Friday, June 27, 2008

"The Helmsman's Log - 2371" [PG-13] - Part II




Here is the sequel to the personal logs of Tom Paris, set around Voyager's first year in the Delta Quadrant:


"THE HELMSMAN'S LOG - 2371"

Part II


STARDATE 48671.28 - Just came back from a date with Megan
Delaney. Alone, this time. We had an intimate little dinner
at a romantic restaurant on Gerdi Prime, inside Holodeck Two.
After supper, we enjoyed a walk along the beach, followed by a
nightcap inside my quarters.

Ah, Megan! Such a nice, calm person, in compare to her sister,
Jenny. There were times when she almost reminds me of . . .
Shit! What the hell is wrong with me? I just enjoyed a
pleasant night with a beautiful and intelligent woman and all I
can think about is our cook's girlfriend. Kes. God, will I
ever stop thinking about her? Or better yet, will she ever
dump Neelix? End personal log.


STARDATE 48695.34 - I nearly lost Harry, today. While enjoying
his Beowulf holonovel, Harry was captured by a photonic being
that had been accidentally brought aboard the ship. Apparently,
while we were gathering energy from a photostar. The being took
refuge inside Harry's Beowulf program and later captured him.
It also captured Tuvok and Chakotay, after they had been sent to
investigate Harry's disappearance. In the end, the Captain
sent the Doctor to rescue our missing officers. Thankfully,
the Doc succeeded and received a special commendation for his
troubles. Now, if only the Captain could order Torres to do
something about his personality subroutines. End personal log.


STARDATE 48733.51 - Voyager had a strange encounter with
something out of one of those old "B" movies that I usually
enjoy. While investigating some dark nebula, Tuvok and
Chakotay's shuttle was attacked. Tuvok only sustained minor
injuries, while the good Commander ended up brain dead. His
bio-neural energy had been removed from him.

It turned out worse than we thought. Some trianic energy being
had possessed Tuvok, in an attempt to convince the Captain to
investigate this dark nebula matter. The being belonged to a
race called the Komar, who wanted the crew's bio-neural energy
as substance for his people. Meanwhile, another entity began
invading the minds of other crewmen - including mine - in an
attempt to prevent Voyager from entering that nebula. This
second entity turned out to be Chakotay's bio-neural energy,
displaced by the Komar's attack. Just great! My brain nearly
became food for a bunch of non-corporeal beings and was twice
possessed by the Great Spirit Chief, himself. Oh well, at
least we managed to escape the nebula and the Komar. End
personal log.


STARDATE 48736.53 - This afternoon, Neelix had decided to hold
a little celebration in honor of Chakotay's recovery and our
near escape from the Komar. Jesus, this guy would just about
hold a party for anything. Not that I mind. The more parties,
the better. I suspect that this was Neelix's way of
celebrating Kes's recovery from an attack by the
Komar-possessed Tuvok. Hmmm. Certainly not a bad reason to
celebrate, in my book.

Captain Janeway and the Maquis seemed to be the only ones
really celebrating. I guess they need something to celebrate
after Seska's humiliating revelation. Well, most of the Maquis
seemed happy. I noticed B'Elanna Torres, sitting by herself
and shooting jealous looks at the very chummy Captain Janeway
and Chakotay. My God! Is that little infatuation of hers,
still going on? Doesn't she realize that Chakotay is not her
type? Too bad Harry is still mooning over his lost love,
Libby. Quite frankly, he would make a better choice for
Torres. Of course, I don't exactly relish sharing Harry's time
with her. (Beep, beep) That must be Megan. I forgot that she
was coming by for drinks, tonight. End personal log.


STARDATE 48766.73 - Not much happened today. Voyager
investigated a Class J nebula - one of many we have encountered
since our arrival in the Delta Quadrant. The only interesting
thing that happened was a minor conversation with Kes in the
Mess Hall. We discussed some our favorite foods. One of hers
happens to be something called Lokar beans. I told her about
tomato soup (something those damn replicators still haven't got
right) and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. My ultimate
comfort food. By then, even Neelix got into the conversation.
I don't know if this was his way of keeping an eye on Kes and
me, or merely just genuine interest. At least we managed to
exchange a few words without any hostility or suspicion from
him. End personal log.


STARDATE 48777.42 - Another dull day in the Delta Quadrant. I
guess every day can't be an exciting encounter with a new
species. Voyager stumbled into the Avery system. It seemed to
consist of several Class M planets. The Captain, in one of her
bouts of "science exploration", decided she wanted an
investigation of magnacite formations on some of the planets.

I was assigned to explore the planet, Avery III with Pete Durst
and B'Elanna Torres. Voyager should rendezvous with us in two
days. I guess it won't be that bad. Pete's okay. He was one
of the few crewmen who had been friendly toward me from the
beginning. And as for Torres - well, we have managed to strike
up a cordial relationship in the last five or six weeks. Hell,
it's a lot better than spending two days with Chakotay or
Neelix. End personal log.


STARDATE 48790.33 - Oh God! I simply don't know where to begin!
I feel as if I had taken part in some bizarre horror vid from
the 20th century. Sigh! Might as well get it over with.

While investigating magnacite formations on Avery III with
Durst and Torres, we were captured by Vidiians. That's right.
The same species who had stolen Neelix's lungs, three months
ago. These Vidiians didn't simply steal our organs. They
forced Pete and myself to become part of their slave labor. I
had no idea what happened to B'Elanna. Until the following
day. It seemed some Vidiian doctor named Sulan had extracted
her Klingon DNA, leaving her completely Human. How gruesome!

I still remember the shock of seeing B'Elanna completely Human
for the first time. Oddly enough, I was too surprised by the
change to notice her looks. I must admit that she looked
beautiful. But then, I've always thought she made a beautiful
Klingon/Human hybrid. Not only had her looks changed, but her
personality, as well. Gone was the tough and temperamental
woman and in her place, an emotional and sad woman, driven by
fear. I guess the trauma of her situation drove her to be a
little more open about her past. She told me about her
childhood on Kessik IV and how she blamed her Klingon side for
driving her father away. She has not seen him in nearly twenty
years. If that's true, the man is an idiot. (Pauses) I think
I'm getting a little personal, here. Anyway, I tried to
comfort her with a little revelation of my own. I told her
about the haircuts Dad used to enforce upon me, at the
beginning of every summer. I don't think it worked. Then
again . . . she did smile a little.

Then everything went from bad to worse. The Vidiian guards
took Pete Durst away. That was the last time I saw him. I
tried to prevent the guards from taking him, but they didn't
want me. Can't blame them, I guess. Who would? I later
found out that they didn't want Pete to send a message to
Voyager. Instead, that monster, Dr. Sulan had Pete's face
grafted upon his. The guards came back for B'Elanna, leaving
me feel even more useless. God only know how long I would have
remained part of the slave labor force, if Chakotay hadn't
shown up, disguised as a Vidiian. Too bad we couldn't take
the Talaxian with us, but the guards were even reluctant to let
me go. We found two B'Elannas being confronted by Dr. Sulan,
with Pete's face plastered to his skin. I don't know what
shocked me more - seeing both a Klingon and a Human B'Elanna at
the same time, Dr. Sulan, or witnessing Klingon B'Elanna's
death after she saved her counterpart's life. Too bad she
died. I would have liked to have known her. End personal log.


STARDATE 48791.56 - I still can't help thinking about that Away
mission on Avery III. To me, it's a reminder of my failure as
a Starfleet officer. I can't help but wonder what I could have
done to avoid capture or save Pete. I had a dream about it,
several hours ago. At one point, Human B'Elanna's face
transformed into the dying Klingon B'Elanna's, and eventually
into Dr. Sulan, with Pete's face. I woke up in a sweat, after
that. Unable to sleep, I decided to head for Sick Bay to pay
B'Elanna a visit. She still looked Human. Unfortunately,
Chakotay was also there. And since they seemed to be sharing
a tender moment, I didn't want to interrupt. Oh well. Perhaps
I can read myself to sleep. End personal log.


STARDATE 48799.76 - I finally spoke with B'Elanna. She came to
my table, while I was eating a late dinner in the Mess Hall,
last night. We were the only ones there. She looked normal.
Her Klingon traits had returned, ridges and all. B'Elanna
told me what happened to her on Avery III. Apparently, Dr.
Sulan had used a genetron to remove her Klingon DNA, creating
two B'Elannas in the process - one Klingon and one Human. He
fell in love with the Klingon Human and used Pete's face to woo
her. He must have been a sick man. Sulan also needed a
full-blooded Klingon to test his theory that Klingon physiology
was resistant to their phage. As it turned out, he was right.

B'Elanna told me that after her Klingon couterpart's death, she
had assumed she would remain completely Human. I guess the Doc
ruined that dream when he informed her that he needed to
restore her original genetic structure, using Klingon
B'Elanna's DNA. She seemed disappointed that she would never
be completely Human. I'm not. Although I found both her Human
and Klingon selves to be beautiful, she seems more interesting
as a hybrid. I even told her so. My little remark managed to
produce a small smile, but I could tell that she didn't draw
much comfort from it. I hope that one day, she will learn to
appreciate her true self. She can really be fascinating. Now,
if only I can learn to do the same about myself. Hmmm, fat
chance of that ever happening.

Anyway, B'Elanna thanked me for supporting her during our
captivity. We also discussed Pete Durst, whose face is now
grafted upon that mad bastard's own face. When I asked if she
would like to accompany me to Sandrine's, she declined.
B'Elanna told me that she needed more rest. Oh well. At
least we've finally buried the hatchet between us and can
finally become good friends. I guess that's one thing I can be
grateful about Avery III. End personal log.



STARDATE 48804.91 - God, I'm exhausted! Not a surprise, since
I had my sleep interrupted by a call from the Bridge. Crewman
Henley failed to show up for Gamma shift. Again. This is the
third time in two months. I had to give her a personal
reprimand the last two times. Last night, I personally roused
Henley from bed and ordered her to report to the Bridge. Or
consider herself on report. After a fifteen minute debate,
which ended with me threatening her with the Brig, she
complied. I really don't know what to do with her. I can't
threaten her with the Brig, forever. I also realize that she
resents being stuck on a Starfleet vessel, thousands of light
years away from home. But one day, she will have to realize
that she has very little options. End personal log.


STARDATE 48837.63 - Voyager stopped at an M-class called
Napinne. Pleasant little place. And the inhabitants were also
pleasant. Harry, B'Elanna and myself visited the surface for a
few hours, while the Captain, Neelix and Chakotay set about
obtaining food supplies. With the fruits and vegetables now
growing in the Hydropondics Bay, hopefully Voyager won't be so
dependent upon food supplies from other planets, stations and
ships in the near future. End personal log.


