The Coffee Nebula Board is for the discussion of Star Trek: Voyager and other sci-fi/cult shows. This is its Archive of episode discussions, top ten lists, fan fiction, and other miscellaneous musings.


VC Compleat: The Annual Leola Root Festival

Kes and her Gunslinger (part 1)
Eric — 12 Sep 1998, 1:13 PM

(With apologies to Clint Eastwood and Stephen King)

Kes stood in front of her mirror and didn't like what she saw. She was wearing her usual tunic, sensible pixie haircut and shoes. She was ready to walk down to Doc's office and stitch up the occasional cowboy who got into a bar fight and nurse Doc back from a nasty hangover. What is it about drunken HoloDoc's in these western towns? Every western town she and Kathryn traveled to had a drunken Doctor.

She walked over to her closet and peaked at the outfit she had sewed together hidden by her other clothes. Sure it was similer to the one her sister Sevenita had created for herself (also hidden) but really hers was the better one. She had crafted hers out of black leather, the close fitting material showed of her figure and the low hanging gunbelt flowed nicely into the high heeled boots. She ran her fingers down the leather and enjoyed the way it felt, soon, soon she would have the courage to wear it...

But for now she had to go to work. She stopped in for a quick lunch and said hi to Neelix. She had a brief affair with the cook when she was younger (she still wasn't sure why) but dumping his a$$ was the smartest thing she had done, and went out the door.

Kes and her Gunslinger (part 2)
Eric — 12 Sep 1998, 1:16 PM


Chakotay was angry. He could not believe what happened at the horse races. He had been in the lead! He was winning!!! One little look back at his defeated opponents had changed all that. Somehow his foolish horse (it wasn't HIS fault! It NEVER was!) had run right into the fence. Fortunately neither him or his horse were hurt badly. They had a lot of practice at this. But he had lost the race and more importantly he had looked bad in front of Seska (a bar maid from a European country called Bajor, he would have to ask her where that was someday).

The cowboy was so lost in his sad thoughts that he never saw the cliff that he was approaching fast...

And meanwhile....

The local enforcers of the Kazon mafia were NOT pleased. They had lost a lot of money at the horse races. They had bet that Chakotay would crash his horse a lot earlier in the race and they were going to make the whole Voyager ranch PAY. Suddenly the lead Kazon heard a scream!

Meanwhile (these stories DO come together trust me)...

The Gunslinger rode through the canyon, the next down on the path was Delta Quad, he should be there soon. The Feds would pay a lot of money for the Kazon mafia. He looked up when he heard a terrible scream.

Kes heard Chakotay's scream as well (to her credit her first thought wasn't, oh no not again) and went running for the path down to the bottom of the canyon. When she got there she saw Chakotay's broken bleeding body. She pulled him out from under the horse (the horse was fine, Chakotay had broken it's fall). She knew she needed Doc's help on this one. Suddenly she heard a noise.

The lead Kazon smiled, he liked it when the target came to him. Now Kathryn and the Voyager ranch would start to pay! He motioned to his friends and they crept up on the Ocampan girl but Mullah slipped on some loose rock and....

...Kes rolled over and pulled Chakotay's guns, he wouldn't be needed them! She knew you couldn't talk to the Kazon so she let her twin 6 shooters do the talking. Two Kazon went down with her first volley but there were so many of them.

The gunslinger could not beleve what he saw! That Ocampan girl was amazing! The small sexy body moved with the grace of a jungle cat, or at least what he thought one would move like. He vowed when this was over they would get to know each other a lot better, but for now...

...Nystra (the leader of this screw up) was sure he could still pull this ambush off. The Ocampa wench was killing his men but there was no way she could take them all! When suddenly two Kazon next to him exploded in a bloody mess.

The rest happened very quickly.

The Gunslinger approached Kes on wobbly knees she was even better looking up close. And the smoking guns and the dusty face only added to her stunning beauty. What is your name she asked? They call me Eric he answered.

Chakotay groaned in pain....

Kes and her Gunslinger didn't hear him.

Anybody want to take part 3? If not i think this could get very steamy!

Kes and her Gunslinger : The Trial (part 1)
Eric — 15 Sep 1998, 12:23 PM

Kes and Her Gunslinger : The Trial of Sevenita (Part 1)

Note : This story takes place immediately on the heels of Kes and her Gunslinger part 2 and Terry's Kim Phooey series.

Chakotay was in pain. A lot of pain. He had crashed his horse for the second time that day. The first time had been at the races. He was supposed to have thrown the race for the Kazon Mafia but he had been distracted by the beautiful foreign girl Seska and had crashed on the first turn. Things had gone downhill fast after that when he fell into the Big Coffee canyon dreaming about Seska again! Of course the Kazon showed up but luckily Kes had shown up and used his guns to fight them off (where had the schoolteacher learned how to do THAT?) and who was the darkly handsome Gunslinger who had shown up just in time? And more importantly why were they kissing each other when he was bleeding to death???

Eric could not believe his luck! He had been on his way to Voyager City to look for some work when he had come accross the sexiest woman he had ever seen, the only problem was she was fighting for her life. He had helped out by wasting the rest of the bad hair freaks. He had stared deep into her eyes and it was almost like they had fallen into each other. Now if he could only figure out how to remove her strange tunic....and what kind of animal made wet, sloppy groaning noises like that?

Kes came up for air and was thinking about helping Eric with her tunic and and looked into the eyes of...

"I am Kim, I will help you" said Qwai-chang Kim.

"Where did you come from?" the pointy eared Ocampa asked? That's what I would like to know muttered the gunslinger who had only managed to unbutton Kes part way. That is unimportant! I have given first aid to Chakotay but he needs medical attention, and Kes I must know return your memories and give you THIS!

"Wow! That is the sexiest leather suit I have ever seen!!" breathed the Gunslinger...

Kes and her Gunslinger : The Trial (part 2)
Eric — 15 Sep 1998, 12:25 PM


Seska was getting impatient. If anyone saw her here it would ruin the plan!

"Ahhh, Seska it seems I was right to pick you for this mission after all, that disguise is perfect", Seska jumped as a gray skinned Cardassian came into view. "Dukat" she breathed, "you scared me!". And you almost scared me! You weren't supposed to frame Sevenita for another 3 days! We NEED that time to move our forces into place. We have to hit the Delta Q ranch with a the full tribe!

"But what memories Kim?", asked Kes

Let me explain, you remember being raised by the peaceful Ocampa Indians before you were adopted by Miss. Janeway at the Delta Q Ranch. But you are actually MY daughter! You are the sacred Warlord of the Shoalin Monks! We have created you to help the innocent and fight evil! I am getting to old to travel like this and besides Kung Foo : The Legend continues has been cancelled. "That sucked!, I loved that show", added Eric. Now you must put this sacred Leather warlord Suit on and all your memories will return.

"Don't worry Dukat", said Seska.

I had to move fast since the Kazon screwed everything up. But my conditions have changed. I want Chakotay ALIVE. "NO!", screamed Dukat, he was a part of the Maqui calvery that almost wiped out our tribe! He will burn like the rest of the Delta Q ranch!

"I don't think so", interrupted a cheery voice.

"You look incredible", drooled Eric.

"I feel different" said Kes. Here is your weapon, this is the holy Shaol Lin Pistol. Kes slipped it into her low hanging holster while the Gunslinger tried not to faint (he always had a thing for women with guns) and asked what did you see Kes?

I saw....

(A small hut in the desert, a voice, "Your father wanted me to give this to you when you were old enough", learning to use her Ocampa powers, a fight! The evil Caretakers attacking, fire! The Temple Burning!!)

Kim nodded " Yes the evil Caretaker attacked us before you were ready, but now you can finish our work here in Voyager City and the Gunslinger can help you". My work here is done, I have heard of a Tournament near here called Mortal Kombat, I think I will sign up.

Oh no! Seska is a traiter!
Who is the cheerful voice?
Will Eric ever recover from writing these sexy Kes scenes?
Find out in the next chapter!

More later gang, i gotta do SOME work today!

