasing to his eyes, their skirts looked familiar compared to Voyager's trouser-clad females.
Vader walked up to the flower cart and inspected its contents. He pointed to an appealing little blossom. "What kind of flowers are these, Miss Maggie?" he inquired softly.
The woman laughed engagingly and gave him a bunch of flowers. "These are daisies. Here, take some. Welcome to Fair Haven!"
"Thank you." Vader looked at the bunch of daisies then smelled their scent. "Very nice," he said, smiling.
Maggie looked over to the younger man. "So, Tommy, are you going to introduce your friend?"
Paris grinned. Maybe the Admiral wasn't going to have as many problems here as Tom feared. "A new shipmate of mine -- name's Anakin Skywalker."
Vader took Maggie's hand and bowed over it. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Halloran."
She laughed and blushed a bit. It had many years since a young woman had laughed at him, at least in a cordial way. Vader was beginning to like this place.
Paris tugged Skywalker a bit further along the road. "I should have warned you. Maggie is spoken for -- she's engaged to be married to a pig farmer. And he's a big man, with a temper..."
Skywalker had a strange gleam in his eye. "Bigger than I am?"
Paris stalled out on, "Ah..."
"And as for temper..."
Paris could hear a tease in Skywalker's voice and relaxed. "The kendo lessons aren't quite enough for you, are they. You need a bit more of a fight."
Vader answered calmly, with a note of humor, "I'm not going to start swinging at anyone. But if someone takes offense at my attention to the young lady, I am permitted to defend myself?"
"Don't do anything that will wreck the holodeck."
Skywalker nodded. "I was able to contain myself at the dojo. This may stretch my tolerance a bit more, but that's what Fair Haven is for, is it not? Stretching unused social muscles?"
Paris nodded. "So it is. Carry on, Admiral."
Vader's voice mocked Paris a bit when he answered. "Oh, I will, Mr. Paris." He walked back to the young girl. "I believe my shipmate wanted to show me the local inn but I would appreciate it if you would be so kind to accompany me, Miss Halloran." The young woman took his arm eagerly and they passed Tom walking up to Sullivan's.
Her fingers against his arm were warm -- this simulation was remarkably realistic when he could ignore the total lack of Force-currents around the "people." Was this how "normal" people saw the universe? How limiting!
Tom caught up with them, and they entered the public house together. Their host was a tall man for these people. "A thousand welcomes, Tommy-boy, to you and your shipmate." Vader noticed that Seamus had already beaten them to the pub -- no doubt spending the coin begged from Tom for his wife's ailment. Then again, the wife was as much a hologram as the husband... As the barkeeper. As the young woman on his arm. "And what will you be having, this fine afternoon?"
Paris spoke up, "I promised my shipmate corned beef and cabbage. You'll not make me go back on my word, Michael?"
Michael Sullivan laughed, "Not when 'twas I who told you it would be on the hearth for today. Maggie? The same for you?" The young woman nodded, almost shyly.
Tom showed them to a table. Sullivan brought over three pints of beer, setting them on the table in front of them. Vader pulled the chair away from the table for Maggie, and then took his own seat.
Tom saw Harry Kim across the room, trying urgently to get his attention. "Excuse me. Have to have a word with a friend."
Kim dragged Paris's head down. In a fierce whisper, he said, "Are you out of your mind? Did you warn Skywalker about Maggie's fiance'?"
Paris watched the Admiral talking to the woman, making her smile. Charming man, when it suited him to be. "He knows. I think he's hoping for a confrontation. A little action."
The pub door slammed open. In the opening stood a man nearly Skywalker's size. "Speaking of which..."
Vader studied the man that walked up to his table. Maggie looked a little frightened, a little excited. Being fought over by two men meant major status for her, apparently.
The tall villager addressed him. "And who might you be? A stranger, or you'd know that I've spoken for Maggie."
Vader remained calm, sipping on his beer. "Tom Paris told me that Maggie had a betrothed. I expected him to be a better sort than you." Vader thought to himself, "Let's see how long it takes for him to swing..."
The angered fiance' lifted his hand. Vader came to his feet, ready. But Michael Sullivan stepped in. "Gentlemen. I think this can be settled with a bit of arm wrestling."
Vader was obviously expected to know what this was, so he stalled. "Arm wrestling? Every..." he almost said "planet", but caught himself, "...port has its own version of that. Show me how it's done here."
The barkeeper walked both men to another table, gesturing to Vader that he was to sit down. Sullivan explained the rules of the game.
While Sullivan explained, the table gathered spectators. Even the EMH was present. Vader could feel the non-hologram spectators and calculated that there were at least a dozen real crew members in the room.
The pig farmer took off his jacket and Vader realized that this was part of the show. Vader rose and removed his own jacket, putting it methodically on the back of the chair.
Vader took a deep breath. The Force would be useless in this contest -- he had promised not to damage the holoemitters, after all. So it would be a test of his real physical condition. He smiled faintly.
The smile on the face of the stranger enraged the pig farmer even more. "So, mister 'better sort'. You think you can take me?"
Vader grinned widely. "I have been called many things in my day. That's a new one."
The pig farmer slammed his bulk into the chair opposite Vader and placed his arm. "We'll see who's better at this, shipman."
Vader grasped the farmer's hand and braced his elbow. Sullivan said, "Begin!"
As he strained against the other man's arm, Vader could hear the spectators placing bets, for and against him. Paris was betting on him... As a tease, Vader played a little, letting the farmer move the joined arms toward victory. Vader saw beads of sweat break out on Tom's forehead.
Vader whispered, but the sound went directly to Paris's ears. "What are the odds?"
Paris couldn't identify the speaker, but answered, "Four to one, and steady."
Tom turned to ask if the whisperer wanted to place a bet, but...
Vader growled and put real strength into his push. The position of the arms moved. Maggie's betrothed turned pale, then red, and was purpling as he struggled against the vise-like grip but within seconds his hand was slammed onto the desk.
Enraged by Vader's easy victory after pretending to nearly lose, the farmer threw a roundhouse swing at his opponent. Vader ducked a little, and came back up overturning the table onto the farmer's feet.
That triggered an authentic Irish barroom brawl. Beer mugs flew, chairs broke, tables were dumped...
In mid-brawl, for a long moment there was calm. Paris found himself next to Skywalker. Skywalker asked, "Is this the kind of 'fun' you had in mind?"
Tom ducked a beer mug. "Something like this. Having a good fight?"
Vader grinned, "Good enough. Not quite as strenuous as the time I mixed it up with a wookiee, but... Your pig harvester will do, for a start."
Vader was interrupted by having to duck to escape a flying chair. He heard Paris protest, "Pig farmer! Pigs are animals!"
Eventually, Sullivan separated the combatants. There were enough tables intact for Paris and his party -- Maggie was hovering over the injured farmer, nursing him -- and the barkeeper brought over fresh pints and platters piled high with pale green leaves, white tubers, and pink meat. Then he looked around the bar and sighed.
"Aye, but 'twill be a while before I have the old place back in proper order."
Vader thought, and brought out the money pouch that Tom had given him. There was the glint of gold among the silver and copper. Vader took the gold coin and flipped it into the air, in the barkeeper's direction. "That should take care of the damages."
Sullivan ducked his head deeply. "Why, thank you, m'lud." For surely only nobility could be carrying such coin around, and give it so freely.
The next round was whiskey, not beer, and fine white bread to go with the corned beef, not coarse peasant fare.
Tom looked over at Vader. "Well. You've made an impression."
Vader shrugged. The phrase "m'lud" -- my lord -- had sent a strange shiver through him. Perhaps some day these people would discover his other identity. But he hoped to put that off for a while. "You gave me the coins, but didn't bother to tell me their relative value. It's on your head."
"Not that it got your young lady's attention."
Vader looked over at her -- where she had been. The pig farmer and his woman were gone. "She's a hologram. If one of them could interest me, I would have her programmed to not get distracted."
Tom shook his head, "Women aren't robots... even holodeck ones." Then he leaned over to speak out of Sullivan's hearing, "Although our host had a wife before the captain deleted her."
Skywalker lifted an eyebrow -- he must have been studying Tuvok's expressions. Then he took a sip of whiskey.
A walk around the town cleared the whiskey fumes from Vader's head. Apparently, real alcohol was available in small quantities on the holodecks. Unless... "Mister Paris, what happens to holodeck food when you leave the holodeck?"
Paris grinned. "Or whiskey? In this case, it stays with you. When I programmed the town, I tied in the replicator. So the food and drink is as real as in the dining hall. Otherwise... if you stay in a holodeck for a while, any food that's digested stays with you. The rest disappears."
"Fascinating." A breeze lifted some leaves on the ground. "I smell salt water. Is there actually an ocean? Or do we run into a wall?"
"The holodeck is fairly flexible -- I've programmed a bay in, but not a full ocean. Do you like sailing?"
"On water? I've never tried it." Almost soundlessly, "There's a lot I've never tried." Skywalker turned his face toward the "sea."
Paris looked up at the sky, at the hint of sunset on what was intended to be the western horizon. "Sullivan's putting on a light supper, and then there's to be some poetry and stories. I hear you're interested in the Sidhe?"
At the word, Skywalker turned to look at him. "I... was curious. There were some coincidences. If the legends are about my people, I might be from the Alpha Quadrant like you are -- although it might be in the far-distant past."
Paris laughed. "Better that than in the far future. We've already had too many run-ins with the Time Patrol."
The crowd was of a different mood than in the afternoon. The working men were gone, to sleep for tomorrow's labors. The drinkers now were the shopkeepers, the young woman who taught the school, and more members of the Voyager crew than were there earlier.
The light supper was newly-baked bread, fresh cheese, and some sausages sliced thin and served chilled with the rest.
Vader took a seat and looked around. The bar showed no sign of a brawl -- either the gold paid for speedy repairs, or Tom had made some judicious adjustments at the control console.
The stories and poems began. Michael Sullivan began with a poem from a book, then a Katie O'Clare sang a journey-song. Vader realized halfway through that it was Captain Janeway in the native dress. The murmur of voices was soothing, and the occasional laughter relaxed him as well.
Then an almost familiar figure made its way to the front of the group. It was the Doctor from the starship, dressed in a robe almost as foreign to these people as a Star Fleet uniform would have been. The villagers nodded to him, murmuring, "Father," and making way for him.
Paris leaned over and whispered toward Vader, "The doc has been studying Irish folk tales. This should be amusing."
But instead of a poem, the doctor started to sing. Not the operatic efforts that as much exasperated his listeners as entertained them, but a folk song. A song about a war between two different groups of elves.
Good elves against evil elves, with all the weapons of magic. For a moment, Vader was reminded of the wars of the Sith, that had led to the iron-bound law of two Sith at a time only, no more, no less.
And of the millennium-long tradition that would die with him, unless he chose to take an apprentice... he was too tired to train someone from the very beginning. And he wasn't sure he wanted to follow the Dark Side any longer -- his anger was failing him. He had mocked the Jedi, saying that they were old men, with no passion in them, but now...
The song ended, with massive casualties on both sides. Vader didn't remember enough of it to know who had won, but like most real wars, both sides were in bad shape afterwards.
Janeway, when she heard the doctor sing the word Sidhe, shot a glance over at Skywalker. He was listening, with more attention than he had given to some of the lighter offerings, then his attention drifted. She wondered... were the Sidhe -- the Sith in Scottish tales -- his people? The magical combat could certainly be a telling of incidents like his rampage in sick-bay...
"Katie?" came Michael's voice. "You had one last poem for us?"
She nodded. The doctor went back to his place among the villagers, and Voyager's handsome captain took a place by the fireplace. "This is called 'The Grief of a Girl's Heart.'" She took a breath and started...
"O Donall og, if you go across the sea, bring myself with you..."
Vader's attention drifted. He watched the flames in the fireplace -- no doubt artificial, but soothing, giving light, heat, and even some small sound to the gathering.
The captain's voice intruded on his thoughts. "O, ochone, and it's not with hunger or with wanting food, or drink, or sleep, that I am growing thin, and my life is shortened; but it is the love of a young man has withered me away."
What? What was this?
Still the female voice, "My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe, or as the black coal that is on the smith's forge; or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls; it was you put that darkness over my life."
He remembered. He remembered causing that kind of grief to -- a half-quirked grin, well, she was older than him -- to a beautiful girl. To hear it voiced in the idiom of these people...
Katie had a glitter on her cheek, as if a tear had touched there for an instant. "You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me; you have taken what is before me and what is behind me; you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me; and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!"
Janeway closed the book and sat silent. Vader pushed back from the table and made his way, heedless of those between him and the door, to fresh air and the darkness of night.
Janeway noticed, of course, but was in no position to follow him. Paris excused himself and slid through those gathered to the pub's door. He opened it and closed it quietly behind him.
Paris found Skywalker sitting at the edge of town, looking up at the stars. There was enough ambient light for Paris to see the glimmer of moisture on the older man's cheek.
Paris took a seat next to Skywalker. "All this travelling through space -- and we still spend time looking at the scenery."
Paris could see Skywalker's head non, slowly. "The stars... Is this the view from your homeworld, son?"
"If the library computer's doing its job, yes. I told it to put in the right sky for Ireland of the early 1900s." Paris looked around, "The planets won't be in the right places for Earth, right now, and of course, there are space stations in orbit now... The stars are the same." Paris laughed, "No near-by novas."
Skywalker didn't answer. Tom moved to where he could see his face better. "What happened in there? You moved awfully fast. Something hit a nerve?"
Vader sighed. "I'd say it was before you were born, but since you might be my great-grandfather, a thousand times removed --"
Paris laughed, "B'Lanna's genes would certainly account for your temper. Grandson. Heh."
Vader continued, "-- when I was younger than you are now, I fell in love. We got married against a lot of advice. I got into some trouble."
Paris had the feeling this was like saying that Tom had had a "little problem" at Starfleet Academy. "You left her behind."
"A ... friend ... of ours spirited her away, hid her from me, hid our children." A gentle note in Skywalker's voice. "I met them, once they were grown. I can see my wife's face in my daughter's. And my son has some of my abilities... but not my temper, fortunately."
"You want to get back to them."
Vader shook his head. "No. They're better off without me, without my shadow over them. Tom, your father is famous."
