Sunday, March 9, 2014

"When Irish Eyes Are Talaxian" [R] - 2/9


Part 2

Never again, Tom promised himself. Never again would he volunteer to command the Bridge. Not if it meant spending hours watching others when he could be doing something else. Like being at the helm. Or spending said hours with his wife. And if B'Elanna ever suggests that he volunteer again, he would resist. Even if she threw her naked body at his in a suggestive manner. Which is exactly how she managed to convince him the last time, while they were in the shower together. Tom sighed as he remembered his wife's wet and soft . . . 

"It is now 17:45 hours, Lieutenant." The announcement came from the former Borg adolescent, who now manned the Engineering station. Just recently, Icheb had received permission from Captain Janeway to receive academic preparation for Starfleet Academy. Both B'Elanna and Seven had suggested he spend some time on the Bridge.

Tom quickly erased the memories of B'Elanna from his thoughts and glanced at the young man. "Thanks for the information, Icheb," he commented wryly. "But you don't have to announce the time every fifteen minutes."

"Everyone's attention seemed to be diverted by the chronometer," Icheb continued in his matter-of-fact manner. "I thought if I announce the time, everyone would stop looking at it and maintain their attention to their duties." The Bridge's other occupants squirmed with discomfort. Including Tom. "Does this have something to do with the festivities inside Holodeck One?"

Tom bit back a sigh. There was nothing more relentless than a curious ex-Borg. Might as well tell the truth. "Yes, Icheb. We're all waiting for the shift to end, so we can join the others for the St. Patrick's Day festival." He paused. "Why don't you join us? Seven will be there."

Disappointment illuminated Icheb's dark eyes. "I'm afraid not, Lieutenant. Seven is only there, because Captain Janeway requested her presence. And she believes that frivolous time spent inside the holodeck is irrelevant. Especially now that I'm preparing for Starfleet Academy. I am scheduled to join Seven in Astrometrics upon the end of the shift."

Trust Seven to put a damper on a young man's social life, Tom thought morosely. The former drone's educational schedule for Icheb eerily reminded him of his own experiences with Owen Paris. Perhaps he should have a talk with Seven about Icheb's recreational needs. And if that fails, Tom felt that the Captain would find the subject interesting.

Several minutes passed before Icheb made his next announcement. "It is now 18:00 hours, Lieutenant Paris." Which meant that the shift had ended. All eyes automatically fell upon the doors for the turbolift. No one entered. Tom frowned. He had expected stragglers from the festival, including Tuvok, who had been scheduled to relieve him. Like Seven-of-Nine, the Vulcan was notorious for being prompt.

"Let's give them a few more minutes," Tom said. One minute passed. Two minutes. Then five. When the chronometer read 18:15 hours, Tom tapped his combadge. "Bridge to Tuvok." No answer. Again, he attempted to contact the Vulcan. "Paris to Tuvok. Please respond." When Tuvok failed to respond a second time, Tom let out an exasperated sigh. He stood up and started for the turbolift doors. "Ensign Ayala," he said to the former Maquis-turned-Security officer, "you have the Bridge. I'll be inside Holodeck One, if you need me." And he disappeared inside the turbolift.


The doors to Holodeck One slid open and Tom stepped into the world of Fair Haven. One glance around the bustling activity around him, told the pilot that the St. Patrick's Day festival was a success. Everyone seemed to be enjoying him or herself. He spotted a couple against the tavern's wall, grinding their half-dressed bodies against each other's. Perhaps some were enjoying themselves too much.

Gay laughter caught Tom's attention. He spun around and found one of the pilots under his command, Pablo Baytart, enjoying the attentions of two village maidens in an alley between the local haberdashery and the butcher's shop. Three townsfolk and two Starfleeters staggered about the village square in a group, bellowing drinking songs out loud. Tom frowned. What on earth was going on?

"Lieutenant Paris! Tom!" A familiar figure stumbled forward and threw an arm around the pilot's shoulders. "You finally arrived! What took you so long?" Crewman Mortimer Harren shot Tom a bleary grin.

Tom gave the usually anti-social engineer a wary smile. He still had not forgotten the other man's caustic response after he had offered his friendship. "Harren, I'm surprised to see you here. I didn't think hobnobbing with the crew was yourforte."