Kes and her Gunslinger : The Trial Part 3
Eric — 16 Sep 1998, 8:02 PM

Time for some ACTION darn it!

The sad, lonely death of Deputy Neelix

Five minutes ago...

Neelix was patrolling Big Coffee canyon. He had heard reports of some kind of shootout going on. Thinking it might be the Kazon Mafia he saddled up and head out. Marshal Tuvok liked his officers to show initiative. What he saw was even more amazing. He saw Seska the pretty barmaid talking to a grey skinned Cardassion brave! What was going on here? He listened in on what they were saying. Sevenita's Trial? Miss. Janeway's ranch? A Cardassian attack?? Seska was a traitor! He wrote down what he heard into his notebook drew his gun and called out...

"I don't think so!" said a cheery voice.

Dukat whirled around, and spotted a stumpy little man wearing a Deputy's badge and holding a gun, pointed at him and Seska. Ah! You must be that little Deputy Neelix that I've heard about, nice hair! "Both of you are under arrest!", "Stand where you are!".

You don't know what your dealing with Deputy!

"Come on Kes", said Eric, "we have to get Chakotay to the Voyager City Doctor". Yes your right, but I'm still trying to make sense of these new memories, said Kes as she helped Eric tie Chahotay to his saddle. She didn't notice the Gunslinger checking out her leather clad butt as she was bending over the fastenings, at least not with her eyes, she felt his thoughts through her Ocampan heritage and smiled. This Gunslinger would be quite a challenge to straighten out. And why was he thinking the same thing about HER?

"What do you mean Dukat?", demanded Neelix. "I know what I'm dealing with! An treacherous Injun and a traiter!". Seska made a face and shouted, it's those maquis who are traitors! They are the ones who attacked our peaceful tribe! Dukat just stared calmly at Neelix as he approached with his handcuffs and asked in a quit voice "Do you know what a Pagh Wraith is Deputy?". "Nope" said Neelix and then told Dukat to hold out his arms.

"Allow me to inform you", said Dukat as his eyes flamed red in the desert heat. And then all hell broke loose quite literally. Dukat arms shoot out and Seska would later swear that flames engulfed his body as a energy bolt stroke Neelix in the chest launching him into the side of the canyon over 50 feet away. Neelix began to shake worse then Doc after a weekend bender. And his screaming! His screaming was taking on a bubbling noise, like when Quark was making bacon at his Bar.

"Enough!" she shouted. "What do you want?", demanded Dukat in a voice not his own. Seska drew her gun, I want to ask him a question. She walked over to Neelix sat down on her hunches with her gun over Neelix's head. I remember you looking at me at the bar Deputy. Checking me out, making rude comments. She thumbed back the hammer...

"Do you think I'm sexy now Neelix?"

She pulled the trigger.

The mess was considerable.

Eric heard the screams first. Come on! And the two friends (and maybe more? Be patient dear reader) and Chakotay now unconscious raced toward the sound. What they found was horrible. Kes crys were the worst part of the day for Eric, but that was only the beginning of the rest of a bad day.

Kes and her Gunslinger : The Trail (part4) Return to VC!
Eric — 17 Sep 1998, 8:22 PM

Ok gang, the story finally let me return the trio to Voyager, plus you will notice we have a new horse, by request. Now that the gang is back in town if you want to use any of the characters go ahead. I realize i have been greedy with Kes :-)

The Return to Voyager City

Deputy Neelix was dead. Cut down in his prime by the evil Dukat and the treachery of Seska the traiter. Kes found his burned broken body by his trusty steed Peter. Kes screamed, "NOOOOOOO!", what have they done to you Neelix? Why did you have to be so brave?

Eric didn't know what top do. He was never very good at these things. Right then he would have rather gone up against a hundred angry Kazon then one crying woman. He decided to bite the bullet and try to say something. He put his arms around her tight leather clad body and tried a oldie but goodie, "Kes it will be all right, we will MAKE it all right". She looked up at him her tear stained eyes filling with determination, "Yes, we will.", then she looked down at Neelix's blood-stained notebook and read the notes. It was Seska! And someone named Dukat! They would pay! She felt her dark power rising in her like a heat-wave and unzipped her suit to half-mast, exposing small firm breasts.

Eric had a hard time breathing.

They started out for Voyager City, with a new purpose. When they came to the wide gates, Eric paused and looked at the town. He had felt driven since he had met Kes. Driven to some unknown destiny. Maybe he would find it here in this strange town.

Kes moved on with Chakotay, strapped to his horse, "Come on Doc's is over here. He followed her down mainstreet past Quarks and the new Brothel, Kes explained that Maxine had just moved in, and what was that strange wagon with the creepy, gimpy driver? "Turn back!!!", screamed the strage creature, "Turn BAAAAACK!".

Here we are. The sign read DOC HOLLIDAY : Paying customers welcome. Kes knocked a walked in followed by Eric. Nobody was sitting in the waiting room, but in the surgery room...

Doc was lying in a pool of his own vomit "Kessss, you have to HELP her! My sweet daughter taken by those Barb..., BBb, Bar, Bad people!", "Help her Kes!!".

Then : "Heyyyyy, when did you become such a H-h-h-hotty?"

Kes blushed.

Eric smiled his agreement.


"Ow, I love it when you do that."

End Part 4! Next : The Trial! I mean it! I really mean it this time.

Casing The Joint (Pt 1)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:10 PM

Miss Julie looked up from her desk at the back of the bank as she heard the faint ching of the doorbell. Jenny Delaney stepped inside the bank and looked around her, as if checking her bearings, or perhaps looking for someone. Julie turned away slightly, to hide her grin. She'd seen this scenario played out several times in the past few days, and had come to rather enjoy it.

She moved forward to the cashiers' stalls and tapped Detective Magnum, who'd arrived this morning and was taking his turn to play bank staff, on the shoulder. "You can take your break now; I'll deal with this customer," she said. "Good morning, Miss Delaney. We don't often see you in here? How may I help you?"

Jenny Delaney looked around one more time, and her shoulders drooped a little in disappointment. "Well, I was thinking about opening an account to keep my life savings safe..."

"A very wise decision," agreed Miss Julie, keeping a straight face by willpower alone. It was simply amazing how many of Quark's girls had had second thoughts about the security of their money in its previous resting place under their pillows and sewn into their mattresses this past week. Susan Nicolletti and three others had been in the previous day, and Megan Delaney two days before that. And every day since, to deposit her tips from the bar. And, if they seemed to linger a little over the business of paying in, Miss Julie didn't mind particularly. She was reasonably certain that it wasn't the security and impregnability of the bank that was uppermost in their minds. Which was probably just as well, since the bank's chief attraction was there for the sole reason that that security and impregnability was supposed to be under threat.

She hoped Nicholas Locarno would be back from his morning's errands soon. She didn't want to disappoint Jenny's hopes entirely. And perhaps she shouldn't have sent Thomas Magnum away to the back room, after all. He might have proven an acceptable substitute.

"It'll take some time to process the details," she said however, as encouragingly as she could. "There's a form to fill in. Why don't you take it over to the table by the window, and sit down and be comfortable while you do it? Take your time. There's no hurry."

Jenny's face brightened slightly, and she did as had been suggested, settling herself down in the chair with a flounce of bright silken skirts. Julie kept a casual eye on her while checking the morning's transactions in the ledger, and noticed that she spent altogether more time looking out of the window than she did writing on her form.

Julie sighed. She did hope that there was nothing in this rumour that the bank might get hit. But she couldn't shake the rather unworthy thought that perhaps if things dragged on into next week and the detectives stuck around for a while longer, she might start picking up business from the ladies at Madame Maxine's as well.

Casing The Joint (pt 2)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:13 PM

Nicholas Locarno breezed into the bank, a cheerful twinkle in his grey-blue eyes. "Good morning, Miss Julie. Sorry I'm a little late. The wire from Federation City hadn't come through, so I had to wait a while at the Telegraph Office." He put on a penitent look. Julie thought he looked way too pleased with himself for it to be genuine, but it amused her anyway.

"I take it that everything's okay though?" she questioned. "Any word about these outlaws?"