STARDATE 48840.42 - Once more, Crewman Henley failed to appear
for her duty shift. This time, I put her on report. Not long
after I finished Alpha shift today, Chakotay requested my
presence in his office. To discuss Henley, unsurprisingly.
He wanted me to reconsider my decision to put Henley on report.
Give her a chance to fit in with the crew. Then he bored me
with some speech about Starfleet officers learning how to lead
subordinates. Something that already bored me to tears during
Command school. The big hypocrite! I can't believe this is the
same man who had gave me nothing but grief since we first laid eyes
upon each other. Hell, I've been giving Henley a chance for
six months! At least until now. Like it or not, both she and
Chakotay were going to have to live with that reprimand on her
record. Being an ex-Maquis, I doubt that Henley even cared.
End personal log.


STARDATE 48845.9 - After Tuvok's encounter with Ken Dalby, the
Captain has ordered Henley, Dalby and a few others to undergo
basic Starfleet training, under Tuvok. Poor bastards!
Meanwhile, various ship malfunctions have plagued the crew,
since leaving Napinne. Something to do with the bio-gel
packs. End personal log.


STARDATE 48854.3 - Life aboard Voyager has returned to normal,
thank goodness. No more malfunctions for the time being. The
Captain ordered the ship's systems to overheat, in order to
kill the virus that had infected the gel packs. My God, the
Bridge almost felt like a furnace! For a while, I wondered if
I would ever be able to breathe again. All thanks to that damn
cheese Neelix had purchased during our stay on Napinne.

Henley and the others are still undergoing their field
training. Must be working, since Henley has reported for duty
without any problems. She also requested additional training
in shuttle maneuvers in the holodeck. We'll probably never be
friends, but thank goodness I no longer have a troublemaker on
my hands. End personal log.


STARDATE 48892.4 - Harry told me an unusual tale. The Doctor's
programming and the holodeck systems had malfunctioned, thanks
to the kino-plastic radiation from a anomaly that Voyager came
across. While stuck in one of the holodecks for six hours, the
Doctor believed he was a real person named Lewis Zimmerman and
that Voyager and the crew were all a holographic simulation.
He even thought Kes was his wife. Sigh! I knew it. I've
always suspected that the Doc had eyes for our favorite
Ocampan. And this only proves it. Kes is quickly becoming
quite the little heartbreaker on this ship. She has already
captured mine. End personal log.


STARDATE 48921.4 - This has certainly been a day to
remember! I've just spent hours at the Helm, dodging a swarm
of . . . hell, I don't what they were! Some kind of life forms
that resembled a . . . Okay, they resembled human sperm.
There! I said it. I only hope that Starfleet Command never get
a hold of this log. Although the creatures resembled sperm, they
had mistaken Voyager as some kind of sexual mate. Even worse, they
began draining energy from the ship's systems, in their attempt
to procreate. More problems appeared when a large creature
appeared also began to regard Voyager as a mate. Jeez! I
didn't realize the ship looked that desirable! Both Torres and
Tuvok wanted to destroy the creature, but Chakoay suggested
that Voyager mimic the smaller ones, giving the impression to
the large creature that we have no interest in procreation with
space born creatures. Ha! Sex in the Delta Quadrant!

Speaking of sex, the Captain made a joke to the Commander about
referring to expertise whenever the subject of procreation
appears. It wasn't the joke that caught my attention, but the
way she said. I do believe our captain was flirting. The look
on B'Elanna's face was certainly memorable. She seemed
completely shocked. When I brought up the topic in the Mess
Hall, she gave me a death glare that rivaled the mighty Janeway
herself. I see that she still has that crush on Chakotay.
God, when will it ever end?

Then again, who am I to complain? I still have feelings for
Kes. In my case, I can say that it's more than a crush.
Before our encounter with the swarm, I helped her gather
Oblissian cabbages from the Hydropondics Bay. On our way to
the turbolift, we encountered Chakotay, along with Ensigns
Bennett and Gallagher. It seems the good Commander caught
them "fraternizing" in the turbolift. Hmm, perhaps the
Captain was right about him being the right man to solicit advice
about procreation. End personal log.


STARDATE 48925.38 - Plenty of surprises awaited me, when I
found Kes in the Hydropondics Bay, following my shift. First
surprise - Ensign Sam Wildman from the Science Division is
pregnant. It seems that Ensign Wildman, who happened to be a
very nice lady, had left behind a Ktarian husband on Deep Space
Nine. Considering how flat her stomach looked, my first guess
was that she sought solace in the arms of a crewman, here on
board Voyager. After all, Voyager has been in the Delta
Quadrant for over seven months, now. But according to Kes, the
embroyo is definitely half-Ktarian. Perhaps Ktarians have
a longer gestation period.

The other surprise? Kes informed me that the electrophoretic
activity from the swarm, yesterday, had sped up her elogium.
Namely, the sexual maturation for Ocampan females. They
usually go through this phase between the ages of four and
five. And since this elogium would have been Kes' only shot
at conception, she asked Neelix to mate with her.

Neelix and Kes as parents. Good grief! Now there's an image that
makes me shudder! At first, Neelix felt reluctant. Hell, if I
had known, I would have offered Kes my services. However,
Neelix eventually agreed to mate with her, but she changed her
mind, after realizing that she was not ready for parenthood.
Kes' elogium ended when Voyager left the swarm behind. I
thought she had lost her chance at motherhood and was prepared
to console her. But Kes assured me that her elogium was false
and the real phase will probably return after her fourth
birthday. I only hope that she and Neelix are no longer a twosome
by then. I realize it's a rotten thing to say, but I can't
help feeling they're wrong for each other. End personal log.


STARDATE 48946 - God, I must really be pathetic! While
playing pool with Harry and B'Elanna in Sandrine's, last night,
I spotted Kes and Neelix cuddling around a corner table, happy
as pie. Depressing sight. In typical Tom fashion, I decided
to hide my disappointment by flirting with nearly every female
in sight. Except with B'Elanna, of course. One doesn't
flirt with a close friend. I guess the old Paris charm must
have worked. Later that night, I ended up in bed with Yoshi
Kyoto. After I "subtly" sneaked out of bed this morning,
Yoshi caught me. She assured me that she wasn't looking for a
permanent relationship. I'm relieved . . . but now, I also
feel like a complete shit. End personal log.


STARDATE 48964.07 - Today was Kes' birthday. Sigh! Kes'
birthday. Huh. All I can say is that it certainly didn't turn
out the way I had expected. Not long after we surprised her
with a party inside Sandrine's, Voyager encountered a
distortion ring that transformed the ship into a labyrinth.
First, the Captain, Chakotay and I got lost, while searching
for the Bridge. We ended back inside Holodeck One. Later,
Torres and I used the turbolift to reach Engineering. To my
surprise, we were fortunate. Thanks to the distortion ship,
B'Elanna almost walked in on Crewman Nozawa inside his
quarters, dressed only in his skivvies. Let's just say it the
first time I ever saw a Klingon woman blush. A sight, I
suspect, I'll never see again.

The distortion ring proved to be the third or fourth
non-corporeal life form we've encountered since our arrival in
the Delta Quadrant. And all it wanted to do was greet us and
exchange information. Hell of a way to say hello. Both
B'Elanna and Chakotay nearly came to blows with Tuvok on how to
stop the distortion ring. In the end, Tuvok had the best
suggestion. Do nothing.

Kes' birthday party turned out to be a disappointment. I gave
her a gold filigree locket as a present. She seemed stunned by
it - much to my delight. That delight didn't last. After our
encounter with the distortion ring, the party eventually
resumed. Kes, who had been worried by Neelix's disappearance,
declared that she wanted a photo of him, inside her locket.
Great! Just great! A photo of Neelix's mug will be inside
the locket I gave her. Even worse, I had to stand there on the
Bridge and hold Kes' birthday cake, while she and Neelix locked
lips.

Sigh! I'm beginning to think that my feelings for Kes are just
as hopeless as B'Elanna's feelings toward Chakotay. But I
can't help it. All I can do is hope that she realizes one day
that Neelix is not the man for her. End personal log.


STARDATE 48972.4 - Voyager came across an old 1936 Chevy truck,
here in the Delta Quadrant! Being a connoisseur of anything
20th century Earth, my heart nearly leapt with excitement at
the sight of that old vehicle. I even got a chance to
demonstrate how the truck's engine worked, once Harry tractor
it to Voyager. I don't think he, the Captain and the others
appreciated the noise or the carbon monoxide.

The truck also emitted an old S-O-S signal that led us to an
L-Class planet not far away. The trinimbic interference in the
planet's upper atmosphere made the shuttles and the
transporters, ineffective. So, the Captain ordered me to land
Voyager on the planet's surface. All I can say that it was
one of the most thrilling moments in my life. And I did it
without a hitch.

The Captain, Harry and members of the Away team not only found
a Lockheed Electra aircraft (which I would have loved to get my
hands on), but several Humans in cryostasis. Kes and I later
joined the Captain and Harry for a closer inspection. Would
you believe it? Among the Humans were the legendary pilot,
Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. It seemed she,
Noonan and the other Humans had been abducted from Earth by
aliens over 400 years ago, during the late 1930s. Voyager has
discovered the mystery of Earhart's disappearance. If only
the Alpha Quadrant knew. Noonan proved to be a paranoid who
managed to hold us hostage. The Captain eventually convinced
him and Miss Earhart that we meant them no harm. Also, a group
of aliens had fired upon Tuvok, Chakotay and another Away team.
Harry told me that after the Captain disarmed them, she
discovered that they were also Humans. Boy! Things really
seemed to be heating up! End personal log.


STARDATE 48974.55 - I did it. I decided to remain aboard
Voyager and continue the journey to the Alpha Quadrant. I'm
probably the only crewman, who has a good reason to remain on
New Earth. Well, it's not really called New Earth, but that's
what most of the crew has decided to name the planet.

It seemed the planet's original inhabitants, a race called the
Briori, were the ones responsible for abducting Amelia Earhart,
Noonan and 289 other Humans from Earth. They brought the
Humans to this planet to serve as slave labor. However, the
slaves revolted, killed the Briori and established a new
civilization. Hence, New Earth. I even managed to visit one
of the cities. It really surprised me on how it closely
resembled San Francisco. Maybe that was the reason I had decided
not to remain behind. It simply reminded me too much of Earth.
Too much of the bad times I had endured. But I must admit that
Kes' decision to remain aboard Voyager played a part in my
decision. Along with the feeling that I could not abandon the
Captain. Not after all she has done for me.

I also got a chance to show Miss Earhart, Voyager's helm. I
don't know about her, but I got a big thrill. Miss Earhart,
Mr. Noonan and the other "37s" (the original ones abducted),
decided to remain on New Earth. I wish them all the luck in
the world. Meanwhile, not one member of the crew decided to
remain behind. Hmmm. I thought at least the Maquis crewmen
would consider. I guess not. End personal log.