The engineer giggled. "It isn't. The good captain had insisted I participate in the festivities. Now I'm glad she did." Another giggle followed. "Say, have you tasted Neelix's Valax, yet?"

"No, I haven't." Tom surreptiously removed Harren's arm. "How is it?"

"It's sublime!" Harren giggled once more. "Get it? Sublime! Can you imagine me using such a word?"

Oh God! Tom thought. Not only was Harren a jerk, but had a lousy sense of humor, as well. The pilot scanned the village, searching for Neelix's booth. He saw it, but not the Talaxian. Damn! He had hoped to dump Harren on the morale officer. "Where, uh . . . where is Neelix?"

"He ran out of Valax and left to fetch some more." Harren leaned forward, clutching Tom's left shoulder. "By the way, I never did offer my congratulations on your recent marriage. You're one lucky man." He leaned toward Tom's ear and added in a sotto voice, "If you know what I mean. How many men are lucky enough to share a warm bed with a Klingon woman, eh?"

Tom grabbed Harren's hand and gave it a slight twist. "I believe you're getting a little too personal, Mort. Don't you think?" The cheerfulness in the pilot's voice failed to reach his eyes.

Harren's own eyes grew wide with fear and he stumbled back as Tom released him. "Uh, so . . . so sorry 'bout that, Lieutenant. I . . . uh, I . . . I wondered where Maggie went. Excuse me!" He quickly staggered away.

His temper restored, Tom straightened his uniform and entered Michael Sullivan's pub. The moment he stepped inside, a blast of fiddler's music hit his ears. Tom's eyes focused on the group of Voyager crewmen and Fair Haven townsfolk engaged in a dance. At another corner of the pub sat Ensign Chapman, fast asleep. And both Janeway and the EMH stood near the unconscious officer, obviously in the middle of an animated conversation. However, there was no sign of Tuvok.

Tom approached the bar. "Hi Michael," he said, flashing a smile to the rugged barkeep. "Has Tuvok been here? I'm looking for him."

The Irishman shot Tom a dark look. "Why? Is Katie looking for him?"

"Katie?" It took Tom another moment to reconcile the nickname with his commanding officer. "Oh, you mean the Captain! No, I'm the one looking for Tuvok. Have you . . .?"

"Where's the food?"

Tom blinked. "Huh?" Michael's question had caught him offguard. He was also beginning to wonder if he had drifted into some strange world. Or a bad dream. Tuvok was missing. Mortimer Harren acting like a horse's ass. . . Wait! That was normal for the loner. What was abnormal was Harren's friendly behavior. In fact, many of the people inside the Holodeck - both organic and photonic - seemed to be acting peculiar. Almost drunk. And now Tom had Michael Sullivan shooting glares at him that bordered on homicidal.

The pub owner slammed a glass on the bar and growled, "The food, boyo! Katie sent you to get her a plate of corned beef and cabbage from the Ox and Tail. Frankly, I don't see why she needs you to get it."

"Look Michael," Tom gave the Irishman an apologetic smile, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I just came from the Bri . . . uh, my ship and . . ."

Strong hands grabbed Tom's jacket, forcing the pilot to lean over the bar. "Don't play with me, Tommy Boy! It's bad enough seeing you and Katie snuggling with each other, despite you being a married man. But don't think you can treat me like a fool!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Tom demanded, releasing himself from Michael's grip. He had to get away from this madman! "Before we start fighting over nothing, could you please tell me what's going on? And give me a drink, while you're at it. Preferably Neelix's Valax."

Glaring at the pilot, Michael picked up the glass from the bar, filled it with a brown liquid from a barrel labeled VALAX and slid the glass to Tom. Just as the pilot raised the glass to his lips, a voice cried out, "No! No! Don't drink that!" A hand belonging to the Doctor knocked the glass to the floor.

"Doc!" Tom cried out in exasperation. Now this was the last straw! "What the hell did you do that for?"

The EMH anxiously explained, "That . . . that Valax, or whatever it is, is poison! It's causing a great number of people to act in a strange manner." A second figure appeared beside the Doctor. A smile that struck Tom as unusually sultry curved Janeway's lips. A bad feeling began to niggle in the back of the pilot's mind. The Doctor sighed. "Including the Captain."