"Well, he's an admiral, yes. Doesn't make him famous to the average Federation citizen, but mention Admiral Paris in the Fleet, and, yeah."
"Would you have been happier if you hadn't known? If you had grown up and met him as an adult?"
Paris took a long time to answer. "Happier? Maybe -- he was always pushing me to bring up my grades, to accomplish more. But then, maybe a lot of what I am is a result of pushing back at him. If someone else had raised me, I wouldn't be me."
Tom sighed, "What we are... it's everything that ever happened to us, plus whatever our genes handed us. Some of us make very bad choices." And much more quietly, "And some of us get a second chance. Ask Seven about that. Or Chakotay."
Vader added, in his mind, "Or you, Tom. And maybe even me."
Commander Chakotay was stretched out on his bed, reading a book. He'd replicated the physical object as a special treat for himself -- a bound book reminded him of home, a reminder that was a hope now, not a sorrow, since Voyager had received messages from the Alpha Quadrant.
The author had just introduced a stranger who had moved into a small town, with forebodings of disaster... forebodings that echoed Chakotay's own unease. There was a stranger on board Voyager, someone who had enchanted Tom Paris and took up an inordinate amount of Janeway's attention... "I don't like it," Chakotay said to the empty room. "I keep thinking that we've brought a time bomb aboard."
"You should trust your feelings, young man!"
Chakotay leapt to his feet, looking around... His eyes widened at the glowing form standing next to the window. Chakotay could see through him. "What are you?" The stranger felt more of the spirit-world, than of any of the energy-based life-forms Voyager had encountered. "Are you a ghost?"
"'Ghost' is one of your terms for what I am. 'Spirit guide' is perhaps closer." The form pushed back a ghostly hood. Underneath, the kindly elder smiled amicably. "The tales of your fathers are not too alien to what I am."
Chakotay nodded, as much a token of respect as of agreement. "I must have a pressing need for a guide, if you're appearing to me here and now, instead of when I'm in meditation."
The ghost's face grew somber. "I am here to warn you about the man you referred to as a 'time bomb.' Your feelings about him are quite accurate. He is a grave danger to your ship and crew, perhaps even to your Federation."
"This 'Anakin Skywalker' that we rescued?"
The spirit's eyes widened, "He gave you that name? I am surprised. He has hidden his true identity for many years."
Chakotay sat down. Unsure if he should offer the new arrival a seat, he gestured towards a chair opposite him. The ghost nodded and sat. The glow around him kept Chakotay from seeing whether the spirit-being was hovering, or was actually using the surface.
"So 'Skywalker' is a false name?"
"No. It is his real name, one he abandoned before he began his course of murder and annihilation."
Chakotay studied his visitor. "And you are?"
"I am Obi-Wan Kenobi. In life, I was a Jedi knight." Apparently Chakotay didn't react satisfactorily to the name, or to the term "Jedi." "You have already encountered Skywalker's powers. My order taught the proper usage of those abilities. Skywalker was a student of mine, until he decided I was holding him back. In his haste, Skywalker learned how to tap darker forces, and they consumed him. When he renounced his old allegiances, he chose to call himself Darth Vader."
Kenobi continued, "The man you rescued is more dangerous than you can possibly imagine. He is a Dark Lord of the Sith, a servant of evil." Kenobi went on and on about "Jedi Knights", "the Force", and "the Empire". And someone named Darth Vader who had killed countless thousands..
"And you have returned to revenge your own death at his hand?"
The ghost paused. Then, "I am here to warn you about this great evil you are permitting to walk freely among your crew."
Chakotay was still skeptical. Yes, he had a bad feeling about this "Skywalker", but he wasn't inclined to accept unsupported information even from a "spirit guide." If Kenobi was an authentic ghost. A grin quirked across Chakotay's lips as he remembered an old quote about "a bit of undigested gruel."
"He gave us a bit of trouble when he arrived, but he was delirious from the pain he was in. Since then, he's behaved himself."
Kenobi gave Chakotay a sharp look. "If he chooses to act, you will have no time to rescue yourselves. He can kill with a mere gesture of his hand."
Chakotay sighed. "I will give the Captain your message. And we will keep an eye on Mister Skywalker."
The old man shook his head in obvious distress. "I fear you are already lost. The more his body heals, the more dangerous he is. Kill him immediately, before he kills all of you!" The ghost vanished as quickly as he had appeared, leaving behind a thoughtful Chakotay.
Chakotay finished his story while Captain Janeway sipped her coffee. "Let me be sure I've got this straight. Something that might be a ghost, calling himself 'Obi-Wan Kenobi', appeared in your room, warned you about our convalescent, and then vanished."
"Yes, Captain." Well, at least she was listening. "My people have numerous tales of ghostly visitors, and this Kenobi has many of the right markers. And he seemed genuinely concerned about Voyager's safety."
Janeway nodded and jotted down some notes -- Chakotay hadn't stopped long enough to prepare a formal report for her on the incident.
"According to this Kenobi, Skywalker -- Darth Vader -- is a ruthless murderer. How would we go about proving -- or disproving! -- this accusation?"
"One of the pieces salvaged from Skywalker's ship was a data storage unit. I asked Seven to retrieve whatever she could from the crytal when Tom found it, but I didn't put a high priority on the job. It looks like we might have some urgency now. I don't feel any better than you do about suspecting Skywalker on no more evidence than a possible hallucination's word."
Janeway sipped her coffee, stopped mid-sip. "Kenobi did mention one thing we can test. Have the doctor mention the name 'Darth Vader' to Mister Skywalker, while he's being monitored for pulse and blood-pressure. If he's hiding something, there should be a reaction."
Chakotay shook his head. "The computer search Skywalker performed had that name, as well as Kenobi's and a good number of others. Vader could even be the enemy Skywalker was fleeing -- that would cause a stress test to spike, too. That data crystal might well be our only real evidence, something independent of Skywalker's word -- or Kenobi's."
Janeway nodded. "Computer. Location of Seven of Nine."
The computer's voice, "Seven of Nine is in her regeneration chamber."
"Comm off." Janeway shook her head. "She's been having problems interfacing with her cubical lately. I don't think we need to drag her out for an incomplete report."
Chakotay nodded. "Especially if I were only dreaming myself."
Vader awoke. His sleep had been deep, dreamless, but something in the back of his brain brought him boiling up to wakefulness... "If this is a visit from that 'doctor', I am going to..."
But no one was in the room. The room was as he had left it, dark, warm... Vader shivered. It wasn't a physical chill but a mental one. How had Luke persisted in describing it? Ah. "I have a bad feeling about this." In a specific tone of voice that never changed...
The large man stared up at the ceiling. Maybe he should talk to the EMH. This might be a new phase of his healing, something to be endured... or a setback. That would certainly be an annoyance.
Vader flexed his hand. Flesh and blood, bone and muscle, instead of servos and wires. This Federation medical technology was certainly superior to the Empire's. The doctor had been able to grow him a new hand from his own cells, once the EMH had found some that weren't radiation damaged.
Vader sighed and sat up, swinging his legs over the side of his bed. A cup of hot chocolate would be welcome right now, but he would have to go to the dining hall to get it, and he didn't feel like company -- Neelix was probably asleep, but some crewman would be tending the replicator.
Then he had a thought. The pub in Fair Haven would have something suitable. And the walk there would relax him, too.
The corridors to the holodeck were nearly deserted. Janeway didn't have enough crew to run full functions all night. Vader had only a vague idea of how Voyager had come to be so far from home -- the records available to him were vague at best, nonsensical at worst -- but the catastrophe had reduced her crew to a mere fraction of its full complement, even with the Maquis crew integrated.
The holodeck with Fair Haven was in use for a private party. Vader turned and found the holodeck with the dojo open. He stepped inside. Maybe exercise would do him some good.
Vader was in the middle of what the sensei called "katas" when suddenly the room rippled. The white paper walls darkened and roughened, and he could hear the growls of unseen creatures. He whirled at a footstep behind him.
"Computer, freeze program!" It was Torres, in an unfamiliar suit of armor, carrying an arc of steel that could only be a weapon. "Well," she snarled. "Did you bother to check the schedule before suiting up?"
"No. I had no idea there would be competition for the facility at this hour." Vader looked around, at the engineer's armor, at the ferocious figures just now coming into view. "You are here to fight?"
Torres snorted. "I've got three hours scheduled -- and it isn't for a tea party. Now, if you'll just pack yourself up and leave, I'll get on with it."
Vader could feel the anger rolling off of the woman like heat off a Tatooine rock in mid-afternoon. Her adrenalin flavored the very air. And while Vader knew he could defend himself, the bo-ken seemed a feeble instrument against that gleaming fang in Torres' hand.
Torres glared at Skywalker. This... intruder had been the reason for half of her bad mood before she had walked in and found him, and to find him here, now... Her hands shifted on the bat'leth.
Heh. Maybe she could take this man down a peg or two. He was in armor, had some weapon experience... "Computer. Duplicate my bat'leth." The other weapon appeared in a shimmer on the holodeck floor. Torres nudged it with the toe of her armored boot. "Let's see if you can handle a real weapon, not just a fancy stick."
Vader reached down and picked up the bat'leth. It had a fair heft to it, but the balance was odd. He slid the bo-ken into his sash and gripped the bat'leth firmly. "Show me some of the standard forms."
That smile was not friendly. "You'll figure it out. Program, continue!" Her grip tightened, and her eyes flashed. For a moment, she reminded Vader of his daughter -- or her mother.
The figures in the dark were all in a unfamiliar uniform. They were all one species. "Cardassians." Torres circled to keep her blade toward them.
Vader took a quick swing with the bat'leth, trying to get its balance. Then a Cardassian charged him. Torres beside him screamed in rage and attacked.
The weapon was clumsy in his hands, but he adapted. And the opponents were as solid as the pig farmer had been in Fair Haven. At first he just parried the attacks of the "Cardassians," then one of the enemy got past his guard. Vader administered a kick to the assailant's gut, and then he swung the bat'leth. It sliced through the middle of his opponent. To his surprise, the hologram opened and spilled presumably realistic guts onto the ground.
Torres turned toward him and grinned. He grinned back and waded into the fray, a good deal more certain of his capabilities.
Vader let the adrenalin take him, let himself slip into a battle-rage. He felt himself fall back into oneness with the Force. Ah. He had missed this.... Even against a hologram opponent, the Force could guide him, warn him of an attack.
Vader paused, suddenly aware that he had no enemies in his sight. He turned. Torres was standing beside him, blood-splattered, breathing heavily. "So," breath, "Skywalker." Breath. "Not bad," breath, "for a beginner."
Vader mock-scowled at Torres. "An apprentice's fight. Don't you have anything more challenging?"
Torres glared at Skywalker. He wanted a challenge? Well, she was warmed up, now. "Computer. Torres exercise program, most recent modification. Begin."
The corpses on the floor disappeared. The walls rippled again -- now they stood on a boulder-strewn plain, under a yellow sky. Vader could hear hidden enemies, although his Force-perceptions couldn't pick up any life-forms here.
A scream behind him, and the rush of feet. Vader whirled, and battle was engaged. at one point he turned to see his companion. Her face was distorted in an all-too-familiar rage. Others in the crew had mentioned Klingons to Vader -- that blood was the source of Torres's temper.
The battle was much longer, and Vader had cuts and bruises by the end, with a dull ache along one side of his leg. That had been his own fault -- dodging a Cardassian, he had slammed into one of the large boulders.
Deep breaths, while he scanned the terrain. The woman beside him was scarcely winded! "So, Skywalker. Better than kendo class?"
Vader dropped his head as a single nod. "Much better." A deep breath. Good -- the aches were going away as the Force healed him. But if the doctor paid a visit to him, he would still have some explaining to do. "Your program. Can anyone access it?"
"Anyone I let, yes." She waited. Vader ducked his head once. Torres grinned and added "Skywalker" to the access list.
"You have some vicious tactics there, Skywalker. Are you sure you aren't part Klingon?"
Vader smiled briefly, leaning down to remove the heads of the injured Cardassians. Suddenly the bodies sparkled, and the walls became the familiar yellow grid on black walls. "Not to my knowledge, Lieutenant."
"I'm not so sure about that, chal yIta...." (chal = sky, yIt = walk; a =superlative noun suffix )
He looked at his comrade-in-arms. "You look like I feel -- battered. If the doctor finds out about this, he'll lock me in sickbay for a month."
Torres grinned. "That's why I brought this little gem along. Tom says you test out as a human, medically, so..." Torres showed Vader how to use the dermal regenerator she had brought with her. Vader sighed as the barely-held-back aches vanished.
He flexed his hand. "It is healing, not just pain-killing. This is much more than our science can do."
Torres snorted amicably. "Planning to take one with you when you head out?"
"I don't understand."
Torres turned to look at the large man. She could see how Tom could get attached to Skywalker -- she had never met anyone who behaved more like an admiral in her life, and with Tom, "admiral" always had the tinge of "father" to it: respect and rebellion in equal measure, in a mad whirl.
"I thought that was why you were concentrating on the Delta Flyer. So you could take one of our shuttles and find your way home."
"Perhaps I shall, some day. I think I should like to heal fully, first, though. If I have to make another wormhole trip, I want to arrive on the other end in better shape than I arrived here."
"I don't blame you there."
Vader could feel that her anger was gone --both her battle-rage and the bitter resentment against him for taking so much of her mate's time. After all, they were fellow warriors, were they not?
"The exercise was more interesting as a pair, was it not?"
Torres nodded, starting to strip off her armor. "It was a change. Let me know if you need another workout, and I'll look at my schedule."
"I look forward to it." He swung up the bat'leth in a salute. "An interesting weapon. We shall have to discuss its history, some day."
Vader returned to his quarters and spent a long while in the 'fresher, letting the spray pummel his muscles. The medical machine had done a fine job on the cuts and bruises, but muscle strain was a different thing.
The computer voice issued its wake-up call. Ah. He was ahead of schedule. There was an invitation, time stamped last night, from the Captain to dine with her, two days hence, featuring a pot roast. Vader told the computer to answer with an acceptance.
Food. Vader decided to dress and make his way to the dining hall, waiting for Paris there. Somehow the prospect of strangers gaping at him wasn't nauseating today. Amazing what the feel of a real weapon in hand could do for one, even a weapon as primitive as forged steel.