STARDATE 48999.17 - New Year's Eve. Huh. I can't remember the
last time I celebrated the New Year. Oh yeah, it happened two
years ago and I was at this casino on Perdon Gel. With that .
. . Gods, what was her name? Damn! I don't even remember.

Anyway, the Captain gave us permission to celebrate the arrival
of 2372 at Sandrine's. Neelix has even volunteered to create a
few delicacies to entertain the crew. In defense of our
stomachs, the Conn Division pooled their replicator rations to
provide refreshments not cooked by Neelix. I'm sure the crew
will thank us. Meanwhile, I have to shower and change for the
party. I'm suppose to take Marie Kaplan and I'm already
running late. If I don't return until tomorrow, Happy New
Year! End personal log.



THE END

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"PEARL HARBOR" (2001) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the 2001 Disney epic, "PEARL HARBOR", which starred Ben Affleck, Josh Harnett, Kate Beckinsale and Cuba Gooding Jr.:


"PEARL HARBOR" (2001) Photo Gallery















































Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"SPIDER-MAN 3" (2007) Review




”SPIDER-MAN 3” (2007) Review

Over the years I have learned not to anticipate or make assumptions about new movies. About two weeks before the American debut of the third Spider-Man movie, ”SPIDER-MAN 3”, I had read mixed reviews of it. Although there were a few positive opinions, most of them seemed to be negative. After reading this, my anticipation of the movie had receded a bit. But I still maintained a ”wait-and-see” attitude. Now that I have finally seen ”SPIDER-MAN 3”, I am happy that my fears have become meaningless. Although not as well-crafted as ”SPIDER-MAN 2”, the franchise’s third film still managed to thrill me.

Before I can wax lyrical over the movie, I must address the movie’s flaws. And it had a few. One, I felt a sense of disappointment over some of the movie’s action sequences that featured Spider-Man’s web swinging around New York. They seemed to lack the crisp and detailed style shown in the two previous films and almost struck me as confusing and overblown.

Two, I had a problem or two with the Gwen Stacy character. I realize that there are differences between the movie versions and the comic book versions of the Spider-Man universe. In the comic books, the blond-haired Gwen happened to be Peter Parker’s first true love. Her death at the hands of the Green Goblin (aka Norman Osborn) eventually paved the way for Peter’s romance and marriage with Mary Jane Watson. It is quite obvious in ”SPIDER-MAN 3” that although classmates at Columbia University, Peter and Gwen were not in love. Just friends. I had no problems with this. Nor did I have any problems with a symbiote-possessed Peter using her to make Mary Jane jealous. But I did have problems with the fact that the story never followed up on the mess that Peter had created between Gwen and Mary Jane. The story never allowed us to learn whether Peter had apologized to Gwen for using her . . . or if she had forgiven him. And what was she doing at Harry’s funeral? I do not recall them being acquainted in the movieverse. In the comics, Gwen and Harry were old high school chums that dated briefly in college.

My last problem with ”SPIDER-MAN 3” involved the triangle between Peter, Mary Jane and Harry Osborn (aka Green Goblin 2). Near the beginning of the story, Harry had decided to take the opportunity to get his revenge upon Peter for his father’s death in ”SPIDER-MAN”. The opportunity resulted in a brutal fight and Harry seriously injured in the hospital. Harry woke up as a partial amnesiac – forgetting the reason behind his animosity toward Peter. And the two managed to resume their friendship, until an evening spent with Mary Jane (who was trying to forget her present unhappiness with Peter) resurrected Harry’s memories. In the end, Harry managed to coerce Mary Jane into breaking up with Peter permanently. Unfortunately, the writers never revealed what argument that Harry had used to coerce Mary Jane. Instead, they left the audience in the dark.

But what did I like about ”SPIDER-MAN 3”? For one . . . the story. It was easy for me to see that the story’s main theme seemed to be about vengeance and how – as Aunt May had put it to Peter – it can spread poison within a person until it completely consumes that person. Of all the major characters aside from Aunt May, only two were not touched or consumed by a desire for revenge – Gwen Stacy and Flint Marko. Marko’s actions stemmed from his desperate desire to acquire money to aid his ailing daughter. And poor Gwen became a victim of Peter’s desire for revenge against Mary Jane.

But for the rest of the characters, revenge seemed to be the order of the day:

-Peter Parker aka Spider-Man: the Webslinger becomes consumed with revenge when he learns that his Uncle Ben’s true killer – namely Flint Marko – had escaped from prison. He later seeks revenge against Mary Jane for breaking up with him, with Harry for the latter’s earlier vengeful attack against him and for initiating the break-up with Mary Jane; and against Eddie Brock for the libelous photo of Spider-Man and winning the position of staff photographer at the DAILY BUGLE. Busy boy, wasn’t he?

-Harry Osborn aka New Goblin: Peter’s best friend has desired revenge against Peter (as Spider-Man) for killing his father in the first movie. He also has revenge against Mary Jane because she used him to forget her troubles with Peter.-Mary Jane Watson: a part of me is not sure whether to include her on this list. But I could not help but wonder if her bitchiness toward Peter was a result of her own professional failure on Broadway, combined with her growing distaste toward Peter’s pride over his popularity as Spider-Man. And when Peter shares a publicized kiss with Gwen Stacy that is reminiscent of that famous kiss from the first movie, Mary Jane’s jealousy eventually overwhelms her . . . and she turns to Harry for comfort. I would not be surprised if her action came from a small desire to get back at Peter.

-Eddie Brock Jr. aka Venom: Even before the alien symbiote had taken over him, Eddie seemed like an unpleasant piece of goods. And when Peter rather maliciously exposed his chicanery over a faked Spider-Man photograph, it did not take Eddie long to rush to the nearest church and ask God . . . to kill Peter Parker. Like I had said, he was an unpleasant person. Eventually, Eddie’s desire for revenge would soon present itself.

-Flint Marko aka Sandman: Although I had earlier stated that Marko had no desire for revenge in the movie. I now realize that I may have been mistaken. After two frustrating encounters with Spider-Man, Marko finally gave in to a desire for revenge when he allowed Venom to manipulate him into using Mary Jane to lure and kill Peter.

The one theme that had dominated the Spider-Man saga in both the comics and the movies seemed to be: ”With great power comes great responsibility.” I do not know if I fully agree with that motto. I really cannot see how Peter Parker must become a costumed crime fighter, because he accidentally got bitten by a radioactive spider. On the other hand, I do believe that one should face the responsibilities and consequences for the deliberate choices you make in life. And this, along with facing demons that include a desire for vengeance, seemed to be the drive behind the movie’s plot. Each major character ended up facing his or her own personal demons – Peter’s pride as Spider-Man becomes a forerunner of the exposure of his own darker nature that includes a cruel desire for revenge; Mary Jane’s insecurity about her self-worth; Harry’s desire to revenge the death of his father to fulfill his own lack of self-worth; Marko’s desperation to do anything for his ill daughter; and Eddie’s own shallowness and deceptive nature. What made ”SPIDER-MAN 3”’s plot so interesting is that the characters’ flaws and decisions served as different points that converged in the emotional final sequence at the construction site in Manhattan. There, the characters make final choices in how to deal with their demons and only one emerged as the true loser - Eddie Brock.

As in the previous two movies, the third one boasted some fine performances by the cast. J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson managed to be his usual funny self. I especially enjoyed his interaction with Elizabeth Banks – secretary Betty Brandt – in a duel of nerves in which Betty seemed determined to annoy Jonah every second with some crazy alarm. If someone knows what it was, please tell me. Although in a smaller role than the previous two movies, Rosemary Harris returned to give a warm performance as Peter’s aging Aunt May. In a marvelous scene in which Peter informs his aunt of Flint Marko’s death at Spider-Man’s hands, Harris’ May delivered the movie’s theme in a foreboding line about the true nature of vengeance. Last, but not least there was Bryce Dallas Howard, who portrayed Peter’s beautiful blond classmate, Gwen Stacy. Granted, her role was not as large as it was in the comics, Howard gave a fine performance as the warm and friendly Gwen. Some critic had complained that the movie turned Gwen from Peter’s true love to some kind of temptress. I found this criticism rather ridiculous for two reasons – a) Mary Jane had been established as Peter’s true love since the first movie; and b) Gwen was not portrayed as some temptress but, a nice girl who became a victim of Peter’s vengeance against Mary Jane.

Thomas Haden Church’s portrayal of Marko Flint aka Sandman seemed like a far cry from his past performances that I have seen in which he portrayed more extroverted characters. His Marko/Sandman must be one of the most introverted villains I have ever seen on the movie screens. In fact, his character reminded me of some melancholy circus clown with a black cloud of tragedy hovering about him. Considering the circumstances of Marko’s life – a failed criminal career, a failed marriage, ill child and imprisoned for a crime that was merely an accident – it was not hard for me to imagine this. In the end, I was very impressed by Church’s subtle performance.

And I was also impressed by Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, Jr. aka Venom, as well. Originally, he was not suppose to be part of the movie’s cast of characters. But former CEO Ari Arvad convinced director Sam Rami to include the character. And I am glad. Brock turned out to be a very interesting character. When first introduced, he seemed like an affable and gregarious young man, who also worked as freelance photographer for ”THE DAILY BUGLE”. With great skill and subtlety, Grace allowed the audience to gradually see the character’s dark emptiness, underneath the charm. Two scenes seemed to reflect this – the one that featured Gwen Stacy dangling from a Manhattan high-rise and Brock’s visit to a church after losing his job. In the first scene, I found it interesting that although Brock seemed mildly concerned over Gwen’s near death situation, he seemed more interested in taking photos of her and Spider-Man’s rescue . . . than doing everything in his power to ensure that she would be rescued. After losing his staff photographer job at THE BUGLE, Brock ended up at a church, where I thought he would confess to a priest or express remorse over his past behavior. Instead, he prayed to God . . . for the death of the man who caused his unemployment, Peter Parker. This is the second time I have seen Grace skillfully portray a character with one trait hidden underneath another one.

When Spidey fans last saw Harry Osborn in ”SPIDER-MAN 2”, he had learned two disquieting facts – the man he held responsible for his father’s death (namely Spider-Man), turned out to be his best friend, Peter Parker; and his father, Norman, had been the infamous Green Goblin who terrorized Manhattan in the first movie. Three years later, Harry still wants revenge for Norman’s death and he finally decided to take action as the New Goblin A failed attack upon Peter resulted in a serious injury for Harry and a temporary amnesia. The audience got to see what Harry would be without his insecurity and the ghost of his father haunting him. And he seemed like a pretty nice . . . and well-balanced young man. I tried to find something wrong with James Franco’s performance, but . . . I could not find a thing. Honestly. Franco managed to perfectly capture Harry’s emotional journey from the vengeful son to the sweet-tempered amnesiac to the cruel manipulator who broke up Peter and MJ’s relationship, to the loyal and brave man who sacrificed himself to save his friends. Franco covered it all.

