Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The Rain Chronicles" [PG] - Book VII

"The Rain Chronicles" [PG] - Book VII

Rain Robinson of ”Future’s End” ends up on Voyager, following her adventures with Tom Paris and Tuvok in late 20th century Earth. Here is Book VII.



Ten days. Ten days have passed since my fight with Tom. And we haven't uttered one word to each other. Hell, at least three-quarters of the crew aren't speaking to me. They all believe that I had condoned Vorik's actions during his pon farr. And none of this might have happened if I had kept my big mouth shut. Jesus!

Aunt Sarah was right. I should learn to control my tongue. And my temper. But it's hard to do that whenever I encounter stupidity or hypocrisy. I guess I'm just too blunt. Too frank. No wonder I've always had trouble maintaining a relationship. And I think I've just ruined another one.

My mother once told me that although Humans make a big deal about valuing the truth, many of them can't really handle it. Deep down, they don't want to face reality, so they escape through a lot of pleasure, easy solutions, illusions and sometimes, intolerance. She also added that when someone exposes the truth, it's usually the messenger who is usually blamed. What she tried to tell me is that I should learn to be a little more diplomatic when dealing with the feelings and opinions of others.

Somehow, word of my fight with Tom got around. And now, I'm being blamed for "taking Vorik's side". What makes this even worse is that the real perputrator of the whole mess is pon farr. Biology. How in the hell can you punish a physiological condition? You can't. Instead, you punish the poor bastard who had been inflicted by it. Namely Vorik. And you also blame the dumb idiot, whose words robbed you of a scapegoat. The same idiot who could not keep her damn mouth shut. Or control her temper.

Aside from Tuvok and Vorik (whom I haven't seen in days), the only crewmen who seemed willing to speak to me were Jenny, Megan, Neelix, and Commander Chakotay. B'Elanna seemed too embarrassed to even be near me. I should talk to her, but I can't. It's no longer about what she had done to me on Sakaris IV. Right now, I'm going through a lot of anger and frustration, because my big mouth has not only put me at odds with most of the crew. I've also driven Tom away for good when I defended Vorik . . . and brought up his past. Stupid idiot! And because I brought up his past, B'Elanna will have him in the end.


Vorik finally returned to Alpha shift duty, today. It didn't turn out as bad as I thought it would. We had a nice, long talk before his shift began.

I know. Vorik and I had agreed he would spend one month during Beta shift and only three weeks had passed since Sakaris IV. However, he happens to be one of my best engineers and I needed him, Carey, Nicoletti and Ashmore for a special project - to strengthen the stabilization of the warp filed coils and make them less susceptible to exposure from a verteron pulse. So, I put aside any feelings I had toward Vorik and asked Chakotay to return him to Alpha shift.

The talk. To be honest, I think it was a hell of a lot worse for Vorik. I never saw a man look so embarrassed or humiliated. Now that I think about it, I guess I understand his reaction. Like me, Vulcans hate losing control. Both Vorik and I endured a lot of humiliation because of what happened. But at least I don't have to endure pon farr every seven years for the rest of my life, thank Kahless. After what happened, I do intend to keep an eye on Vorik, seven years from now. If I can remember.

I had repaired my working relationship with Vorik. My friendship with Tom has also survived Sakaris IV. However, I haven't spoken a word to Rain, since our encounter in the Mess Hall. I've also learned that she hasn't spoken to Tom, either. Now, that's odd. I wonder how that came about?


I've finally realized how dangerous space exploration can be. While searching for the missing Commander Chakotay and Ensign Kaplan, Voyager came across a starship in the form of a cube. Megan and Jenny called it a Borg cube and it seemed to terrify them and practically everyone else.

"Who in the hell are the Borg?" I demanded.

Jenny replied, "They're a race of humanoids that are part-organic, part-machine. They're like . . ."

"Cyborgs!" I added, remembering my television. "Like the 'SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN' and 'THE BIONIC WOMAN!'!" Ah, the glory days of television re-runs. How I miss them.

The twins stared at me with baffled eyes. "What are you talking about?" Megan asked.

I told them about the two television shows I used to watch. "Maybe I'll find it in the computer database and show it to you, one day. What do these Borgs look like?"

Jenny led me to a computer console, located against one of the walls in the Mess Hall. I swear, this ship is practically a flying Microsoft center. She punched in a few codes and . . .

"Here they are," she said, pointing to the image on the screen. "The Borg. They're native to the Delta Quadrant, but they have the technology to travel to other quadrants. Including the Alpha Quadrant, back home. They've already tried to conquer Earth once." So, that's the Borg. I told Jenny that they look like mechnical zombies. "Not a bad description," she added.

Then I said, "And the Captain thinks the Commander and Marie Kaplan have been captured by them?"

Megan shook her head. "I don't think so. I heard from Harry Kim that the drones found inside the cube are dead. I think many of them were killed by some electromagnetic storm."

Drones? I guess that must be a pretty simile for a zombie. "So, where are they? Commander Chakotay and Kaplan?"

No one could answer my question. At least not until hours later, when the crew found the missing pair on a planet inhabited by survivors of the cube. Well, they found Chakotay, alive and well. Poor Kaplan had been killed by some scavengers who raided the village inhabited by former Borg drones. Among them was a blond woman who had been captured by the Borg, during the latter's attack upon Earth, several years ago. Everyone seemed to be talking about her and the Commander.

"Is it true?" I asked Neelix, after encountering him near one of those turbolifts on Deck 2. "About the Commander and this Fraizer woman?"

Neelix shrugged. "I have no idea. I haven't seen Commander Chakotay since he left the ship with Ensign . . ."

At that moment, the doors slid open. Three figures walked out of the turbolift - the Captain, Commander Chakotay and a beautiful, blond-haired woman with blue eyes. Both she and the Commander seemed a bit engrossed with each other. As for the Captain - despite her usual command look, she seemed grim to me. Oh, oh! Something tells me there was a little trouble in Paradise.

Then Janeway noticed Neelix and me. Something like a cross between a smile and a grimace appeared on her face. "Miss Fraizer," she said in her usual gravel voice, "I'd like to introduce you to our two civilian crewmen. This is our Talaxian guide, Neelix and Miss Rain Robinson. Neelix, Miss Robinson, this is Miss Riley Fraizer."

We shook hands with the new guest. Miss Fraizer seemed particularly curious as to how a civilian like myself, ended on Voyager. I told her the truth. That I was a visitor from Earth's past, who had stowed away aboard ship. Both the Captain and Commander Chakotay seemed particularly embarrassed by the whole story.

Finally, we all parted. Neelix and I entered the turbolift, leaving the others behind. "I wonder what that was about," I said, as the lift took us to Deck Two. "The Captain seemed embarrassed when I told that woman about how I came aboard."

Neelix replied that he had no idea. "But I did notice something else," he added. "The Commander and Miss Fraizer. They seemed very focused upon each other. I have the feeling there is some kind of romance between them."

Good old Neelix. I never really understood why so many of the crew looked down upon him. I'm not saying that they treated him badly. But they have this tendency to be rather condescending. Including, I'm sad to say, Tuvok. They don't seem to realize that under that comical façade is a pretty sharp fellow.


Damn Borg! Next to the Cardassians, they were the most treacherous beings in the Universe. I take that back. They are the most treacherous. What they did to Chakotay was abominable. And it caused me a lot of pain, as well.

It all started with those former Borg drones we found with Chakotay. Marie Kaplan had been killed, while defending him and the drones from some scavengers. Poor Marie. She was a good engineer. Chakotay had been wounded, and later healed by the ex-drones' neural transponder. What on earth made Chakotay allow them to use such a device on him, is beyond me. Granted, he was badly wounded. But he had also been conscious enough to know what they were going to do.

Once he was healed, Chakotay became involved with one of the former drones - namely a beautiful blond woman named Riley Fraizer. It seemed she was a former Starfleet officer who had been assimilated by the Borg during the Battle at Wolf 359, some six-and-a-half years ago. To make a long story short, after Miss Fraizer and Chakotay became . . . "friendly", she and her companions asked Voyager to help build some kind of axonal amplifier. They wanted to create their separate collective. For the defense of their little colony. What baffled me was that Chakotay wanted to help.

After delivering Miss Fraizer and the other former drones some supplies to her friends, Chakotay and I headed back to the ship. During our little journey, my best friend suddenly went "Borg" on me, thanks to that neural processor in his brain, and shot me with a phaser. According to Harry, who told me the rest, he flew to the Borg cube to help Miss Fraizer and her friends reactivate that axonal amplifier, and create their new collective. They also destroyed the cube.

Now, poor Chakotay is feeling guilty for his actions, even if it wasn't his fault. And I'm still recovering, despite leaving Sick Bay, some five hours ago. Damn Borg! It's obvious that they cannot be trusted. Even when disconnected from the Collective.

Kahless! This headache is killing me! I need an anglesiac, badly. I returned to Sick Bay to ask for a shot and found the Doctor with another patient. Rain Robinson. What was she doing here?

"There you go, Miss Robinson. Your cut is completely healed." The Doctor tossed an instrument on a nearby tray. "Working near an opened computer console can be very dangerous."

Rain sighed. "Yeah Doc. Sure. I'll be more careful."

"Good. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to see to Lieutenant Torres." The Doctor faced me. "Ah, Lieutenant. I see that you have started walking around again. Is that wise? You were supposed to be resting."

I let out a groan. "I have a headache. And I need something for it. Badly."

The Doctor picked up a hypospray and filled it. "Here you go, Lieutenant." He pressed the damn thing against my neck. "This should help. And I also suggest that you get some rest. And not leave your quarters for the rest of the day."

"I don't need any rest," I grumbled. "I'm perfectly capa . . ." Then it hit me. A wave of dizziness that left me grasping for the nearest structure. Namely, a computer console.

A smug look appeared on the Doctor's face. Since when did holograms start looking smug? "May I assume you're experiencing some dizziness, Lieutenant?"

I snapped back, "You as . . ." The room began to tilt once more. I sighed in defeat. "Maybe I am feeling a little dizzy."