"Well, they were spotted over near Defiant City the day before yesterday. Changed horses at a livery stables on the edge of town. Everything seems to indicate they're headed this way." He patted her on the shoulder. "Don't look so worried. You can rely upon us to look after your money as if it were our own."

Miss Julie sighed. "I suppose so. Now, you might like to take up a place behind the counter. We have a customer."

"So we do. Ah, good morning Miss Delaney. You're opening an account here? Trouble filling out the form? Here, let me go through it with you..."

The door opened again, and Cowgirl Vickie came in. "Morning, Julie. Is the Circle V payroll ready for me yet? I don't have a lot of time to spare, I'm afraid. Too much to do before the race. Are you coming to watch?"

"Of course. I wouldn't miss it. You're riding in it, aren't you?"

"I am. Not that I've much of a chance against the Delta Q entrants, or the judge's brother, but I aim to have fun and give Mesquite a bit of a run."

"Well, good luck anyway. Now, about your wages... Mr Magnum here was supposed to be putting them together, but I'm not sure if he got finished before he went on break. Thomas? This is Miss Vickie from the Circle V. Do you have her money ready for her?"

The dark haired, dark eyed detective smiled charmingly at Cowgirl Vickie. His moustache lifted slightly along with the upturned corners of his mouth, and his eyes crinkled attractively at the edges. "Not yet... Vickie. But it won't take any time at all to finish, if you have a moment to spare."

Vickie smiled back at Magnum. Observing her with a raised eyebrow, Julie concluded that she'd suddenly discovered lots of spare moments in her previously busy day, and all of them for the detective from the Hirogen Detective Agency. Glancing across to Nicholas Locarno, as engrossed in Miss Jenny's application form as she was engrossed in staring soulfully into his eyes, she wondered how much she'd have to offer the two men to persuade them to resign their current jobs and take up banking full time.

The door bell rang again. Still watching Locarno, Miss Julie saw him stiffen suddenly as he looked up, and looked across herself in sudden surprised alarm.

The man who had entered the bank was a stranger to her. His hair was grey, and as he took his hat off she could see that it was receding at the temples, enough to make the scarring on either side of his face easy to see. A cold chill ran down her spine.

Oh, lord, she thought. It must be true after all then. He looks exactly like the description Nick gave me of Annorax Heyes.

Casing The Joint (pt 3)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:16 PM

Nicholas Locarno gave Jenny Delaney his most charming smile.

"Excuse me, Miss Delaney. I've another customer I must attend to. See if you can finish that form off by yourself, and I'll get back to you in a minute."

Jenny pouted a little, but stepped aside slightly so that the newcomer could step up to the counter and look through the bars at Locarno.

"Can I help you, sir?" asked Nicholas politely.

"Sold a horse at your livery stables. The man there, Larson, said you'd pay out the money due me if I presented his bond." The stranger slipped a piece of paper under the bars and Nicholas scrutinised it. "Eighty dollars. I'm sure that'll be fine sir, but I'm new here so I'd better just clear it with the manager first. One moment."

He approached Miss Julie, who had retreated to the back room and was standing a little defensively in front of the sturdy Brooker safe. "Is that normal practice for this man Larson? Has he done this before?"

"Frequently." Miss Julie nodded. "He doesn't like to keep more cash on the premises than is absolutely necessary, and his credit has always been good, so we came to this arrangement for when he runs short." She looked at the cheque, with its careful copperplate signature. "Yes, that's in order. Although... that's him, isn't it?"

Among other things, she'd noticed the way that Detective Magnum's hand was hovering very close to his gun.

"Annorax Heyes? Yes, it looks like him," agreed Locarno. "Can't quite figure out his angle though. There's a busy street outside, and we're right next to the Marshal's office. And I don't see any sign of the rest of his gang. Perhaps he's just casing the joint."

"Perhaps," echoed Miss Julie. But her face had gone very pale, and she didn't begin to regain her colour until, after a moment or two of conversation with Locarno as he counted out the cash, Annorax Heyes departed with his eighty dollars.

Casing The Joint (pt 4)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:21 PM

Outside the Empire Bank, Heyes turned slowly on his heel, surveying the street. Spotting the fading weatherboard sign over Sandrine's Saloon, he went in and asked the female French bartender to get him a Malkothian whiskey. As she turned to pour it, he heard a quiet footstep as someone moved up beside him and settled themselves down at the next stool. Turning, he saw a pretty oriental girl. Demure and inscrutable, he decided. She didn't look at all the type to be mixed up in this kind of business. But then sometimes that could be an advantage.

"You're Ogawa?" he asked. "I was expecting someone more..."

"Male?" she asked, lifting one exquisite eyebrow. "You should know that my employer doesn't believe in being obvious."

"That might be difficult, since I've never met him... her?" After Alyssa Ogawa merely smiled with true oriental inscrutability, he continued. "My men are all holed up in that abandoned ranch house five miles from town that your boss told us about, and I've looked the bank over. We're all set for tomorrow."

Alyssa Ogawa shook her head very slightly, so that her dark curls danced. "There's been a change of plan. We hadn't anticipated just how busy Voyager City was during race week. And besides, the big money won't be shipped out of town until the middle of next week."

"So, when do we hit it? I thought we were going to use this big race tomorrow for a distraction?"

"We were. But now we have a better one. There's a murder trial next Monday. Very beautiful girl, the boss says. Likely to provoke lots of interest in the verdict. Half the town will be there."

"And meanwhile, we'll be in the bank?"


Sandrine came back with his drink, and Annorax Heyes downed it in one gulp. "Well, nice meeting you, miss. My compliments to your boss." He tipped his hat and left.

Talk is cheap, until you hire a lawyer.
Ginny — 15 Sep 1998, 7:01 PM

Midday in Voyager City. The streets were full of townspeople going about the business of providing a back-drop for the other, more interesting citizens. Several youthful residents had stopped to see Joe Carey, the local tailor, at his shop and pick up new clothes--dresses for the young women, shirts for the young men--that had been ordered after the mercantile had run a very successful sale on callico the previous month. Carey had marvelled at the fact that all of the sale callico consisted of prints with red as the predominant color, but he was a tailor, not a fashion consultant, and he dismissed it as one of those odd coincidences in life.

As he stood in his door, waving good-bye to the pretty red-headed woman who was often seen on the town sidewalks in earnest conversation with other townfolk whose names he didn't know, the 10:15 a.m. stage rolled into town, down the main street, and past his shop. Carey was impressed. It was only 12:47 p.m.--the driver had arrived an hour and a half earlier than usual. The tailor wondered what had so motivated him today.

As Carey contemplated this question, the driver pulled his team of horses up in front of the stage coach offices. The stage coach had barely stopped rolling, when the driver leapt from his seat, pulled open the coach door, and hurriedly lowered the step from the door to the ground. He reached in and helped a woman step down to the street. And what a striking figure of a woman she was. Dressed from head to toe in maroon and wearing an elegant, broad-brimmed hat trimmed in dyed-to-match ostrich feathers, she gripped a large black satchel in one elegant hand, which the driver immediately offered to carry for her.

"Why, thank you, kind sir," the woman in maroon stated, her voice musical with a soft southern accent. "We did very well on time, didn't we?"

The driver hastened to answer, in very respectful tones. "Yes, ma'am. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

The woman in maroon smiled. "Only if it's no trouble. Have my bags taken to the best hotel in town, order me a bath and a full English tea to be ready in exactly one hour and a half, and inform the marshal that I will expect to see my client, the falsely accused Sevenita, within the quarter hour."

"Yes, ma'am. That'll be no trouble at all", the driver replied. "Anything else?"

The woman in maroon paused, her really beautiful brown eyes scanning the street and surrounding buildings. "Do something about all this annoying red callico, will you?" And with that, she swept past the driver and walked purposefully toward the saloon.