I have always liked Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in the first two movies. But I found her a lot more interesting in ”SPIDER-MAN 3”. Beneath the sweet and cheerful persona, Dunst revealed a Mary Jane still racked by an inferiority complex stemmed from her bad relationship with her verbally abusive father. This lack of self-esteem came from Mary Jane losing her job as leading lady of a Broadway musical. Even worse, Peter’s own success not only fueled Mary Jane’s insecurity, but fueled her envy as well. Matters did not help when Peter/Spidey had agreed to exchange a public kiss with Gwen Stacy, re-creating Mary Jane’s first kiss with him in the first movie. What I liked about Dunst’s performance is that she allowed all of these negative aspects of Mary Jane’s personality to manifest without resorting to over-the-top theatrics. I have come to the conclusion that very few screen actors and actresses seem capable of avoiding scene chewing. Especially those of Dunst’s generation. Fortunately, she did just that – avoid any hammy acting, while projecting Mary Jane’s darker impulses. As for her singing voice, I got the impression that it had been dubbed during MJ’s Broadway performance. But I could detect Dunst’s voice, when Mary Jane sang at a jazz club during the movie’s final scene. She had a nice, but slightly nasal voice.

As for the man himself – Tobey Maguire – I must say that Sam Rami had not been joking when he called Maguire one of the best actors of his generation. I felt more than impressed by his performance in ”SPIDER-MAN 3”. Although Maguire was able to briefly tap into Peter Parker aka Spider-Man’s dark psyche in the first movie (when he allowed a thief to get away with money stolen from a wrestling match), he was truly allowed to explore Peter’s darker nature in this film. There are two particular scenes that verified Maguire’s extraordinary skills as an actor:*Peter’s misguided belief in his “cool” image, while walking the streets of Manhattan. Even evil (thanks to the symbiote suit), Peter could not help being a nerd. Watching Peter wallow in the illusion of his “coolness”, while oblivious of passing females’ contempt made this sequence one of the funniest in the movie. It also showcased Maguire’s comedic skills.*Peter’s second confrontation with Harry, inside the Osborn manor, revealed the depths of how monstrous he could be. He seemed truly dark in this scene. Maguire even managed to allow the contempt and hatred reflected in his eyes, when Peter ridiculed Harry for attempting to follow in Norman Osborn’s footsteps. In all, it was a very excellent performance on Maguire’s part.

From what I have read, ”SPIDER-MAN 3” has received mixed reviews. Hmmm. Well, I certainly cannot influence the opinions of others. I can only express my own views. Personally, I enjoyed the movie very much. It possessed an emotional depth not even seen in the first two movies. When I first heard that Spider-Man would be facing three villains – the New Goblin (Harry), the Sandman (Flint Marko) and Venom (Eddie Brock, Jr.) – I had my doubts about the movie’s success. It seemed like one or two villains too many. Oddly enough, after seeing the movie, it now seemed to work within its plot for me – despite the number of villains. Now that I think about it, the one true villain of the story – aside from the major characters’ inner darkness – seemed to Venom. Unlike Peter or Harry, Eddie Brock never could break away from his darker impulses . . . even when Peter managed to force him away from the symbiote. And unlike Marko, Eddie never felt any remorse for his actions . . . right to the end.To my amazement, I realized that my view of this ”SPIDER-MAN” trilogy seemed to match my view of the recent ”X-MEN” trilogy. For me, the first movie of both trilogies struck me as very entertaining, but slightly mediocre (”SPIDER-MAN” is “almost” mediocre). The second movie for each movie was superb. Period. And the third movies for the two trilogies were excellent, but flawed. Will there be a new ”SPIDER-MAN” trilogy? I do not know. But I believe that Marvel film company should wait several years before creating a new trilogy. At least we have movies like ”SPIDER-MAN 3” to enjoy for years to come.


8/10

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Neighbors" [PG] - 1/11




NEIGHBORS

RATING: [PG] Mild adult language
SUMMARY: While battling a new warlock threat, Cole and the Charmed Ones meet his new neighbor. Set in alternate early Season 5.
FEEDBACK: Be my guest. But please, be kind – lee66132000@yahoo.com
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Cole, Leo, Darryl and other characters related to Charmed belong to Spelling, Kern, Burge and WB. Dammit!



"NEIGHBORS"

Part 1

Several police cars converged at the intersection of Gough and Washington Streets, just at the edge of Lafayette Park. Unable to recover Phoebe's athame, the Charmed Ones had no choice but to merge into the growing crowd that surrounded a corpse. A corpse that had once been a warlock out to add a young woman to her list of victims.

"Let's get out of here," Piper Halliwell murmured to her sisters. "Before our innocent sees us, again."

Phoebe protested, "What about my athame? It's still in that warlock's body and it has my fingerprints on it!"

"Well, we can't do anything about it, now! Maybe Darryl can help us recover it."

The three young women linked arms and made their way toward the park's remote interior. Before they could disappear, a voice cried out, "Excuse me!" The sisters turned around. They spotted a slender woman around thirty, with curly red hair, cut above the shoulders. The badge slung around her neck indicated she was an inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. She stopped before them. "Hi, my name is Inspector McNeill," she greeted, waving her badge in the air. "Do you mind answering a few questions?"

"About what?" Phoebe demanded. She shot nervous glances at her two sisters. "We didn't see anything."

Inspector McNeill gave them a cool smile. "Maybe. Maybe not. But we're questioning everyone around here, just to make sure. Now, if you'll just give me your name and number . . ."

"Look Inspector," Paige interrupted. Although she was the youngest Halliwell and had only been a Charmed One for about a year, her job at a social services office had given her more experience in dealing with the police than her older sisters. "We just told you that we don't know what happened. What's the point in questioning us?"

The red-haired inspector removed a pen and small notebook from her jacket pocket. "If you three had not made such a big deal out of trying to look unobtrusive, I wouldn't have bothered. Now," she flashed another cool smile, "may I have your name and address?"

Piper felt tempted to freeze the area in order for her sisters to get away. However, too many people have spotted them talking to the red-haired woman. And she also suspected that their sudden disappearance would increase the relentless cop's suspicions.

The Charmed Ones' shoulders sagged in defeat. Paige rolled her eyes and said, "My name is Paige Matthews. I live at 1312 Prescott Street."

"Hmmm. That address sounds familiar. And your phone number?" Inspector McNeill asked.

With a sigh, Paige added, "Area code 415-435-2783."

"Thank you." The inspector scribbled the information on her notebook. Then she turned to Phoebe. "And your name?"

Before Phoebe could speak, a familiar figure emerged from the crowd. The Halliwells sighed with relief. It was their close friend, Inspector Darryl Morris. "Hey, Olivia! What's going on?"

Inspector McNeill smiled at her fellow officer. "Darryl! What brings you out here at this time of the day? I thought you went home, already."

"Ditto. I'm surprised that you're also here. As for me, I heard the call about the body and decided to help." Darryl glanced at the three sisters and added, "Also, I believe Captain McPherson is looking for you. I'll finish up here, for you."

To Piper's frustration, Inspector McNeill shook her head. "There's no need. I'm almost finished, anyway. I just need a few names and addresses." Her green eyes focused upon the sisters.

"You're gonna keep McPherson, waiting?"

Slowly, Inspector McNeill turned to stare at Darryl. "It wouldn't be the first time," she replied. "Why are you making such a big deal, now?"

Darryl took a deep breath. "It's nothing. Just trying to help."

Suspicion gleamed in the inspector's green eyes. Which remained fixed upon Darryl's face. "Uh-huh." Then Inspector McNeill turned to Phoebe. "Now, you were about to give me your name?"

Phoebe glanced at Darryl, who shrugged helplessly. "I'm Phoebe Halliwell," she said. "And I also live at 1312 Prescott Street. Same phone number."

"Halliwell?" The inspector's eyes narrowed. Her stare made Piper feel very uncomfortable. And there suddenly seemed to be something familiar about her. Only Piper could not remember. McNeill continued, "I thought you looked familiar."

Paige spoke up. "You must read Phoebe's column in the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR."

"What column?" the inspector asked.

Embarrassment caused Phoebe's face to turn pink. "I, uh . . . I write an advice column for the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR. You know, 'Dear Phoebe'?"

Inspector McNeill shook her head. "Sorry. I've never read it. What I meant was that all of you remind me of someone I used to know. And she had the same last name. You don't, by any chance, know a Prue Halliwell? Are you her sisters?"

Realization finally hit Piper. Now she recalled where she had seen the inspector before. "Wait a minute. Are you Olivia McNeill? From Baker High? Class of '88?"

A bright smile illuminated the inspector's face. "Yeah! And you are Prue Halliwell's sisters. You're Piper, right?"

Piper nodded. "Yeah. And I believe you graduated during the same year, as Prue."

"That's right. I haven't seen her in four years. Not since our ten-year reunion." The inspector's expression sombered. "I heard what happened, last year. I'm sorry."

Piper mumbled, "Thanks."

"And you," Olivia McNeill pointed at Paige, "how did you end up with the Halliwells? Are you a cousin?"

Paige murmured, "Half sister. I'm . . ." She glanced at Phoebe and Piper. "I'm their half-sister. Patty Halliwell was my mother."

Inspector McNeill's eyes seemed to examine Paige, as if the latter was a specimen under a microscope. "Oh. I gather that you're all at that same house on Prescott Street. So, when can I come by to question you about tonight? Will tomorrow morning do?"

It amazed Piper and her sisters that the inspector managed to return the subject back to the corpse found tonight. She repressed a sigh, while Paige replied, "Uh, sorry, but I'll be at work."

"So will I," Phoebe added. "And I also have a personal appointment around noon."

The unrelenting inspector added, "Okay, how about tomorrow afternoon? Around four o'clock? I'll drop by on my way home."

Realizing that they might as well cooperate, the Halliwells agreed to the four o'clock appointment. Inspector McNeill murmured a quick "thanks" before she turned to Darryl. "Okay, Darryl. You can now lead me to our infamous leader."

Panic crept into Darryl's dark eyes. Piper understood. He had lied to divert his colleague's attention away from the Charmed Ones. "I . . . uh . . ."

McNeill frowned. "What's wrong?"

Darryl sighed. "Nothing. C'mon." The two inspectors walked away.

Once the pair was out of earshot, Paige let out a big sigh. "Whew! I never met anyone so stubborn in my life! I hope we don't have any further trouble with her." She said to Piper, "She knew Prue in high school? Were they friends?"

"Noooo," Piper replied sarcastically. "I remember all of Prue's friends, and she wasn't one of them."

