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Fractured Fairy Tales

Chak And The Beanstalk (Version #2)

Once upon a time, there lived a starship captain named Kathryn Janeway. She commanded a starship called Voyager, which, as the result of a minor snafu (if blowing to bits the only available technology capable of sending Voyager home can be considered a minor snafu), was lost in the Delta Quadrant. Kathryn was very protective toward her ship and toward her crew, as well -- unless there was a really good reason to sacrifice one or more of them to the vaguaries of alien jurisprudence.

The Delta Quadrant had not been kind to Kathryn and her crew, and many of the elements and compounds needed to keep Voyager operational were in increasingly short supply. Of particular concern were the ship's nearly depleted reserves of obscurium. This element, despite never having been mentioned before, was essential to maintaining the warp coil. Fortunately, Voyager had recently entered a solar system with an inhabited M-class planet, and sensor scans had located obscurium mines on one of the southern continents.

Naturally, the obscurium shortage had affected transporter function, and so the Captain assigned her strapping first officer, Cmdr. Chakotay, and her adorable helmsman, Lt. Paris, despite his desperate pleas (if, "Oh, God, please, please, PLEASE don't send me on another away mission with Chakotay" can be considered a desperate plea), to take a shuttle and go trade for obscurium with the indigenous inhabitants of the planet, as Neelix, the ship's assigned ambassador and first contact expert, was still recovering from one of his rare "I miss Kes" leola root brandy hangovers.

Kathryn accompanied her two crewmembers to the shuttle bay. Chakotay was flushed and bright-eyed with anticipation for the mission, while Paris looked even paler than usual. The Captain handed her first officer a glowing green container and said, "Take this canister of warp plasma -- it's all we can spare -- and trade it for as much obscurium as you can get."

Chakotay's bright look faded, and he frowned. "But Captain, isn't this a pre-warp culture? Trading warp plasma for native ore would be a clear violation of the Prime Dir --"

Kathryn cut him off with The Look. "If I had wanted a first officer who asked pertinent, informed questions and who pointed out the flaws in my reasoning, I would have chosen one. You have your orders, Cochise. Now move!"

Chakotay, weakened by bad writing, acquiesced, overcome, as usual, by this forceful, if misguided, woman. He hoisted the canister of warp plasma and headed toward the shuttle craft. Tom lingered for a moment and turned wide, pleading eyes on Kathryn. "Please, Captain. Don't make me fly in a shuttle with him. He always wants to take the helm, and you know how that goes." Tom stepped closer to Kathryn and lowered his voice. "I'll do anything, Captain. Anything. I'll even reactivate the swamp planet holo-program for you and make those amphibian noises that you like so mu --"

Kathryn cut him off with The Look, squared. "Get a grip, Tom. You're a main character. You'll probably be fine. If not, try not to bleed on the upholstery." She turned sharply and strode out of the shuttle bay. Tom sighed and walked slowly toward the shuttle, his head down. On his way, he passed two relieved ensigns who called out, "Dead man walking!"

Once inside the shuttlecraft, Tom briefly wrestled Chakotay for control of the helm, but the first officer used his weight advantage to pin Tom to the bulkhead (getting a few ideas for a holo-program in the process) and then made a mad dive for the helmsman's seat. Tom settled, with a resigned sigh, in the co-pilot's chair. The trip to the planet's surface proved uneventful, if a near collision with the planet's only natural satellite, clipping a platform in the planet's orbital defense system, and landing the shuttle in the middle of a briar patch can be considered uneventful. Cursing softly under his breath, Tom climbed out of the shuttle. Chakotay, who sincerely believed that a good landing was any landing you could walk away from, picked up the canister of warp plasma and followed Tom outside. The two Starfleet officers walked carefully through the briars over to a nearby highway. Balancing the canister on his hip and scanning the surrounding countryside with his tricorder, Chakotay announced, "There appears to be a major metropolitan area to the north. Let's head that way."

"On foot?" Tom asked skeptically.

"It will be an excellent opportunity for us to get a feel for this planet and its people, and it will give us a chance to spend some quality time together." He handed Tom the warp plasma. "Here, you carry the canister." And with that, Chakotay set off down the road at a clip.

They walked down the road in silence for over half an hour. Several female natives in red, blue, and tea rose hover-convertibles stopped to offer the two men a lift, but Chakotay always declined politely. After the third vehicle had stopped and been sent on it's way, Tom swore under his breath some more and shifted the canister to his other hip. "Listen, Chakotay, this is beginning to get ..."