More: You can always tell a lawyer, but you can't tell her much.
Ginny — 16 Sep 1998, 6:57 AM

The woman in maroon walked up the steps to Quark's. She flung the swinging wooden doors open and stepped into the gloomy interior of the saloon. She hesitated a moment just inside the doors, letting her beautiful brown eyes adjust to the dim light. All activity and conversation momentarily ceased at her appearance, and the cowboys and saloon girls watched her move toward the bar, murmuring to each other as she passed. The woman placed her hands lightly on the polished surface of the bar and smiled at the sweet-faced young bartender with the crinkly nose. "Good afternoon, barkeep. And what might your name be?" the woman asked in her pleasantly accented contralto.

"Gerron, ma'am," the boy answered, with a shy smile of his own.

"Well, Gerron, who do I have to sue to get a decent chardonnay in this town?"

Gerron looked startled, then replied smoothly, "Californian or British Columbian, ma'am?"

The woman laughed in delight. "By all means, Gerron, make mine Canadian." The bartender reached under the counter and pulled out a wine bottle. He opened the bottle and poured a small amount of wine into a glass. The woman took the glass, lightly brushing the young man's fingers in the process, sniffed the wine's aroma delicately, and sipped the pale gold liquid. "Lovely. Do you have any more of this wine, Gerron?"

"Yes, ma'am. A whole case full."

"Excellent. Have the whole case sent to the conscierge at the best hotel in town--that's where I'll be staying." The woman turned to leave in a swirl of silk and ostrich feathers, but Gerron softly cleared his throat, and she half-turned to look back at him over her shoulder.

"Um, what name should I give the delivery man, ma'am?"

One corner of the woman's mouth quirked up, and she replied, "Darrow. Clare Ensfriggen Darrow." With that, she turned and walked out of the saloon into the hot Voyager City afternoon.

Grasshopper and Gadfly, part 3
D'Alaire — 16 Sep 1998, 10:00 PM

(the day before Mme. D'A arrives for the festival)

He shall feed off those who have taken him

Qwai-chang looked out onto the serene Big Coffee, watching the lazy river roll southward, meandering into the canyons there. Pulling his rollbag higher onto his shoulder, Qwai-chang stepped fowards onto the rocks, unbothered by the crackling beneath his feet as he descended into the basin.

At the side of the river, he bent to fill his canteen, hearing in the distance the echoes of whooping and hollering, an occasional gunblast. Qwai-chang paused.

Gadfly, he thought, I have travelled far to find you.

He stretched to his feet and continued towards the sound. Around the bend in the hollow of the rockface, a camp appeared, some fifteen men in dusky clothes and crudely matted hair, around a fire. They had no horses there, but their guns laid by. They were eating.

Qwai-chang examined this only briefly before approaching. When he was somewhat closer, he saw a dark, huddled form rise -- his hair was different from the rest, though just as dirty. He carried his bowl across to one well-armed man, holding it out.

"Please, sir, may I have another?" he asked quietly.

"Shut yer trap, ye little maggot," the Kazon snapped, pushing the younger man backwards. "You've already had three bowls. You'll eat out of camp and coals!"

The young man slumped and crept back to his place near the wall of rocks.

Grasshopper and Gadfly, part 3.5
D'Alaire — 16 Sep 1998, 10:02 PM

A tiny smile crossed Qwai-chang's lips, and he stepped forward again. Suddenly, some of the Kazon saw him, and rose their rifles. Seeing this, the others jumped up, spinning around, weapons cocking. But Qwai-chang only rose his hand to them.

"I mean not to trespass. I am only walking through."

"Walk through somehwhere else!" said one of the men. Your kind ain't welcome here.

Kwai-chang accepted this with a nod, then looked upon the younger man. "This man does not belong to you."

The older Kazon laughed. "What about it, Chinaman?"

Kwai-chang paused. "He is injured, and hungry. May I assist him? He will not bother you. I will not bother you, either. He will be at peace if he is fed."

The Kazon took a minute to consider this, then another. Finally, the elder Kazon waved at the young man with the end of his rifle. "Yeah, go ahead. But no funny stuff, Chinaman -- we're watching you!"

He nodded serenely and moved to the young man. Inside his jacket pockets, he found some cloths, which he wet with water, handing it across, then some of the food Madame D'Alaireux supplied for him.

Harry Janeway gladly took the cloth and wiped off his face. "Thanks so much, Mister. Those guy are real jerks."

"Be silent," Qwai-chang whispered, "they will be listening." Then, with a look. "It is good, to see you again."

Harry squinted at the quiet man, whispered back, "What? Have we met before?"

Qwai-chang smiled slightly. "Yes, you were very young, and...excitable. You may not remember."


The wiser man met his half-brother's eyes. "Did you not know? You're adopted."

Harry paled. "What? My Momma and Daddy are Kathryn and Mark Janeway, they own the Delta Q Ranch near Voyager City. My name's Harry Janeway."

Qwai-chang gave a single nod. "Harry." He handed the younger man the morsel of food. "I am sorry."

"Thanks kindly, Mister, but I think there's been a mistake." Nevertheless, Harry gobbled down the food. When the man handed him the canteen, he drank eagerly. "Maybe you've got me mixed up with someone else."

"No," Qwai-chang said softly. "But your family is here now. I meant only to find you, to see you. But you do not remember me, Gadfly. I am at peace only to know you are well."

Harry's eyes widened, and he felt a thinp in his chest. "Gadfly?" His jaw had dropped, his breath almost stopped. Finally, the etchings of a dream, a dream, dreamt long ago but never forgotten, crawled back into his consciousness. But it was just a dream, wasn't it? It couldn't be real, he'd always thought it was.... "Grasshopper?"

Qwai-chang's mouth turned up, but he was still quiet. "Be still, Gadfly, or else you will distur--"

"Grasshopper!!!" Harry cried out and threw his arms around the man. But at the clicks of about fourteen guns, he stopped. "Uh oh. Did I do something wrong?"

Qwai-chang sighed. "Grasshopper, you have disturbed things again."

"What are we going to do now?" Harry sighed.

"We must beat the crap out of them, then escape," Qwai-chang said serenely.


With a nod, the Kim brothers jumped to their feet and whipped around to take on their attackers.


CUT TO ACTION SCENE -- lots of YAM-lovin' violence and death

(please somebody else write the action for this scene. I'm lousy at it. Kim gets the snot kicked out him nevertheless, and Qwai-chang helps him out of the basin)

Grasshopper and Gladfly: pt 3.583333 (to the 6 dec. pl.)
Leonie — 26 Sep 1998, 8:26 AM

The first Kazon came at Quai-Chang. Quai-Chang took a second to feel the source of his strength and his power. A vision of a small creature with pointed ears came to him.

"The Force runs strong within you. You must face them and free Gladfly, only then a Jedi Knight will you be"


He made a promise that the next time he visited Madame D'Alaireux's he would ease up on the Java.

It only took a second.

The Kazon raised the butt of his gun to strike Quai-Chang. Serenely, he grabbed the butt and swung it deftly over his head. The Kazon made three somersaults as he did so.

During the first somersault.

'Well gosh golly gee, the world looks a mite different when you're looking at it from upside down." Indeed it did. The tress were green then brown. Squirrels looked the same, though, but he supposed that was because he was taller than a squirrel and always looked down on them anyway. He caught a gaze of himself in the pond which he drank from two seconds earlier with his meal.

He had two thoughts

Grasshopper and Gladfly: pt 3.666667 (to the 6 dec. pl.)
Leonie — 26 Sep 1998, 8:27 AM

"No wonder Pa doesn't allow us to have mirrors in the House. My hair is butt Ugly. I reckoned that it was the truth of mah kin, not me"

"I drank from that!!!! Ewwe"

He wondered what Mary-Sue would think if he got his hair shaved off. Did he really want to marry a woman who appeared in public with him with his hair looking like that?

End of the first somersault, beginning of the second.

Quai-Chang sighed. It was always this way. Everyone one else had turned to stone waiting for the first Kazon to finish his somersaults through the air and land on the ground. He wished that for once the Force.....

His sigh was deeper this time. Maybe he'd ask for Decaff his next vision

.............The Powers That Be would just get on with it instead of having these slow motion moves. Wait a minute!!!

He bent his head down in silent prayer.