"You think she had lied about knowing Prue?"

Piper shook her head. "No, she and Prue knew each other, all right. In fact, I even remember Olivia McNeill. Like Prue, she was popular in high school. But they had some kind of rivalry going on. And they didn't like each other. At all."

A gasp left Phoebe's mouth. "Oh! Now, I remember! Prue used to bitch about this girl, all the time! About how difficult she was. And what was that she said? 'Morally ambiguous', if I remember correctly. And to think she became a cop. Judging from what I've seen of the good inspector, I'd say that Prue had met her match."

"I hope she doesn't prove to be as difficult with us," Paige responded. "I have this feeling that she knows something about us. And after Agent Jackman, I don't want to deal with another nosy cop."

Phoebe shot back, "Well, we might have to." Her sisters responded with confused stares. "Remember my . . ." Phoebe lowered her voice, ". . . my athame? It's still stuck in the chest of that warlock. What are we going to do?"

Piper sighed. "It's too late, now. Maybe we can call Darryl and ask him to get it for us."

The three sisters resumed their walk toward the interior of the park. Piper said to Phoebe, "You said something to Olivia McNeill about a personal appointment. Does that mean . . .?

Phoebe interrupted with a sigh. "Yeah. Cole has finally agreed to give me a divorce."

"I'm sorry, Pheebs." Piper gave her sister a sad smile.

A grunt came from Paige. "What's to be sorry, about? You should be relieved. We all should. Now that Phoebe will be free."

"Paige!"

Phoebe quietly added, "She's right, Piper. I am relieved. I guess I'll always love Cole. But we'll never be happy, together. And frankly, I'm just glad that he's finally realized that."

* * * *

The newly divorced couple quietly strode out of the judge's private chamber. Cole Turner quickly made his way toward the elevator. A place where he could disappear in privacy.

"Cole!" His now ex-wife's voice stopped Cole in his tracks. "Cole, wait up!" A moment later, Phoebe was by his side. "I just wanted to know where you're going."

Coolly, the half-daemon regarded the petite woman by his side. "Why? To make sure that I'll be gone for good?"

"Cole!"

"Don't worry, Phoebe. I won't pop up to wreck . . . vengeance upon you. If that's what you're worried about," Cole retorted sarcastically.

Phoebe shot back, "I wasn't worried about that!"

"Oh? I mean, you did have Paige make a potion to vanquish me. Using the blood from the letter opener you stabbed me with." A bitter laugh escaped Cole's mouth. "I bet your sisters are worried. Especially Paige."

Anger flared in the Charmed One's dark eyes. "Dammit Cole! What did you expect? It's hard for any of us to forget . . ." Phoebe paused and glanced around to make sure there were no unwelcoming ears. Cole rolled his eyes in exasperation and continued toward the elevator. "Cole!"

The pair entered the elevator. Unable to keep his feelings contained, Cole burst out in resentment. "Forget what, Phoebe? That I was the Source? Impregnated you with some spawn of evil? Or that I almost killed the Charmed Ones? I thought you knew that the Source's essence had taken over my body!"

"This isn't about you becoming the Source anymore," Phoebe protested.

Cole allowed the contempt he felt to reach his eyes. Phoebe shrank back. "Isn't it? Then tell me this. Why is it that when one of you becomes possessed by evil, the others are so willing to understand and forgive. I bet if Leo became evil against his will, you'd move heaven and earth to help him. And forgive him within a blink of an eye." His voice became even more caustic. "But I guess that same privilege isn't extended to the former Belthazor. No matter how many times I've saved your asses."

"If you want our trust, why can't you give up your powers?" Accusation tinged Phoebe's voice. "Or maybe you like being evil."

A hopeless anger settled over Cole. He began to wonder if he had fell in love with a woman incapable of understanding him. "Oh, c'mon Phoebe! This isn't about my new powers and you know it! It's not my powers you're afraid of. It's your own inner evil. You're still afraid that being around me will bring it out. That the next time you become evil because of me, it'll happen without the benefit of the Seer's potions."

"That's not true!" Phoebe shot back.

Cole sighed. "Really? Well let me tell you this. Everyone has to deal with their own inner evil, Phoebe. You, me, your sisters, Leo . . . everyone. It's taken me a while, but now I understand. So, don't use me as a scapegoat for your own personal problems! Now if you'll excuse me, I have a life to lead." He disappeared before Phoebe could respond.

* * * *

Four o'clock finally arrived. Olivia McNeill climbed out of her dark-blue BMW convertible and closed the door. She glanced at the salmon-colored house - the Halliwell home - and started toward the staircase.

Olivia recalled that she had not seen the interior of the Halliwell house since she was ten years old. It had been for Prue Halliwell's eleventh birthday party. Olivia also remembered that she and Prue never liked each other. But since their grandmothers had been old friends, Olivia ended up receiving an invitation to the party.

A sigh left the redhead's mouth and she began her ascent up the steep staircase. Once she reached the top, she rang the doorbell. Seconds passed before Phoebe Halliwell opened the door. She flashed a smile at the younger woman. "Hi! Remember me? Inspector McNeill?"

The half-wan smile on Phoebe's face told Olivia that Prue's younger sister was not particularly happy to see her. But the older woman was allowed inside the manor.

The manor's interior appealed to Olivia very much. Very old-fashioned in a Victorian style, yet very comfortable. And warm. Much like the McNeill home in Pacific Heights. "Nice place," Olivia murmured.

Phoebe ignored the comment and escorted her to a bright room with open windows. The Sun Room, according to Phoebe. There, Olivia found the other two sisters waiting for them. All three looked as if they were anticipating a battle. She could not help but smile at the image.

"Okay Inspector," Phoebe said, "we're all here. What exactly did you want to question us about?"

Olivia pulled a plastic bag from her purse. Inside was a deadly-looking athame. "I believe this belongs to you." Phoebe's face turned pale.

"Where did you get . . ." Piper immediately broke off. A moment passed and she took a deep breath. "I mean, what makes you think that athame belongs to us?"

"How did you know this was an athame?" Olivia quietly asked. "Most people usually mistake it for a knife or a dagger."

Piper opened her mouth. Then she closed it, looking quite sheepish. Phoebe slapped Piper's shoulder, while the third sister seared the oldest with a caustic glare.

Olivia continued, "Okay, ladies. You might as well tell the truth. Which one of you used this athame on our corpse, last night?"

"What makes you think one of us killed us?" Paige demanded. Her body practically vibrated with defiance.

It was time, Olivia decided, to end this farce. "Why else would the Charmed Ones and a dead warlock be at Lafayette Park at night . . . around the same time?"

Loud gasps emitted from the three sisters. Olivia had to admit that she enjoyed delivering the bombshell.

Paige was the first to recover. "Look Inspector, we don't know what you're talking about. Warlocks and Charmed Ones? This all sounds . . ."

"Ridiculous. Right!" Olivia heaved an impatient sigh. "Ladies, it's no use lying. I know you're witches. I know you're the Charmed Ones. Three sisters named Halliwell? Well, two and a Matthews." She directed the last sentence at Paige. "You obviously know what an athame looks like, and the fingerprints on the weapon belongs to one Phoebe Halliwell." Olivia now directed her gaze at the middle sister.

A long pause followed. The sisters exchanged uneasy glances. Phoebe asked, "What do you want, Inspector? You plan to blackmail us?"

"No. To give you this." Olivia tossed the bag at Phoebe. "The next time you vanquish someone with that thing in a public place, please remember not to leave it behind."

Suspicion glimmered in Paige's dark eyes. "Wait. I don't get it. You know all about warlocks?"

"And demons," Olivia added. "And witches. I happened to be one of the latter."

"How do we know you're telling the truth?"

Instead of answering, Olivia gazed at the athame inside the bag. A moment later, the bag flew out of Phoebe's hand and into hers. The Charmed Ones' eyes grew wide with shock. "My power. Telekinesis."

"Just like Prue's," Piper murmured.

Olivia's ears perked. "Prue also had telekinesis?"

Before Phoebe could answer, Paige continued, "How do we know you're a witch? You could also be a warlock. Or a demon."

Olivia sighed. Suspicious little thing. The youngest Halliwell or Matthews strongly reminded her of Prue. "Okay, you want proof. Fine." She took a deep breath and cried, "Leo! LEE-OO!"

Seconds later, a cluster of blue lights materialized into the form of Olivia's whitelighter, Leo Wyatt. The fair-haired man stared at her. And eventually, the Halliwells. He wore one of his usual expressions - bewilderment. "Olivia? What are you . . . oh!"

Piper looked downright astonished. "Leo! Are you her whitelighter?" Her eyes pierced his. "Well?"

Leo shrugged. "I . . . guess you've all met."

Olivia added, "He's the whitelighter for me and my two brothers, Bruce and Harry. He's been our whitelighter for the past fifteen or sixteen years."

"Leo?"

The whitelighter nodded, "It's true."

Olivia added, "Not only did Prue and I knew each other in school, our grandmothers were old friends. In fact, Penny Halliwell was also my Aunt Kathy's godmother."

"So, why don't we remember your grandmother?" Phoebe said. "We're familiar with all of Grams' old friends."

"Do you know Elise McNeill? She's my grandmother."

Piper nodded. "Oh God, now I remember. Elise McNeill. She and Grams used to exchange recipes a lot. Remember Phoebe? Grams once told us that she had hoped that Mom would marry Mrs. McNeill's son."

"Jack McNeill," Olivia added. Then she smiled. "Now that we're all reacquainted, why don't you pay Gran a visit? She hasn't seen any of you since your grandmother's funeral and I'm sure that she would love to see you, again."

Olivia had the uncomfortable feeling that her suggestion had not gone well with the Halliwells. Especially with Piper and Phoebe. Olivia had heard rumors of the Charmed Ones' anonymity, but this was ridiculous! She knew that several witches in the San Francisco area had met the Halliwells over the past four years. And yet, not one witch could claim striking a close friendship with the sisters. Nor have any of the Halliwells ever been seen at a Wiccan festival or gathering. Olivia began to wonder if they were simply insular.

"Is there something wrong?" she asked after a long pause.

Piper finally answered. "No. Uh . . . we . . . we'll come by and see her." She paused. "Soon."

"Good." Olivia whipped out her notebook and pen. She scribbled her parents' telephone on a piece of paper. "This is my parents' phone number. Gran lives with them. I'll tell her to expect a call from you." Olivia smiled and handed the slip of paper to Piper. "Hope to hear from you. Soon." Just as she started to turn away, she paused. "Oh! One more thing."

Piper stared at the slip of paper in her hand. "Yeah?"

"About that warlock you had vanquished last night?" The Halliwells became fully alert, as Olivia continued, "Her name is Simone Crozat. And according to my Book of Shadows, she's part of the powerful Crozat coven. The word out is that they might be making an attempt to rule the Underworld, by killing as many witches and warlocks as possible. To consolidate more powers." She paused dramatically. "Including those of the Charmed Ones."