"What a surprise." Really, someone needs to reconfigure his personality subroutines! The Doctor turned to Rain. "Miss Robinson, will you please escort Lieutenant Torres to her quarters."

I immediately protested, claiming that I did not need an escort. Unfortunately, another wave of dizziness struck me. The Doctor ignored my protests and insisted that Rain escort me. I had no choice but to surrender.

Neither Rain or I exchanged a word with each other - at first. I could tell that she felt uncomfortable in my presence. Just as I did in hers. Sakrari IV still came between us, despite my apology from a month ago. Well, I didn't really blame her. If I had been attacked by an erratic half-Klingon . . .

"How are you feeling?"

It took me a few second to realize that Rain had spoken. To me. I blinked and responded with a "Huh?" Oh great! Such brilliant dialogue!

"I said," Rain continued, "how are you feeling? After being shot by Commander Chakotay?"

Did she really have to put it like that? Utilizing every ounce of my patience, I told her that I felt fine, aside from the dizziness. That Chakotay had only stunned me with a phaser. Okay, maybe I had lied a little. Chakotay may have only stunned me, but dammit, it hurt!

Rain, of course, wasn't fooled. Not with me experiencing constant dizzy spells. I continued to have them all the way to the turbolift. Hell, I didn't have this much trouble coming here. By the time we reached my quarters, I decided that I needed to put Sakari IV behind us, for good. Again, I tried to apologize for assaulting her, but Rain stopped me.

"Look, you've already apologized. There's no need for you to do it, again. Besides, it wasn't your fault. Anymore than it was Commander Chakotay's fault for shooting you."

I hesitated, feeling embarrassed over her burst of generosity. Strange that Rain never brought up my Klingon temper. I had felt sure that it had scared her. "If you think I'm scared you, I'm not," she added. I think the woman must be emphatic. "Although I admit that I was a little leery of you, for a while. But I guess you felt the same about Vorik."

An awkward pause fell between us. So, Rain had been a little leery of me. I'm not surprised. She was right about me feeling the same about Vorik. And now, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll harbor similar feelings about Chakotay. Will he suddenly become Borg again and attack us, now that we're edging toward Borg space?

We arrived at my quarters. Before I could punch out my entry code, I did something stupid. I told her that she had no reason to worry about me. I also added that I would never attack her in such a manner again. "I admit that I have something of a temper. It's the Klingon in me. But you won't have anything to worry about, from now on."

Rain gave me a curious look and said something that took me off-guard. "What does your being Klingon have to do with your temper?"

I blinked. Surely, her old buddies, the Delaney sisters, have told her about me? About Klingons in general? "I'm half-Klingons," I said, as if speaking to a child. "Klingons have bad tempers."

"So do Humans. And I've heard that Bajorans are also temperamental. What's the big deal?"

Kahless! Was this woman obtuse? Or blind? Doesn't she understand what I'm trying to say? Or do I have to bring up Sakari IV again? I explained, "Humans may have bad tempers, but they are nothing in compare to the Klingon temper." We entered my cabin. Rain led me to the sofa.

"Hey, I've read about the Klingons in the ship's computer," she replied. "The only difference I see is that Klingons are stronger and more openly aggressive. I think your opinion of Humans might be a little too high. Just like everyone else aboard this ship."

Was she trying to tell me that Humans are not that different from Klingons? I nearly laughed aloud. Poor woman, wait until she sees her first full-bloodied Klingon. If she ever gets the chance. Or perhaps Humans from her time were a little more violent . . .

"I know what you're thinking," she added, cutting into my thoughts. "That perhaps Humans from the 20th century are more violent. Maybe they are. Then again, after getting to know this crew, I've discovered one thing. Humans - back in my time and the ones, today - seemed to think they're rational and civilized and above violent behavior. But when something goes wrong or someone stands in their way," a smirk appeared on her face, "look out! They can become real savages. Like your friend, Harry. I've noticed that he tends become anxious or volatile whenever something unexpected happens. If you don't believe me, watch him. Or some of the others. You'll see it happen right before your eyes."

What had made her so anti-Human? Rain seemed to regard them the same way I regarded Klingons. She must have went through a hell of a time, before meeting Tom and Tuvok. Perhaps some time spent in the 24th century would teach her to appreciate how much her species have evolved. She'll see how wrong she was about Humans . . . and Klingons.

Only I kept my thoughts to myself and instead, smiled and asked her to replicate some drinks for us both. Rain replicated a cup of raktijino for me, and declined a drink for herself. She claimed that she had to return to duty. Which she did.

In the end, I guess we finally put Sakari IV behind us. And I must admit that it was a relief to know someone who did not seem put off by my Klingon half. But she will. Eventually. Both her and Tom. It's only a matter of time.


Monday, September 28, 2009

”IRON MAN” (2008) Review

”IRON MAN” (2008) Review

I had never heard of the Marvel comic hero, Iron Man, until I saw the trailer for the new movie, a few months ago. Mind you, I had heard of Iron Man’s alter ego – Tony Stark. The latter’s name had been mentioned in several Internet articles written about Spider-Man. Which is why I could not summon any excitement when I saw the trailer for the new movie starring Robert Downey, Jr.

Until the release of 2000’s ”X-MEN”, I have never been that familiar with most of Marvel Comics’ costumed crime fighters – with the exception of Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. I had spent a great deal of my recreational time with DC Comics characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Just about anyone could imagine my reaction when I learned that Robert Downey Jr. had been signed to portray Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Not particularly thrilled. But I was impressed by the major cast of actors who had signed up for the film – Downey, Gwenyth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges. All four performers have been favorites of mine over the years, along with director Jon Favreau. And since ”IRON MAN” was a Marvel Comics film, I decided to give it a chance.

I might as well say it right now. ”IRON MAN” has already become one of my favorite movies of 2008. And if I must be honest, I think it is one of the BEST superhero movies I have ever seen, hands down. I would place ”IRON MAN” in the same golden circle as ”SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE” (1978), ”X-MEN: X-UNITED” (2003), ”SPIDER-MAN 2” (2004) and ”BATMAN BEGINS” (2005). Yes, it is that good.

What would be the point of focusing upon the movie’s many virtues, when my previous statements pretty much said it all? But . . . I am going to try, anyway. And I would like to start with the excellent screenplay written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Arthur Marcum and Matthew Hollaway. They managed to create a good, solid story focusing upon Iron Man’s origins. In an unusual move, the writers began the story with Tony Stark in Afghanistan in the company of an Army escort. Stark had just presented a demonstration of Stark Industries’ latest weapon – the Jericho missile. While Stark jokes around with his military escort, Afghan terrorist group called Ten Rings. At this point, the movie rewind back to thirty-six hours earlier before Stark’s departure from the States. This opening immediately conveyed to me that the movie might turn out to be ten times better than I had originally assumed. By the time Tony Stark uttered those last words - ”I’m Iron Man” - it proved me right.

There are two aspects of ”IRON MAN” that truly made it a cinematic gem for me. One happened to be Jon Favreau’s direction. The other turned out to be the movie’s superb cast. And speaking of the cast, I might as well start with the man of the hour. What can I say about Robert Downey Jr.? He IS Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Downey now owns the role. I have never seen an actor take possession of a role so thoroughly since Daniel Day Lewis in ”THERE WILL BE BLOOD”, Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond in ”CASINO ROYALE” and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the ”PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN” trilogy. Downey is also the first actor or actress I have seen portray a comic book hero as a wiseass. And he also managed to produce sparks with not only his supporting cast, but also with an android and a computer voice.

Supporting Downey was Terrence Howard as USAF Lieutenant Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Air Force liaison to Stark Industries and personal friend of Tony Stark. Howard portrayed Rhodes as a stalwart military man who found Stark’s cavalier life both exasperating and enduring. I have never seen Howard do comedy . . . until this movie. And I was surprised to discover that his flair for comic timing seemed to match Downey’s. Some people have pointed out his role had been reduced. I cannot say that I agree. One, he had yet to become War Machine, Tony’s future armored crime fighting partner. However, his line - ”Next time, baby” - as he glanced at the extra armor suit seemed to hint that he will play a bigger role in future movies. And two, Howard possessed such a strong on-screen presence that no one was bound to forget . . . no matter how many scenes he had.

When I first learned that Gwenyth Paltrow would be playing Stark’s personal assistant, Virginia “Pepper” Potts, I found myself wondering if her career was in a decline. Playing the main hero’s Girl Friday seemed like a step down – even from her role in ”SKY CAPTAIN: WORLD OF TOMORROW”. Fortunately, the script and Paltrow’s witty and elegant performance gave her the opportunity rise above the usual cliché of the Girl Friday role. Mind you, “Pepper” Potts never struck me as interesting as the charming and conniving Polly Perkins from ”SKY CAPTAIN”. But instead of becoming the “damsel-in-distress”, Paltrow ended up helping Stark/Iron Man to defeat the main villain. Good show!

Speaking of villains, I must applaud Jeff Bridges for portraying one of the smoothest that I have seen on the silver screen – namely Tony Stark’s business partner and mentor Obadiah Stane. Not even Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine from ”STAR WARS” had possessed such subtlety when it came to evil. At first glance, Bridges did not seem the type who could effectively portray a villain. Then I recalled his performance in the 1985 thriller with Glenn Close, ”JAGGED EDGE”, in which he portrayed a similarly subtle villain. Being a skillful actor, Bridges managed to convey many aspects of Stane’s personality – a superficial warmth and intelligence that hid a murderous and manipulative streak.

Another memorable villain was portrayed by actor Faran Tahir, who portrayed Raza, leader of the terrorist group – the Ten Rings – hired to kidnap Stark while the latter was in Afghanistan. Like Bridges, Tahir did an admirable in projecting villainy with suave, sophistication and a strong presence. In regard to a strong presence, I could say the same about Shaun Tolb, who portrayed Dr. Ho Yinsen, an Afghan surgeon and captive of the Ten Rings that saved Stark’s life. I have seen Talb portray some interesting characters over the years. But I must admit that his warm, yet firm portrayal of Yinsen made me realize that he possessed quite a commanding presence.