Vader let Neelix choose a selection for him -- a basic like French toast, and some new things to try. A large glass of orange juice and a large cup of coffee shared the tray.
Naomi Wildman walked past his table... past and back to it. She had French toast, too. Vader nodded and she put her tray down. "Yesterday I found out where real maple syrup comes from -- the non-replicated kind. It's the boiled-down sap of maple trees."
Vader let the child chatter. Sugar-producing trees seemed unlikely, but Voyager seemed fairly good about telling their offspring when something was fiction -- at other meals, Vader had heard Naomi talking about this story or that, acted out on the holodecks. "And if the sap gets really thick, they make it into candy. Stay here!" she said, putting her hand on his arm for a second before sprinting over to Neelix.
She returned with two small tan shapes wrapped in plastic flimsies. She opened one and broke it into pieces. She put one piece into Vader's hand. "Here! Try it!"
Vader lifted his hand to his mouth. The taste was, of course, familiar, but the intensity of it washed over him in a rush. Naomi waited for a response. "Very nice, Miss Wildman."
Naomi grinned and put the unopened candy on Vader's tray. "You can eat the other piece later." She broke up the remainder of the first piece and scattered it over her breakfast.
The glass of white liquid on her tray stirred a fragment of memory. He had had replicated cow's milk here. This memory bit was of home... blue milk? From a far different animal than a cow, certainly.
Vader finished his French toast and gingerly tasted the other samples Neelix had provided. Most of them were tolerable variations of breakfast, one was quite good, and one was ... Vader sincerely hoped that one of his shipmates actually liked something that tasted like that. The alternative explanation was a replicator malfunction that could poison them all.
Tom walked into the dining hall to see Skywalker in a conversation with Naomi Wildman. The kid was okay, but just had too much enthusiasm for early morning, at least before coffee. But it looked like the admiral had his breakfast well under his belt already.
Paris filled a tray and got himself a cup of coffee. B'Lanna had been in a good mood when she had returned from her exercise this morning - she had even forgotten to snarl at him about his assistant.
He sat close to the admiral, but not close enough to suppress the girl, who had sprinkled something grainy on her French toast.
Skywalker finished his meal, and was toying with a piece of candy wrapped in plastic. He turned and saw Paris. Skywalker smiled at Naomi and said something, then rose and took his tray to the counter. The older man spoke to Neelix, then collected the candy from the tray before it could be whisked away.
Skywalker stood next to Paris. "Should I wait for you at the hangar?"
Skywalker was just too cheerful this morning. "Just a minute." Paris gulped one last bite of food, and stood up. He turned his tray in, and kept the coffee cup. "Ready to go."
Skywalker's stride was different this morning, less stiff, more liquid. "Been exercising?" Tom asked.
"I had a nice workout this morning," Vader agreed. "Your wife has interesting tastes in exercise regimens."
Paris's jaw dropped. "You ran into her on the holodeck?"
"Yes." The older man turned to look at him. "An unusual woman. Quite a temper."
Hm. Tom hadn't seen any scorch marks on B'Lanna, or great bleeding wounds on Skywalker, so the fight must not have been between them. "You're going to have to tell me what happened."
"Admiral, I have to head for the bridge. Tell you what -- you can head back to your quarters, or hang out in the gym until lunch."
Vader didn't blame him for not wanting to leave him here unsupervised. Back to his room was not at all appealing, though. "What other holodeck programs are running?
"Classes, right now. Fair Haven's down for routine maintenance. Only the gym's free."
Vader stretched. Even after his workout this morning, more limbering would do him good -- he had to crouch in some awkward positions while working on the Delta Flyer. "Sounds good. Then lunch... the doctor wants to poke at me this afternoon."
Tom grimaced, "Lucky you. He did a good job on your injuries, though, didn't he."
Vader flexed his re-grown hand. "Indeed he did, Mister Paris."
Naomi Wildman finished her class, and asked the computer to find Seven of Nine for her. "Seven of Nine is in Engineering," came the answer.
Naomi fumed. She wasn't allowed in Engineering without an escort, and if Seven was busy, the little girl didn't want to interrupt. "Where is Neelix?"
"Neelix is in the hangar bay."
Worse. Naomi had enough sense to keep her hands to herself on a ship, but in the hangar, suddenly the air could be gone.
She could go play in the holodeck, or with one of the other kids, but... "Where is Mister Skywalker?"
"Anakin Skywalker is in holodeck four."
Naomi skipped along the passageways, ducking around groups of adults. Holodeck four was usually a gym. Maybe Mister Skywalker would play a game with her.
The holodeck door slid open. The room was set up as a gym, with ordinary exercise gear, and some bins with sports equipment.
Skywalker had a stick in his hand, and was moving it around in front of a mirror, going from pose to pose. Naomi slid along the edge of the room. Skywalker saw her and stopped, bringing the stick up in what looked like a salute. Naomi took imaginary skirts in her hands, and spread them in a curtsey. Skywalker smiled.
"What are you doing with the stick?" Naomi asked.
"At home, I had a weapon like this, but its blade was energy. It would cut through almost anything." Skywalker slashed the air, slow-motion, in an elaborate design. "While I healed, my muscles forgot how to use the weapon. I'm reminding them."
Naomi nodded. She rummaged around in the equipment bin and found a stick -- something for a game she didn't know yet. "Show me."
Vader showed her how to stand, and how to hold the stick. "Now, the first move..."
The new apprentice followed his lessons eagerly. She paid attention, and wasn't afraid to ask if the move didn't quite look right to her. And she didn't object if Vader had her repeat the same movement over and over with tiny adjustments.
The door slid open again. Framed in the doorway was the slender form of Seven of Nine, who studied the tableau before her. "Naomi Wildman. You have assigned duties at this time."
Naomi finished her swing, and brought the stick up in the salute Skywalker had used. "I'll be right there." She nodded to Skywalker, "Thank you for the lessons."
"You're welcome, Miss Wildman."
Vader watched Naomi put the stick away, and leave the gym in Seven's company. The holodeck door slid shut.
"Naomi Wildman. You will obtain permission before keeping company of Anakin Skywalker."
Naomi fell easily into the rhythm of Seven's speech. "Explanation requested."
Naomi shrugged. Seven would tell her "why" when she could, but either she didn't know or had been told not to explain. Seven was waiting... "Order logged. I will comply."
"Very well." Seven and Naomi arrived at the classroom. "I have scheduled an hour of recreational activities with you after your class. Please remain here for my arrival."
"I will comply."
Seven nodded sharply, "See that you do." The door slid shut between them.
Naomi muttered, "But I don't see why I should."
Seven of Nine concentrated on her task. The captain seemed to think this data crystal was of some importance, but had not specified any approach. "Just do your best."
Talking to herself was not her usual habit, but keeping a verbal log of her investigation was acceptable. "Investigation, data crystal, source Skywalker, measurements...."
The engineering bench had a dozen instruments for determining resistance, capacitance, and other characteristics of any artifact under investigation. After some experimentation, she was able to coax a signal from the scorched medium.
There were some images of Skywalker, in a pristine copy of his life-support armor. The voice was considerably different... she adjusted the audio output initially, but then readjusted it when another human spoke. The voice in the recording was significantly lower than Skywalker's unmodified one.
"Computer. Universal translator. Analyze all audio output."
More adjustments, and the images grew clearer.
"He's a danger to Voyager," said a voice behind her.
"Explain," Seven answered. Then she turned. There was no one there.
She felt a peculiar sensation above her eye, in her ocular implant. It most closely resembled the sensations from the time when the doctor had stored his program in Seven to avoid detection.
"Oh. Then someone has done this before?" The voice was close to human in timber and phrasing, but not quite. There was a certain hollowness to it.
"Identify yourself. And explain your intrusion."
She could hear the sly smile in the voice, "I'm here to help you with your project."
Naomi waited. Seven was late, and hadn't called. The computer said she was still in Engineering. The little girl helped the teacher clean up after class, but was in the way of the next group.
"Naomi, I think you should wait for Seven either in the dining hall or in your quarters. If she shows up here looking for you, I'll tell her I sent you off. The computer will be able to track you for her."
Naomi walked along the corridors, watching out for Seven. She wasn't sure whether she actually wanted to find the ex-Borg -- Seven would have some choice words for the little girl.
She reached the dining hall without incident. Neelix made her favorite sandwich, but seemed rather distracted -- one of the Engineering staff was having a birthday, and had asked Neelix to cater the party.
She looked around. No other kids, and most of the adults here were in their own conversations. The table offered a small variety of games, but most of them were for at least two players, and the others were too complicated for right now.
Vader left the gym and went to his quarters, spending a fair amount of time in the 'fresher. The comm chimed -- it was the doctor, announcing a visit.
"I monitored your exercises this morning with Lieutenant Torres," the doctor started. Vader waited -- the doctor didn't want to hear explanations, and Vader was in no mood to offer them. "I see that there was no permanent damage. Don't indulge yourself every day, but once a week should have no ill effects."
Well! No objections from the hologram. Good. The doctor poked and prodded at him for a while, checking on his nearly-healed wounds and replaced limbs. "What is the next major procedure?"
The doctor conspicuously turned off the medical tricorder. "Unless one of the transplants fails, there are none. You're well on the road to being healed, Mister Skywalker. Patience and mild --" with a raised eyebrow -- "exercise, good nutrition, and proper rest will suffice. I will, of course, continue to monitor your vital signs for some time." With a practiced cheerfulness, "Do you have any more questions?"
"I would like to see my medical records."
Normally the doctor discouraged this, since the medical terminology tended to be interpreted by his shipmates as much more deleterious than it was -- rhinorrhea being a case in point, a simple runny nose that, properly labeled, sounded horrible. But this man had been deeply involved with his own treatments. "Certainly, Mister Skywalker. They are available on your console."
"Thank you. Is there anything else?"
The doctor made an adjustment to the daily medicine. "Not at this time. I will see you again in three days. And feel free to call me if there are any changes."
The doctor didn't wait for an acknowledgement, but disappeared. Vader sighed -- another ordeal survived. But no more procedures? That was excellent news.
Janeway's voice over the comm, "Seven, do you have a report for me, yet, on the data storage from Skywalker's ship?"
Seven hesitated. She had a few images, but they were insignificant. "Not at this time, Captain. The storage material is unfamiliar, as is their encoding. I have only one image -- a suit of armor similar, perhaps identical, to that worn by Skywalker when he arrived in Voyager. A curiosity, nothing else."
"Very well. Let me know when there is more. Janeway out."
The voice inside her head, "You concealed the truth from her."
"Not to any significant degree." Seven adjusted the contact points on the interface she had built between the data crystal and the ship's computer. The image on the viewscreen cleared.
Vader's afternoon was open. More exercise was out of the question -- the doctor had been firm on that score. "Computer. What holoprograms are running"
"Fair Haven is running on Holodeck two. The other holodecks are reserved at this time."
His replicator wouldn't generate clothing suitable for Fair Haven, but he could use the console to choose an outfit, and pick it up at Stores. Tom's selection for his first visit had been adequate, but there were other possibilities...
The ensign tending Stores was helpful. "There's a walking stick that goes with that suit -- blackthorn with a silver head." A series of images. Vader looked them over, found one that looked a little like a bantha's head. "Very good."
The Stores replicator produced tailored clothing. The ensign touched a panel and one bulkhead became a mirror. The stranger looking back at him was startling. The doctor had done more than simple repair and replacement -- the scars he had lived with for long years were nearly gone.
"Thank you, Ensign."
"You're welcome, Admiral."
Michael Sullivan nodded cordially to the tall newcomer. "Welcome back, m'lud. Is it a pint you'll be having, or a meal?"
"A pint to start with, thank you." Vader took a deep breath. The pot on the hearth simmered merrily, unfamiliar spices but tempting. "And a bowl of your stew, as well."
One of the women pulled the pint, and headed out around the bar to Vader. She led him to a table near the fire. "Here you are, m'lud." She smiled. "The rest will be here apace. There's fresh bread coming out of the oven even now."
"Thank you, miss." Vader sat and turned toward the fire, sipping at the beer. He was finally warm enough. The pint helped with that, too. This was synthehol?
He felt her before he heard her. The young lady with the tray wasn't a hologram. She smiled and put the tray on the table. "Your stew and some fresh bread, m'lud." She took the bowl and set it before him, then a platter with a fresh, steaming loaf of the local bread and a small crock of a yellow spread.
"And your name is?"
"Brigid Murphy, m'lud."
Vader nodded slightly. "And you're one of Katie o'Clare's people?"
The barmaid's smile widened, ever so slightly. "Aye. And you're the first one who's ever seen it."
Vader waved at the other chair at the table. "Have a seat for a minute. If your duties permit."
She looked over at Sullivan, who gave her a short nod, then slid into the chair. "And how did you know, m'lord?"
"So you won't give yourself away next time? I have a ... talent ... for detecting holographic 'persons'. You aren't, so you're one of Katie's. Tell me -- it amuses you to play the servant?"
"Aye. I used to help me mum in an inn -- not terribly like this, but still... There is much joy in being able to say 'enough.' "
"Excuse me? I don't understand." Vader broke the bread and offered the young woman a piece. She accepted and spread it with soft yellow. Vader spread a little of the yellow on his bread and tasted it -- not just butter, but sweetened. "What is this?"
"Honey butter, m'lord."
"What is 'honey'?"
Brigid paused. Ah. This was the stranger, not one of the Alpha Quadrant folks. "An insect -- a bee -- makes it for winter food, from the nectar of flowers."
He had heard of bees -- a hive creature. He used the bread to scoop up some of the stew -- a technique he had seen others in the inn use. The aromas of the bread and honey butter and stew blended wonderfully. This was synthesized food? Incredible!
"Many folk find joy in hard work that they do not have to do. Some climb mountains. Others..." she shrugged, smiling. "I waitress. Knowing that I don't have to."
"I see." Sports would fall into the same category, he supposed. Hard work for fun.
Brigid studied the large man. There were all the dining hall rumors, but she didn't credit them. Hm. "And would you be liking more than casual company tonight, m'lord?"
Vader's teeth met with more than necessary force. Had he heard right? Quietly, he asked, "And what did you have in mind?"
"A stroll in the moonlight, perhaps."