Grasshopper and Gladfly: pt 3.750000 (to the 6 dec. pl.)
Leonie — 26 Sep 1998, 8:28 AM

At her typewriter, The Woman had a sudden vision.

"No that can't be right, I don't drink coffee at this hour."

"Ooh, I get it. OK, I'll hurry it up"

She'd better, it was already 2:00 am


The first Kazon landed on the ground a mere five feet behind Quai-Chang with a loud 'Oomph"

"Yaaaahh" The second came at Quai-Chang, gun raised and ready to strike. Quai-Chang's foot lashed out and struck him in the stomach


He raised his hands and brought it down on the Kazon's shoulder. The crack that he heard was loud and satisfying. Almost as satisfying as the Java he had earlier. Almost.


A second grabbed him from behind. Quai-Chang felt the connection. Elbow to stomach, feet back and to the side, the Kazon went down with a loud thump. Quai-Chang began to tackle the other four who had come towards him.

He was everywhere and no-where to the Kazon. Every time, they thought that their fists, feet or the butts of their guns, we would just appear just to the side and deliver blows that took them down with one shot.

Grasshopper and Gladfly: pt 3.833333 (to the 6 dec. pl.)
Leonie — 26 Sep 1998, 8:29 AM

Quai-Chang was enjoying himself immensely. This is why he had endeavored to lead a life of prayer, fasting and simplicity. To be able to beat people up when they acted pigheaded. It was true that his philosophy only accepted violence as last resort and was dependant on people being stubborn in refusing to allow him to help others. However, as Quai-Chang found out, there was no shortage of pigheaded people in the world. Although he must admit, being in the surroundings of Voyager City, he thought that he had been beamed up to the 'Mother ship of the Pigheaded' in encountering the Nistrim and the Kazon.

The fight that he was engaged in was routine to Quai-Chang, even though he was enjoying himself. It started off with two thugs coming at him while the rest waited. Then the number doubled once those two were beaten. If there were more thugs, the rest would wait until he defeated the four who were in his immediate vicinity. There was only one thing that seemed puzzling to Quai-Chang about this particular fight. They didn't fire their guns!!!. They used them more in the form of clubs, and even then they didn't use them effectively.

This set of ranchers must be inbred.

When he saw that eleven of Kazon on the ground, he gave a small smile. He had won, as if there was ever any doubt. He had a sudden alarming thought.


Grasshopper and Gladfly: pt 3.916667 (to the 6 dec. pl.)
Leonie — 26 Sep 1998, 8:31 AM

Harry Janeway was not doing too well in his fight. The first Kazon who came up to him he threw his best punch at. The Kazon stopped his punch in mid-swing and then dropped his gun and burst out laughing.

"That's your best punch!??! I have been hit harder by women."

This enraged Harry so much that he took a step forward, fists clenched and promptly tripped over an upturned tree root in the ground. He landed on the nearest Kazon and knocked his lights out.

"I'll take a victory anyway I can get it", he said as he got off the ground and whipped around to face his next foe.

Two Kazon ranchers didn't like the way that their fight was going with Quai-Chang so they decided to pick on someone their own intelligence level, actually, it was someone who was more of their own fighting capabilities; Harry Janeway.

They came at him with the butts of their guns.

Grasshopper and Gladfly: pt 3.999999 (aka a 4 Material, 6 nines p
Leonie — 26 Sep 1998, 8:33 AM

Harry planted his foot firmly on the ground and struck his best defense pose. He heard something in the wind and he had a vision of millions of people sitting in front of boxes that were flashing images of two people in an icebox.

'pick up the gun....pick up the gun.....pick up the gun.....'


One particular voice came to him

"Hey Harry, you forgot the "D" in front of that thought."

Harry was confused. He sighed. It wasn't the first time and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

The Kazon took advantage of his hesitation and proceeded to beat the (censored) out of him. Harry raised his arm to ward off the blow. There was a loud "Crack" and he knew that he had broken his arm. Fists made repeated contacts with his face and he felt the but of one gun in his stomach. His dinner came up.

'Well so much for asking for more' He tried using humor to keep his spirits up as he was having the snot beaten out of him.

The Kazon were joyful. Finally, someone who they could defeat.

The next moment, through his swollen eyes, he saw Quai-Chang put his thumb and forfinger to the back of the necks of his two attackers. They slumped to the ground.

'You have to teach me how to do that sometime.'

Quai-Chang sighed. His younger brother was always so impetuous.

'That is not your line. And this is not the right time for it to be delivered. You have disturbed the forces in all three camps, the blue, the gray and the blue-gray."

"I don't get it."

This time Quai-Chang smiled.


(Onto Grasshopper and Gladfly pt 4.000000 (to six dec. pl. of course)

(Thanks to Terry for his insights into Kung-Fu: The original and The Legend Continues)

I can always tell when a lawyer is lying. Her lips move.
Ginny — 16 Sep 1998, 7:22 AM

Asking directions from the youngest Lang girl, Clare made her way to the marshal's office. She entered the small, tidy front room to find the Marshal sitting behind his desk. Clare stepped forward, her elegant hand outstretched. "Clare Darrow, Marshal. I've been called in by the Janeway family to defend Sevenita."

"Attorney Darrow," The Marshal acknowledged, standing and taking her hand. "I'm Marshal Tuvok."

At the touch of his warm, dry hand, something electric passed between Clare and the slender, dark lawman. Clare's beautiful brown eyes widened, and she looked intently into Tuvok's calm sable gaze. A dozen images--of warmth, security, fidelity, devotion--flashed through her mind. Tuvok's face remained impassive, but Clare could have sworn that one of his eyebrows arched ever so slightly. They stood, hands clasped, for several long moments, then the attorney's natural pragmatism reasserted itself. Lawyers and lawmen, lawmen and lawyers--it never worked. With a rueful glance, she withdrew her hand.

"I'd like to see my client now, Marshal."

Tuvok nodded. "Certainly. I have also taken the liberty of assembling several pertinent legal documents, including the warrant for Sevenita's arrest, that I believe you will wish to review after you speak with your client." Tuvok indicated a set of papers on his desk.

Clare's eyes narrowed slightly. "Why, thank you, Marshal. That's very...reasonable of you."

Tuvok inclined his head in acknowledgement and indicated the door leading to the jail cells. "This way, Attorney Darrow."

As they entered the cell block, Tuvok removed a set of keys from the wall. He led Clare to the first cell and, unlocking the door, said, "Miss Sevenita, this is your attorney, Clare Darrow." Clare stepped into the cell, and Tuvok closed and locked the door behind her. "I'll leave you to your discussion. Please call me, when you wish to leave, Attorney Darrow."

Tuvok returned to his office, closing the door to the cell block behind him. Sevenita sat on the edge of her bunk in the shadowy rear of the cell. Clare put on her best professional advocate's expression, said, "I'm pleased to meet you, Sevenita," and extended her right hand. Sevenita rose from her bunk and stepped into the square of light from the cell's only window, hesitantly holding out an arm encircled by a strange, ornate bracelet. As she took her first good look at her new client, Clare's smile faded, and her mouth dropped open. Then she laughed out loud and brought her hand in a graceful gesture to rest at the base of her throat, appraising her client good-naturedly. "Well, Sevenita. I don't yet know all the particulars of the charges against you, but I can tell you this. My estimation of your chances of getting acquitted by a jury of twelve good men and true just went way the hell up. Let's you and I sit down and talk."

Grasshopper and Gadfly, part 4
D'Alaire — 16 Sep 1998, 10:09 PM

Qwai-chang held onto Harry's arm, draped over his slim yet strong shoulder. "I will find a doctor for you. We will get to town."

"Thank you, Grasshopper," Harry gasped, feeling his beaten eyes roll back into his head.

The wiser man grinned. "You may call me Qwai-chang, Harry." Harry nodded, then his head slumped, and his brother gently turned and hauled him up onto his shoulder. Turning again towrds the way Harry had pointed them -- towards Voyager City -- Qwai-chang set off again.

The sun had begun to set, and Qwai-chang breathed a sigh of relief at the passing heat. Harry was getting a little heavy, despite his extrordinary physical training...