As I had earlier pointed out, the movie’s four screenwriters managed to produce a script that featured a very solid story. Unlike many other comic book movies, ”IRON MAN” seemed to be laced with a great deal of witty dialogue and humor. There were times when I wondered whether I was watching a superhero action film. But there was plenty of action-filled scenes to remind me that this movie was basically an adventure film – like Iron Man’s two encounters with the Ten Rings group in Afghanistan, his encounter with two USAF fighter planes and his showdown with Stane in downtown Los Angeles. Director Jon Farveau, along with the four screenwriters and cast, managed to bring together all of the action, humor and drama with perfect balance.

Okay . . . let me rephrase my last sentence. Perhaps ”IRON MAN” was not completely ”perfect”. I do have two quibbles about the movie. One of them happened to be the first sequence in Afghanistan. I realize that the setting of Iron Man’s origins could not be in Vietnam. And it would make sense for the setting to be changed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. The problem is that most of the sequence featuring Stark’s captivity by the Ten Rings was boring as hell. It almost seemed to drag forever. And matters did not help much that most of this sequence was set inside a series of caves. Another problem I had with the movie was its score. Quite frankly, I found it unmemorable. But I am not surprised. I can only think of three comic book hero movies that had a score or theme song I found memorable. Unfortunately, ”IRON MAN” is not one of them.

But despite the first Afghanistan sequence and the movie’s score, it is easy to see why ”IRON MAN” ended up being one the top summer movies of 2008. With Jon Farveau in the director’s chair and Robert Downey Jr. as the leading man, the movie became – at least in my eyes – one of the top five of its genre.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another "PUBLIC ENEMIES" (2009) Photo Gallery

Below is a second gallery featuring photos from Michael Mann's new crime drama, "PUBLIC ENEMIES". The movie stars Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard:

Another "PUBLIC ENEMIES" (2009) Photo Gallery

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"The Corellian Connection" [PG-13] - Chapter Two




The young boy had first spotted his mark leaving one of the spaceport's hangars, earlier this afternoon. Han Solo usually avoided robbing pilots, but he was desperate today. His "benefactor", one Garris Shrike, had insisted that the eleven year-old collect at least 1,000 credits by the end of the day. Five hundred credits more than his usual quota. Apparently, Shrike had not forgiven him for breaking a favorite landspeeder. For the umpteenth time, Han found himself wishing he could go back to being a beggar. It seemed to be an easier way to rob the public.

The target's tall and lean frame had made it easy for Han to follow him through Coronet's crowded streets. But when the man paused before the Golden Flame restaurant, the young boy gained a closer look at his mark. Despite his youth, the man possessed a hard-edged aura and eyes that scanned the crowd like a hunter. An odd feeling came to Han that he had ceased to be the hunter and became the hunted. The young boy decided to find another target and leave the pilot alone.

Over an hour had passed and Han found himself unable to find another mark. Then he spotted the pilot again - leaving the Torvian Blue Hotel. Only this time, the man looked despondent. Distracted. Han saw a perfect opportunity to pick the man's pocket. He made the attempt . . . and failed.

"Ow!" the young Corellian cried out in pain, as the man twisted his hand. "That hurts! Lemme go!"

The pilot retorted, "Let go of my credit chip and I will." He gave Han's wrist a twist. The boy finally released the small credit into the pilot's other hand. "Thank you."

Before Han could recover from his humiliation, a uniformed security officer from the Corellian Security Force (CorSec) appeared before the pair. "What's going on, here?" He frowned at the young boy. "Solo! Were you . . .?" Then he glanced at the pilot. "Is this boy giving you any trouble, sir?"

Intense, blue eyes stared at Han. The pilot answered, "No, everything's fine." Han nearly sagged with relief. "The boy was simply giving me some directions to Kembel Avenue."

Suspicion remained fixed in the CorSec officer's eyes. "If you say so, Mister." He glared at Han. "However, I would suggest that you be careful around this boy, sir. Solo . . ." He nodded sharply at Han. ". . . belongs to a gang of thieves and pickpockets, operated by a notorious gangster."

"Really?" The pilot smiled politely at the security officer. "Mr. Solo seemed very helpful to me. If he and his . . . associates are as dangerous as you claim, why aren't they in a detention cell?"

The CorSec officer shot another glare at Han. "We haven't been able to catch any of them in the act. Yet."

"I see. Meanwhile," the pilot placed himself between Han and the officer, "thank you for your assistance. And don't worry. Everything is fine."

A cross between a polite smile and a grimace touched the CorSec officer's lips. "If you insist . . . sir. Excuse me." Once more, he glared at Han and walked away.

Astonished that the pilot had not turned him in, the eleven year-old stared at his benefactor. "Why didn't you tell him the truth?"

"What for?" the pilot asked. "You gave me my money back." He smiled sardonically at Han. "Nice meeting you . . .?"

"Han. Han Solo." The eleven year-old immediately clamped his mouth shut. Now why did he give the pilot his real name?

A genuine smile curved the man's lips. "I'm . . ." He sighed heavily. "I'm Set Horus. It was nice meeting you . . . Han." The smile disappeared. "Good day." He turned away.

Han watched the man's tall frame merge into the crowd. For some unexplainable reason, he felt an urge to follow the man. Despite catching him at attempted theft, Set Horus had shown more compassion toward him in the past five minutes than anyone ever had - aside from Dewlanna. Once the pilot's figure disappeared, Han heaved a sigh. Time to return to Shrike. He dreaded how the gangster would react to him being 500 credits short.



Laughter filled one of the Aldera Royal Palace's smaller dining rooms. Inside, Her Majesty Queen Breha and His Highness Prince Bail Organa shared their day's experiences with each other during supper. Bail had just related a humorous meeting he had experienced with a regional councilman, who wanted to discuss Aldera's growing problems with the pleasure industry developing in the Spacer Quarter - a section of the city that accommodated the needs of off-worlders and refugees.

"Honestly Breha," Bail concluded between chuckles, "I'm beginning to wonder if the man ever had intimate relations. Despite being the father of four children."

Breha's smile curved wider. "Considering what I have heard about Lahrus Vornac, you might be right."

At that moment, Raymus Antilles, one of Bail's aides and Breha's cousin, strode into the dining room. He bowed before the royal couple. "Pardon me for the interruption, Your Majesty, but . . ." He took a deep breath. "His Highness has just received a message. An encrypted message from his private holo projector."

The couple exchanged long-suffering glances. Then Bail heaved a sigh and stood up. "Pardon me, Breha. I'll be back." He bowed to his wife and strode out of the dining room, with Raymus close at his heels. The pair made their way to Bail's private study. Raymus bowed at the older man and walked away. Bail entered the study and headed straight for his holo projector. He used it for private and unofficial messages. The flashing red light at the projector's base indicated that someone awaited his response.

Bail pressed a button. The surprising image of Solipo Yeb materialized. "Bail!" the Andalian senator cried in relief. "Thank goodness! I'm finally able to contact you."

"Solipo, where are?" Bail demanded.

The now former senator glanced around uneasily. "Corellia. My sister and I are at Coronet. We need to reach Averam. I have . . . property there. "

"Surely, you can hire a pilot to take you there," Bail said.

The other man sighed. "Unfortunately, I cannot afford the fees these Corellians are demanding for passage. They're scavengers, all of them. When I left Andalia, I was forced to leave behind most of my assets." He sighed. "I was in a hurry."

After a few seconds of contemplation, Bail said, "I suppose I could lend you a sufficient amount of credits for you to hire a pilot. But I suggest that you do not stay there, Solipo. It is still part of the Core World, and too close to Coruscant."

"Where can I go?"

Bail shook his head. "I don't know. Right now, I'm trying to find a place for a close . . . relative of mine. I'll meet you in Averam and we can discuss the matter."

"I don't know if that is a good idea, Bail."

A sigh left the Alderaanian's mouth. "It's either that or you remain on Averam in false security."

A long pause followed before Solipo gave his consent. "I will await for the funds. And I will see you on Averam within a few days. If all goes well. Until later, my friend."

Bail heaved one last heartfelt sigh. He had the oddest feeling that his conversation with Solipo Yeb might result in dire consequences for a good number of people.



Anakin swallowed the last of his Corellian ale and placed his glass on the table. The Burning Musk did not possess a reputation for fine dining. The café, located in the city’s Blue Sector, merely served dishes for the average citizen who only required a hearty meal at low prices. And yet, Anakin considered it the best restaurant in all of Coronet. Even exclusive restaurants like those inside the Torvian Blue Hotel, could not match the Burning Musk's superb cooking, as far as he was concerned. In his opinion, the only other restaurant that could match the Musk in quality was Dexter Jettster's diner on Coruscant.

After he pushed his plate aside, Anakin signaled his waitress. A red-haired woman appeared by his table and smiled. "Will there be anything else, Captain Horus? A dessert, perhaps?"

"Another time," Anakin replied politely. "I would like the bill, please."

"Here you go." The waitress handed over a data pad. It listed his order and the price - fifteen credits.

Anakin slipped his credit chip into the data pad. He included a tip for the waitress. "Thank you, Freya."

"My pleasure." The redhead's smile broadened, as she practically cooed the words. Anakin ignored the obvious attempt at flirtation and politely returned Freya's smile. Then he left the restaurant.

As he weaved his way through the crowded Treasure Ship Row, a large bazaar located just inside Blue Sector, Anakin became aware of two men following him. Upon emerging from the bazaar, he paused before a tailor's stand and glanced at the window's reflection. Just as he had thought . . . Orlan Remar's thugs. Anakin whirled upon the men, taking them by surprise. "May I assume that your employer is looking for me?" he asked in a sarcastic tone.

One of the thugs, a tall blond man with pale green eyes and pockmarked skin stared at Anakin in his most intimidating manner . . . affecting Anakin not one bit. "Mr. Remar had left you a message to meet him at the hangar. Two hours ago."

"I didn't receive the message," Anakin coolly replied. "I was busy. Eating."

The blond man took a step toward Anakin. "I hope you're not trying to cheat Mr. Remar of his cargo."

Anakin regarded the thug with cold eyes. The man stepped back. "Say that again?" he murmured in a menacing voice.

The thug shivered. "I . . ."