Vader reached for another chunk of bread, at the same time she did. Their hands touched for an instant. Vader froze. Her interest flooded in on him, coursing through nerves he'd nearly forgotten having. Then, softly, "No. I'm sorry, but..."
Her disappointment was real, but not bitter. "Perhaps another time, then." She smiled and bit into the bread.
Vader drew his hand back and continued to eat his stew. Her offer was genuine, "stroll," indeed. Why had he been so quick to refuse?
A few moments' more conversation, then Brigid excused herself. She brought another pint over to Vader, then started a conversation with newly arrived customers.
Sullivan approached Skywalker's table with another bowl of stew. He put it down and slid into the seat Brigid had vacated. "We'll be having venison tomorrow, m'lud. My sister's son..." Sullivan hesitated, "...found a deer injured in the wood. He's a fine deft hand with the animals, but the young buck died anyway. So who's to look askance at the Good Lord's bounty?"
Vader nodded once. Sullivan continued, "Brigid's a fine lass. Knows quality when she sees it."
Vader's eyebrow rose, "Quality? What do you mean?"
"There are those who have dressed as fine as you, m'lud, but she's spoken no more to them than to any other customer. But when you arrived this fine afternoon, she asked who you were."
"And you told her," Vader growled softly, "that I was gentry."
"No, that I did not. I told her about your civility, yes, and about the contest. M'lud, you have the manners of the best of the gentry, not the worst. You are no commoner -- nor can you be mistaken for one."
Vader kept from laughing. No one here knew of his base birth, any more than they knew of his later rank. "Perhaps. But my lands are far from here, and I fear I will never return. Venison, you say?"
Sullivan nodded, describing the feast he had planned. Vader listened, having only a vague idea of what "venison" was. A deer was some game animal, obviously, and venison its meat. And apparently "illegally" obtained. The innkeeper was at war with himself -- the opportunity to serve a fine meal to someone who would object to its origin. Vader silently congratulated Paris on the depths of his characterizations.
Then he remembered. "I have a dinner engagement tomorrow evening. Perhaps another day, my good host."
Vader stopped at the dining hall for a large mug of cocoa to take back to his quarters. Once there, he settled into his station chair. "Computer, identify Brigid Murphy." He sipped at the hot, sweet liquid.
"Brigid Murphy is a waitress at Sullivan's in the Fair Haven holodeck program." An image comes up -- not quite the Brigid Vader remembered. The computer listed Brigid's family, residence, and even her tastes in food and entertainment. The image began to talk. It was the wrong voice!
Vader sat up, set the mug down. "Computer. Stop. Was the Brigid Murphy simulation in use in the holodeck today?"
"Negative. The Brigid Murphy simulation has been offline for 35 days."
Vader sank back into his chair. He smiled at the computer console. "Computer. Give me a list of all crew accessing Fair Haven today."
Vader scowled. He should be used to that, but it still grated when he ran afoul of it. "Can I get pictures of the female crew members on Voyager?"
The only pictures he was permitted were shots of gatherings like awards and parties. And none of the women was clearly Brigid -- the woman pretending to be Brigid. Vader studied the display, frustrated.
Brigid. She had suggested they take a stroll. Heh. She had in mind considerably more than that. Why had he refused? His wife was years dead. He had no reason not to... hm. The doctor's repairs were, on the whole, far beyond Vader's expectations, but to have that system fail at the wrong moment... an excellent question. One that could be answered easily enough, though.
Vader smiled. The doctor's repair job was, as hoped, quite good -- everything functioned as well as it had in his youth. So. Brigid might not be so disappointed, once he met her again. If he were able to track her down.
He found himself yawning -- not surprising. He had been awake for many hours, from the combat at Torres' side this morning to this final battle against his own infirmities. And all the battles won.
A quick shower and then to bed.
All battles but one, he remembered. Why was Seven so opposed to his contact with Naomi?
His last waking thought was of bees buzzing. The image faded into a dream of Seven, an entire hive of Sevens.
Music. Vader had asked the computer to vary its wake-up call and this time it was some sort of orchestral music, fairly stirring. Vader smiled. Something soothing would hardly do for a wake-up, would it.
Stretches, then the 'fresher for a pounding with a newly discovered "needle spray" setting. The last time he felt something like that, it had been sand, and had tried to remove his skin. But as water, it was invigorating.
Paris joined him halfway to the dining room. "We're doing some maintenance on a shuttle today. Then I've got helm all afternoon."
Vader nodded. "What's the difference between the flyer and a shuttle?"
Paris grinned. "Me."
Vader looked around the dining hall. He didn't expect to see Brigid there -- he was sure he'd have felt her presence before the door slid open. But there was a scattering of familiar faces, folks who had been in Fair Haven at the poetry reading. Some of them nodded amicably at him, but turned back to their own conversations.
Paris brought a pair of plates over to the table. "These are good -- but don't tell Neelix I said so."
"Because it'll encourage him to do more experimentation. That could cause a mutiny."
Vader shook his head. Such convoluted logic. Why didn't they just order the cook not to experiment? But Paris was right. The food was good.
The shuttles were definitely of an older design. "The flyer has a lot of innovations we picked up here in the Delta Quadrant. Including some Borg ideas."
Vader remembered a discussion of "conduits" -- something he had filed for later consideration, since he only barely had a handle on basic Star Fleet warp drive technologies.
"How much different is the piloting?"
The work was intriguing, and Vader was actually surprised when Paris called it to a halt. "Lunch. Fair Haven's open today -- want to make it there? Or are you tired of it?"
A low rumble of laughter from the older man. "Fair Haven will suit very well. I will meet you in front of the holodeck in fifteen minutes."
Tom wiped his hands on a none-too-clean rag and nodded. "I guess cleaning up would be a good idea."
Vader studied himself in the mirror in his 'fresher. Females had been an infrequent part of his life before he had reached Voyager -- now they were not only present, but sought his company! Although his exercise session with Torres couldn't really be included in that category.
And Seven of Nine's dislike of him balanced his new-found truce with Torres. Seven's attitude wouldn't be a problem by itself, but she seemed determined to keep his youngest acquaintance from him.
The entrance to Fair Haven slid open. The two men strode in, trying to get clear of the door as quickly as possible, to restore the ambience. The salt in the air was especially obvious today. Paris muttered, "I need to check the settings on that."
Vader suppressed a chuckle. The youngster was something of an artist, creating this place. "Maybe there's a storm brewing?"
Tom laughed. "Maybe. I've been feeling uneasy lately -- maybe the holodeck is picking up indications of rough space ahead."
"Rough space" was an expression Tom used for a number of nebulosities, subspace ripples, and other irregularities that kept Voyager's journey "interesting."
"Do you have to fix it before lunch?"
Lunch was the venison Sullivan had mentioned the day before. Vader tasted the dishes gingerly. The meat actually had taste to it, unlike some of the replicator offerings. It reminded him faintly of roast bantha.
Sullivan watched as the large, well-dressed man picked daintily at the food before giving in to his appetite. He brought a freshly drawn mug of brew and set it on the table. "And are things to your liking, m'lud?"
Vader nodded, taking a gulp of beer to clear his mouth before answering. "Yes. Very well done. The meals..." he corrected in mid-sentence, "... on shipboard are nothing in comparison."
Sullivan grinned. "Thank you. m'lud."
Other customers drew Sullivan away. Vader satisfied his appetite and sat nibbling on the remainder, sipping his beer. He looked around. The others in the inn were Fair Haven residents rather than Voyager crew. Even Paris had disappeared.
The innkeeper appeared at Vader's elbow at once. "Yes, m'lud?"
"Brigid Murphy. Where is she?"
Sullivan hesitated. "It's her day off, m'lud. I can send one of the lads to her house to see if she's there, if you wish."
Vader waved his hand. "No need. She lives in the town?"
"Over the hill, out near the river, m'lud. I can have one of the lads..."
Vader shrugged. "Perhaps later." He pushed the meal away and sat watching the fire, sipping at the mug of beer.
Damn. He was sure she'd be here. Perhaps ship duties interfered. Without her real name, there was no way to query the computer.
The venison sat well in his stomach, as did the bread. He had been too young when he left Tatooine to know much of their beer, but the other tastes were certainly similar.
One of the barmaids cleared Vader's table of the venison, depositing a bowl of some kind of red berries with thick cream spooned over them. Vader studied the bowl through half-closed eyes. More of Voyager's taste for sweets. He could let it wait.
Familiar thought patterns intruded. Paris, then Kim. No Brigid. He was not going to ask Paris's help to track her down.
Ah. There. On the edge of town, as if she had just entered the holoprogram. And he heard the inn's door open.
Brigid saw him, sitting by the fire, leaning back in his chair, his feet stretched out before him. He looked like a big cat, one of the leonids, maybe, or a giant panther -- relaxed but poised to react at the least provocation. Definitely a wild animal, not one of the domesticated Federation menfolk. Dangerous.
Sullivan nodded at her when he saw her walk in. From Michael's raised eyebrow and slight nod toward Skywalker, the gentleman had asked about her. Good. She thought he had been interested -- wasn't sure why he had shied off before.
She slid into the empty chair at Skywalker's table. "A fine afternoon, my lord."
"Indeed it is."
His eyes opened. A fine, clear blue, and incredibly deep. She could gaze into those eyes for hours -- if she didn't have other intentions.
"I see you've had Michael's venison pie. He has a fine hand with it, does he not?"
"Yes, he does."
His eyes lingered on hers, then dropped to take in her figure and then back up to her face. His smile was gentle, not eager. Brigid wasn't sure whether that should worry her or not. The younger Star Fleet men were a little too fast sometimes -- or slow, either from nerves or because they were dense. The few older ones were spoken for, or too dedicated to their work. Skywalker... fit neither category.
She had heard Tom call him "admiral," but he certainly wasn't like any admiral she had ever encountered. Star Fleet admirals were accountable to too many layers above them. Skywalker gave the impression of being under no one's command.
Her eyes lit on the bowl of berries and cream. "Not in the mood for dessert, m'lord?"
His voice was a low rumble that gently rasped along her nerves like a cat's tongue. "You're welcome to it. The venison pie ... I'm afraid I filled up the corners with that first."
Brigid took one of the berries and dunked it into the heavy cream, then put it on her tongue. The berry were from the airponics bay, not replicated. She chewed it slowly, tasting the sweet and slight tartness, the textures of the fibrous berry and the smooth cream.
Vader watched the woman. Padmé had never particularly enjoyed meals -- she was too subject to being called away to her duties during them. A quiet meal was a rarity, much less a chance to appreciate the sensual qualities of the food. This one... He could feel her enjoying the berries, the cream.
She smiled at him. "I think it's too fine a day to be spending it inside, m'lord. And if I stay here, I'll be having another bowl of berries and cream, and then where would my figure be?"
As expected, her words provoked another top-to-bottom inspection. She winked, "I think a stroll would help settle the meal. Do you agree, m'lord?"
"Indeed." He sat forward in his chair, rose to his feet. "I take it you have some favorite paths in mind? Something scenic?"
Her gentle laughter was answer enough for him.
Tom Paris saw Skywalker leaving Sullivan's with a young woman. She looked familiar -- ah. The modified Brigid O'Donnell. McGinty? Something Fair Havenish.
At least this one didn't have a pig herder for a betrothed. Tom watched them walking slowly toward the edge of town, toward the river and the far hills rather than the shore like he would have expected. He started toward them, then pulled himself up short. It had been quite a while since the rampage in sickbay. Tom didn't see any reason to give Skywalker a genuine excuse to lose his temper.
So Skywalker had overcome his aversion to holograms? Interesting.
"I looked for you in the ship's records," Vader said, smiling slightly.
"And you found 'twas no Brigid Murphy amongst Katie O'Clare's folk?" Her laugh was merry. Her face colored a little -- he had bothered to look for her, outside Fair Haven.
"Correct. Surely, you do not think you can conceal yourself from the rest of the crew?"
She turned and faced him, her hands on her hips, wisps of her hair loose around her face. "M'lord, the others cannot tell a phantom of light from flesh and blood. I have taken steps to change my looks and my voice. Tom may suspect. The others do not."
A long silence. "And you do not choose to tell them. If one of your crewmates had courted you here and won you..."
She interrupted gently, "I would tell him, before it went so far. Katie's crew is a team -- I would not bushwhack someone I cared for."
It took Vader a moment to work over all the connotations of "bushwhack." When he had, he had sudden visions of being hijacked and held prisoner, to be kept for... what?
"Did it happen?"
"Nearly, once. But before we did more than stroll on the beach, he was lost." Her eyes searched the horizon, looking perhaps for a man who would never return to her arms. "And I have no taste for phantoms in my bed."
Vader snorted, but to himself, not aloud. Could she tell? "And you think I am real?"
She laughed, looking him up and down. "Tommy boy doesn't have that good an imagination. Or the nerve to put someone like you in his village -- you're near enough to his father that he'd shy away from the idea."
The stroll was conversation and an occasional touch. He held her arm as they climbed a steep path in the woods, just before the trail opened to a vista of rolling hills with open fields and small cottages.
She was breathing heavily at the top of the climb, and her face was flushed. "A shame it is, that so paltry a climb should tax me so much."
"We can sit here and rest, if you like. It's a splendid view."
She smiled. The grass was green and lush, and gave under their feet.
Even as an illusion, the open spaces soaked into the back of Vader's mind, relaxing him. "Have you been to many worlds?"
The slight frown on her face -- he played over their conversation and realized how she had tried to keep in character. "You've travelled to other lands," he amended. "With Katie O'Clare."
"Aye. But none so beautiful as home."
He looked around. This could be Naboo, or Alderaan-that-was. Not his home, but very nice. "Fair Haven is only another stop on your journey." She nodded solemnly. "I judge from your words that you don't have a young man waiting for you."
"There was none I cared for so much when I left. And even if I had... Katie was spoken-for before we came here. But the journey will not end while we may still find partners and have families. We must do that along the way. Those we left behind know that."
Partners. Families. Vader suddenly wondered exactly how close to what edge he might be. It had never occurred to him to look up ship's regulations on mating. If he did more than "stroll" with Brigid, might he find himself forced into something more permanent?
And would it be so bad if he were?
Yes. Until he was sure that he would be staying among these people, he didn't want to leave any hostages to fortune. No more sons to be raised to hate him...
Another snort. If he were healed enough to be fertile in the first place, even if the physical responses were restored.
