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A Stranger Comes To Voyager City

A stranger comes to Voyager City (pt 1)
Jules — 13 Sep 1998, 1:27 PM


The Delta Flyer sounded its warning bell as it chugged slowly to a halt in Voyager City's tiny station. The deafening swoosh of released steam pressure from its engine drowned conversation for a moment as the half dozen travellers whose destination it was alighted from the passenger cars and were greeted by those who had come to meet them. A young mother, with a babe in arms and a small girl of about six, met by her farmer husband. Two ranch hands, back from a week's R&R in the big city, greeted by their girls. And one solitary passenger, conspicuous and a little hot in his smart city pinstripe suit, for whom there was no one.

The stranger clearly expected to be met. He looked up and down the platform, then sat down on the wooden seat beside his suitcase, briefcase on his knees, patient but expectant. Only when the other passengers had departed, and the shrill steam whistle of the train indicated that it had taken on fresh coal and water and was ready to depart, did he get to his feet and walk along the platform to the station house, where he elicited directions from Stationmaster Rollins to both the jailhouse and the telegraph office.

He went to the latter first, since it was nearest. Voyager City's telegraph office, adjacent to the station, did double duty as the general stores, and was at this time of the morning the centre of Voyager City's social activity, as the women of the town gathered to purchase supplies and trade gossip. The stranger nodded politely to them as he headed for the counter, where he enquired of proprietress Peggy Lou whether there had been any messages wired ahead for him. There was one. It was reasonably lengthy, and he read it in silence, giving half an ear to the conversation of the women behind him as he did so.

"...rounded up a posse and headed out to Ogla's Point..."

"...sent for the Doc. That means they know there's going to be shootin'..."

"...don't know how all this fuss is going to affect the big race meeting. What with it taking place tomorrow and all that..."

Finally the stranger folded his telegram, paid Peggy Lou for it, wished her a pleasant day, and nodded again to the townswomen as he made his exit. There was a brief pause to let him get out of earshot, and then the topic of conversation abruptly changed.

"Didn't he look... you know... awfully familiar?" asked Miss Jenny from Quark's Bar.

"Well, now you come to mention it," agreed Peggy Lou. "He did look an awful lot like a certain gentleman of our acquaintance."

"Except maybe with a little more hair," put in Jenny, smiling wickedly.

"What's a city slicker like him doing in Voyager City? It means trouble, mark my words," was the opinion of Samantha Wildman.

"What was in that telegraph he got, Miss Peggy Lou?" asked Jenny Delaney, who had never been greatly noted for reigning in her curiosity, and had tried (and failed) to read it over his shoulder.

Peggy Lou shrugged. "Load o' nonsense, it was. Reckon it must have been in some sort of code."

"What would someone want with secret codes in Voyager City? Don't they trust you not to talk about their business - well, except to us? It's getting so honest folks don't know where they stand any more, and that's a fact."

The stranger's next destination was the jailhouse. He found it empty, of all but a drunk sleeping it off in one of the cells. A brief inspection of the Marshall's office found a hastily scribbled notice on the desk. "Gone to Ogla's Point. Call back again this evening. Deputy Marshall Neelix."

The stranger shrugged. At least this, and the half-overheard conversation in the general stores, explained why neither the Marshall nor his Deputy had met him at the station. He settled himself down in the Marshall's chair to wait.

A stranger comes to Voyager City (pt 2)
Jules — 13 Sep 1998, 1:31 PM

The wanted posters on Marshall Tuvok's wall made interesting reading. The stranger spent some time amusing himself with the perusal of them. He shook his head in sorrow at the sight of the usual "28 years old. Height 5 ft 10. No distinguishing marks." descriptions given to both Kid Obrist and Annorax Heyes of the notorious Krenim gang, and wondered when they'd ever update those posters to note that Annorax Heyes was fifty if he was a day, and that Obrist must be at least six foot. He noted with interest that the Nova gang were still at large, and that the reward for their capture had been doubled yet again.

And then he fell asleep.

It was mid afternoon when he woke, to find a pretty dark haired woman standing over him, watching him curiously. "Sir?"

Rousing himself from sleep, he hid a yawn - since it wasn't polite in mixed company - and smiled a little ruefully at the young woman. "Excuse me. I'm waiting for Marshall Tuvok. He was supposed to meet me off this morning's train, but I gather that he's been detained elsewhere...?"

The young woman nodded brightly. "That's right. There's trouble down at the Big Coffee river - bad blood between two of the ranchers over water rights - and the Marshall went off first thing this morning to the Janeway place, the Delta Q, to try to raise a posse. And then he sent word for Deputy Neelix to follow them over to Kaze Ogla's place with the Doctor. I guess there's going to be shooting for sure. Oh, I'm Miss Megan from Quark's Bar, by the way. When the Deputy's away, he generally asks us to send over food for the prisoners."

They turned and looked at the cell. Its occupant was still sleeping.

"Dangerous type?" asked the stranger.

"Um, not really. That's just Vorik. Every few years he has a bit of a funny turn, and goes on a bender for a week or so. But we're used to it by now, and there's no real harm in him. Marshall Tuvok generally just locks him away for his own good until he comes out of it. He even allows us girls from Quark's Bar to visit and cheer him up. Isn't that nice?"

"Very," agreed the stranger, more than a little intrigued by the enigmatic smile on Miss Megan's lips, which she did not trouble to explain. She studied him, admiring the finely chiselled features, the tow coloured hair, and the intelligence in the eyes that were studying her just as closely. She batted her eyelashes at him, and he didn't dislike it.

"You have business with the Marshall?" she asked, with an endearing wide-eyed innocence that he didn't quite believe in. He wasn't a detective for nothing, after all.

"That's right." He reached under his coat and removed something from his inside breast pocket, smiling reassuringly at her to indicate that it wasn't going to be his gun. She took the card he offered her.

"The Hirogen Detective Agency?"

"That's right," he agreed.

"And you're here on business... Are you chasing someone? Who?"

"That's confidential, I'm afraid." The apologetic smile was charming, but a reflex. It was business he didn't want to discuss with anyone until he'd had the opportunity to have a word with the Marshall. "But yes, I am on the trail of someone."

"You enjoy it, don't you?"

"The hunt? The challenge of outwitting my prey? Yes, I suppose I do." He changed the subject. "You were telling me about the Marshall's business elsewhere?"

They heard the sound of gunshots from the street, and Miss Jenny peered through the barred window to have a look.

"Unless I miss my guess, the Marshall's business elsewhere has just made its way back into town."