"Mr. Remar is waiting for you," the shorter thug added. "In the hangar."

A sigh left Anakin's mouth. "Let's go." He continued walking along the street. The two men followed. Anakin had considered using a speeder taxi to reach the spaceport. But he took a perverse pleasure in testing the two men's physical endurance. By the time they reached the spaceport, Remar's thugs were panting from exertion.

They found a tall, red-haired man in his early forties, impatiently pacing back and forth in front of the Javian Hawk. A deep green robe covered his expensive outfit. Orlan Remar regarded Anakin with sharp, greenish-blue eyes. "Captain Horus," he greeted in a soft voice, "I see that you've finally arrived."

Anakin approached his client with a raised eyebrow. "Finally? I've been here since this afternoon, Mr. Remar."

"And yet . . . I didn't receive a message that you had arrived."

Coolly, Anakin shot back, "You should have. Unless the hotel had been remiss in attending to its duty. How did you find out that I was here?"

A pause followed before Remar heaved an exasperated sigh. "I had received a bill . . . from the Customs Office. I had also left a message at your usual hotel, instructing you to meet me here over an hour ago."

"I never received the message," Anakin retorted. "Now that we've learned about the hotel's inability to pass on messages, I suggest that we tend to business."

Again, Remar sighed. "Fine. I believe I owe you four thousand credits."

Anakin glared at the older man. "You owe me five thousand. That was the price we had agreed upon."

"Let's just say that I'm deducting a thousand for the inconvenience. I do not like to be kept waiting, Captain Horus."

Anakin took a step forward. "It's either five thousand or I leave and take your precious cargo elsewhere. I'm sure there are others interested in Carsunum."

The merchant stiffened slightly. Then he turned to his men. "Boys, I think that the good captain needs to learn a little lesson on how business transactions are conducted."

Remar's two thugs regarded Anakin in a menacing manner. For several seconds, the former Jedi felt a deep desire to kill the pair, along with Remar. He no longer possessed a lightsaber, but there were other ways to kill them. All he had to do was squeeze Remar's . . . He took a deep breath. This would not do. He did not want to return to that young Sith Lord he had discarded back on Mustafar. Anakin directed a fierce gaze at the merchant. "I suggest that you call off your thugs, Remar," he hissed. "Even if they shoot me down, they won't be fast enough to save your life."

The Corellian's eyes widened in fear. Anakin sensed the man’s heartbeat increase rapidly. Seconds passed before a nervous chuckle escaped Remar’s lips. “Really, Captain! Such melodrama is unnecessary. Of course I will pay the fee we had agreed upon. Five thousand credits.” He inhaled sharply. “Your credit chip, please.”

Anakin handed over his credit chip to the merchant. Who inserted it into a data pad and handed it back to the pilot. “Thank you.” Anakin inserted his chip into his own data pad to verify the payment. Sure enough, his account had increased by five thousand credits. He boarded the Javian Hawk and unlocked the ship’s cargo hold. Then he returned to the top of the ramp. “It’s all yours.”

While Remar’s men began to unload the Carsunum, Anakin stood near the cargo hold and watched them. “Hey,” the blond man said, “aren’t you going to help?”

“What for? I did all the hard work between here and Servacos II.”

The two men grumbled and continued their task. Once they had loaded the entire cargo into Remar’s land shuttle, Anakin joined them and Remar at the bottom of the boarding ramp. “Okay, that’s it,” he said. “Our business is over.” He stared directly at Remar. “Good night, Remar. Unless there is something else you need.”

“I rather doubt it,” the merchant retorted. He and the other two men boarded the shuttle and sped away.

Once alone, Anakin secured the Javian Hawk and left the hangar. He had only walked less than a block away from the spaceport, when he sensed another presence. One that seemed both scared and desperate. Anakin turned into the nearest alley and paused. He waited for a few seconds, until that same presence approached the alley. Then he reached out and grabbed an arm. He dragged the robed body attached to the arm, deep into the alley. Anakin jerked the robe’s hood and found himself staring into the face of a woman with light-brown skin, high cheekbones and dark eyes. For some reason, the woman reminded him of Anjuli Nab. “Who are you and why are you following me?” he growled.

“I . . . I need a pilot,” the woman replied nervously. “I need a pilot to convey me and my brother from here.”

Anakin glanced around. “Where is your brother?”

“Back at our hotel room,” the woman replied nervously. “He . . . he doesn’t know that I’m here. He’s asleep.” Then she began to ramble. “Listen, I would have approached you in better circumstances, but I need to get my brother off of this planet as soon as possible. We now have the resources to pay for passage and I had spotted you heading for the spaceport. I was desperate and took a chance.”

Maintaining a grip on the woman’s arm, Anakin demanded, “Why do you need to leave so soon?”

A sigh left the woman’s mouth. “My brother . . . He’s wanted by the Empire. He’s exhausted and I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to find another pilot after tonight.”

“Okay,” Anakin said with a nod. “I might consider the job.”

Relief flooded the woman’s dark eyes. “Oh thank you! You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“I said I ‘might’ consider the job,” Anakin insisted in a hard voice. “After I meet your brother and we discuss . . . certain terms. I’ll follow you back to your room.” He released the woman.

She hesitated. “Look, I know that I said that time was of the essence, but my brother . . . well, he’s fast asleep. The past week has been very busy for him and for the first time, he has been able to get some sleep. Could you meet us at our hotel room, tomorrow morning? We’re at the Selonia Hotel. Ask for Thalia Kor.” She turned away.

“Wait a minute!” Anakin cried, as he grabbed her arm. “You don’t even know my name.”

Miss Kor smiled briefly. “Of course I do. I overheard what that man called you – Captain Horus, I believe?”

“Set Horus,” Anakin added. “I . . .”

With a firm nod, Miss Kor said, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Captain. Good night.” She freed herself from Anakin’s grip and disappeared into the night.

Anakin chuckled lightly to himself and shook his head in disbelief. It seemed that his meeting with his last client had led to another meeting with a new one. He wondered if meeting Thalia Kor and her brother would prove to be just as dangerous as smuggling Carsunum spice out of Sevarcos II.



The glittering lights of Coruscant twinkled outside of the Emperor's private gymnasium. The two men inside the room barely noticed. They were busily engaged in an intense lightsaber duel.

Clutching his weapon, Darth Rasche exerted as much energy as he possibly could to overcome his Sith master. Despite his use of the Shien Form, he seemed incapable of defeating his opponent. Lord Sidious managed to parry every thrust he made. Rasche then decided to change tactics and express an exhaustion he did not feel. Sidious took that moment to execute a 180-degree turn and strike the Sith apprentice in the mid-section. Before the older man could strike, Rasche dropped to one knee and blocked the strike. Then he took advantage of his master's surprise and knocked the latter's lightsaber to the floor. Rasche proceeded to attack the unarmed man, but Sidious snatched up his weapon, using the Force, and parried Rasche's attack just in time.

"Good!" the Sith Lord declared enthusiastically. "Excellent! Very clever of you to lure me into attacking you, Lord Rasche. May I assume that you have used similar tactics to defeat your recent opponent?" He smiled broadly, causing his deformed countenance to look even more hideous. When Rasche failed to disarm his weapon, Sidious added in a more sinister tone, "I suggest that you disarm your weapon, my Lord Rasche. Before you live to regret it."

A hot flush crept into Rasche's cheeks, as he switched off his lightsaber blade. "If you must know, I had used such a tactic to defeat Anjuli Nab. Nor do I see why I should have disarmed my weapon. I was simply tapping into my anger . . . as you have instructed me, time and again."

"Your problem, my young apprentice, is that you allow your anger to get the best of you!" Sidious snapped. He turned away. "Yes, anger is the best way to tap into the Force. But it should be used as a tool. A weapon. A weapon kept in control by you. However, I have no need for you to indulge in your anger like some petulant and temperamental child. You were in danger of doing just that, Lord Rasche. Pray that it does not happen, again."

The Sith Lord's words burned into Rasche's psyche. He wanted to re-activate his lightsaber and cut down his master. Let the old fool know that he had learned to use the Dark Side . . . and was ready to face Skywalker. But his earlier refusal to disarm his weapon had alerted Sidious. Rasche could sense the older man's wariness. His anger barely under control, the young apprentice grumbled, "Will that be all, my Master?"

"Yes, you may be excused." Sidious strode toward a single chair, where his robe laid.

Before he reached the double doors, a thought came to Rasche. He paused and whirled around. "I have one question, Master. When you talked of using anger as a weapon . . . is that what you had done with me? Used my anger to kill Jaren Tagge, last year?"

Sidious turned to give Rasche a subtle smile. "I see that you're now beginning to finally understand, Lord Rasche. I commend you. Yes, I did exploit your anger. Senator Tagge had tried to take advantage of the newly formed Empire, through his family corporation. I needed your help to keep his family in check."

His anger threatening to reassert itself, Rasche growled, "So, is that all I am to you? Merely a weapon and nothing else?"

"Yes . . . and no," the Emperor murmured. "On one hand, you are a weapon, Lord Rasche. I will not deny it. After all, I needed a powerful apprentice to help me maintain order throughout the Empire. But you are also more than just a tool to me. You're a comrade-in-arms. Together, we can bring about a new world. Ensure that the Sith will last for more than just a mere millennia." The Sith Lord paused, while Rasche continued to regard him with a stony expression. Then he added with subtle malice, "May I remind you, my young apprentice, that you also regard me as a mere tool? After all, do you not require my help and the Empire's resources to hunt down Skywalker? To exact vengeance upon him?"

Rasche stiffened. "Touche, Master. You have made your point. Now, if you will excuse me?" Again, he started toward the double doors. As it slid open, he nearly bumped into his master's Umbrian aid, Sly Moore.

The Umbrian woman stopped short and bowed at Rasche before bowing even lower at the Emperor. "Pardon me, Your Highness."

"Do you have news for me?" Palpatine demanded.

Sly Moore replied, "Actually . . ." She turned to Rasche. ". . . I have news for Lord Rasche. It is from Inquisitor Malorum." She handed a data pad to the Sith apprentice.