Would it really be so bad..?
They sat. His arm was around her shoulders as she pointed out whose farms were in the valley beneath them. The animals below -- sheep? -- looked like tethered clouds wandering across a green sky.
The breeze had a bit of chill to it, and Brigid snuggled in closer. His hand stroked her hair. He leaned his head against hers, inhaling the scent of her hair. "Brigid..."
Her whispered, "Yes?" was a mere breeze against his cheek.
"Is one of those cottages empty? Somewhere where no one will be wandering by on his own stroll?"
"I think so."
He helped her to her feet. The motion swung her into his arms. A long, gentle embrace, moving into a soft kiss. She tasted of spice, and sweet, and flowers...
Something buzzed. She stiffened. She turned her head, spoke away from him. "What is it?"
Nothing was audible to him, but she was obviously listening. "I see. Tell him when he gets out, I'll break his other leg for him."
She sighed. "M'lord, I have duties. I regret -- deeply regret -- that I must part company with you at this time. I beg your forgiveness."
And what would she do if he forbade her to go? No, let her go. Right now, she regretted leaving him. Let it remain so. "Go, then. If you do not find me here when you return, ask Tom of me. He generally knows my whereabouts."
She nodded, dropped a quick curtsey... then gave him a quick peck on his cheek. "Anything more, and I might forget my duties. Some other time, m'lord."
She was out of sight of him in the woods before she called for an exit to get out of the holodeck. Damn Josephus for breaking his leg into enough pieces that the doctor wanted to keep an eye on him for a full day instead of simply patching him up and sending him back to duty.
She got back to her quarters and stripped off the Fair Haven clothing. The full, red-tressed wig was a bit harder to disengage -- some of the medical micro-sutures that held it on were time-locked. She had a gadget in one of the drawers to reprogram them... here.
She dropped the red-haired wig onto its stand on her nighttable. She shook her head and her own midnight black hair fell loose.
A quick trip to the sonic shower scoured the dermal colorant off, leaving her skin duskier than the Celtic Brigid's. The hazel eyes were the same, at least. And the shape of the face. But the short, almost boyish cut of her hair, her usual voice range half an octave above Brigid's, and the darker skin, with the uniform, should be disguise enough.
It had been so far.
Lieutenant Louise Fortunati reported to the duty officer.
Vader wandered the woods for a while. A piece of twig caught his eye -- no, it was the fragment of a horn or antler, not wood. He rubbed it clean of leaf-mold, then leaned down to rinse it in a stream. He used to be a fair hand at carving. With replicators, these people could have any items that were in the databanks, but something hand-crafted would mean more than fine jewels as a gift.
He had roughed the horn into a square when there was a faint buzz in his ear. "Schedule reminder. Dinner with Captain Janeway in one hour."
"Acknowledged." He stood and brushed tiny shreds of horn from his lap. "Computer! Exit!"
The scene before him rippled and froze. Closer than he imagined, a door appeared, opening into one of Voyager's corridors.
Barely three meters along the corridor, he felt his palm tingle. He looked down. His carving project was dissolving in a sparkle that looked like the replicator's recycler. He grabbed harder, but it was gone.
Vader sighed. Tom had warned him about holodeck matter. The food in Fair Haven was tied to the food replicators and was real. Other items obviously were not. And outside the holoemitter range, they disappeared, like Sidhe gold touched by iron.
Seven reported to the captain in person rather than trusting her news to the comm. "Admiral Skywalker is not who he represents himself to be."
Janeway was annoyed. The pot roast was balking her again. She thought she had it down, then the power would fluctuate, and she'd have raw meat or carbonized. A replicator meal was much more dependable, but... She hissed as she scorched her finger.
"We knew he was hiding something. What have you found?"
Seven slipped the report into the commconsole and brought up a recording. Janeway stared, pot roast forgotten.
"Chakotay, review this. Then report to my private dining room. You're ostensibly another guest. I've talked to Tuvok..."
"Computer, what would be a suitable guest-gift for a dinner?"
The computer stubbornly refused to understand him. Vader finally asked, "What gift would be appropriate for a woman?"
The list was not unexpected -- flowers, wine, a book of poems... "Computer. Give me some samples of poems." Then he added, thinking of Brigid, "Love poems."
Vader wondered what the "universal translator" was actually doing to the original writing. The words flowed, precise in some samples, vague in others. Of course, Voyager had literature from hundreds of cultures.
"Five minute reminder. Dinner with Captain Janeway."
Janeway paused for a moment at the replicator, then brought large mugs of coffee over to the table and put them down. Vader took the proffered coffee and sipped it, both eager for the warmth and wary of burns.
Chakotay toyed with his mug, watching his captain and their guest. Skywalker was in a moderately formal tunic... Ah. Tom had replicated him something that his own father would find acceptable. Almost. The color was a bit bolder than Owen Paris would have ordinarily worn, but it suited the man before them.
Janeway sipped. The pot roast was safely out of memory, chased away by a delightful chocolate fluff, her guest was relaxed... she shot a glance over to Chakotay, whose eyes widened a bit, nothing as obvious as a wink. Ready.
"So. I think it's time you told us about yourself, Lord Vader."
Nothing. Then Skywalker closed his eyes. Chakotay tensed a bit -- could this man be gathering his strength for an attack on his captain?
The eyes opened again. Skywalker's body language changed -- his shoulders straightened, his face hardened ever so slightly, and Janeway saw his hand curl -- was he reaching for the weapon he had described to Tom?
"Most impressive. I commend you on your data retrieval techniques. Or on your powers of concealment."
Janeway studied Vader. "We have personnel with extraordinary abilities in that area, yes. But they are not under discussion now. You are. Start talking."
Chakotay rose and moved to the side, a tactic that would have distracted another man, dividing his attention, letting Janeway probe into reduced defenses. But Skywalker -- Vader, apparently, but Chakotay liked the other name, even if not the man -- paid no attention to Voyager's second-in-command at all.
Vader spread his hands on his knees. "Yes, I am Darth Vader." His voice was deeper than Skywalker's, more resonant. "The station I was on was destroyed. I escaped in one of our shuttles, was thrown into what you have termed a wormhole, and arrived here."
Janeway frowned. "That's trivial. Tell us about your Master, the Emperor. And the Death Star. I assume that that was the station you just mentioned."
Vader was impressed. "The Emperor is dead. I don't have any information about the current state of the Empire. Chaos, no doubt -- there was no obvious successor. The fleet admirals would choose which regional governors to back..."
Chakotay, a little impatient, "So who were you?"
Vader shifted slightly, to get Chakotay just barely into his line of sight. "I was his hand, and his voice." Vader's lips curled slightly -- was that a smile or a sneer? "An idealistic fool, at first. A rebel of sorts -- the existing government wasn't taking care of the people. My Master saw it, and had a remedy to hand... I saw it as sacrificing a few for the good of the many, at least at first."
"Some idealist," Chakotay muttered.
Vader sighed. "Commander, you were a member of what is called 'The Maquis.' Surely you don't think their hands are clean of the blood of innocents, no matter how noble their intentions?"
Chakotay protested, "That's different! We..."
Janeway made a sharp gesture that cut her second-in-command off. "I think your misdeeds exceed 'sacrificing a few,' Lord Vader. Or were the residents of Alderaan all rebels?"
Janeway watched. If anything, Vader became less tense, not more. "The Death Star was Governor Tarkin's project. I opposed it. You've met his kind, I'm sure -- a passion for tonnage of hardware over more reasonable military expenditures. The admiral who would rather have one superdreadnaught than a dozen smaller ships equipped properly."
"Yes, they exist in our fleet as well -- but we don't build planet killers!"
Vader took a sip of coffee. Even with the sugar and cream it was bitter and harsh to his tongue now, alien. He bit back, "Give yourselves some time -- you will." He sat the cup down, a bit more abruptly than he intended. He snapped, "You have more questions for me, Captain?"
Janeway rose, standing above her guest. "Too many." She looked over at the commander. "Chakotay?" Vader turned to watch his new interrogator.
Chakotay's jaw was set. "I want to know how hunting down and killing all the Jedi was supposed to help anybody but your Master's political ambitions."
Vader's jaw dropped. There was no way that that information would have been on any data crystal on his ship. Few people knew it at all... was it possible that Luke had travelled the same wormhole, was trapped in this distant galaxy with him? But Luke would know that the Dark Side no longer ruled him, that...
Vader sat forward, desperate for news. "You picked someone else up? From the same wormhole? Was he injured?" Bright Star, no, not Luke injured and possibly dead now, with only death-bed babbling about Vader killing Jedi. Truth, Vader could face. A partial truth, in a dying man's voice...
"More than injured, I'd say. He says you killed him. He told me his name was Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Chakotay was braced for an attack. He had the computer listening for a sub- vocalized "Stun!" -- the ship would fire stunners into the room, and Security would come in and sort out the carnage.
But Vader slumped, rather than springing to attack. "That explains the foreboding that I've been having. I thought it was something healing setting off a nerve impulse and giving me a false sensation. A form of what the doctor calls the 'phantom limb' phenomenon."
Vader continued, "Obi Wan Kenobi and I have been at odds with each other, to greater or lesser degree, since I was nine years old. It shouldn't surprise me that he continued the enmity after his death."
"Did you kill him?"
"Yes." Vader closed his eyes, and his head moved slightly from side to side. No sense of Kenobi -- of any Force user -- close. He was alone -- all too alone. But at least his son had not followed him here. Eyes open again. "What do you intend to do, now?"
Janeway studied Vader from her standing position. She had faced many other similar situations, and every time it was harder. Every time, there was the risk to Voyager. But the possible gains... "I'm afraid we'll have to ask you to stay in your quarters unless you're under escort, at least for now. We won't subject you to the indignities of the brig."
Vader considered. He felt Chakotay tensing, but there was no weapon in his reach. Ah. Guards outside, waiting for a signal. Very clever. Vader could probably freeze Chakotay, but controlling him and Janeway at the same time would be difficult.
And, once he left this room, where would he flee to? Until he had the answer to that, one place was as good as another. If he found himself in captivity again, his next jailors might not be so reluctant to use death as a punishment. For all its technology, this Federation was soft. He would bide his time.
"That is acceptable -- for now."
Janeway wasn't sure she liked that tone. She nodded sharply to Chakotay, who spoke into his comm link. The cabin doors opened and Tuvok walked in, with two security men behind him, phasers already ready.
"Escort Mister Skywalker to his quarters. Two guards on the door at all time, access to be confirmed with me or Chakotay or you, at that point in time, no exceptions except the doctor."
Tuvok nodded, motioning with his phaser that Vader should rise and follow. "Come with me, please, Mister Skywalker."
Vader stood. His eyes narrowed. It wouldn't be easy, but...
Chakotay said softly, "No tricks, now. It would be a shame for you to have to spend the next dozen years in the brig."
Vader snorted, but inclined his head, signalling agreement. "Very well. My quarters, Mister Tuvok?"
"No." Vader's eyebrow rose. "We have arranged something a little more secure. You will accompany me, please."
The new quarters were not near the sickbay -- although Vader decided that with transporters, it hardly mattered. "The cargo bay? Are you making it easy to jettison my quarters if I misbehave?"
Tuvok didn't answer. The doors slid open. Vader walked into the room.
The new room was, if barely, more luxurious than his old one. There was roughly half again as much room, with the same variety of furniture. One wall was window -- "That's a viewscreen, not a window, isn't it."
"Yes. You are in an interior section of the ship."
Vader nodded, turned slowly. He saw the familiar shape of the replicator station. "Am I to be escorted to meals? That should liven up your crew's dinners."
Tuvok's voice had the least hint of exasperation. "Your replicator has been set to deliver a fixed amount of food at intervals. You are permitted some selection, I believe. Mister Neelix thought that would contribute to your rehabilitation."
"Your access to the ship's computer has been reduced, but you should still find enough to do. The captain would like a complete report from you on your Empire."
Vader's eyebrows rose. "Military secrets? I think not!"
"I do not believe that the captain expects those. She's interested in an overview of the government and the rebellion against it. Let me remind you that she has a source by which she can cross-check your information. An objective account would serve your purposes best, as it would ours."
Vader opened a drawer. His clothes had been moved here, and several sets more. "I see." Inwardly he sighed. At least he could have meals in peace again. Then something occurred to him. "The doctor had me on an exercise regimen."
Tuvok's head dropped just a little. "I wlll mention it to the captain. Good night, Mister Skywalker."
Tuvok walked out. the door slid shut behind him.
Vader sighed, then walked over to the replicator. "Cocoa, hot."
The platform sparkled. Vader collected the cup and took it over to the station chair, switching on the commconsole. He sipped. This almost made up for that pot roast. He was a better cook than that -- he'd had to make his own meals often enough as a child, when his mother was kept at work by Watto.
"Computer. Image -- Hagia Sophia." The small screen lit with a familiar building. "Can you project the image on the wall, in lieu of the starscape?"
The computer's cool, even voice, "Yes."
Vader sat in the dark, looking at the Earth temple that looked so much like the palace on Naboo.
Tuvok reported back to Janeway that Skywalker had been delivered to his new quarters, without incident. "Thank you, Mister Tuvok." The comm cut off.
Chakotay noted the computer activity. "I wonder what he's up to?" A moment's work to call up the image. "Where is that?"
"Istambul, Turkey, Earth. It was a church that was turned into a mosque when Islam swept through the area. A much-visited place -- there are even Viking runes, left as graffiti by Rus traders."
Chakotay studied the courtyard with the pillared walls, the great dome. "It's beautiful. But what's his interest in it?"
"One of the great jokes of the universe. He remembers an identical building being a royal palace surrounded by waterfalls. His wife was queen there, if I remember what Tom told me correctly."
No other activity on the computer, and the vital signs were steady, even declining; the man was calming down, or going into one of the meditative trances he practiced.
Vader was exhausted. And frustrated. And... worried. He could feel Kenobi around, but no location. He snarled -- how could he fight a fog?
He stretched out on the bed, still clothed, forcing himself, if not to relax, at least to enter meditation. Regulated breathing, concentration... he shoved his anger down, deep into himself. His perceptions wisped out, barely touching the guards at the door, noting the electrical currents of the door mechanism in passing, the surveillance set up outside and their counterparts inside. His mind touched familiar thoughts -- Paris close to Torres, Janeway, Tuvok's placid presence, even Naomi Wildman, who was asleep, fitful inside disturbing dreams. He wasn't picking up content, just aura, texture...