But Master, how can I traverse the moutain with six water pails on my shoulders?
Will the water not be spilt?"

The old man smiled. "You must use the Force, Grasshopper."

"The Force? What is that?"

The old man scowled a bit, bit the inside of his lip. "Forgive me, Grasshopper.
Wrong lifetime and galaxy. Use you inner sense of balance and oneness. Feel
the water, do not just carry it. Feel it as a part of yourself, and your burden will

Qwai-chang took a deep cleansing breath and tread into the hard prairie earth with renewed determination. Gadfly is a part of me, he remided himself...even if Gadfly smelled like the beasts that had held him captive. He tried to will the stench away, then wrinkled his nose.

Perhaps a moment of prayer.

Setting Harry gently down, Qwai-chang breathed deepely the fresher air, and prepared himself for a meditation. But before he could balance himself on one arm, a wagon appeared over the ride, lazily approaching. Qwai-chang waited to see if it would stop.

It did.

"Hey there, buddy," said the man from under a black derby. Reaching into his brightly striped, tailored vest, he extracted a toothpick, which he set between his teeth, eyes shining as he looked at the man. "Need a lift?"

"I would be, grateful," Qwai-chang answered. "My brother is injured, he needs, medical attention."

"Well," said the man, "Let's haul him up and we'll talk about the rest, okay?" He jumped deftly down from the wagon--"Man, he got pretty smashed up"-- and helped Qwai-chang lift Harry into a nook between the crates in the back. "Merlot," the man explained. "The Madame hates it when we run low."

Qwai-chang nodded and accepted with a bow his seat beside the well-dressed man, who clicked his teeth, rapped the reigns, and started them off again. "How far are we from Voyager City?"

"It'll take all night, get there by late morning. No bother, it's an easy trail, and the lamps do the job."

"My brother...I have no money. But I will work to repay his treatment."

The man beside his smiled then, showing his teeth as he turned a sparkled eye to his companion. Sticking out his hand, he gave a sharp nod when Qwai-chang took it. "Rocky Bigsadawoluous," he said, grinning still. "But everyone just calls me Max. And you have yourself a deal. I'll get your brother fixed up. No problem."

Qwai-chang returned a placid smile. "Thank you...Max."

tbc (hope you don't mind, Mr. Mac!)

Continuing Peg's story...Afternoon of a Fawn.
Ginny — 16 Sep 1998, 2:55 PM

Clare finished her meeting with Sevenita and spent a brief time reviewing the documents that Marshal Tuvok had provided. She made arrangements to come back the next day and headed off to find the best hotel in town. Once there, she checked to see that the chardonnay had been delivered and had a hot bath and tea. Refreshed, she decided that she should pay a call on the folks who would be paying for her representation of Seven. In addition, she had a few questions that she wanted to ask various family members. Clare rented a horse and buggy and started for the Janeway ranch.

Although she took a couple of wrong turns on the way, Clare eventually arrived at the Delta Q. Her stylish maroon travelling suit was dusty, and her ostrich feathers were somewhat bedraggled, but she was too relieved to be getting out of that horrible buggy to worry overmuch about her appearance. As she laid aside the reins, Clare thought, That's it. As soon as I get back to town, I'm hiring a chauffeur.

Clare stood, preparing to step gracefully from the buggy, but her skirt caught on the buggy door. She lost her balance and would have fallen, if strong hands had not caught her around the waist and lowered her to the ground. "My hero," Clare quipped, as she pushed back her hat, which had slipped down to rest on top of her nose, and found herself looking up into the most luminously stunning pair of gray eyes that she had ever seen. The fair skin around those lovely eyes crinkled, and Clare noticed that the eyes were part of a set that included an adorable nose and a sweet, sexy mouth. Clare's educated legal mind, which had briefly gone on hiatus, suddenly kicked back into gear and started sending frantic messages to her. "Breathe." "Close your mouth before you start drooling." "You're a successful, educated lawyer and the product of several generations of well-bred southern womanhood--say something."

Clare took a deep breath, wiped the drool from her chin, and announced, "If you read, deal kindly with animals and children, and chew with your mouth closed, I'll marry you right now." Good God Almighty--had she actually said that?

The handsome young man laughed and spoke in a pleasant tenor. "You have really beautiful brown eyes, so it's a tempting offer, but perhaps you ought to tell me your name first."

A Night at the Opera
Ginny — 16 Sep 1998, 5:43 PM

Blushing, Clare introduced herself. "I'm Clare Darrow, and I used to be a lawyer reknowned for her mental acuity and proficient language skills. Now, I'm either a sunstroke victim or a complete moron."

The young man laughed again, throwing his head back and exposing his long, elegant throat and chest in the vee of his western shirt. Clare couldn't help but stare. Holy, moly. Forget about going back to town and hiring a chauffeur. I'm moving in. The young man unexpectedly caught her hand up in his and bowed over it in a showy gesture. "I'm Tom Janeway. Come on into the house, and I'll get you something cold to drink." And he pulled her, smiling, toward the ranch house.

"Mother will be very pleased to see you. You made pretty good time getting here, didn't you?" Clare shrugged noncommittedly--anything to keep this living doll talking. Tom's face sobered. "I'm really glad you're here to help Sevenita. She's in pretty big trouble this time, and I'm worried about what might happen to her."

Oh, ho, Clare thought. So that's how the land lies. "I met Sevenita earlier today, Tom, and we've already discussed elements of her defense. Just out of curiosity, are you two...?" Clare let her sentence trail off.

Tom looked surprised and then thoughtful. "No-o-o-o. Sevenita's just a good friend. She's kind of naive about some things, you know. The code of honor she learned as a child is a bit...harsh, and she has a tendency to rush to judgment and then act on that judgment immediately. It's gotten her in trouble before, and I'm afraid that that may be what's happened again."

Wow, Clare thought. He's sensitive, too.

Tom continued. "Anyway, Sevenita's too young, in a lot of ways, for me. I'm sorta seeing the daughter of the ranch foreman right now. She's really...something." Tom smiled and absently rubbed his cheek.

I hate her, thought Clare. They had reached the ranch house's front door, and Tom led her inside. "Have a seat, Miss Darrow--it is Miss Darrow, isn't it?" Clare nodded, and Tom's smile widened. "You just sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'll have the cook fix you some lemonade, and I'll go find Mother."

A Night at the Opera, cont.
Ginny — 17 Sep 1998, 7:42 AM

Author's note: This will probably be my last entry for a while. I'm having trouble continuing my story and having it remain consistent with Eric's and D'Alaire's and God knows who else's thread. Maybe someone else could pick it up and go from here. I would have stopped already, but this two-part installment just had to be written for the sake of prurience and my own peace of mind.

A wholesome, clean cut youth, little more than a child, really, emerged from behind a side door holding a glass, which he carried carefully over to Clare, who was still sitting on the couch.

"Here's your lemonade, Miz Darrow," he said, handing the glass to her and drying his hand on his apron.

Clare took the glass and said, "Why, thank you kindly, Mr...."

The boy responded promptly, "Freddie. Freddie Bristow. I'm the cook's assistant."

Clare sipped the liquid in her glass. "This is wonderful lemonade, Freddie. Did you make it yourself?""

Freddie looked pleased and glanced down at the floor shyly. "Yes, ma'am."

Clare took another sip and favored the sweet-natured boy with a long, considering look from under her beautiful brown eyebrows. "It really is delicious. Would you have a minute to sit and keep me company while I drink it, Freddie?"

Freddie shrugged. "Well, sure. I guess so." He bashfully rubbed his hands on his apron and sat down on the edge of the couch next to Clare. The lawyer casually stretched out her legs, crossed her silk-clad ankles, and leaned back against the couch. "So, Freddie. Do you like working for the Janeways?"

Freddie nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, ma'am. Miz Kathryn is a fine woman--stubborn as a mule, if you don't mind my saying so, but brave and and smart and generous. She always lets me have time off to practice for the four-square tournament."

"Four-square tournament?" Clare inquired encouragingly.