Paige replied with great confidence, "Thanks for the warning, but I'm sure that we'll be able to deal with them. After all, we did vanquish the Source. Three times." She ended with a small laugh that her sisters failed to join.

Olivia smiled politely at the youngest sister. "Well, I'm sure you're more than capable of taking care of a bunch of warlocks. Just be careful, okay?" She stuffed her notebook into her purse. "Well, I guess that's it. And don't forget to call my grandmother. She'll be expecting to hear from you. Bye." She turned to walk away.

A figure joined Olivia at her side. Leo. "I'll walk you to the door," he said.

The pair made their way to the front door. "Talk about an interesting bunch," Olivia declared. "Not exactly the friendly types, are they?"

Leo sighed. "It's not that. Being the Charmed Ones, they have to be very careful. They do attract a lot of demonic activity, after all."

"Oh come on, Leo! We all do." Olivia shot back. "And like them, we all have to worry about exposure."

"Olivia, they're still pretty new at being witches. Only four years! So you can understand why they're not exactly . . . social with other witches, can you? They have this big fear of being exposed. Especially after what happened to Prue."

Olivia more than understood. She had been shocked by the news of Prue Halliwell's death. And the real circumstances that surrounded it. Leo had told the McNeills about the time loop - especially after Olivia's mother, Gweneth McNeill, plied him with a sumptuous lunch.

"I guess you're right." Olivia sighed.

Leo gave her a sharp glance. "Concerned about this new warlock threat?"

That and my new apartment," Olivia replied. The redhead had just moved into a new apartment. According to one of the neighbors, moved into the apartment just below a particularly difficult tenant. "Mrs. DiCicco told me that the man is not exactly friendly. And that he has a bad habit of complaining about any noise from below him. I've already received one complaint from the building manager. You can imagine how my new neighbor and I will get along in the future. And the thing is my new apartment is so gorgeous!"

A sympathetic smile graced Leo's lips. "It's only for one or two days. Until you finally get settled in. Maybe you'll become friends."

"Maybe." Olivia flashed a bright smile at the whitelighter, as they approached the front door. "According to Mrs. DiCicco, he's a walking male hormone."

Leo smiled back. "He should be right up your alley."

"You know me too well."


END OF PART 1

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"EASTERN PROMISES" Review




”EASTERN PROMISES”

Two years ago, I saw the crime thriller directed by David Cronenberg called, ”A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE”. Viggo Mortensen had starred in the movie, portraying a happily-married café owner, whose Good Samaritan actions against two thugs led to his disclosure as a former mob enforcer. Both Cronenberg and Mortensen reunited to collaborate on another crime thriller called, ”EASTERN PROMISES”.

Based upon a screenplay written by Steve Knight, ”EASTERN PROMISES” began with a gangland murder and the death of a 14 year-old Russian-born prostitute while giving birth to an infant girl. The two incidents would resonate over the lives of a London hospital midwife of Russian descent named Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), a Russian mob boss and restaurant owner named Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), his wastrel son Krill (Vincent Cassel) and the mob boss’ enigmatic chauffeur, Nikolai Luzhin (Mortensen).

The plot is a little too complex for me to explain in this review. Needless to say that it centered around the mob boss’ attempt to recover the dead prostitute’s diary, which found itself in the hands of the hospital midwife. However, I would suggest that one see the movie. No one will be disappointed. I know I found it very interesting. Yes, it has violence, but not as much that was found in ”A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE”. But the amount of blood shown in the film – especially in the gangland slaying and the prostitute’s death – seemed to like a metaphor of the story’s theme . . . and the connection between the major characters.
On the surface, ”EASTERN PROMISES” seemed like a typical crime thriller centered around a Russian crime family in London. But the plot – like three of the major characters – turned out to be something quite different than what appears to be on the surface. What seemed like a gang war, turned out to be a lurid family secret that brings down the Russian mobster. As I had earlier pointed out, this theme is also apparent in three of the four major characters:

*Krill –who seemed like a crude and murderous monster on the surface and proves to be more benign
*Semyon – a talented cook and mob boss, whose grandfatherly demeanor hides a darker and more ruthless personality
*Nikolai – the enigmatic chauffeur, whose practical and cynical nature makes him unsuited to merely be the family’s driver. As in the case of Semyon and Krill, he turns out to be someone very different.


And it is through the eyes of the London midwife, Anna that the audience becomes acquainted with the exotic (at least in American and British eyes) world of Russian émigrés mingled with the violence and degeneracy of the Vory v Zakone (Russian Mafia). Thanks to Cronenberg’s direction, the world of the Vory v Zakone seemed so exotic and something never seen before. In fact, it seemed so insular that the usual British atmosphere of London almost seemed miles away, despite the presence of Scotland Yard. One sequence that came to mind is the hand-to-hand fight between Nikolai and two Chechen assassins seeking revenge for the gangland murder in the movie’s opening scene. The sight of a nude Mortensen viciously defending his life against two burly assassins inside a London bathhouse is one that I will never forget. And I suspect that it will become an unforgettable in the minds of moviegoers for years to come.

I was also impressed by the performances in the movie. Despite having the least interesting character, Watts managed – with her usual competency – infused pathos and spirit in the London midwife. And Mueller-Stahl did an excellent job of portraying a brutal and ruthless man who manages to hide these traits under a veneer of warmth and civility. But I feel that Cassel deserves an Oscar nod for his portrayal of the pathetic Krill, who tries to hide his weaknesses (or what he conceives as weakness) with crude and extroverted persona.

Finally, there is Viggo Mortensen, whose portrayal of the enigmatic Nikolai might finally allow the critics to truly appreciate his skills as an actor. Instead of using words or openly expressed emotions, Mortensen manages to reveal his character to the audience through subtle words (in a Russian accent that surprisingly works), body language, costume and especially in his eyes. What makes Mortensen so remarkable as a film actor is that he has no need for big speeches (which he had attempted in ”LORD OF THE RINGS: Return of the King”) or outbursts of emotions to convey to express his characters’ personalities. This certainly seemed true in the scene in which Nikolai has sex with one of the prostitutes, in the whorehouse owned by Krill’s father. Nikolai does not simply have sex with the woman. He IS FORCED to do so . . . on the orders of Krill, who wants Nikolai to prove that he is not a homosexual. The audience was well aware that the prostitute felt violated and exploited. But Mortensen managed to convey through his eyes, Nikolai also felt violated, exploited . . . and disgusted at Krill’s desire to watch him have sex with the prostitute. Good performance by Mortensen.

What else can I say about ”EASTERN PROMISES”? It is not the best movie I have seen this year. But I feel that it is a fascinating and emotionally complex story that seems different from the usual crime thriller. Unlike ”A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE”, it is not capped by a violence sequence that gives us the last word on the protagonist’s fate. Yet, all the same, I found it very tense and emotional.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"The Helmsman's Log - 2371" [PG-13] - Part I




I had recently read J.A. Toner's marvelous
"Log Entries", a collection of B'Elanna Torres' personal logs
from Season 1 to mid-Season 5. For a while, I had hoped she
would write a similar story from Tom Paris' viewpoint, but, so
far, it has not happened. In the end, I decided to take on
that task myself. This story is a collection of Tom's logs
during Voyager's years in the Delta Quadrant.

Also, Season 2 episodes like "Projection", "Twisted", "Elogium"
and "The 37s" were originally supposed to air in Season 1,
after "Learning Curve". Therefore, the incidents featured in
those episodes will be covered in Part One.



"THE HELMSMAN'S LOGS - 2371"

RATING: [PG-13]
SUMMARY: The first in a collection of Tom Paris' personal logs
during Voyager's seven years in the Delta Quadrant. Part 1
focuses upon the ship's first year, 2371.
FEEDBACK: deerush76@yahoo.com. I would appreciate constructive
feedback. Thank you.
DISCLAIMER: Tom Paris and all other characters related to Star
Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom, Rick Berman, the
Roddenberry family and other Trek producers.


-------


PART I - 2371


STARDATE 48316.7 - I'm back on a Starfleet vessel. I can't
believe it! If only Dad could see me now. I can imagine how
he would feel. Then again . . . maybe not. I never understood Owen
Paris. Nor has he ever understood me. I have met the person
whom Dad could relate to. And probably did. Captain Kathryn
Janeway of the Federation starship, VOYAGER.

God, I'm regressing. I better start from the beginning. It
all began two days ago. I was serving my eighteen month
sentence at the Federation Penal Settlement in New Zealand -
otherwise known as Club Fed. While repairing a power generator, when a
throaty voice called out my name. I looked up and there stood
this red-haired goddess in a Starfleet uniform. Maybe goddess
isn't the right word. The good Captain is what one would
describe as diminutive in height. But despite that, she did
have presence.

To make a long story short, Captain Janeway asked me to help
search for a particular Maquis ship that had disappeared in the
Badlands. It seemed her security chief had joined the crew -
as a Starfleet spy. And guess who commanded this particular
crew? My old 'buddy', Chakotay. I can imagine that bastard's
reaction when learns that I helped Starfleet hunt down his
precious ship. Did I say when? That's right. Despite the
fact that helping Janeway locate her missing officer seemed
like a hopeless task, I decided to accept her offer. And why
not? I certainly have no loyalty toward Chakotay and his
bunch. Hell, they made my life miserable during my few weeks
in the Maquis. And Janeway has offered to add a word or two during
my next parole review. Who could resist that?

So, here I am, aboard VOYAGER. I must say that she seemed like
one hell of a ship. God, I would give my right leg to sit at
the helm. But it would never happen. Caldik Prime and my stint
in the Maquis made sure of that.

Speaking of Caldik Prime, it seems to have followed me here to
Voyager. The ship's doctor brought it up the moment I
introduced myself to him. He had been the chief medical
officer at the base on Caldik Prime, at the time. The First
Officer didn't say a word. At least not with Janeway looking
on. But that sneer on his face and his hesitation to shake my
hand said a thousand words.

If it weren't for Harry, this damn trip would have been a bust.
Ensign Harry Kim. They don't make Starfleet ensigns greener
than him. I had to save him from a Ferengi barkeep on Deep
Space Nine, bent on cheating him out of a few latinum. A few
years on a Starfleet vessel should rid him of that naivety.
And I'm sure that once Cavit or Dr. Fitzgerald tell him about
the real Tom Paris, he'll wise up to me. Damn! Harry is one
of the few people on this ship I really like. Just as well.
I won't be around very long. End personal log.