His attention hovered over Astrometrics for a moment. There was a trace of Kenobi here, somehow. He followed the trace... it dwindled to nothing, but instead, there was the emptiness that was the Borg female. Again the puzzle. Why was she so determined to keep Naomi Wildman away from him?
Close to the emptiness was another familiar thought-pattern. So this was where "Brigid" worked. Still no idea of her real name, but... Well! She was thinking about him.
Vader's probe was too slight to give more content than that. And his exhaustion was catching up. He slid from meditation into sleep without bothering to undress.
The replicator chimed with his morning medicine. Vader scowled. Where was he... Oh. Another cell. The chime rang again. Unless he wanted a visit from the doctor, he'd better take care of that.
Just a hint of stiffness from the exercise the day before. He threw back the medicine, ordered a glass of ice water to chase it with. Flavored drinks were good, but something in his Tatooine-bred soul still revelled in cold, pure water. And the shower in his quarters was wealth unimaginable by those standards.
If he still had it. He'd heard others referring to "sonic showers" and wasn't sure whether water showers were an option or the usual issue for non-convalescents. These were not the same quarters.
Vader put the empty glass on the replicator shelf. "Another ice water." The glimmer refilled the glass. This one he just held for a moment.
Vader tossed back the water and set the glass in the recycler. Exploration of the refresher. No, no limitless supply of water there. The sonics worked, but were nowhere near as invigorating.
Fresh clothing. The commconsole was considerably more restricted than it had been -- library only, and technical references were also off-limits. He had no taste for Federation history right then. And though he should be researching Federation law (or Star Fleet regulations) on his case, he wasn't sure where to even start. What kind of jurisdiction did Janeway think she had?
No jurisdiction. He wasn't being held because of what he'd done. He was being held because of what he might do. In Janeway's mind, he was a threat, first, to her crew, second, to the Federation.
He paced. Running through katas with an imaginary bo-ken worked out some stiffness, but did nothing for his nerves. He could feel the two guards outside... a new pair. Bored, but a little nervous. He extended his hearing. Judging from their conversation, these two believed the dining hall rumors about his powers.
A clear thought cut through the turmoil of Vader's thoughts. It was Naomi Wildman -- she was in distress of some sort. His mind reached out to hers. *What's wrong?*
*It's Seven. She's talking to herself. And she won't let me go to class.*
Concentration, and he could use Naomi's eyes and ears. An older child, or one less sympathetic, and he couldn't have gotten clear sensations.
Seven of Nine was at a workbench, assembling electronic parts. There was a metallic cylinder on the bench top that looked all too familiar. And an aura of Kenobi in the room.
In the girl's mind, *Naomi. You have to get away. You have to tell someone about Seven.*
Naomi tried to make her answer quiet, but Seven turned to her. "What did you say, Naomi Wildman?"
"I need to go to class now. The teacher will report me if I'm not there."
Seven studied Naomi for an instant, then touched her own comm badge. "I will instruct your teacher not to expect you." Naomi took advantage of the instant's distraction to bolt. Vader's mind lost contact with hers as the door slid open in front of her.
He had to get out of here!
He reached into the cell's monitoring circuits. It was fairly easy to make them think he was on the bed, meditating. The door lock was simpler...
Vader considered the guards. Two opponents. He preferred not to damage them too much -- that would give Janeway a real, local crime to charge him with. But Naomi was in danger.
A moment's concentration. Kenobi was good at the accelerated time discipline -- it had never been Vader's strongest skill. But it was his only chance.
He cut the lights in his room. Then he opened the door. To his accelerated time-sense, the door sliding open was incredibly slow. He reached out and eliminated the lights in the corridor, blinding his opponents for as long as it took to render them unconscious. Another minute to drag the bodies into his room and close the door behind him, leaving his comm badge behind. Then he was off down the corridor, heading for Naomi's last location.
Stealth was more to his benefit now than speed. There had been no ship-wide announcement of his imprisonment -- Brigid's thoughts would have reflected it. So, as long as he avoided the few who knew he should be confined...
A small shape ran full-tilt into him. Caught off-balance, he spun a little with the impact. "Naomi," he hissed.
She paused just long enough to grab his hand and tug, not hard enough to actually move him, but to steer him her route. Two rapid turns, and into a maintenance tube with a hatch that latched behind them.
They climbed, went through three more hatches, and found themselves in a dimly lit cargo area. "It will take a little while for her to find us here," gasped Naomi.
"I will deal with Seven. But you need to tell some other adult, in case I fail."
Naomi looked up at Skywalker. "She hates you. Why?"
"I promise to tell you. But the story is too long for now. But you know that it isn't Seven that hates me?"
"I know Seven isn't behaving like Seven right now, yes." A sound in the cargo bay, near the door -- not the access hatch they had used. Naomi got really quiet.
The door opened. Two security guards walked in. One had a tricorder, the other had a phaser out and ready. Vader concentrated on sheltering them from the tricorder readings. He almost lost his concentration when he realized from her thoughts that one of them was "Brigid Murphy."
"Nothing here," said the other. "We have a lot more of these things to check."
"I still don't believe it," said Brigid. Was that Brigid? The voice was higher-pitched, with a flat Star Fleet accent instead of the musical Celtic lilt. "Where did this 'evidence' come from, anyway?"
Vader peaked around a crate. The male in uniform shrugged. "Mister Tuvok is convinced. At least enough to issue a 'shoot first' order for Skywalker's pickup. C'mon. We have lots of cubic to scan."
Naomi exhaled once the door closed. She looked up at Skywalker. "Guess it's not only Seven that you're in trouble with."
Vader nodded. "You could have said something, gotten their attention. Or were you afraid I'd hurt you?"
She shook her head. "They wouldn't believe me about Seven -- you do. I don't think you're a threat to the ship. If Seven's not normal, she is a threat." She grinned, as much scared as anything else. "She didn't want me to talk to you. So whatever is making her act funny is afraid of you."
Vader thought. Who would believe either of them? That was a short enough list. Who on the list was also reachable without their getting caught?
"Naomi. Where is your comm badge?"
"I dropped it down the tube the first time we went up. I figured it would confuse her for at least a few minutes."
Vader nodded. "Excellent reasoning. Now. Who are your friends, among the adults in the crew? Who would believe something you told them?"
"Seven, but she's the problem. Neelix... my mom won't believe that anything's wrong with Seven. So I can't tell her."
Vader ran over his own contact list. Tom Paris had bridge duty for part of the morning, then was scheduled to assist the doctor. Neelix... Maybe. "Let's talk to Neelix."
The dining hall was much busier than Vader expected. He stayed in a dead-end corridor, concentrating on being inconspicuous, while Naomi went into the kitchen.
"Neelix? Can I talk to you? It's important."
Neelix looked over at the worried girl. "Naomi, what's your problem, sweetie?"
She looked around, "Can we go somewhere quiet?"
Neelix tried not to frown. "Ensign O'Toole is having an engagement party for a friend of his, and asked me to cater. I'm really busy right now. Can it wait just a little while? Or can't you tell me while I work?"
Naomi hesitated, then someone in Security came in and asked Neelix about one of the food platters. When Neelix turned back to Naomi, she was gone.
"No good. He's too busy. If I told him it was an emergency, he'd listen, but I'd have to say that in front of everybody."
Vader nodded. "You made the right choice. I have an idea, though. You aren't allowed unescorted in Engineering, right?"
"Then I guess I shall have to escort you."
Torres scowled for an instant when she saw the little girl in Engineering, then she saw the adult with her and grinned. "Well. What brings you here, Admiral?"
"I need a favor. There's a debt of honor I need to pay."
The word he used for "debt of honor" was very precise, implying a huge tangle that a single blade could simplify. Torres' grin widened. "I see. What can I do to help?"
"I need to leave the child with you. Listen to her story -- it is true. I am going to try to remedy the situation. If I fail, the burden is yours."
But Vader was already on his way, hunting Kenobi. With luck, he could salvage the Voyager crew woman. Without... Naomi should at least be safe now.
Seven's usual walk was brisk enough that a slight hurry wasn't conspicuous. But the doctor caught up with her and paced her. "I see you have forgotten your appointment this morning," he said, pleasantly. "Please accompany me to sickbay."
"Doctor, I am engaged in other duties."
"Your schedule says otherwise.
"Doctor -- "
He waited. She didn't continue, so the doctor stood in her way, steering her towards sickbay.
"Tuvok to Team One. Report." Tuvok's voice echoed in the empty corridor. It repeated. "Tuvok to Team One. Report."
"Doctor, I do not have time for this."
The doctor smiled genially. "The longer you delay, the longer this will take." He picked up a medical transformer and started a routine sweep. The readings were not routine. "Interesting. The examination may take longer than usual this time. Please lie down on the bio-bed."
Seven's face contorted briefly. She knocked the tricorder out of the doctor's hand just as the sickbay door slid open. Tom Paris walked in, noticing nothing. "Doc, I need to talk to you about..."
Vader's senses were focused on finding Seven, and he almost missed Tom Paris's emotional spike of startlement, then anger and pain. But the image Paris was projecting had Seven's face in it.
Vader matched his perception with the map in his head of Voyager. Sickbay.
Tuvok's board lit with a call from sickbay, but the doctor didn't answer a return query. A viewscreen showed a struggle before it cut out, participants unidentifiable.
Occam's Razor pointed to Skywalker. Tuvok sent a double team to the area, and rigged a stun field to cover the sick bay if needed.
Vader heard the alarm in the corridor, but used the Force to dodge the Security teams looking for him. There were enough other people in the hallways to foul up ship's sensors.
Sickbay. Vader heard the struggle -- behind one of the bio-beds. By the Force currents, it was Paris and...
The voice identified her before Vader recognized the empty Force-bubble. Vader leaped the bio-bed, hauled Seven away from her grip on Paris's throat. Paris reached for his comm badge, "Security..." just as a Security team rushed into sickbay.
Seven increased her struggles and screams. The Security team aimed and fired... Tom screamed, "No!"
The heavy stun caught both Skywalker and Seven. They collapsed to the floor. Security separated the two and were putting binders on Skywalker. Paris protested, taking a set of binders from one of the Security men and putting them on Seven as well.
Tuvok arrived with more Security teams. "Move away from the prisoner, Mister Paris."
"Tuvok, you have to listen to me. Seven's the one who attacked me. You can ask the doc."
Tuvok, "Activate Emergency Medical Hologram."
The EMH shimmered into visibility, looking around at the invasion of his sickbay. "Mister Tuvok. Please restrain Seven of Nine."
Tuvok's eyebrow rose. "She is currently under heavy stun. Would you please explain?"
The doctor swung to face Paris. "You didn't tell him?"
Paris snorted. "He wasn't at the listening stage yet. Since Security had already stunned both of them, I thought I could catch my breath first."
The doctor's eyebrow rose. "What do you mean 'both'?" Then he saw his patient on the floor. "Why is Skywalker under restraints?"
Tuvok, levelly, "Skywalker was under arrest in his quarters. His presence here is reason enough to suspect him."
Tom glared at Tuvok. "That's the logical answer, yes. What's your explanation as to why Seven was trying to strangle me?"
The doctor insisted that Skywalker be put on one of the bio-beds to check him for damage. The other bed held Seven... Seven's body, at least.
"The brain wave patterns aren't Seven's. And they don't match anyone else's on board, including Skywalker's."
"There's nothing in your database to match?"
Acerbically, "I have not had the time to run matches against all the EEGs in the database, but there is nothing matching in any of the pathologies."
The comm chimed. The doctor snapped, "Yes? What is it?"
Torres's voice. "Doctor, I think Naomi Wildman needs to talk to you."
The doctor started to say, "I'll set aside some time for her in a day or so."
Torres interrupted. "It's about Seven of Nine."
The doctor confirmed that Skywalker had not been in sickbay when Seven had gone berserk. "That still leaves a question of breaking arrest. We found the two guards I left at his door unconscious and inside his quarters. There is no indication of how he managed to open his door and subdue them."
The sickbay door opened. Naomi and B'Lanna walked in. Naomi saw Skywalker stretched out on a bio-bed. "Is he okay?"
"Right now, he is in no physical danger. He's under stun until we find out how to keep him under arrest."
Tom sighed heavily. "Naomi, you wanted to tell the doctor something about Seven?"
She nodded. "Doctor, Seven of Nine is someone else. Someone who is trying to keep me from telling anyone. Especially telling Mister Skywalker."
Tuvok turned. "Miss Wildman. What information can you give us?"
Vader came out of stun. The bio-bed picked up his change in metabolic function and beeped plaintively. The doctor turned to him. "Mister Skywalker. You will be pleased to know that you are still in as excellent health as you were before your game of hide-and-seek with Miss Wildman this morning."
"Is she safe?"
"Yes. Thanks to you and to Lieutenant Torres. It took some while to sort the stories out, but Mister Tuvok is now convinced you broke out of your confinement to rescue Miss Wildman, and ended up rescuing Mister Paris as well. Congratulations."
Vader looked over at the other bio-bed. Seven was there, but under restraints, not just under the treatment arch. He hesitated. "I see. Are you able to help Seven?"
The doctor turned to Vader. "Do you have any theories on her condition? Because, frankly, I will entertain any input."
"I think someone else is controlling her."
The doctor paced nervously in the captain's ready-room. Janeway sipped at her coffee. This particular human mannerism she could live without, but now was not the time to work on the doctor's program.
"Skywalker says that Seven is being controlled by someone called Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was able to point out a band on the EEG that he says is related to the use of 'The Force.' The readings resemble his in that band, and to a smaller extent those of others known to have telepathy such as Mister Tuvok."
"Does he have any ideas on how to get her uncontrolled?"
Chakotay shook his head. "If we didn't have solid evidence of this 'Force,' I would suggest the doctor implement some of his ship's counselor subroutines. But I saw this 'Kenobi' myself, in a less than corporeal form. What does Lord Vader suggest we do?"
Janeway shrugged. "It's obvious that he is nearly as much of a loss as we are -- 'Jedi' don't do that, according to him. He proposes solutions, but I think they are purely theoretical on his part, not anything he has experience with."