Rasche scanned the pad. "Interesting," he commented. "Apparently, over two weeks ago, Senator Solipo Yeb's sister had booked passage aboard a space freighter bound for Corellia. And nearly an hour ago, the Inquisitorium had intercepted an encrypted message from Corellia . . ." He paused dramatically. ". . . to Alderaan."

"Alderaan?" Palpatine frowned. "Bail Organa? That's impossible. He has been one of my most loyal supporters."

Rasche continued, "But he and Yeb were close colleagues in the Senate, Master. And there is the matter of Senator Organa's presence at the Jedi Temple, last year. If Senator Yeb has reached his sister on Corellia, it is possible that he would contact Prince Organa."

The Emperor took a deep breath. Rasche sensed that the older man seemed disturbed by the possibility that Organa might be a possible traitor. "Then you shall go to Alderaan, Lord Rasche. Question Organa about the message. And if you learn that he might be involved with Senator Yeb's escape, then Alderaan shall share Andalia's fate."

"What about Yeb?" Rasche demanded. "Shall I search for him on Corellia?"

With a wave of his hand, Palpatine dismissed the idea. "No. Searching for some former senator amongst that piratical den on Corellia should not concern you. As my right hand, it is more befitting that you deal with Alderaan."

Rasche bowed respectfully. "Yes, my Master."


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Below is my review of Nora Ephron's new comedy-drama, "JULIE AND JULIA", about the life of celebrity chef, Julia Child and the New York blogger who was inspired by her, Julie Powell:


Written and directed by Nora Ephron, "JULIE AND JULIA" depicts events in the life of chef Julia Child during the early years in her culinary career; contrasting with the life of a woman named Julie Powell, who aspires to cook all 524 recipes from Child's cookbook during a single year. Ephron had based her screenplay on two books - "My Life in France", Child's autobiography, written with Alex Prud'homme; and "Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously" by Powell. Two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep portrayed Julia Child and two-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams portrayed Julie Powell.

The plot is simple. A New Yorker named Julie Powell, who works for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to help victims of the 9/11 bombings, has become disatisfied with her life when she realizes that her friends (or should I say acquaintances?) have more exciting professional lives. To help her deal with her apathy and knowing that she is an excellent cook, husband Eric (Chris Messina) suggests that she create a blog to record her experiences in cooking a recipe (each day) from Julia Child's famous cookbook, " Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Woven in to Powell's story is Child's experiences as the wife of an American diplomat in Paris during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The movie also reveals Child's entry into the world of French cuisine and her attempts to write and publish a cookbook on French cooking for Americans.

"JULIE AND JULIA" was not a movie that exactly shook my world. It was a warm and engaging look into the lives of two women whose interest in French cuisine attracted the attention of the public. In the case of Julia Child, her decade long attempt to write a cookbook on French cuisine led to her becoming a television celebrity and icon. Julie Powell's attempt to recount her experiences in preparing the recipes from Child's cookbook led to her blog, media attention and this movie. I have read a few reviews of the movie and most critics and filmgoers seemed more interested in Child's early years as a chef in France than they were by Powell's experiences with her blog. Granted, the Child sequences were a lot of fun, due to Streep's performance of the charming, enthusiastic and fun-loving chef. But I must admit to being surprised by how much I had enjoyed Powell's experiences with her blog. I realize that I am going to be bashed for this, but Powell's experiences seemed to have more emotional substance to them.

I am not saying that the Powell sequences were better written or more entertaining. But due to Ephron's portrayal of the Texan-turned-New Yorker, the Powell sequences seemed more complex and emotionally satisfying. In other words, Amy Adams - who portrayed Powell - had the meatier role. Most critics and fans of the film would disagree with me. After all, it seemed very obvious that Streep was having a ball portraying the enthusiastic and fun loving Julia Child. Her ability to easily befriend many of the French and her deepening love for French cuisine made it quite easy to see how she quickly became a celebrity. But Ephron never really delved into the darker aspects of Child's character or marriage - except touch upon the chef's disappointment at being childless. She certainly did with Powell. And Amy Adams did a superb job in re-creating a very complex and occasionally insecure personality. But I suspect that when the awards season rolls around the corner, it will be Streep who will earn most of the nominations . . . or perhaps all of them.

The rest of the cast of "JULIE AND JULIA" were just as excellent as Streep and Adams. Stanley Tucci portrayed Child's diplomat husband, Paul Child. He gave a warm, yet more restrained performance as a man happily caught up in his wife's growing interest in becoming a chef; yet at the same time, conveyed his character's unhappiness with his failing diplomatic career due to a change in the country's political winds. Like Adams, Chris Messina had a more difficult role as Powell's husband, Eric Powell. Unlike Child, he has to deal with his frustration in his wife's growing obssession with her blog . . . along with her occasional bouts with arrogance, insecurity and self-absorption. And at one point in the film, he loses his temper in spectacular fashion. I also enjoyed Linda Emond's performance as French cook Simone Beck, who co-authored Child's cookbook; and Mary Lynn Rajskub as Powell's acerbic friend, Amy. One other performance that really caught my eye belonged to Jane Lynch as Julia Child's equally extroverted sister, Dorothy McWilliams. Watching Lynch and Streep portray the McWilliams sisters take Paris by storm was a joy to behold.

Although I had enjoyed "JULIA AND JULIA", I had a few problems with it. One, it was too long. The movie's pacing started out fine. Unfortunately, I was ready for it to end at least twenty minutes before it actually did. By 100 minutes into the film, the pacing began to drag. And although I had no problems with the movie's alternating storylines, I felt that it failed to seque smoothly between Child and Powell's stories. The jump from Powell's story to Child's and back seemed ragged and uneven to me. And as I had pointed out before, the story surrounding Child's story seemed less emotionally complex and more frothy in compare to Powell's story, giving me another reason to view the movie as uneven.

Despite its flaws, "JULIE AND JULIA" is an entertaining film that many who are into cooking or food would enjoy. Both Meryl Streep and Amy Adams gave first-rate performances. And the movie also gave filmgoers a peek into life for Americans in post-World War II Paris. In the end, I found the movie enjoyable, but not earth-shattering. I would recommend it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"The Essence of the First Slayer's Power"


One of the more controversial characters that has appeared on ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” happened to be the character known as the First Slayer. First introduced in the Season Four finale, (4.22) ”Restless”, the First Slayer’s presence stirred a great deal of controversy amongst the series’ fans and critics. However, I am not really interested in the controversies that have surrounded the character. I am more interested with her role as a demon slayer and how this role related to Buffy and other Slayers throughout history.

To clarify myself, I would have to start with the origins of the First Slayer. Thousands of years ago, three East African shamans became wary of the increasing demonic activity plaguing their community. To deal with the matter, the trio came up with the idea to create a supernaturally enhanced demon slayer. They kidnapped an adolescent girl named Sineya, staked her to one spot and implanted her with the essence of a demon. The possession entailed supernatural strength, stamina, a predatorial instinct, fast reflexes, rapid healing, intuition and prophetic dreams . . . enough abilities for a Slayer to face vampires and other supernatural bad guys. In other words, the three shamans committed supernatural rape upon an innocent girl in order to create a weapon they could utilize and control. But this article is not about the moral ramifications of the shamans’ act. It is about how the essence of the First Slayer related to the series’ leading character, Buffy Anne Summers.

Buffy and the other Scoobies – Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris and Watcher Rupert Giles – had spent most of Season Four dealing with the U.S. Army sponsored task force called the Initiative and the mess the latter had created in capturing and experimenting on demons. The organization’s biggest mistake turned out to be a human/demon Frankenstein-style hybrid created by the Initiative’s leading scientist, Dr. Maggie Walsh. After killing Dr. Walsh, this monster – named Adam – created more havoc throughout Sunnydale by killing innocents and recruiting other human/demon hybrids (read: vampires) to his cause for a new order. In the second-to-last episode, (4.21) “Primeval”, Buffy and the Scoobies finally managed to defeat the near invincible Adam. They did so by using a spell to invoke the powers of the First Slayer to be put into Buffy’s body. Each Scooby represented the main attributes of the First Slayer’s powers – the Spirit, the Heart, the Mind and the Hands – in the spell. Willow acted as symbol of the First Slayer’s Spirit, Xander as the Heart, Giles as the Mind and Buffy as the Hands. By invoking the First Slayer’s power through Buffy, the Scoobies created a formidable foe that led to Adam’s defeat and death.

Many Buffyverse fans saw the spell invoked in ”Primeval” as an argument why Buffy should never separate from her friends and Watcher. They saw the spell as an argument for the old saying - ”no man is an island”. But the spell led me to wonder about Buffy’s role as a Slayer and her connection to the other Scoobies. If those African shamans had created a Slayer that possessed enough strength to defeat someone like Adam, did that same strength ever get passed on to the Slayers that followed her? Slayers that included Faith . . . or Buffy? Or did Buffy and the other Slayers that followed only inherited one particular attribute of the First Slayer – namely the Hands, which all Slayers use to kill their prey?

If the First Slayer did pass on all of the abilities of her power to her successors, why did Buffy need the Scoobies to represent the Heart, the Spirit and the Mind of Sineya? Surely, she could have summoned all of those attributes within her to defeat Adam. Or perhaps Buffy’s problems in dealing with Adam had originated with her two Watchers – Rupert Giles and Merrick.

One of the aspects from Season Seven that I found interesting was Buffy’s transformation into a leader of adolescent girls with the ’the Potential’ to become the Slayer. Unfortunately, Buffy’s introduction as a leader nearly ended in disaster, when the Potentials, the Scoobies, Dawn and everyone else rejected her leadership and tossed her out of the Summers house in (7.19) “Empty Places”. Spike and Andrew were in Gilroy on a mission for Giles and missed the big event. Their rejection seemed understandable, considering that Buffy was on the road to becoming an ineffectual leader. And who is to blame? Buffy’s Watchers – Merrick and Giles. I found it ironic that Giles literally dumped the Potentials onto Buffy’s lap and told her that she needed to become a general. The problem was that neither Giles or Merrick ever taught Buffy how to lead. Instead, they taught her how to stalk and kill demons. They taught her how to utilize ’the Hands’ of the First Slayer . . . and nothing more. To Giles, Merrick and the other Watchers, being a Slayer only meant being a killer of demons. I can only wonder if other Slayers between Sineya and Buffy were given the same limited lessons.