"Look, Tom," Chakotay called out suddenly, pointing. "There's a rest area up ahead." He picked up his pace and headed toward a group of low-lying buildings. Arriving at the rest area, Chakotay immediately fell in with an old monk who ran a small fruit stand/animal spirit shrine a few hundred yards away from the visitor center. Tom, his stomach growling, wandered a little further down the road, to a small alien restaurant. Entering the restaurant, he found an empty booth and set the canister of warp plasma on the seat beside him. A pretty waitress (if a woman with an green eyebrows and gills can be considered pretty) came over to take his order. When Tom explained that he had no local currency, the young woman asked, "Well, maybe we can work a trade. What's in that green jar?"

"Warp plasma."

"What's it used for?"

Tom hesitated for a moment, generations of Starfleet breeding coming to the fore, until another waitress walked by carrying something deep-fried and fragrant. "Powering the warp drive of a starship."

"Cool. So, what'll you have?"

Tom ordered a large lunch, including a to-go bag for Chakotay. After he finished eating, he stopped at the cash register to pay his bill. As he handed over the canister of warp plasma, he noticed a jar on the counter that said "Magic Beans."

Tom raised an eyebrow at the pretty waitress and asked, "What are those?"

"Oh, that's just a lentil that's grown locally. They're supposed to be fast growing and have mild psychotropic properties, but they usually just give me gas. Take some, if you want. I'll add them to your bill."

So Tom left the restaurant with a sack lunch for his mission commander and a handful of magic beans. As he headed back to the rest area, he noticed that Chakotay was still huddled up, talking with the monk. As Tom approached, Chakotay looked up and smiled. "Hey, Tom. Where have you been?"

"Having lunch. Here, I brought you a sandwich and some cupcakes." Tom held out the sack to the first officer.

Chakotay looked surprised, but accepted the sack. Then he frowned. "Tom, where's the warp plasma?"

Tom hesitated, scuffing his foot in the dirt. "Uh, um, well, you see ..."

A look of disbelief crossed Chakotay face. "Are you trying to tell me you traded the warp plasma for lunch?"

Tom edged away from his incredulous commander and responded, "Well, yes...and a handful of magic beans." Tom reached into his pocket, meaning to show him the lentils, when Chakotay leapt to his feet in fury, spittle flying from his mouth, and butted his chest up against Tom's. He shouted in the handsome young man's face, "Have you lost your mind? How are we going to get any obscurium now?" Chakotay paused, a horrified look on his face. "Oh, my God, what am I going to tell Kathryn?" With that, the commander gave Tom a brutal shove. Tom stumbled backward and fell awkwardly to the ground, and the magic beans went flying. One fell, as luck would have it, into a pot of primordial ooze that the alien monk had brought back from his last off-planet spiritual retreat.

Chakotay launched himself at Tom's prone figure, seething with four years of irritation, resentment, envy, and something that really didn't bear too close an examination. While the two Voyager officers rolled around on the ground, the monk dove for cover behind his fruit stand/animal spirit shrine, and the primordial ooze began to bubble. The magic bean sprouted and began to grow at an alarming pace, growing higher and higher, eventually breaking through the membrane of reality into another plane of existence.

Tom and Chakotay didn't immediately notice. Tom finally managed to slip out of the commander's bruising grip, scrambling to his feet and running straight toward the beanstalk. Without a second thought, the pilot began to climb. Chakotay sprang to his feet and raced after him. So intent was he on getting away from his infuriated first officer, that Tom climbed right through the rift in the membrane of reality and found himself in another dimension of sight and sound. "Hmmm," he thought in passing. "Judging by the light, it's twilight." Tom dropped to the ground and started running again, right into a thick mist.

Chakotay came through the rift just in time to see Tom vanish into the fog. He followed, tracking Tom by the sound of his movements and the scent of his sweat. "Hmmm," he thought in passing. "Smells like English Leather." As they ran through the mist, Chakotay began to gain on Tom, who was running blindly, stumbling over logs and crashing into tree limbs. Just as Chakotay got close enough to make a grab for him, Tom broke through the mist into a clearing with a castle. Startled, Tom stopped suddenly, and Chakotay slammed into him, knocking them both to the ground. Tom jumped to his feet again, ran to the castle door, and ducked into a large, dark entry hall. Chakotay followed more cautiously, eventually catching up with Tom inside the castle at the entrance to a side parlor, where the pilot stood, frozen in place.

Looking into the parlor, Chakotay saw a giant sitting in a chair dozing by a fireplace. On the top of a table next to the giant's chair sat a beautiful harp. Chakotay, who still had his tricorder, scanned the room. Looking at the readings, he gasped softly. "Tom, that harp is make of pure obscurium."

Tom whispered back. "You're kidding, right?"

"No, I'm not. There's enough high-grade obscurium in that harp to supply Voyager for the next six months."