Chakotay shook his head. "This Kenobi was willing to talk to me once. Maybe he will again."
Janeway nodded, sipped at her coffee.
Sickbay. Chakotay looked around. Skywalker was standing next to the still-unconscious Seven of Nine. "Any change?"
"No. The doctor is understandably reluctant to return her to full consciousness while her brain waves are not her own."
Chakotay nodded. He studied the older man. "If it is Kenobi controlling her, he's using techniques you might be familiar with."
"Disciplines, yes, but not techniques."
Chakotay acknowledged the difference. "I'd like your help in contacting him."
Vader took a deep breath. "I don't think you understand the risk that involves. If he is able to displace me as well, he might then attack you. Is restoring one crew member worth multiplying the problem by three?"
"You have a high opinion of your late master."
Vader didn't bother to correct Chakotay's use of the title. "When you have been dead a number of years and can still wreak this much havoc, then you may mock his power."
"Touché." Chakotay drew a pair of chairs next to the biobed containing -- restraining -- Seven and set up a small table between them. He unwrapped a bundle that contained a small technological device and other more natural items -- a bird's wing, for one. He sat and gestured for Vader to take the other chair. "This is called an Akoonah. It enables one to reach a meditative state without dangerous drugs."
Vader's eyebrow rose. That could have been most useful at certain points in his life. If it really worked. If it weren't just another trap. Kenobi had spoken to this man with the ornamented face. Could Vader trust Chakotay not to have made his own alliance with the Enemy?
No. If he had, then Seven would be conscious and Vader not. Chakotay was not knowingly assisting Kenobi.
Chakotay took the box in his hands. "Can you reach a meditative state on your own? Or do you need aid?"
"I do not need your aid in this."
Chakotay nodded. "Very well." He took a deep breath, then dropped into a regular breathing rhythm. "Ah-koo-chee-moya. We are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers; we are far from the bones of our people. We seek answers from the powerful being who inhabits the body of our companion, Seven of Nine."
Boards of inquiry had a common feel to them in any society. The rules of evidence that apparently restrained Janeway were a far cry from the ones Vader had had to tolerate. They even seemed to exceed the rules of the Old Republic.
Vader had, in his time, officiated at a few boards, been asked to give evidence at others, and -- only twice -- had been the object of inquiry. He despised them. But this one... His eyes narrowed.
Different emotions warred in him. First, there had been the Security escort to the hearing -- one of whom had been a Lieutenant Louise Fortunati. His heart had leapt at the sight of her, but she showed no visible sign of acknowledging him -- was he imagining that here was the reality under Brigid Murphy? -- until they were at the conference room, and then she had given his arm a squeeze. But they were under observation, and he hadn't been able to improvise an answer before he was directed to a chair.
The hearing progressed, with a recess for lunch and another break for dinner. Eventually, they were finished giving evidence. Janeway was having the summaries read again.
Seven's voice said, "...mistook the voice of Kenobi for commands from the collective, on an emergency frequency that overrode..."
A pity, Vader mused, that they couldn't compel Kenobi's own testimony. But the old Jedi had fled his Borg prison when the doctor had finally discovered the circuitry that had trapped him there. And Vader had not detected him anywhere around since.
The doctor's voice, "...was acting to save Mister Paris from an attack, even at the risk of his own recapture..."
And even Naomi was there. Her testimony on Seven's behavior corroborated the doctor's and Paris's brief encounters with the seriously personality-changed Seven. The hour was late, so it was a recording of her voice reading the summary, not the child herself. But the high, light voice warmed Vader, helping him relax. The memory of her bright mind and her intelligence made him smile a little. Tuvok noticed the smile, and his eyebrow rose, almost imperceptibly.
Janeway touched a small disk on the table at her place, and the sharp sound of a gavel echoed in the meeting room. "Is there any more testimony?" Silence. She looked at Vader, giving him a small nod. "Very well. Anakin Skywalker."
Next to him, Paris murmured, "Stand up, Admiral."
Vader rose. "Yes, Captain?" His huge frame stood there, towering over the others. Janeway just looked at him steadily while she thought, more silence than he wanted to hear -- he thought she had already made up her mind! He shifted a little -- when had he lost the skill of standing motionless, letting others become nervous? Possibly when he had been healed to where he no longer needed the mask, no longer had it available to hide his expressions behind. Or was it since his repaired nerves regained control of his body, not his conscious mind?
The clothing added to his discomfort. The utilities he had worn helping Paris maintain the Delta Flyer were of a different cut, closer to a flight suit. This more formal costume sat uneasily on his flesh. And he had only barely found a selection in Stores of robes he might have been comfortable in, robes like those the Jedi wore, before he had lost his replicator privileges.
Or would Jedi-style clothing be just as foreign to him? So many years... He was no longer that young Jedi, nor was he in truth the Dark Lord who had been so sorely wounded, tossed into a whirlpool of fate to land squarely in front of Voyager... to arrive at a place where he could find healing. Healing of soul as well as of body, although, in truth, his son had started that change in him.
Vader looked straight into Janeway's eyes. Here was his fate.
"We have no jurisdiction," the captain said, "over the crimes you may have committed in your home space, even if we had reliable testimony to their history. But there are... infractions... you committed here."
At the word "infractions," Vader's nerves eased. The Starfleet people were not inclined to joke in such matters -- grave matters were called by grave terms. "I had my reasons." He lifted his chin proudly.
"Indeed. This is a ship with a chain of command. And, obviously, we can't trust you to put my orders over your judgement on what has to be done. Did it never occur to you to notify Security of your suspicions? If they had been tracking Seven, Mister Paris might not have been sporting the strangle marks we found him with."
"I had no reason to think you would believe any such report from me, and Miss Wildman had been warned by Kenobi not to tell anyone. I am pleased she finally found the courage to tell Lieutenant Torres enough of the story so the lieutenant called in a Security backup." Vader rubbed the back of his head. Seven had been more of a handful than expected, and he still had the memory of having his head bounced around the floor and biobeds as he tried to subdue Seven without damaging her.
Janeway studied the prisoner. Paris's suggestion looked better every moment. "Mister Skywalker. It is the considered opinion of this court that you have no place here on Voyager. At your age, learning to be a subordinate would be a great trial for all of us, and, frankly, I don't think you would tolerate it. Therefore..."
Vader's face betrayed a small smile. Her assessment was all too true. The smile faded. Was there a viable alternative?
She nodded to Paris, ever so slightly, who shot a quick grin at her in turn. "We've several small ships that one world we recently visited gifted us with. We're going to supply one, and turn you loose with it. We won't give you our complete library files, but there are a number of files you'll find interesting -- those on experiments on opening temporary wormholes. I have the feeling that your luck will be better if you start your own experiments close to where you arrived on this end, where you know there was once a gateway."
At "considered opinion," Vader stiffened, bracing himself for the verdict, and that is what kept him from slumping in relief at the rest of Janeway's words. "Thank you, Captain," he said quietly. The chance to get a ship, even getting home again, made him feel a little giddy. His own command again, not a huge city of a Super Star Destroyer, but at least something that would answer to his will alone. There was only one question left. "When?"
"Soon. The longer you are on Voyager, the longer you will have to backtrack. But I thought I'd give you a chance to say goodbye to Naomi and your other friends."
Vader nodded curtly. This was the first time he could actually someone call "friend" and mean it the way the word was meant.
The escort back to the cargo area was more courtesy than guard -- Vader was free to move in the public areas of the ship again. But the company was welcome...
She nodded. The warmth was there, behind the carefully controlled exterior. Then a grin broke through. "M'lord." She looked up at him. "You really do have that title, I see. That's why you took to it so well. And I thought you were just adapting to the holodeck." One corner of her mouth lifted, quirking her smile. "Are your lands like that? Like Fair Haven?"
He was not interested in explaining Imperial politics to her, especially since he had no idea what would still be true when -- if? -- he returned. "My duties keep me mostly aboard ship."
That was not the right thing to remind her of. She had been in the room when Chakotay had repeated Kenobi's accusations. Her smile wavered. "And you'll be leaving, to go back there."
"It's my duty to try. I have no place here on Voyager." He did not add that other cultures in the Delta Quadrant would be even more alien to him.
The door slid open in front of Vader. Fortunati stood to one side and reprogrammed the lock to allow egress. Vader stood, watching. Not that the lock had been any good against him earlier, but...
"Can you come in for a while?" he asked, suddenly almost shy.
"I'm on duty for several hours yet, m'lord. And you have an early call, to ready your new ship."
Fortunati stood on her toes and kissed him on the cheek. "They're waiting for me. Sleep well."
Vader woke slowly. The ceiling was that of his cell-quarters, yes, but now the lock on the door would answer to him. He rolled over onto his side. "Computer. Cocoa and coffee, mixed, hot."
The mug materialized on the replicator shelf. The steam from the liquid inside bore its aroma to him, urging him out of bed.
Someone had re-set his 'fresher, too -- it was delivering water now, like the convalescent quarters. He took a long time letting the needles of liquid pepper his skin, breathing the steamy air.
There was a message waiting from Tom Paris. "Something's come up -- I'll meet you in the hangar at 1500 hours to check out your ship. Try not to get into any trouble before then, okay?"
Vader snorted. Still, it left him time to make his farewells.
"Computer, breakfast... wait." He thought. When he had been forced to eat in in the dining hall, he had bitterly resented it, even though it had been simple justice. The solitary meal, now, was a symbol of what? His original freedom as a convalescent? His status as a prisoner? He scowled. "Computer, cancel breakfast order." He dressed in basic utilities -- he was going to be readying a ship for a long journey. But first, breakfast.
Neelix had more than his usual twinkle in his eye as he set up a breakfast tray for Vader. "I'm happy," he said, "that you could help Naomi. She was asking about you this morning, but I told her I didn't know if you were going to be coming here for breakfast."
"I didn't know earlier, myself." Vader looked around. No sign of the child. "She's gone?"
"She has an early class this morning. She'll be back for lunch, later."
Vader sat alone with his meal. Occasionally someone would greet him, but they seemed to know he was leaving, and the ones who weren't his acquaintences, while they might wish him well, didn't bother to introduce themselves now.
Vader entered the pub in appropriate clothing for Fair Haven. Sullivan greeted him at once and set up a pint. "It is hearing I am that you are leaving soon, m'lud?" the owner asked him.
Vader nodded calmly. Yes. It is time for me to go home. My estate has been too long without my hand on its reins." He smiled a little at that.
Then he suddenly realised that there was no telling at this stage of research when he would be back, how much time had passed since the destruction of the second Death Star or if he could even come back before he left. An interesting thought that held many possibilities, he mused. Not the least of which would be finding himself already there, a young man -- or even a child.
"Do you have family, m'lud?"
Vader looked over at the innkeeper. Yes, I have a family. But suddenly he avoided the eyes of the barkeeper. Yes, he had a family, if the family wanted him. He was not so sure about that. Luke would perhaps accept him but Leia, his daughter, was just as proud and stubborn as he was. It would be hard, maybe impossible, to talk to her. Pride was his family's downfall. Pride, anger and stubbornness.
Sullivan nodded and set out a platter of fine bread, cheeses, and sausages. But the finely-dressed man seemed to have neither a thirst nor a hunger. Sullivan smiled. "It's company you'd be wanting, then, m'lud?"
That drew Vader's attention. "Not precisely, but... when will Brigid be here?"
"She's gone, m'lud, to tend her mother's sister who's laid up in bed with the fever. Father Mulligan is going to visit her later today."
Vader's eyebrow rose. Mulligan was the name the holographic doctor used in Fair Haven. Was he curing virtual ailments, then? No, this seemed to be more of a religious function. He shook his head. A computer program with religious leanings.
Then again, he owed the doctor a goodbye as well. In spite of the initial clash, the doctor had done him a great service, freeing him from his infirmities.
"And where would I be finding Father Mulligan?"
Sullivan gestured toward the church, visible through the windows of the pub. "He should be taking confessions right now. You might wish to unburden your soul before you start your journey home."
Vader kept from laughing. He had no intention of confessing anything to the doctor that the hologram didn't already know. Instead, he nodded solemnly. "Indeed I might."
Outside, the sun was warm and gentle, nothing like the harsh suns of Tatooine. The church was on the edge of town, next to a small fenced field with engraved white rocks. The doctor, in the robes of his Fair Haven character, was standing at the door of the church, bidding farewell to a parishioner. "Ah, Mister Skywalker. Come to make confession?"
Vader bit back a growl. He was glad that he would soon be rid of the doctor's pre-programmed hearty cheerfulness. "You are visiting Brigid Murphy's kinswoman. I will accompany you."
"I... see." The doctor shrugged, and set out on the road, waiting only a moment to see if Skywalker was behind him. Once the larger man caught up, the doctor slipped out of his priest personna to rattle cheerfully about his "cure" of Seven, and, coincidences need not apply!, his testimony that cleared Vader.
"A non-corporeal person was trapped inside what you were describing as a 'Force void bubble.' Seven was hearing his voice as commands from the Borg collective, and she has very little resistance in that area, although she has improved considerably from when we rescued her from the Borg."
It was very like the doctor to call Kenobi a "non-corporeal person" rather than a ghost or other spiritual phenomenon. "Is he gone? Were there any memory residues left?"
"Her EEG is back to normal, but she retains only partial memories of the time period."
A silence, walking, then, "I adjusted her cortical node so those frequencies are blocked now. She will no longer be vulnerable to the collection of formerly living persons you seem to have hovering around you."
Well! "Formerly living" was as close to "ghost" as the hologram would ever get, at least outside of a story-telling, but... "Collection?!"
The doctor/priest turned to look at his former patient. "You didn't know? Seven reported at least three different voices. One, she might have fought off, but three -- and they quarrelled."
Vader took the doctor by the shoulders and nearly shook him. "This wasn't in your testimony at the board of inquiry. Explain yourself!"
"My complete report to the captain would have taken several days to read aloud. My summary was even cut to an absurdly short length, and presented as my complete testimony," the doctor protested. "That testimony helped clear you, Mister Skywalker. Does it matter how many voices Seven heard inside her head?" The doctor seemed to be unsure whether to regard Seven's problem as three non-corporeal persons or just one, talking in different voices.
Between clenched teeth, "It matters for when I return home. I want to see your entire report."