But what does this say about the other Scoobies’ roles in the battle against Adam? More specifically, what does this say about their roles in Buffy’s life? I am not advocating the idea that Buffy should have ended her friendship with the other three. But was it really necessary to invoke the First Slayer’s other three traits – the Spirit, the Heart, and the Mind – through the Scoobies? Personally, I believe that Buffy could have found a way to use all four traits on her own . . . if she had bothered to try. If she had inherited the power of Sineya like all of the other Slayers before her, I see no reason why she or any other Slayer throughout history could not learn to embrace all four of the First Slayer’s attributes as their own.

Or perhaps Buffy had already began to embrace the full power of the First Slayer by late Season Seven. She managed to prove that the old saying - ’no man is an island’ - is not always true. After being booted by the others in ”Empty Places” and comforted by a returning Spike in (7.20) “Touched”, Buffy set out on her own to retrieve a magical scythe from another formidable foe, namely a misogynist priest named Caleb, endowed with the strength of the First Evil. And she succeeded. On her own. After retrieving the scythe, Buffy went on to rescue a wounded Faith and a group of Potentials who had wandered into a trap set by Caleb and the First Evil. Again, she achieved this on her own, using her Spirit, Heart, Mind and Hands.

Does this mean that Buffy should seriously consider that she might not always need the Scoobies by her side? Frankly . . . yes. Perhaps no one man or woman is an island, but each and every one of us is always alone, no matter how many people we surround ourselves with. With the Buffy saga continuing in comic books, perhaps Joss Whedon considered a new lesson for his main character and the fans – there are times when we need our friends, family or some kind of help with us; and there are times when we have to face the fact that each of us is alone. And sometimes, we have to set about on a task . . . by ourselves. If Buffy ever truly learn that lesson, she will truly learn to utilize the full power of the First Slayer’s essence on a regular basis.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Second Power" [PG-13] - 4/8



Olivia had to admit that Cole's meditation method seemed a lot more preferable than Margot Palmer's dependency on gongs. It was not that surprising, since his method matched hers. What the hell had she been thinking?

Okay, perhaps desperation to avoid Cole's company had led her to accept Margot's help. But the moment the other witch began playing that damn CD disk, Olivia had realized she should have known better. And that Margot was the wrong person to help her.

"Uh, Olivia? Are you meditating?" Cole asked in a soft voice.

She opened one eye and glanced at the half-daemon, sitting on the floor opposite her. Staring at her. A hot flush crept up her neck. "Of course I am!" she protested in an attempt to hide her embarrassment at getting caught. Blue eyes continued to penetrate hers. "Okay, I wasn't. What's wrong with a little contemplation?"

Cole heaved what sounded like a frustrated sigh. "Look," he said through clenched teeth, "could you please stop fooling around and concentrate on your meditation?"

Olivia retorted, "Hey! I'm sorry! I merely got sidetracked. Okay? Geez!" She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "Okay. O eternal Goddess, Maiden, Mother and Crone, I am made from your flesh and you know me better than I know myself." As she continued, one of her eyes popped open, again. Cole, she noted with relief, had both eyes closed.

"Your eyes aren't still closed," Cole's voice boomed. "Close 'em!"

Asshole. After shooting Cole a death glare, Olivia shut her eyes. And continued to chant.

* * * *

The two neighbors stood side by side in what appeared to be an open clearing, surrounded by a thick forest. Open-mouthed, Olivia glanced around her, awed by the beautiful surrounding. "What is this place?" she asked.

"A dimension I had spent time in, while avoiding the Source's zoltars. Very nice place. It's the present home for the Tuatha Dé Dannan, a mythical Irish race. Royalty, by the way. I, uh, I had to receive permission to train you, here." He paused.

"Huh. I've heard of them. They usually fight for good. Are you trying to tell me that they didn't mind allowing a half-daemon with an evil past to come here?"

Cole coughed nervously. "Family connection. On my mother's side. Long story." Then he continued, "Since I can't help you during the daytime or anywhere in San Francisco in the evening, I thought this would be the perfect place. Well, except on weekends." Then he dropped a large duffel bag that he had been carrying, on the ground. He unzipped it. "Okay, let's start with a little practice."

"Martial arts?" Olivia asked hopefully.

Cole stared at the redhead, wondering if she harbored some kind of predilection for violence. "No," he answered curtly. "Target practice." He removed several semi-long wooden stakes from the bag. Each stake had a rectangular-shaped shingle nailed to it. Cole drove each stake into the ground, all of them forming a 180-degrees half-circle. "Okay, let's see how well you can concentrate on controlling your aim. Uh, you did your meditation and tai-chi exercises, today. Right?"

Olivia let out a gust of breath. "Yeah, yeah! Now let's get on with it."

A frown tightened Cole's handsome face. "Maybe we should do this another time."

"No," Olivia insisted. "Might as well start now."

* * * *

The stream of fire missed its target completely, hitting only air. Olivia cursed out loud. Cole sighed.

"Dammit!" the redhead cried. "I'm never going to learn to control this damn thing! How in the hell did Cousin Keith deal with it?"

Cole frowned. "Who . . .? Cousin Keith?"

"My grandfather's cousin from Scotland. He just recently passed away. The one who can form fire balls. Remember?"

Nodding, Cole replied, "Oh yeah. I remember you mentioning him, once. Look, if he was able to control his fire power, so can you."

Rolling her eyes, Olivia murmured, "I should have known you would go back to into lecture mode."

"What was that?" Cole gave her a sharp look. When Olivia failed to reply, he sighed. Again. "All right. Why don't you give it another shot?"

Taking a deep breath, Olivia raised one arm and aimed it at one of the shingles. She jerked her arm slightly. Then . . . nothing. She lowered her arm with a frustrated sigh, before raising it again. A burst of flames shot forth. Olivia's arm took on a life of its own and instead of hitting one of the shingles, she hit Cole. The half-daemon disappeared into a burst of fire. A second later, he rematerialized on the same spot.

"Dammit, Olivia! Can't you at least keep your arm under control? If I had been someone else, I would have been dead!"

"Keep it under . . .?" Rage poured out of Olivia's green eyes. "Hey look! I just got stuck with this thing three days ago! Three days! How the hell do you expect me to control a goddamn firepower in three days? Let alone control my arm while fire is spewing from it?"

Cole shot back, "I'm not asking you to control your power within a certain time! And whether you like it or not, you have to deal with that 'goddamn power'! So the sooner you stop bitching and procrastinating, the sooner you'll learn to control the damn thing!"

Green eyes glared at Cole. He glared back. Taking him by surprise, Olivia faced the staked targets, raised her hand and one by one, destroyed four shingles with bursts of fire. Then she whirled upon Cole, still glaring. "There! Are you happy now?"

With her hands on her hips, her body trembling and her eyes blazing, Olivia looked magnificent. Cole could not help but think that she also looked vibrant, alive, and regal. He had to fight the urge to take her into his arms and kiss her. Of course, that would be a mistake he dare not commit again. Instead, he took a deep breath and calmly replied, "Not bad. Pretty good, actually. Even if it was merely a fluke."

"A fluke?" Olivia stared at Cole with outrage. "Are you serious? Did you see what I had just done?"

Rolling his eyes, Cole muttered, "Oh God! Olivia, you can't simply rely on your anger to control your power. You know that!"

A sneer marred Olivia's beautiful face. "Oh, what is this? Some damn Jedi knight philosophy?"

Cole struggled to keep his temper in check. "Dammit Olivia! Will you please stop with the bullshit? I'm serious!"

The magnificent body sagged in acknowledgement of Cole's words. "Okay. I'm sorry. I know. It's just . . ." Olivia sighed. "I don't know. Whenever I thought of getting a second power, I never thought it would be one so difficult as pyrokinesis."

Cole nodded soberly. "Hey look, I understand. Believe me, I do. When my firepower first manifested, I could barely control it. Well actually, I couldn't. At first, my anger helped me control it, but Ray . . ." Memories of his old mentor, Raynor, flashed in Cole's mind. "Raynor told me that I needed to keep my emotions in check, in order to maintain complete control. And I'm sure you had to learn the same lesson with your telekinesis."

A brief silence fell between the pair, before Olivia added, "How long did it take you to control it? Your firepower, I mean. Paige told me last Sunday that you rarely used it. In fact, I don't think she has ever seen you use it, when you were Belthazor."

Cole shrugged his shoulders. "It took me quite a while to master it. I mean, we are talking about fire here. It's a very uncontrollable element. Which is why I rarely used it . . . unless I had to."

"Oh." Once again, the couple fell silent. Olivia glanced at the scorched stakes. So did Cole. The former added, "It looks as if we don't have many targets to use."

Again, Cole shrugged. "No problem," he said softly. "I guess a little meditation wouldn't hurt right about now."

Olivia looked at him and flashed a shy smile. Cole returned her smile with one of his own. He and Olivia had made a start toward easing the estrangement that had divided them since the New Year's. Yet, he also knew that their friendship would never be fully restored until they dealt with the repercussions of that one kiss.

* * * *

"So, how is the training going?" The question came from Olivia's future sister-in-law, Barbara. Inside an herbal shop called Ostera's, the two witches were perusing one of the large shelves inside the latter's store for a jar of resin called Dragon's Blood.

Olivia heaved a sigh and replied, "Okay, I guess. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this new power. At least I think I am. Still, it's a bit disconcerting."

"Hmmm." The blond woman peered at a particular jar and shook her head. "That's not it," she murmured. Then she said to Olivia, "You know, there are times I wish I had a psi ability like the rest of you."

"And other times?"

Barbara paused. "Let's just say that I'm glad that I only have to worry about mastering potions and spells, and not fire coming out of my hands."

"Gee, thanks a lot," Olivia muttered sarcastically. "And thanks for dumping Margot Palmer on me. For a while, I thought I was on 'THE GONG SHOW'. What is with her and gongs?"