"Lieutenant Paris." Janeway immediately latched herself upon the pilot. "What happened to my corned beef?"

Confusion whirled in Tom's brain. Corned beef? A side glance at Michael Sullivan's furious face told him not to expect help from that quarter. "Uh, Captain? What corned beef? I just got here."

"Captain?" Another voice caught the foursome's attention. Tom's eyes widen at the sight of . . . him. A second Tom Paris, dressed in late 19th century costume and holding two platters of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. Déjà vu struck Tom with the force of a plasma storm. Seeing his double reminded him of Tuvok's "Alpha Insurrection" program and his encounter with another holographic Tom.

Before anyone could comment, Janeway ordered, "Computer, delete the Tom Paris character."

"Acknowledged," the computer's voice replied. And Tom Paris II, along with the food, dematerialized.

Janeway tightened her grip on Tom's arm. "That's better," she added huskily. "I've always found the real thing more interesting than fiction. Don't you?" The auburn-haired captain glanced up at him with come hither eyes. Tom could not think of a damn thing to say. In less than ten minutes, he had received more shocks than he could ever remember.

"That's it!" Michael's growl snapped Tom out of his shock. "I've taken all I can." The tavern keeper marched around the bar and stood in front of Tom and Janeway. "Now get your bloody hands off Katie!"

"I wish I could help you, but her hands are on me!" Tom protested. He struggled to break free from the Captain's grip. "Captain . . . Captain, could you . . ." Before he could finish, Michael forcibly wrenched Tom out of Janeway's grip. Then without warning, he swung a fist at the pilot. Fortunately, Tom possessed quick reflexes and ducked. And instead, the fist smashed into the Doctor's face, sending the latter sinking to the floor unconscious.

"Doc!" Tom cried out. He glanced at the EMG's inert figure, before turning on Michael. "What the hell have you done?"

The pub owner began sheepishly, "I . . . I'm sorry Tommy . . ." Before he could finish, a bottle smashed upon his head. Michael fell heavily upon the floor. Janeway stood above him, brandishing a broken piece of glass. Smiling.

"Now that we've gotten rid of distractions," the Captain cooed, as she grabbed hold of Tom's arm once more, "how about a little relaxation? My quarters with a bottle of Valax, some of that jazz music you like so much, myself and thou." Her voice dropped a decibel or two.

To Tom's utter relief, Neelix appeared inside the pub, carrying several bottles. "I'm back everyone! And with a few more bottles of Va . . ." He paused as his eyes surveyed the two figures on the floor and Janeway, clutching an anxious Tom. "Good heavens! What is going on here?"

"Neelix!" Anxiety and relief mingled in Tom's voice. He removed the Captain's hands from his arm in a not-so-gently manner. A frown appeared on her face, but Tom ignored it. "Neelix, am I glad to see you. I need help." He knelt beside the EMH.

The Talaxian placed the bottles on the bar and knelt beside Michael. "How did this happen? Was there a fight?"

Tom slapped the Doctor's face. "Somewhat." He paused. "Michael punched him . . . while trying to punch me. C'mon Doc! Wake up!"

"Why don't we try a stimulant?"

Feminine hands clamped around Tom's arm. "I can think of another kind of stimulant," Janeway's husky voice purred.

Tom immediately shrugged the Captain off. Gods, he hoped she would forget this moment when she became sober. "I'm going to try something the Doc once used on me. Step back." He leaned closer toward the Doctor, his face inches away from the latter. "Doc! Doc? HEY DOC! WAKE UP!"

The shout brought the EMH into a sitting position, with eyes wide open. "Wha . . . Huh? I . . ." He glanced around, wearing a dazed expression. "Mister Paris, what happened?"

"You got in the way of Michael's fist, Doc. I guess you didn't have time to desolidfy yourself." Tom nodded at the unconscious pub owner. "As for Michael . . . uh, let's just say that the Captain came to my rescue with a bottle of Valax."

Mention of the Talaxian drink brought the Doctor to full consciousness. "Valax?" His dark eyes blazed at Neelix. "You! That drink!"

"Me?" Neelix blinked. "Is there something wrong with the Valax, Doctor?"

The Doctor snapped back, "Of course there's something wrong! It's poi . . . don't touch that!" He directed his last cry to Janeway, who now held a glass of Valax. "Don't let her drink that!"