STARDATE 48324.61 - A lot has happened in the past few days.
Hell, I don't know where to begin. VOYAGER got flung 70,000
light years into the Delta Quadrant by some entity on an array
station. This little journey cost the ship several key
officers - including Cavit, Fitzgerald, the chief engineer and
the lovely Lieutenant Stadi. What a shame about Stadi. I
rather liked her.

The crew was beamed to the array, disguised as some Midwestern
farm. Some holographic beauty punched me. We also found the
Maquis crew in a state of unconsciousness. And we ended up in
the same position for three days, while the entity poked and
prodded us. Even worse, I had a 'pleasant' little reunion
with Chakotay on the Bridge. The poor bastard was surprised to
learn that his Vulcan weapons man turned out to be a Starfleet
spy. And embarrassed when Janeway prevented him from beating
the tar out of me. I would have enjoyed his embarrassment
even further, if it wasn't for Harry's disappearance.

It seems that the being on the array had failed to return a
Maquis engineer and poor Harry to their respective ships.
Which has made me worried. About Harry, I mean. He was the
first person I could truly call a friend. Even after Cavit and
Fitzgerald told him about the three people I killed at Caldik
Prime, and how I got cashiered, he still wanted to remain my
friend. What did he say? "I prefer to choose my own
friends."
What a friend! And now, he's missing. I only
hope that Captain Janeway can get him back before something
happens to him. End personal log.


STARDATE 48327.97 - It looks as if VOYAGER is stranded in the
Delta Quadrant for good. I don't mind. Ever since the ship
got lost, life has . . . well, it has turned out for the
better.

I don't have to return to prison. We found Harry, along with
the Maquis engineer, on some planet a few light years away from
the array. I saved Chakotay's butt in the Ocampan tunnels and
earned myself a bodyguard. I'll need one now that the Maquis
has joined the crew, after Chakotay destroyed their ship during
a battle with a warlike race called the Kazon. The crew has
also acquired a couple of hitchhikers - a funny-looking joker
named Neelix. He's a Talaxian. Our other hitchhiker is an
Ocampan woman named Kes, whom we had saved from the Kazon.
She's very beautiful.

Best of all, Captain Janeway has given me a field commission,
the rank of lieutenant junior grade . . . along with the Conn Division.
Which means that I am now VOYAGER's chief pilot. Isn't life
grand? I only hope that I can make up to Janeway for all she
has done for me. End personal log.


STARDATE 48339.17 - Life aboard VOYAGER isn't bad. Well . . .
not that bad. I have to keep an eye out for the Maquis
crewmen. Just in case they decide to use me as a punching bag
for helping Janeway track them to the Badlands. I suspect that
a good number of the Starfleeters might want to do the same.

There is the Conn Division. On one hand, being head of the
division entitles me the position of chief pilot. So far, none
of them have been openly hostile - except for Henley, the lone
Maquis. And yet, they seemed reluctant to seriously pay
attention to the training I have devised for the division.
I'm trying to be thrilled about my new position as VOYAGER's
chief helmsman, but it's damn difficult to command a group of
people who consider me a criminal that deserves to spend the
next 70 years in the brig. How do you lead people like that?

It finally came to a head when I tried to give them a pep talk
about learning new piloting maneuvers. "We're Starfleet
pilots," Jon Hamilton had said. "Which means that we were
trained at the Academy, just like you. At least none of us had
killed anyone in a shuttle crash. And later lied about it.
"
For that remark, I assigned Hamilton to the Beta shift for the
next two weeks. Hey, I never claimed to be a saint. Vindictive,
yes, but not a saint. After my little disciplinary action
with Hamilton, the other pilots have ceased questioning my
piloting skills.

Chakotay certainly doesn't make life easy. Now that he is
VOYAGER's First Officer, he seems more interested in acting as
my tormentor, instead of bodyguard. If I'm two or three
minutes late on the Bridge, he doesn't hesitate to point it out
in front of everyone. Even worse, I've been summoned to his office on several occasions regarding tardiness and Starfleet
procedures. Mind you, all of this is coming from a man who once
dropped out of Starfleet to join a terrorist group.

At least I have Harry's friendship. I just don't know how long that will last. Especially, since he has become friends with that
half-Klingon he was trapped on the Ocampan homeworld with. Her
name is B'Elanna Torres and she works in Engineering. I never
met her during my stint in the Maquis. I had only been with
Chakotay's cell for a few weeks before my capture, and she was
on a top-secret mission at the time. I must admit that I find
her very beautiful, although somewhat temperamental. She has
made it clear that like her fellow Maquis, she dislikes me.
Not that I care. I'm not exactly fond of her. I don't mind
her bad temper, but I find her self-righteousness a little hard
to take. A taint she had obviously picked up from Chakotay,
while they were both in the Maquis. I only hope that she
doesn't come between Harry and me. End personal log.


STARDATE 48443.01 - Nothing much happened recently. VOYAGER
got trapped into an event horizon. Which brought on the sticky
subject of temporal mechanics. God, I hate dealing with that!
It was one of my worst subjects in the Academy. One good
thing came out of it. The pilots under me wanted to know how I
flew VOYAGER out of that horizon. Even Hamilton. To be
honest, I did nothing spectacular. Especially since Janeway
ordered me to use the ship like a battering ram for our escape.

The event horizon brought about another change. Joe Carey is
no longer VOYAGER's Chief Engineer. B'Elanna Torres, Harry's
half-Klingon friend, has become the new chief. Despite
breaking Carey's nose in three different places. If that's how
one can become chief engineer, how does one become the first
officer? Or the captain? Chakotay must be thrilled that his
little protégée has joined the senior staff.

One last little tidbit that hasn't exactly made my day.
Because of a course in biochemistry I took at Starfeet, I am
now the new medical assistant and have to work with that
holographic egomaniac in Sick Bay. Sometimes I think the gods
must hate me. End personal log.


STARDATE 48533.7 - Gods, it's been one hell of a day! VOYAGER
came across a new race called the Vidiians, while searching for
a supply of dilithium.

These Vidiians are a race, who have been inflicted by some
deadly virus called the phage, for the past millinium or two.
To keep their race alive, the Vidiians have engaged in
stealing organs from other humanoids. Ugh! While on an Away
mission with Harry and Chakotay, Neelix had his lungs stolen by
two Vidiians.

If one ever thought that doctors made lousy patients, try
dealing with an annoying Talaxian. I would have removed those
holographic lungs the Doc had created for Neelix, just for a
little peace and quiet, if it weren't for Kes. She seemed very
concerned about Neelix and I had to assure her that he would
make it through this crisis. I just don't get it! What does
Kes see in a guy like Neelix, anyway? Gratitude for saving her
from the Kazon? Fortunately, VOYAGER managed to capture the
two Vidiians and one of them turned out to be a physician. He
found a way to alter a donated lung to match Neelix's
physiology. Guess who turned out to be the donator? That's
right, Kes. Sigh!

Speaking of doctors, our own chief medical officer is turning
out to be a real pain in the ass. I could understand the
little lecture about holographic matter and so forth. But did
the bastard have to slap my face to prove his point? If you
ask me, the man is a sadist. Maybe I can find a way to change
his personality subroutines. I've always been pretty good at
holoprogramming. There is one thing to be thankful. Kes has
just become the new medical assistant. Which means I won't
have to hang around Sickbay - unless necessary.

Oh, I forgot. Neelix has converted the Captain's private
dining room into the galley. And now, VOYAGER has a genuine
mess hall. Now that we have a cook, the crew can save
replicator energy. I don't know about the rest of them, but I
think I'll stick with replicated food. End personal log.


STARDATE 48549.92 - How can I put this in a nutshell? VOYAGER
explored a nebula, still searching for a supply of dilithium.
The nebula turned out to be a living organism that we damaged
during our little exploration trip. With a little fancy flying
from me, along with the Doctor and Torres' expertise, we
managed to repair the damage to the nebu . . . uh, the life
form. Of course, all of this resulted in VOYAGER being
drained another 20% of energy.

Anything else? Oh yes. Neelix decided to entertain the Bridge
crew with a few selections of Talaxian hors d'erves. Which I
declined - naturally. I also discovered that Harry remembers
being inside his mother's womb. What a shame there isn't a
ship's counselor on board. I think Harry could really use
one.

I also introduced Harry to my new holoprogram - a recreation of
one of my favorite spots in the universe, Sandrine's. It's a
tavern I used to frequent, when I spent my second year in the
Academy at a Starfleet base in Marsailles, France. This
prompted Harry to remark that I miss Earth. Hell, if Earth
only consisted of Sandrine's, I would. By the way, I believe
that Sandrine, herself, has developed a little interest in my
good buddy.

After our encounter with the nebula/life form, the rest of the
crew decided to try out my program. Including the Captain, who
turned out to be quite the pool hustler. If only Starfleet
knew. The only person who seems to dislike Sandrine's was
Lieutenant Torres. One of my characters, Gaunt Gary, tried to
proposition her. She, in turn, called us both pigs. You know,
I'm beginning to suspect that Torres really lacks a sense of
humor. If the Captain could tolerate a few innuendos with good
grace, why couldn't she? End personal log.


STARDATE 48558.22 - Ran into Kes in the Mess Hall, this
evening. Since Neelix was busy preparing dinner for the crew,
I decided to offer her a little company. I learned a lot about
Kes. About her parents, her childhood on the Ocampan
homeworld, and her captivity by the Kazons. We spent so much
time talking about her that we barely touched on my background.
Which suited me just fine. Besides, with a certain Talaxian
cook giving us the evil eye every now and then, we decided to
end our little conversation. What the hell is wrong with
Neelix, anyway? Did he honestly think I would steal Kes from
him? Or ravage her? Hell, the worst anyone could accuse me of
is introducing Kes to my favorite drink - spinach juice, with a
touch of pear. End personal log.


STARDATE 48579.93 - We came so close to returning to the Alpha
Quadrant. Too close, if you ask me. Thank goodness for bad
luck.

Harry had discovered a wormhole that might lead back home.
Although I joked about the Federation (science institute)
naming the wormhole after him, inside I was filled with dread.
Home? Who wanted to go there? As far as I'm concerned,
VOYAGER is home. In the end, we discovered that the wormhole
was too small for the ship to travel through. The Captain
ordered Lieutenant Tuvok to launch a probe through the
wormhole, anyway. I suspect that she had hoped to make contact
with Starfleet. The probe got stuck in some eddy, thanks to
some phase variance. But we managed to eventually make
contact with a Romulan. Fortunately, this Romulan refused to
talk and cut off communication. But that didn't deter my good
buddy, Harry. While the rest of us slept, he decided to
continue attempts to re-establish contact with the Romulan.
Exactly what does he hope to accomplish? End personal log.


STARDATE 48582.31 - The wormhole turned out to be a bust and
boy, I am relieved! Hell, a return to the Alpha Quadrant would
mean only one thing for me - a reunion with my fellow convicts
at the Federation Penal Settlement in New Zealand. And that's
a fate I would like to avoid, thank you very much.