"Yes, ma'am. It's an annual sports event in Voyager City. Last year, B'Elanna--that's the foreman's daughter--kicked my butt in the finals, but this year is gonna be different."

Clare smiled, although not altogether pleasantly. "You really must tell me more about this B'Elanna person later, Freddie. But what about the rest of the Janeway clan? How do you feel about them?"

Freddie replied, "All I know is they're good to me, Miz Darrow. There's not a sweeter girl alive than Miss Kessie. And Tom..." Freddie paused.

Intrigued, Clare leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. "And Tom," she prompted.

"Well, Tom's a great guy. Not a snobby bone in his body. He went through a pretty rough time a few years back--he blamed himself for his little brother Harry's death, you know--and made some real bad choices for a while. Even spent some time in Marshal Tuvok's jail. But Miz Kathryn--she never gave up on him, and he finally turned hisself around. He's been a credit to the family ever since." Freddie leaned closer to Clare and said confidentially, "They're real close, you know."

"Who? Tom and his mother?"

Freddie nodded. "Folks are always commentin' on it."

Clare pursed her lips and pondered that statement in silence. She drank some more lemonade. "What about Sevenita? What's her connection to the family?"

Freddie shrugged. "I don't know that much about how that all happened, ma'am. But Miss Sevenita--she means an awful lot to Miz Kathryn."

Clare started to ask Freddie another question, when Tom Janeway came down the stairs to the rear of the living room. He had on his arm a slender, red-haired woman with steely blue eyes and marvelous bone structure.

A Night at the Opera, Part Trois.
Ginny — 17 Sep 1998, 8:32 AM

Freddie stood up respectfully. "I reckon I better get back to work. It was nice meetin' you, Miz Darrow."

Claire smiled up at the fresh-faced youth. "You, too, Freddie." Freddie nodded to the approaching couple, saying, "Miz Kathryn, Tom." and left the room through the side door.

Kathryn released Tom's arm and strode purposefully across the room to the couch. "Hello, Miss Darrow. I'm Kathryn Janeway of the Ranch Delta Q." Clare started to rise, but Kathryn waived her back down to her seat on the couch. Tom dropped his lanky frame into an overstuffed chair across from the Clare, and Kathryn perched lightly on the chair's arm, settling her hip against Tom's shoulder and resting her elbow on the back of the chair behind his head. Her long fingers played idly with a stray curl of hair beneath the young man's ear.

Hmmm, thought Clare. This could be more interesting than the opera.

"It's good of you to have come all the way out to the Delta Q to see us, Miss Darrow. Tom tells me that you've already spoken with Sevenita."

Clare set her lemonade down on a low end table. "Yes, I have, and I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you both about Sevenita's relationship with your family."

Tom and Kathryn shared an amused, curiously intimate glance. "It's a long story," Tom said, an enigmatic look on his face.

"Indeed," Kathryn added, lazily stroking the soft skin down one side of Tom's throat. "But, to use one of Marshal Tuvok's favorite expressions, a fascinating one. A little over a year ago..."

Kathryn's story was interrupted by the unexpected sound of the front door swinging open with such force that the doorknob slammed against the opposite wall. Standing in the open doorway, legs braced, fists clenched, was one of the most unutterably gorgeous men that Clare had ever seen.

Dam-nation! the lawyer thought. What is it with the men in this town? And could it be bottled and exported?

The handsome dark-haired man stepped through the door and looked around the room, his angry chocolate brown eyes coming to rest on Tom and Kathryn. Clare noticed an elaborate tattoo on his temple and wondered at its significance. Kathryn rose slowly to her feet and stood facing her agitated visitor. The two of them silently exchanged a look so potent, so passionate, that Clare unconsciously shifted in her seat.

"Chakotay," Kathryn finally said, evenly. "Do you wish to speak with me?"

"Yes, I do," Chakotay snapped at her, barely able to restrain the fury in his voice.

"About what?" Kathryn asked, still calm, but with an edge to her voice. Tom apparently heard it, and he rose immediately to his feet and moved to stand close behind her. He watched Chakotay over Kathryn's shoulder, and the big man moved a step closer, almost as if drawn in by the younger man's look. Gray eyes locked with brown, the temperature in the room went up a couple of degrees, and Clare found herself tugging at the front of her blouse and reaching for her lemonade.

Chakotay finally ripped his gaze away from Tom and looked again at Kathryn. "About your deceitful, dissolute, disreputable excuse for a son, that's what!"

Well, well, well, Clare mused to herself. This *is* more interesting than the opera. And she settled herself comfortably back against the couch again, surreptitiously slipping a small legal pad and a pencil from the pocket of her maroon silk jacket.



A Night at the Opera Pt 4
Annie — 17 Sep 1998, 10:09 PM

"Chakotay, what's this about," asked Kathryn, clearly un-amused.

"Your no good son has been making moves on my daughter!" he exclaimed.

"Chakotay, calm down, I'm sure we can get to the bottom of this. Why don't you go into the kitchen and wait for me, we have company as you can see."

Chakotay looked over, and noticed the woman in her fancy maroon clothes for the first time. <Gee, she's very pretty> he thought. He looked back at Miss Kathryn, and nodded his head in consent.

"I'll wait for you in the kitchen then," he acknowledged. And off he went in a huff.

Miss Kathryn turned back to their guest, and made her apologies.

"Miss Clare, I am so sorry for the disturbance. Is there anything more you want from us?" she asked with a strained smile on her face.

"No, no," said Miss Clare said, gathering her belongings. "I will be going now. May I call on you again," she asked nervously.

"Please do," said Miss Kathryn showing her to the door.

Once the door was closed, Tom pounced on his mother.

"Ma," he said. "You know I hate it when you dote over me and pet me like I'm a little boy. Especially when we are in front of company.

"I'm sorry Tom, it's just a habit. To me you will always be my little boy." She smiled, and caressed his cheek.

Tom smiled, and bent to kiss his mother on the cheek.

"All right, I'll forgive you this time, but I hear people talkin' about how you dote on me. It's embarrassin'. Don't let it happen again alrighty."

"Alrighty," said Kathryn smiling fondly at her son. "I will, in the future, try to control myslef."

"Thanks Ma," he said heaving out a sigh of relief.

"Now, tell me, what's up with Chakotay, and you and B'Elanna before I go in there?"

"Ma, you know he doesn't like me. What more is there to say."

"Tom," she reached up to smooth back the curls on his forehead. "What is going on with you and B'Elanna?"

"Nothin' Ma, I swear."

"Tom," she gave him her mother glare, but it was a soft knowing glare.

"Ma," he said lowering his head, and blushing. "I think I love her, I really do. I have never in my in my whole life met anyone like her ever before."

"I believe you son." She patted him on the cheek affectionately. "Now, you get, and I will take care of Chakotay."

"Thanks Ma, I love you." He gave her his most winning smile.

"Get," she said as she pushed him out the door.

That's very sweet, Annie. This isn't. VC: As the Rotisserie Turns
Ginny — 18 Sep 1998, 7:48 AM

(Sorry, guys. I just couldn't resist.)

Tom paused in the doorway, his back to Kathryn. "Is she gone yet?" Tom asked, looking back over his shoulder.

"I'll check," Kathryn replied, and walked over to the front window. Pulling the lace sheer aside, she watched Clare Darrow climb into her buggy, take the reins in hand, and head off down the drive. "Yes, she's gone."

"Thank God," Tom exhaled explosively and flopped gracefully into the nearest armchair. "I hate it when we have to do that stupid mother-son thing anymore."

Kathryn turned around and moved over to sit at the end of the coffee table in front of Tom's chair. She place a hand gently on Tom's knee and said sympathetically, "I know, I know. But you need to be patient, Tom."

Tom folded his arms across his chest and frowned at her. "I'm tired of being patient, Kathryn. I want to get it out in the open and end this charade."

Kathryn withdrew her hand and stood up. "Now is simply not the best time, Tom." She paused. "I received a telegram from Senator Paris' office yesterday." Tom looked up quickly, surprise and trepidation showing on his fair features. "Your father has been offered a seat on the President's Cabinet."