Looking somewhat embarrassed, Barbara replied, "Sorry about that. I forgot that her favorite method of meditation was using gongs. By the way, she told me about Cole. And how you nearly made her extra crispy."

"Hey, it was an accident! I was trying to stop her from leaving, after Cole nearly scared her to death." Olivia added ruefully, "Only he ended up saving her, instead."

A third voice cried out from the other end of the shop, "I found it! I found the Dragon's Blood!" Paige sauntered over to the other women. She handed the jar of resin to Barbara. "Here. I found it behind the Mandrake. You know, you really should arrange the merchandise in a more orderly fashion. Alphabetically, perhaps."

Barbara nodded. "You have a point," she said thoughtfully. "Only, I hardly ever have time to consider rearranging the merchandise. Despite how empty it looks now, this shop can get pretty busy." She gave Paige a thoughtful look. "Interested in a job? I can use the help."

To Olivia's amusement, Paige looked somewhat taken aback. "Uh . . . I didn't mean . . ." The younger woman seemed to be choking on her words. "What I meant . . ."

"What? You're not interested?" Barbara continued. "I'm willing to pay well. Eight-fifty an hour. And I'll hire another assistant, if you need the help."

Olivia spoke up. "Sounds like a pretty good deal, to me."

A red flush crept over Paige's pale skin. "Uh . . . well, it's a great idea, except . . ." She shrugged. "Well, the reason I had quit my job was so I could be a full-time witch."

Olivia blinked. She and Barbara exchanged confused looks. Then they stared at Paige. "Full-time witch?" the former commented. "Sounds like a job description."

Paige's face turned redder. "What I meant was I want to devote full time to learning the Craft."

"Honey, learning the Craft is a life-long process," Barbara gently replied. "And being unemployed isn't going to make it easier."

Paige shrugged. "Well, let me think about it. Okay?"

"Sure." Barbara flashed Paige a reassuring smile. Then the telephone rang. She murmured a quick "excuse me" and rushed toward the telephone.

Paige turned to Olivia. "So, you think I should take the job?"

"Why not? You're unemployed at the moment. I'm sure that you could use it."

Nodding, Paige switched to another topic. "By the way, how is your training coming along? Is Barbara's friend a big help?"

"You know, you're the second person who has asked me that within the last five minutes," Olivia replied with a frown. "I didn't realize that everyone was so concerned about my power."

A snort left Paige's mouth. "Are you kidding? Even the Elders are up in arms. They've been bugging poor Leo nearly all week! Speaking of him, have you seen him since the brunch? I think he's been trying to get in touch with you."

"The Elders are worried about me?" Olivia stared at the younger woman with disbelief. "Why? Because I now have a fire power? I'm not exactly the first. And Leo hasn't been my whitelighter for years."

Paige heaved a sigh. "I don't know. Leo hasn't exactly been forthcoming, lately. I think he's in a bad mood."

"Huh." Olivia wondered if her whitelighter was experiencing marital problems. "Everything okay between him and Piper?"

After a brief hesitation, the Charmed One replied, "Everything's fine. At least Piper's no longer pissed at him for not telling us about the rogue whitelighters."

"Paige, it's been over a month since we all found out. Exactly how long was she pissed?"

Paige shook her head. "Oh, you don't want to know. By the way, Leo should be home, this evening. Why don't you drop by?"

"Oh honey," Olivia replied, "I'd love to, but I have more training, this evening. And after that . . . I think I'm going to be a little tired."

"Boy, this friend of Barbara's is really keeping you busy."

At that moment, Barbara appeared before the other two. "My friend? Oh. Didn't Livy tell you?"

Paige frowned. "Tell me what?"

"Margot isn't training her, any longer," Barbara continued. "Cole scared her off and now he's training Livy."

* * * *

"Cole is helping Olivia with her new power?" Leo's usually soft voice now echoed throughout the Halliwell manor. "Cole?"

Paige rolled her eyes. Maybe she should have broken the news about Olivia and Cole with a little more subtlety. Then again, Leo was bound to overreact. "Why are you so surprised?" Paige demanded. "Livy's family thought it was a good idea."

"Well, the Elders don't!" Leo shot back. "In fact, they would feel a whole lot better if she stayed away from him!"

Oh great! For the first time, Paige truly began to understand the McNeills' attitude toward whitelighters. Which seemed ironic, considering that she happened to be half-whitelighter, herself. "Why? What do they think that Cole is going to do? Turn her to the Dark Side?" When Leo failed to reply, disgust overcame Paige. "Oh for crying out loud! You've got to be kidding! Besides, you haven't been Olivia's whitelighter for years! It's not like they have any say in the matter!"

"Maybe the Elders are being smart, for once," a third voice added. Piper shuffled into the Solarium. "Oh God! My back and feet are killing me. Leo, could you give me a massage?"

Without even sparing his wife a glance, Leo barked, "Not now, Piper! Later. I need to speak with Olivia, first."

"For what? So you can give her more advice that she'll ignore?" Piper snapped back. "Why do you even bother trying to pretend that you're still Olivia's whitelighter? Or her brothers'? They never listen to you, anyway!"

Oh-oh, another Halliwell-Wyatt blow-up, Paige thought. The frown on Leo's face told her that he did not appreciate his wife's words. Not one bit. Even worse, she has also noticed that Leo has grown increasingly tense, lately. Whether it was due to the growing turmoil in the Whitelighters' Realm, Piper's pregnancy, or Olivia and Cole's friendship, Paige had no idea. Perhaps it was a combination of all three.

Leo gave Piper an exasperated glare. "They're not the only ones who don't listen!"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Piper demanded nastily.

Paige decided it was time to step in and end the quarrel before it grew out of control. Brightly, she added, "If you're still looking for Olivia, Leo, she should be home about now." She glanced at the grandfather clock, which read six fifty-eight. "Probably meditating."

"I'll be back in a few minutes," a curt Leo said. "I'll be at Olivia's."

Paige added, "Why don't you take Piper along? I'm sure that you two could use a nice little outing, together."

Husband and wife stared at Paige, as if she had proposed something ridiculous. Piper said, "I have to open the club in less than two hours."

"I'll do it," Paige cheerily volunteered. "Besides, the baby isn't due until another month. You need to take it easy. And you both need to spend some time, together."

Piper shot her youngest sister a dirty look. "Thanks. I'll remember this." Leo grabbed one of her arms and the pair orbed out of view.


Friday, September 18, 2009

"The Rain Chronicles" [PG] - Book VI

"The Rain Chronicles" [PG] - Book VI

Rain Robinson of ”Future’s End” ends up on Voyager, following her adventures with Tom Paris and Tuvok in late 20th century Earth. Here is Book VI.



Christ! What a surreal day this has been! Who would have thought a simple mineral gathering expedition would turn into some bizarre journey into alien sex, lust and violence. Hmmm, sounds like a bad "B" movie.

Anyway, I know one thing. Never get between a lust-driven Klingon and the object of her desire. Damn! My shoulder hurts just from remembering what happened. And all because Ensign Vorik went into some mating frenzy. Something he had managed to pass on to B'Elanna. Tuvok explained it all to me.

I was in Sick Bay, being treated by the Doctor (when is that man ever going to find a name?) when Tuvok entered. B'Elanna had already left, thank God! I really couldn't face her at that moment. And Vorik remained unconscious on one of those beds. "There you go, Miss Robinson," the Doctor said, after waving some instrument over my shoulder. "You're completely healed."

Aside from a bit of soreness, the Doc was right. I sighed with relief. Tuvok halted in front of me. "Miss Robinson, he greeted, "how are you feeling?"

I tenderly moved my shoulder. "Fine. I can't say the same about Vorik," I added, staring at the unconscious man. "Looks like he's still out cold. What happened down there?"

Tuvok opened his mouth to speak, when he noticed the Doctor staring at him with anticipated interest. "If you don't mind, Doctor. This is a private conversation." The Doctor let out a grunt and retreated to the office behind the glass wall. Tuvok continued, "Both Ensign Vorik and Lieutenant Torres had been affected by the pon farr."

"Yeah, I remember you mentioning that on the planet, below. But what does it mean?"
Tuvok shot a glance at the Doctor's office and sighed. "Considering what happened to you, today, you deserve an explanation." Then he gave me one.

Pon farr - the Vulcan term for the time of mating. According to Tuvok, the Vulcan 's reserve and logic are completely ripped away by an intense mating desire. Many Vulcans discover their life-long mates when they experience pon farr. If any of them are unable to sexually satisfy their urges, a chemical imbalance forms in the brain, causing the Vulcan to become even more violent. This is called plak-tow. The "blood fever". And this happens to the Vulcan every seven years of the adult life. Christ!
"You mean to tell me that sex is the only way to satisfy these urges?" I asked. I couldn't believe what I had just heard.

Tuvok replied, "As I had explained on the planet, it can be resolved three ways - intercourse, meditation or combat ritual."

"And B'Elanna and Vorik got rid of theirs the third way. Through hand-to-hand combat."

"Precisely." Tuvok nodded.

The explanation continued. It seemed that Vorik had chosen B'Elanna to be his life-long mate. When she rejected him, the plak-tow got worse and he attempted to telepathically link with her. This is how Vulcans become couples and it usually happens during a Vulcan's pon farr. Although the mind link failed, Vorik had accidentally transferred his mating urges to B'Elanna. Which explained her overtures toward Tom and my aching shoulder.

I asked, "Why didn't Vorik use meditation to get over this pon farr? It seems it would have been a lot easier."

"Actually, Miss Robinsnon, meditation is the most difficult method." Tuvok maintained his usual stoic demeanor. "Most Vulcans rarely succeed in resolving their pon farr through meditation. It is extremely difficult to resolve. As you have witnessed from Ensign Vorik and Lieutenant Torres' actions. In a way," he released a rare sigh, "pon farr is like a side effect of the Vulcans' tradition of suppressing our emotions."

Well, I had a simple answer to that. "Then maybe you shouldn't suppress your emotions," I replied with a shrug.

"Miss Robinson, you have seen a Vulcan with his control of his emotions, ripped away. Imagine all Vulcans consistently behaving in that manner if we did not suppress our emotions. There have been cases of Vulcan sects who refuse to suppress their emotions and maintain that doing so is unnecessary. However, in the end, they have been proven wrong. In fact, Vulcans are so naturally volatile, we have to meditate on a daily basis to maintain control of our emotions."