For a while, it seemed that the Alpha Quadrant awaited us. Not
only did Captain Janeway managed to re-establish contact with
the Romulan, Torres found a way to transport both objects and
people through the wormhole. Our Romulan contact, a scientist
on a top secret science vessel, became the first humanoid to be
transported through a wormhole, from one quadrant to another.

Then fortune finally stepped in when Tuvok discovered that the
phase variance caused us so much trouble, because the wormhole
not only lead to the Alpha Quadrant, but also twenty years in
the past. Also, our Romulan visitor will not live long enough
to send our messages to the Federation. I realize that the
others are upset, but as far as I'm concerned - all's well that
ends well. End personal log.


STARDATE 48588.21 - It's been difficult containing my glee over
our failed attempt with the wormhole. I must be the only
person aboard VOYAGER - aside from Neelix and Kes - who isn't
disappointed. Although I suspect that our Delta Quadrant
natives are disappointed on behalf of the crew..

Harry has been in a funk, over the past two days. I tried to
cheer him up with a trip to Sandrine's. Instead, he accused me
of being glad over the whole debacle. How could I deny the
truth? Right now, he's in Torres' quarters and both are
probably weeping together over lost opportunities. Do
Klingons weep? I have to look that up.

I can understand why Harry, the Captain and other 'Fleeters are
upset. But why are the Maquis? Don't they realize that a
return to the Alpha Quadrant meant a few years in prison for
them? They sure as hell can't return to fighting Cardassians.
After all, they're now officially Starfleet prisoners.

At the moment, Kes is the only person I can talk to. While
helping her in the Hydropondics Bay, I explained my feelings
about the wormhole to her. She seemed to understand. What a
relief to find someone I can be honest with.
End personal log.


STARDATE 48604.37 - How could I have been so stupid? What the
hell was I thinking?

Once again, I've gone ahead of myself. This is what happened.
VOYAGER encountered a race called the Baneans. They offered
to help repair VOYAGER's busted collimator. The Captain ordered Harry
to the Banean homeworld, to confer with their top scientist on
the repairs. And since they were at war with another race
called the Numeri, guess who had to fly Harry to Banea? That's
right! Me.

If only Captain Janeway had sent another pilot. If only
Doctor Ren had been married to an older and less attractive
woman. Hell! If only I had listened to Harry and Liddell, I
would not be in this mess! Liddell Ren. The moment I laid
eyes upon her, I fell in deep lust. Very beautiful and
obviously very bored with her marriage. And since I was bored
listening to Harry and the Doctor discuss engineering, I
decided to focus my attention on the gorgeous mistress of the
house.

Poor Doctor Ren ended up murdered - stabbed in the heart. The
Baneans accused me of the deed, claiming that the good doctor's
memory engrams clearly showed that I was guilty. Only, I don't
remember stabbing the man. Nor do I remember kissing Liddell
in the Arterium. Unfortunately, the Baneans didn't believe
me, thanks to those memory engrams. And now, they have
convicted me of murder and punished me by grafting Doctor Ren's
engrams with my own. Every fourteen hours, I have to relive
the memory of the murder through his eyes. Something is not
right. The murder couldn't have happened like this!
Fortunately, the Captain and Tuvok arrived on Banea to
investigate and return me to VOYAGER. I only hope they can get
me out of this mess. End personal log.


STARDATE 48607.42 - Thank goodness for Tuvok! If it weren't
for him, I would have spent the rest of my life, reliving false
memories of Doctor Ren's murder, every 14 hours. Considering
how those engrams were frying my neural pathways, I would not
have lived very long.

Tuvok discovered that I was being used as a courier between the
Numeri, and a Banean doctor and Liddell, who were both traitors and
spies for the former. Great! Just what I always wanted to be.
As for Doctor Ren's memories - it turned out that other Banean
doctor planted altered memories onto my neural pathways.

Harry told me that he would never do what I did. Fool around
with the wrong woman. But he will. One day. And I told him
so. Okay, maybe Harry's comments did irk me a bit. But I was
serious when I told him that one day, he could meet the wrong
woman. It happens to a lot of guys. Including straight
arrows like Harry.

I found Lieutenant Tuvok in the Mess Hall and thanked him for
clearing me of murder. In his usual Vulcan fashion, he claimed
that he would have otherwise if I had been guilty. But I
thanked him, anyway. Perhaps for being himself, for once.
Others would have naturally assumed the worst and not bother to
investigate the matter. Tuvok had approached the case in his
usual objective manner, thank goodness. As for the rest of the
crew - well, they had all assumed I was guilty, until Tuvok
proved otherwise. With the exception of the Captain, Harry,
the Doctor and Kes. Thank goodness for friends. And the
Doctor. End personal log.


STARDATE 48635.01 - Will miracles cease to exist? I don't
think so. Especially after I was approached by one of the
Delaney sisters for a favor. It seems that Jenny has developed
an interest in a certain Operations chief and would like me to
arrange a date. Knowing Harry's devotion to a certain
fiancée, 70,000 light years away, I realize it would be
difficult to arrange this date. I've already tried it once and
it didn't work. Maybe I can try bribery. Or blackmail. Hmmm,
then again, Ensign Eager isn't the type to succumb to bribery.
And he hasn't done anything worth blackmailing over. Oh
well. Perhaps I’ll just pester him to death. End personal log.


STARDATE 48638.27 - What do you know? Pestering him to death,
actually worked! In the end, I finally got that double date I
had wanted. Harry, Jenny, Megan and I had the date in
Holodeck One, enjoying the charms of Venice. Well, Megan and I
were able to enjoy Venice. I can't say the same for Harry and
Jenny. They went for a ride in a gondola and in her enthusiasm
to seduce Harry, poor Jenny overexerted herself and both ended
up in the Grand Canal - heads first. If I didn't feel sorry
for Harry, I would have laughed. (Pauses) Okay, I did
laugh. But only after Megan laughed first. Her laughter can
be very contagious. So full of life. As for Harry and Jenny -
I have a feeling they won't be dating for quite a while. End
personal log.


STARDATE 48643.26 - The whole ship knows about the date with
Delaney sisters. Heck, even Torres and Seska were discussing
it, while the former oogled the ship's Marble Model. I'm
referring to, of course, Ensign Murphy. Actually, there are
two Ensign Murphys. The other Murphy serves under Tuvok in
Security, while the Marble Model is in the Science Division. I
wonder what Torres sees in a man who resembles a Starfleet
recruitment poster, anyway?

At least I'm no longer on the Maquis' shit list. Harry and I
actually managed to enjoy a conversation with Seska and Torres.
Our little camaraderie didn't last very long. Chakotay
summoned the Senior officers to the Bridge. It seemed Voyager
came across a ship emitting a distress signal. The ship is
from a nearby planet called Sikaris. And its inhabitants have
invited the crew to spend a few days there, and partake in its
pleasures. Sounds interesting. End personal log.


STARDATE 48643.38 - Ah, Sikaris! I must say it was a beautiful
planet with riches and food, galore for enjoyment. Many of the
women seemed very attractive. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of
the planet was nearly spoiled by my best friend.
After befriending a Sikarian woman named Endana, Harry
discovered that the Sikarians possessed some kind of trajector
that permitted folded-space transport. This trajector could
shorten Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant by 40,000 light
years.

I could only imagine Janeway's reaction when she heard the
news. Excited. Relieved. To be honest, I didn't feel the
same. The further Voyager remained from Earth, the better for
me. Thanks to Harry's discovery of the trajector, the Alpha
Quadrant had loomed pretty close. Too close. Thankfully, the
Sikarians had a canon of laws similar to the Federation's Prime
Directive. Their laws prevented them from introducing their
technology to other cultures. You know, I usually have a dim
view of the Prime Directive. I mean, what is the point of
non-interference in an alien culture, when Starfleet is suppose
to be about exploration? You can't explore unknown worlds
without some kind of interference or influence - however
unintentional. The Captain plans to approach the Sikarian
government about making Voyager an exception to their rule. I
hate to say this, but I hope she fails. End personal log.


STARDATE 48648.68 - What a goddamn mess! Who would have
thought a visit to a pleasure-seeking planet would end with
Voyager nearly being destroyed by a warp core breach? And its
Security Chief and Chief Engineer ending in deep shit with the
Captain? Frankly, I'm just glad I'm not the one who messed
up.

The Sikarian Council had rejected Janeway's request for Voyager
to use their trajector technology. Thank goodness! She had no
choice but to abide by their decision. But it didn't end
there. Harry's friend, Endana, introduced him to a Sikarian
man named Jaret Otel, who was willing to break his world's law
by trading the trajector technology for a library of Federation
literature. Harry, Seska, Torres and I discussed it. I more
or less told the others that they were wasting their time. The
Captain might consider Otel's offer, but in the end, she would
never go against Federation principles.

Of course, I was right. But Janeway's decision did not stop
Tuvok and Torres from making the exchange with Otel. And when
Voyager finally left orbit, the trajector proved to be
incompatible with Federation technology and nearly caused a
warp core breach. I learned from Harry that Seska and Joe
Carey were also involved in this scheme, but only Tuvok and
Torres got chewed out. If she had done worse, Voyager would
have ended up with Rollins or Pete Durst as Security Chief.
And Sue Nicoletti as Chief Engineer. I'm just glad that damn
trajector never worked. End personal log.


STARDATE 48662.6 - Will the Universe ever cease to amaze me?
It certainly didn't, today. Who would have thought? Seska, a
Cardassian! Not only was she a Cardassian, but an agent of the
Obsidian Order, assigned to infiltrate the Maquis! What can I
say? I'm shocked. (Pauses) Then again, knowing Seska's
character, perhaps not.

Thanks to encounter with a damaged Kazon-Nistrim ship, we
learned that someone aboard Voyager had been trading Federation
technology to the Kazon in exchange for their protection.
Suspects came down to two people - Seska and Joe Carey. Not
surprisingly, most of the 'Fleeters suspected Seska and the
Maquis, Carey. My choice was Seska. When I told Harry, both
Torres and Ayala overheard me. "Starfleet to the end, right
Paris?" Torres had said with her usual sneer.

I had told her that my Starfleet background had nothing to do
with my opinion. "I don't know Carey that well," I said, "but
I know Seska. I don't trust her within an inch of my life.
She has the brains and imagination to pull something like
this. And you all know how she feels about Federation
principles." To everyone's surprise, Ayala agreed. It seemed
he never really trusted Seska, either.

After Seska's escape to another Kazon ship, most of the Maquis
walked around, either in a daze or looking humiliated.
Especially Chakotay. He was, after all, Seska's loudest
defender and former lover. Poor Chakotay. He was always a
lousy judge of character. End personal log.


END OF PART I