Tom helped the EMH from the floor. "It's a bit late, don't you think, Doc?" From the corner of his eye, he saw the Captain empty the glass in three gulps. "Besides, it's obvious she's had more than one drink already. What we should do is find out how the Valax affects everyone."

"Mr. Neelix!" The Doctor glared at the Talaxian. "What exactly did you put in that drink?"

After stuttering a bit, Neelix finally replied, "No . . . Nothing, Doctor! It's just fermented Leola root. That's all!"

"With synthehol, of course."

Neelix's eyes shifted back and forth. Tom could have sworn he saw guilt swirling inside them. "You did add synthehol in the Valax, didn't you Neelix?"

"Well . . ." Again, the Talaxian hesitated. "I did . . . at least at first I did."

"At first?" The Doctor's expression grew agitated. Tom tried to calm him down. Ordered him to take a deep breath. Which the Doctor did. He continued, "What did you mean by . . . at first?"

Neelix nervously cleared his throat. "Well, I made some Valax with synthehol. And to be honest, it just tasted awful! Since I didn't want to disappoint everyone, I decided to make the genuine stuff. Everyone seemed to like it."

"And that's not all!" the Doctor bellowed. "No wonder everyone has been acting bizarre! That . . . that poison must be more potent than any alcohol native to the Alpha Quadrant!"

The Talaxian stated otherwise. "On the contrary Doctor, the Valax is less potent. Why your Earth whiskey contains more alcohol than Valax. I looked it up in the computer's database. Besides, I've had three helpings, myself and it's barely affected me at all."

"Then why is everyone else acting so strange?" Tom asked. Again, he noticed Janeway helping herself to another glass of Valax. She knelt beside Michael Sullivan's body and began to stroke his forehead in a not-so-motherly manner.

Neelix shrugged. "I have no idea."

"Obviously, fermented Leola root is more potent to those not used to it," the Doctor grumbled, shooting the Talaxian with one last glare. "Including natives of the Alpha Quadrant." He sighed. "How I wish I never heard of Leola root."

Tom immediately took charge of the situation. He ordered the Doctor to return to Sick Bay and find an antidote to the Valax. Meanwhile, he and Neelix will round up all of the crewmen who attended the festival. "It shouldn't be too hard," he added. "Most of them are probably somewhere inside the Holodeck. I'll have Ayala send a few Security people to help us." Tom lifted his hand to activate his combadge when a sudden movement nearly lifted him off his feet. "What was that?"

"Bridge to Paris," the combadge chirped.

Tom responded, "Go ahead."

"An ion storm caught us by surprise. We need you on the Bridge." Ayala's voice paused. "And Commander Tuvok, if he's available."

"Unfortunately, the commander is no where to be found. Oh and Mike? Send a few people from Security to Holodeck One. Neelix will explain." Ayala acknowledged the order and ended the transmission. The ship rocked once more. Tom faced the other two. "I have to return to the Bridge. The ship's external sensors are down and we have an ion storm to deal with. Neelix, start searching for any missing crewmen. You'll have help from Security." He started to turn away.

"Tom! Where are you going?" Janeway abandoned the Irishman and rushed to the pilot's side. Once more, the ship rocked, hurling her and Tom against the bar's edge. The Captain grabbed his arm.

Slowly and deliberately, Tom extracted himself from Janeway's grip. "I have to go now, Captain. There's a bit . . ."

"Kathryn," she purred.

Tom's eyes flew open. "Captain?"

"My name is Kathryn. And you're Tom." Gray eyes radiated heat.

Tom didn't know whether to be embarrassed or aroused by his captain's sudden interest in him. In other words, it was time to make his escape. He flashed Janeway with his mega-watt smile. "Okay, Kathryn. Uh listen, I have an emergency on the Bridge. But I'll be back." After patting her arm, Tom finally made his escape toward the exit. "Let's go Doc!"

The EMH rushed forward to join Tom, muttering, "Captain Proton to the rescue." Unfortunately for him, Tom heard the remark.

"I'll remember that Doc, the next time you try to talk me into a double-shift in Sick Bay so you can spend more time in the holodecks." Tom shot the Doctor with an evil grin and the pair left the Holodeck.


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