"Very well. The record is available in sick bay. In the mean time, I have a sick parishioner to visit."
Brigid's "mother's sister." But Vader was too much in a turmoil to deal with Brigid right then. "I need to look at that report."
Vader went over the relevant records repeatedly, but was unable to acertain the number of voices that Seven had heard -- or whether their originators were all trapped or not. And Seven remembered no more -- an hour interrogating her yielded nothing but frayed nerves on both sides.
At least three, though. One was urging, constantly, that Seven destroy Vader. Another fought the first, but the voice was weak. The third... either wavered between sides, or there were only two voices. Or there were four. Vader clenched his fists in frustration.
"Are these all of your records?"
"Yes, Mister Skywalker," the doctor answered wearily. "You have heard all the raw recordings as well as Seven's interpretations. When I offered to continue the interrogation under hypnosis, she offered to reprogram me. I declined her offer."
The doctor went on to his pastoral duties, leaving Vader alone in sick bay. There was a movement at the doorway, but at an unexected height -- Naomi Wildman, rather than an adult. "Mister Skywalker?"
Vader turned his station chair, but stayed seated. "Miss Wildman."
He smiled slightly. "Yes. Thanks to you. You convinced them that there was something wrong with Seven."
The little girl came up to the data console and looked at the records. "I remember that. She kept changing voices."
That caught Vader's interest. "How much do you remember?"
"Most of it. Then I put it into my journal. But they said the journal wasn't real evidence."
Vader fumed over the the way the others had treated Naomi. "I believe, Miss Wildman, that you will always have problems with adults, until you manage to escape to a different ship, one in which no one knew you as a child."
"Did you have that problem, when you were a child?"
A tiny snort, "A little. But not once I started my Jedi training. At that point, I had to catch up with apprentices my own age who had had years more training than I had."
Naomi nodded. "So you had problems growing up, too."
The conversation with Naomi was refreshing, but poignant. He would miss her, more than he had missed any of his Imperial colleagues. But it was unthinkable that she come with him, of course.
As it was unthinkable that another accompany him. The computer refused to tell Vader where Lieutenant Fortunati's duty station was -- as a exile-to-be, he no longer had the clearances. He was permitted to leave her a message, but had no idea if he would even still be on board when she got his message.
Nor was he sure how much privacy she would have when she listened to the message. So he kept it far milder than he might have chosen if he were actually courting her.
The comm buzzed. "Admiral, please report to the hangar bay. We need to review the final checklist for your flight."
"I'll be right there, Lieutenant Paris."
"It's going to be a while before I get another assistant of your calibre." Tom sighed as he gave the departing ship's control panels a final wipe with a polishing cloth. "Admiral, if you could just walk through walls, why didn't you just steal a ship and run?" Was that a plaintive note in the younger man's voice?
Vader scowled. He had made no attempt to describe just what the limits of his powers were, and some of the rumors rivaled tales of the much-vaunted Q. "Supplies, for one thing. Some things can be readily replicated with the ship's power, but not with a smaller craft's. And this way, the captain feels no obligation to track me down and retrieve her vessel."
Paris accepted this, turning back to the ship. "Can you handle her?" Vader nodded his head, checking off another item on the supply list. "We have the custom of naming our ships. Computer? Does this one have a name already?"
Voyager's computer answered, "The ship name is," a collection of yowls and hisses. "It translates to the word 'seeker.'"
Vader smiled quietly. "A good omen. Seeker, you are, then." He patted the ship's streamlined hull. This vessel would be his home and his friend for time to come. There was often a very personal relationship between a pilot and his vessel. He remembered his other vessels, not the Executor or the Devastator, but the small ones, like his Tie Advance, the prototype he flew in the first Death Star battle. Back in those days he had refused to give it a name. Now he regretted it.
Seven was conspicuous by her absence, but most of the other crew he had grown to know showed up for brief farewells. Neelix brought a basket of "goodies" that promised to at least relieve the boredom of standard rations, whether for the better or not remained to be seen.
Chakotay, as a parting gift, presented him with an akoonah. "I believe that meditation with this will help you find the way home." The dusky skinned man's voice was level, "Within, if not without."
"Thank you, Commander Chakotay."
The captain spoke a few words to Vader, but mostly stood aside and watched as he climbed into and out of the ship, prepping it for the long journey.
The doors to the corridor slid open one more time. Two females, one a half-Klingon engineer, the other... Vader smiled, but contained. "Ladies."
B'Lanna smiled at the title. She was carrying a long, flat package. "I don't know what weapons the captain is going to let you take with you, but she can't object to this." She handed the tall man the package. By its weight, it was the bat'leth Vader had beeen using in the holodeck. "You can use it in exercises to keep yourself in shape during the trip."
"Thank you, Engineer." Then Vader turned to the other. "Lieutenant Fortunati."
Fortunati smiled. Torres backed away and went to keep her husband company, giving the two some small privacy. "M'lord."
"Should I call you Brigid, then?"
"If you wish. If that's how you think of me." She looked up at him. "You're going away."
He nodded. "You were at the board of inquiry -- you heard the verdict. And the captain is right -- the longer I stay on Voyager, the further I am away from returning home."
Louise sighed. Home was a definite sensitive point on the ship. They were a good fifty years from reaching Earth, and perhaps only their descendants would make it. She started to say something, then stopped. "I wish you a successful journey, m'lord."
"And I, you. Give my regards to the folk of Fair Haven. -- I was there for a while this morning, but was interrupted before I could say goodbye to the residents."
That produced a genuine smile, "Aye, that I will, m'lord. Especially to the brawler you bested in the arm wrestling -- 'tis glad to see you gone will he be."
Vader laughed. "He'll have his title back, will he?"
"And the admiration of the menfolk, and the doting of the women."
Vader rolled his eyes. For a long instant, he wanted to talk her into coming with him, but she would not leave her post, not when Janeway needed every trained hand so badly. "But it is farewell I have to say to you." The rhythms of Fair Haven came back to his tongue, so easily.
She nodded, came up on her toes to kiss him on the cheek, then backed away, going over to where the captain stood talking to Chakotay.
Was there a faint glimmer in the co-pilot's seat when Vader lifted the Seeker from its cradle in the hangar? The hangar doors were open, with the same kind of air-curtain force fields he was used to at home. An obvious application, but it pointed out one more way how similar the two peoples were in some ways. The solid doors closed when he was clear of the hangar, and Vader maneuvered on thrusters until it was safe to engage the warp drive.
Vader's heart pounded in his chest. Many questions lay ahead, many answers too, leading to many more possibilties. The depths of space had always been more of a home to him than any one world had been since... He touched the commlink for the very last time, to contact the friends he was leaving behind.
"Lord Vader, I wish you a safe journey. And your home at its end." He could hear that she meant what she just told him. He smiled briefly.
"Thank you, Captain Janeway. May the Force be with you and your crew." He could not say that he took a debt with him of honor, one that could only be paid forward. Not aloud, at any rate.
He shut off the commlink. There was nothing more to say and nothing to look back to. He looked into the starfield ahead of him and its light drew him away from Voyager, to an unknown destination.
Tom watched from the hangar control bay. He had the feeling that Skywalker's son -- Luke, was that his name? -- would have the same mixed feelings to seeing his father again that Owen Paris would -- if it even happened.
Paris closed the control board. "Guess I need to get back to working on the Delta Flyer."
"Well, that's one more to transmit to Star Fleet," Janeway remarked.
Tuvok, after a hesitation, "You realize, of course, that giving Skywalker that ship could mean a significant improvement in his people's technology."
"No more than they would already be getting from his memories, Mister Tuvok. He was an engineer -- he was learning from us every minute that he was here."
Chakotay, "I hope we taught him some of our ethics as well."
Janeway smiled, "He always had them. He just chose to ignore them when they were inconvenient. One of the prices of power."
The Seeker's trace would be on their instruments for hours, but there was no point in watching the viewscreen any more.
Captain Janeway took a deep breath. "Mister Kim, head us back toward home."
The autopilot was engaged -- Seeker was pointed back toward the wormhole exit, the only possible route home.
Home... Vader shook his head as he settled down to study tech manuals. Had he picked up the longing of Voyager's crew, translating it to his own circumstances? And where was home?
He felt a presence in the ship... more definite than the glimmer he had thought he had seen on launch. It intensified when he thought of "home," of Tatooine, not the fleet. He closed his eyes and relaxed, trying to sense, not analyze. Feminine, but not Padme... certainly not Leia -- there was no acerbic edge to it. "Mother?" he whispered.
The contact warmed, but stayed ill-defined. Vader reached for the akoonah, then hesitated. Machinery should not be necessary, not between them. He slipped into a meditative trance.
Seven of Nine seldom used the engineering repairs carrel, and it was a month after Skywalker's departure before she returned to it. She called Torres and Janeway to meet her there. Torres was still running instruments over the rod shape on the bench when Janeway looked up. "One of the 'ghosts' was building a lightsaber."
On the Seeker.
Two months later, at the recorded location of the wormhole exit, Vader took careful measurements. There was a trace still here. A possibility of a way home.
Miklinar's Afterword and Notes
Some small while ago, Iejasu told me about a Star Wars/Voyager crossover she was playing with. She asked if I would like to see it.
I frankly thought the idea was silly at first. But Star Trek has opened gateways to other universes before.
The first major decision was "when?", for both sides of the equation. Iejasu wanted Tom and B'Lanna to be together. And it had to be before Voyager was home, of course -- otherwise, it's not Voyager, it's one of the other Treks.
The other side was more indefinite at first. We finally decided that the Vader near the end of Episode 6 was best for the story. That one would be more likely to adapt to being in a new situation -- even if he didn't realize at first it was a new universe.
We decided to change the final battle in the Emperor's Throne Room by just a bit. The Emperor didn't damage Vader quite as much as he did in the movie -- Vader had to have a chance to live. And there was no lopped-off hand.
Someone asked why Vader didn't just take over Voyager, strangling Janeway to start with. (Oh, the temptation!)
Vader is not Q. He can't control all of Voyager by himself -- he doesn't know how the systems work, and he can't control enough people at once to run it. And if he picked one or two vital crewmembers to control, the changed behavior would bring negative attention to him and his "pet" very soon. It's happened before on Voyager. The others noticed the change, and did something.
Without a Fleet or the political backing of the Emperor, Vader has to resort to guile and diplomacy to advance his agenda. It's a strain, but he's learning. And it will take time.
And what is his agenda? First, of course, to survive. Then, to get closer to the top -- he's not used to being on the bottom of the social ladder any more. Getting home is a distant third on the list -- it might not even be possible.
The wormhole trip almost kills him. When Vader arrives, he's half out of his mind with pain, and having to deal with the Emergency Medical Hologram could drive anyone to a temper tantrum.
Once he starts to heal... and especially when he discovers they don't know who he is ... he does the cultural equivalent of Sith invisibility: he slides into Voyager's tidy categories of "rescuee" and "patient", and is taking maximum advantage of both Voyager's medical facilities, and all the new engineering. Both of which he is encouraged to take advantage of, to his surprise.
For the first time in years, he is dealing with people with no pre-conceptions about him. Which challenges him to re-examine his conception of himself.
And if he ever reaches home, what will have changed there?
We have even speculated on time travel -- having Vader arrive before he left. This could be extreme -- a thousand years or a hundred -- or close -- he arrives to see himself leaving Tatooine for the first time.
Vader and Naomi Wildman
As far as we know, the only experience Vader has with children while he was adult/near adult is with Jedi apprentices. Naomi, as the "token child" on Voyager doesn't quite fit into the pattern Vader is used to, but then again, she is not a normal child by our standards, either. During Neelix's final episode, she even said she wasn't a child any more. This from someone the TV audience met before she was born in the Delta Quadrant.
So Naomi is trying to fit Vader into her pattern of "adult" while Vader tries to fit Naomi into "child/apprentice."
Seven of Nine and Vader
Before Kenobi arrived, someone suggested a romance between Vader and Seven. It wasn't real likely.
First, she would be contemptuous of the tech level of
Both of them having implants is far from enough to start a romance on.
Seven and the voices
We needed something more definite than just Kenobi visiting Chakotay to cause Vader problems. And while Kenobi is a manipulative soul ("I need you, Luke. She needs you.") there is nothing in the movies to suggest possession was possible.
On the other hand, Seven has been known to be pushed
around by voices in her head before. It's a function of
messages from her implants.
Why did this happen to Vader? And why Voyager?
On one hand, this question is silly -- these things happen to characters because there are writers hiding back behind the words.
On the other hand... In some ways, Vader is more controlled by the Force than controlling using it, and has been since his conception. The Force could well have brought him across to the closest universe capable of saving his life, to the closest ship. But if the Force did so, it means that something isn't finished with Vader yet -- I don't think the Force gives out new bodies as retirement gifts.
Gripping hand, the story is driven by its characters. Putting Vader on Voyager after the Throneroom fight has to put him into the Doctor's holographic hands once he arrives in Voyager's universe.
In a way, this reminds me of the final episode of Quantum Leap. Whoever is jumping Sam around isn't done with him yet. (No! We are not going to do a Star Wars/Enterprise crossover.)
Iejasu's Afterword and Notes
First of all, this story would not have been half as good as it is without Miklinar.
Sometimes he asked questions that nearly drove me crazy.
Why would Vader act in this way?
No, Janeway would never do this like you describe it!
What does the detention area on Voyager looks like?
He asked if the security of the detention area was really able to restrain Vader with all his special Force abilities?
Sometimes i felt like hitting my head on the keyboard.
But that is what makes Miklinar so unique. He is the best writer and editor one can get.
He asks questions and does not stop until it is perfect!
He brutally badgered me to finish it and continued writing when I was distracted by something new to marvel about...namely Harry Potter and esp. Professor Snape.
So If somebody is the real artist and made this story worth a hundred reviews, it is him!
Thanks Miklinar, for keeping up with me!
Addition by Miklinar
In Istambul, Turkey stands a magnificent building that was first a church (Hagia Sophia, meaning "Holy Wisdom") and was then converted to a mosque (Aya Sofya).
It also bears a striking similarity to the Palace of Theed on Naboo. (As Peter Schickele says, there is a name for this type of similarity. It's called "identity.")
Here are some links to pictures. Judge for yourself. (Large graphics on the pages -- may be slow loading.)