Tom looked at his commander in amazement. "Are you suggesting that we just take it?"

Chakotay gave him a dark, unfathomable look. "Yes. Do you have a problem with that?"

"Well, it doesn't seem right. What will the captain say?"

"Oh, I don't know. What do you think she'll say if we go back and tell her that you traded the warp plasma for cupcakes and magic beans?"

"Point taken. Come over here and give me a boost."

The giant hadn't stirred during their whispered exchange. Chakotay cupped his hands together and hoisted Tom up onto the table. As Tom clambered, as quietly as possible, across the tabletop to a spot next to the harp, an alarm abruptly went off, and the elegant stringed instrument loudly announced, "You are too close to the harp. You are too close to the harp."

With lightening reflexes, Tom grabbed the harp, jumped from the table...and landed right on Chakotay. Once again, the two men fell to a heap on the ground, Tom on top, lying chest to chest with Chakotay and breathing heavily. The first officer made a mental note for his holo-program, shoved Tom off of him, and screamed, "Run!"

As the two men raced from the room, the harp still blaring its alarm, the giant rose from his chair, still bleary and disoriented with sleep. Taking a deep breath, he bellowed, "Fee fi fo fum. I smell the blood of Chak and Tom!"

Tom clutching the harp to his chest as he ran, yelled to Chakotay, who was leading him by a length. "How do you think he knows our names?"

Chakotay called breathlessly back over his shoulder, "Not now, Tom."

As they stumbled through the front door of the castle, the sound of the giant's footsteps right behind them, Tom glanced over at the gardens that lay to the east of the castle, where he saw a familiar petite blonde woman. "Chakotay", he shouted, pointing with one hand and gripping the harp with the other. "Isn't that Kes?"

"Not NOW, Tom", Chakotay wheezed and ran on toward the mist.

The giant didn't run well, but, with his greater stride, he began gaining on Tom and Chakotay, as they sped toward the beanstalk. Tom, having passed his first officer in the mist, reached the vine first and, slinging the harp by its strap across his shoulder, began to climb down, Chakotay right on his heels (if climbing down feet first can really be considered "right on his heels"). As they reached the bottom of the beanstalk, Chakotay looked up to see the giant rapidly descending.

"What are we going to do?" Tom cried, the harp (which had changed it's tune and was now crooning "Unchained Melody") tucked up under one arm. "We can't outrun it to the shuttle."

Chakotay, with a last look at the approaching giant overhead, swiftly drew his phaser and severed the beanstalk with a single blast. The vine wavered briefly, and then the giant came crashing down to the ground in a mass of vine, leaves, and residual existential membrane.

Tom looked at Chakotay with his mouth hanging open. "You had a phaser?" Chakotay nodded. "I can't believe this. You had a phaser all along? Why the hell didn't you just shoot the giant in the castle?"

Chakotay looked sheepish. "In all the excitement, I forgot that I had it with me."

"You forgot? Oh, well that's just great, Commander. We nearly die --"

Chakotay's eyes narrowed, and he stepped closer to Tom. "That's enough, Lieutenant."

Tom tilted his head slightly to one side and directed a challenging look at his superior officer. "Oh, really?"

Chakotay got right up in the pilot's face. "Yes, really. Either we maintain our command structure, or we settle our differences the old-fashioned way." (And there was a disturbance in space-time, as if a million voices suddenly cried out, "Finally!", and were just as suddenly silenced.) "And you're hardly one to talk, Mr. Never-thinks-to-pick-up-the-alien's-weapon."

Tom had the decency to look abashed, and Chakotay spun on his heel and headed back to the shuttle. Tom adjusted the harp slung over his shoulder, which was now softly singing, "Fly Me to the Moon," and silently followed his mission commander back down the highway.

The trip back to Voyager passed without incident, if running into a flock of native avian life forms, buzzing a commercial airliner, and overshooting Voyager by half a parsec can be considered "without incident." Tom and Chakotay discussed, in detail, what had happened to them on the planet and what they would tell the captain when they saw her again.

Kathryn met the away team in the shuttle bay. Chakotay took the harp, which was gently wailing "If Ever I Would Leave You," from Tom's arms and presented it to the captain. "Here is the obscurium, Captain -- enough to last us for the next six months."

Kathryn smiled. "Well done, gentleman. And kudos for bringing the shuttle back in one piece, Commander." Kathryn carefully perused the harp. "This is a very interesting configuration for commercial obscurium."

Chakotay shot Tom a warning look. "Well, it was a very interesting planet, Captain."

And so Tom and Chakotay returned to Voyager to much acclaim, and they lived happily ever after. At least, until the harp started to warble, "Just sit right back, and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip..."

The End