Memories of a violent Vorik challenging Tom for B'Elanna's hand, entered my thoughts. Now that I think about it, I would prefer that Tuvok and Vorik keep their emotions in check. "I understand," I finally said.

Tuvok nodded. "Good. Do you have any further questions?" I told him no and heaved an exhausted sigh. Tuvok must have noticed my reaction, for he added, "I suggest that you retire to your quarters for rest, Miss Robinson. This day has obviously proven to be quite exhausting for you."

Knowing good advice when I heard it, I nodded once more and left Sick Bay.


The following day, I received a visitor in my quarters. It was Vorik. Gone was the violent expression and odd light in his eyes. Aside from looking slightly exhausted, he seemed his usual self. "Miss Robinson," he greeted.

I tried to smile, but failed in the attempt. Those last moments on Sakari IV keep entering my mind. "Vorik. What are you doing here?" I knew the answer. But I wanted to hear it from his lips.

A faint green blush colored his face. Green blood? "I came here to apologize, Miss Robinson. For my actions. What I did was . . . unpardonable. I never meant . . ."

"Wait a minute," I said, interrupting. "Why are you apologizing? You never attacked me."

"If I had not attacked B'El . . . Lieutenant Torres, she would have never injured your shoulder." True. Can't argue with the truth. Vorik continued, "I realize that I can never repay for what happened . . ."

I interrupted him for the second time. "Vorik, I understand what happened to both you and B'Elanna. Tuvok explained everything."

"Oh." His face became even greener. He looked embarrassed. Almost ill.

Then I asked him, "How many times has this . . . uh, pon farr happened to you?"
Embarrassment flitted across his face. Vorik murmured, "I'm sorry, Miss Robinson, but that subject is considered . . ."

"I realize that it's a taboo subject, Vorik," I quietly responded. "But after what happened, I think I at least deserve an answer."

His expression tightened for a second. And then, "Of course." Vorik took a deep breath. "The answer to your question is this was my first experience with the pon farr."

Hmmm, no wonder he went off the deep end. Then again, I recalled Tuvok stating that for a Vulcan, controlling one's pon farr does not get any easier with age. Seven years from now, I plan to remain locked inside my quarters. I asked, "Have you spoken to B'Elanna since our return to the ship?"

Vorik replied that he had just paid a visit to the Chief Engineer's quarters and offered an apology. "She has accepted it." He paused. "Somewhat. However," his dark eyes looked slightly embarrassed, "I have suggested that I spend the next month on Gamma Shift. It would be easier for both of us, since she seems to be a little uncomfortable in my presence."

Hell, I don't blame B'Elanna. I don't exactly relish being in the same room with her, right now.


Several hours later, B'Elanna approached me during lunch, in the Mess Hall. Amazing. The moment I felt her presence, I became immediately tense. I guess I expected her to fly into a rage and toss my body across the room. Ridiculous, of course. But it's hard to get over being attacked by a half-Klingon in a state of pon farr.

Like Vorik, B'Elanna offered an apology for what happened on Sakaris IV. And like the other engineer, she seemed very embarrassed. I told her that I understood her actions. Did I? Maybe, I did. At least a part of me did. I added, "Both Tuvok and Vorik explained everything to me."

"Vorik?" The lieutenant's eyebrows shot up several inches. "You've spoken with Vorik?"

Surprised by her reaction, I replied, "Yeah. He wanted to apologize. I understand that he's done the same to you."

B'Elanna nodded. "Yeah. I uh . . . he came to my quarters, this morning."

"I guess he'll be starting on the Gamma shift, today," I added.

Dark brown eyes narrowed. "He told you about that also, huh?" B'Elanna did not look particularly pleased by that bit of news. Or the fact that I knew. Why, I have no idea.

Coolly, I replied, "Yeah, he did. Why? Is there a problem? Vorik told me that he had volunteered for that shift." In any other situation, tempers would be flying right now. Including mine. But I suspected that both of us wanted to avoid any further conflict between us. Especially, after what happened on Sakari IV.

"Of course. I . . ." Once more, B'Elanna's words froze. Christ! This conversation seemed to be growing more uncomfortable. Frankly, I wished she would just leave. A moment later, my wish came true. "Never mind." B'Elanna nodded and gruffly said good-bye. Then she left. For how long, I don't know.


What a damn mess this has been! All because of that damn Vorik who didn't have the decency to keep his hands to himself! Hell, he's a Vulcan for crying out loud! One would think he could have learned to control that pon farr!

And B'Elanna! What an awful thing for her to experience! All because that bastard couldn't control his damn libido and keep his hands to himself! Thanks to Vorik, B'Elanna became infected by the pon farr, nearly went berserk, assaulted both Rain and myself; and nearly died of a chemical imbalance in her brain. Shit!

Perhaps I should have relieved her blood fever in the Sakari caves. But I felt unable to take advantage of her like that. It would have ruined our friendship. Even worse, I couldn't have done with Rain looking on. That really would have ruined any semblance of a relationship we had left. God! What an awful mess!

Once we found Tuvok and Chakotay, the former practically ordered me to have sex with B'Elanna. On one hand, I've always wondered what making love with B'Elanna would be like. On the other hand, there was Rain. I saw the look of horror in her eyes when Tuvok gave the order. As much as I hated Vorik for interrupting B'Elanna and me, a part of me felt relieved over the interruption.

I did not see either Rain or B'Elanna for the next three days. Finally, I encountered B'Elanna in one of the turbolifts. She tried to dismiss her actions on Sakari IV as something meaningless that had occurred, due to Vorik's pon farr. A part of me just could not allow her to get away with that. I told her that her Klingon side did not frighten me one bit. And that I would like to see more of it. You know what she said before leaving the turbolift? "Be careful of what you wish for, Lieutenant." Was that an invitation?

B'Elanna's words took me by surprise. But Rain's comments, later that evening, shocked the hell out of me. Left me practically stunned.

It started after my encounter with B'Elanna. I spotted Rain inside the Mess Hall, for dinner. Sitting with Vorik, of all people! What the hell was she doing with that bastard?

I felt so outraged that I confronted Rain inside her quarters, an hour later. "What the hell were you doing speaking with that bastard?" I cried out, after she ushered me inside.

Rain stared at me with stunned eyes. "What? What are you talking about?"

"Vorik! I saw you having dinner with him about an hour ago, in the Mess Hall! How can you even be around that bastard, after what he did . . ."

"To B'Elanna?" she finished rather nastily. "You forget. It was she who attacked me. And you. Not Vorik."

I shouted back, "It was Vorik who practically mind raped her in the first place! Giving her that damn pon farr!" By then, I felt furious.

Equally furious, Rain reminded me that B'Elanna had tried to rape me in the Sakari caves. "And that was before she threw me against the cave's wall! Dislocating my shoulder!"

"She was under the pon farr!"

"So was Vorik! Or have you forgotten?"

I could not believe this! How could Rain defend Vorik for what he did? I asked her that, adding, "At least B'Elanna has an excuse! She wasn't used to being under some influence, common to Vulcans!"

Rain stared at me with a look that dripped with contempt. A look that made me feel very uneasy. "Oh, I get it. It's okay to excuse B'Elanna for attacking us, but not Vorik for attacking her."

Jesus! Was she this stubborn? How could I get her to understand? "Rain, didn't you hear what I said about B'Elanna?" Frustration oozed in my voice. "B'Elanna has an excuse. Vorik doesn't!"

"Oh, gee Tom! I hate to tell you this. Whether any of us like it or not, he does have an excuse. It's called pon farr!"

"You don't know what you're . . ."

Then she exploded. "For God's sake! You don't know what the hell you're talking about, do you? Do you have any idea what pon farr is like for a Vulcan? Do you?" Staring into those impassioned dark eyes, I found myself unable to respond. "Neither do I!" Rain continued. "At least not personally. But Tuvok gave me a pretty good idea what it is like. Did you really expect Vorik or any other Vulcan to control their pon farr just like that?" She snapped her fingers. "Hell, they have to meditate on a daily basis just to maintain control of their emotions. Jesus, Tom! You saw how it affected B'Elanna. Well, it affects Vulcans, just as bad. And if you think all Vorik had to do was take a cold shower or masturbate, while reading a "PLAYBOY" magazine . . ."

"Play what?" I asked.

Rain's eyes narrowed even further. "A pornographic magazine," she hissed. "Controlling the pon farr is not as easy as you seem to think, for Vulcans. This is serious shit for them. Most of them can't even control it without sex or violence. Meditation rarely works, as well. Even for Vulcans with long experience with pon farr. And this was Vorik's first time at the bat!"

I opened my mouth to speak, but I could not. I wanted to deny Rain's words. Tell her that she was wrong. But she did not give me the chance. Even worse, I had the horrible feeling that she may be right.

"What were you about to say?" she continued. "Hmm, I guess being a Human, you don't really understand what going through the pon farr means. Do you? You know, for a man who prides himself on being tolerant, you sure can be narrow-minded! Was that how the rest of the crew were to you, two years ago?"

I gave her a sharp look. How did she . . .? Of course! The ship's computer.

"That's right," she said, confirming what I suspected. "I read your Starfleet record. All about Caldik Prime and serving time in prison. Maybe accidentally killing three people and lying about it doesn't quite add up to assaulting a fellow officer, while under a chemical imbalance. But like it or not, Vorik has a hell of a better excuse than you do."

People have accused me of a lot of things. Cowardice, murder, lying and God knows what. But I have never been accused of being a bigot. Or a hypocrite. Until now.

Rain spoke one last time. "Now, if you'll excuse me," she marched to the door and opened it, "I'd like to be alone."

Still dazed, I slowly walked out of her quarters. I later learned from Harry that Vorik had volunteered for duty during Gamma shift, for the next four weeks. To be honest, I barely heard him. My thoughts remained fixed on the words that Rain had hurled at me, earlier that evening. I also realized something else. I never did find out what Rain and Vorik were talking about, during dinner.