"Which one?" Tom asked, a frown again creasing his forehead.

"Secretary of the Health and Welfare. So you can imagine the effect that an announcement that the Senator is a widower with two children from a secret marriage and has kept that knowledge from his family and his constituency for over thirty years would have on his chances of being confirmed to the Cabinet."

Tom's expression hardened and his mouth twisted bitterly. "It's always something, isn't it? It's never convenient for Daddy, is it?"

"It won't last much longer, Tom. Once your father is confirmed, we'll force the issue with him. I promise. But until then, you have to bide your time." She tried to read the expression in his eyes, but Tom turned his head away and wouldn't look at her. Kathryn leaned forward, taking Tom's chin in her hand, and tilted his face up toward hers. Still, he wouldn't meet her eyes. She squeezed his chin and chided him gently. "Don't sulk, Tom. It was barely tolerable when you were ten and cute. It's most unbecoming in a thirty-year-old man." Then she leaned down and kissed him softly on the corner of his mouth, which twitched slightly as he tried not to smile.

"Are you saying that I'm not cute anymore, Kathryn?" Tom finally looked up into her eyes, and Kathryn kissed him again, lightly, on the mouth, released his chin, and stood up.

"Not at all, Tom. Are we agreed then? We wait until after your father is confirmed to the Cabinet before we say anything." Kathryn put her hands on her hips and looked at him expectantly. Tom exhaled in a manner that was half sigh, and half amused snort.

"Yes, ma'am."

Relieved, Kathryn smiled approvingly at her "son" and crossed her arms. "Good. Now...where's that damn Indian?"

VC: As the Rotisserie Turns, The Grease Sizzles
Ginny — 18 Sep 1998, 8:58 AM

Raising her voice, Kathryn called out, "Chakotay! Get out here now!"

An obviously irritated foreman emerged through the side door. "Since when do I get sent to the kitchen like some flunky, Kathryn?"

"Since you burst into the house acting like a deranged idiot in front of a extremely high-priced and unduly curious city lawyer."

Chakotay looked somewhat abashed at her comment. "Well, hell--how was I supposed to know she was in here?" he asked grumpily.

"You could have asked your spirit guide," Tom suggested from the depths of his armchair. "Or hey, how about this, Mr. Native American--you could have tracked the trail of that big ol' buggy that was parked out in front of the ranch house."

"Be quiet, Tom," Kathryn admonished, placing a restraining hand on the foreman's arm, as the older man started to move menacingly toward Tom. "Now what's all this about B'Elanna and Tom, Chakotay?"

Chakotay gestured angrily at Tom. "That walking hormone over there is sniffing around my daughter. B'Elanna really believes he's seriously interested in her, but I know better."

Tom leaned forward, his hands gripping the arms of the chair, a slight edge to his voice. "She's an adult, Chakotay. She can pick her own dates."

"Well, I'm her father," Chakotay replied. "And I don't want her picking you, for dates or otherwise." Chakotay folded his arms, set his jaw, and attempted to stare Tom down. But Tom wasn't in the mood to be stared down.

"You know what they say, Chakotay. You can want in one hand, and sh--"

Kathryn interrupted, saying sternly, "Tom, that's enough." Tom jerked his head around to look at her accusingly, half rising out of his chair, but Kathryn gave him The Look, and he shut his mouth and sat back down.

"You know, Kathryn," Chakotay said, in a surprisingly conversational voice. "I really don't think you spanked him enough as a child."

Kathryn looked at him sharply, and her lips curved up ever so slightly. "Actually, I did. But when he turned sixteen, I decided to ground him, instead of spanking him, since it was beginning to appear that he rather liked it." Tom smirked at her and waggled his eyebrows at Chakotay.

"Pervert," Chakotay muttered darkly, glaring at Tom.

"Prude," Tom retorted amiably, toeing off his boot and rubbing his instep along the outside of Kathryn's calf.

Chakotay's eyes narrowed, and he moved closer to Kathryn, his expression turning ugly. "Balding libertine."

"Tattooed freak."

Kathryn threw up her hands and rolled her eyes. "Oh, good grief. Tom, get your foot off me immediately, and Chakotay, stop breathing down my neck. Honestly, you two are worse than kindergartners."

Tom removed his foot, crossed his ankles provocatively --How does he do that, with one boot on and one boot off? Kathryn mused absently--and grinned recklessly at Chakotay. "What's the matter, big guy? Afraid I'll take your daughter and your girl?"

Chakotay replied with an obvious effort at remaining calm. "Kathryn can take care of herself, but I'm warning you, Tom. Stay away from B'Elanna."

Tom stood slowly, a dangerous glint in his eye. "Oh, bite me, Chakotay. Oops, too late. B'Elanna already has."

With a roar of rage, Chakotay launched himself at Tom, and the men fell against the couch in a tangle of short punches and kicks. With a disgusted sigh, Kathryn dropped her head into her hands and massaged her temples. Hearing a lamp crash to the floor and the men roll off the couch with a thud and assorted grunts, she raised her head and walked over to open the side door.

"Freddie! FREDDIE! Bring me a couple of buckets of water, pronto. The colder, the better."

D'Alaire — 18 Sep 1998, 10:08 AM

...Tom gasped, jerking up to sit, his chest heaving, wrought by cold chills and tremors. He couldn't catch his breath, his throat and throat were swollen, and all his limbs hurt.

He barely realized he was beaing held until the water began pouring down his face again, then wiped away, cooling him. He barely realed his head was propped up on somebody's knees.

The dream, that crazy, terrible dream -- his Mama and him, Chakotay Torres. Yeah sure, he loved his Mama, but the talk in town would have it she loved him a little too much, protected him too much, that he was making up for lost love with his father on her because of his own past indescretions and bitterness. But to think it'd be anything intimate-like, even if he was adopted...eew! And sure, him and Chakotay didn't get on, especially since he and B'Elanna started being friendly, and sure, he might've wanted to take a couple swings at him before....But that he'd act like....

Tom groaned and tried to swallow. Water was poured down his throat and the swallowing became easier. He slowly felt life creeping back into his senses. Finally, he was able to turn his eyes upwards.

There above him was none other than B'Elanna, who, though concerned, tried to look scolding. Tom felt his heart begin to beat hard again. He drew a deep breath, tried to speak.

But B'Elanna softly put her hand on his mouth. "Shh, Tom. Looks like you got a little case of sunstroke." She scowled down at him. "Serves you right for not wearing your hat."

"How long was I out?"

"Not too long," she said, then dabbled his face with water again.

"You'd better not stay, B'Elanna. You pa's gonna come after you hard if he sees you with me."

"Yeah, I heard him and your mama arguing in the big house." She sighed. "Pa's a little jealous, but I can handle that. He'll come around someday" She then smiled down to him. "Besides, I like being able to return a favor when I can."

Tom smiled and touched her hand. "I'm much obliged, B'Elanna. Much obliged."

B'Elanna nodded. "Well, when you're able then, why don't we head down to the stable, get you in the shade, and maybe look in on Frisco and Kona?"

"I'd like that," he answered, closing his eyes and letting her soothing bath refresh him, the memory of her sweet voice divest him of his hallucination.

(shrug, grin)

REWRITE of VC: As the Rotisserie Turns, The Sauce Thickens.
Ginny — 19 Sep 1998, 5:28 PM

Freddie Bristow came running out of the kitchen carrying a tub of murky water and slopping at least a third of it on the floor. "Miz Kathryn," he said breathlessly, "I can't find a bucket, but Cook was soaking her feet in some Epson salts in this dishpan. Will this do?"

"Any port in a storm, Freddie," Kathryn replied, taking the tub from the boy, who proceeded to beat a hasty retreat back into the kitchen. Carrying the sloshing tub over to where the two men were grappling on the floor in front of the fireplace, she unceremoniouly dumped the contents on the combatants. The water hit Tom square in the back and, with a suspiciously girlie scream, he released his grip on Chakotay and leaped to his feet, water running down his face and dripping on the expensive Indian rug. Chakotay, unfortunately, was lying on his back and caught the deluge full in the face. He rolled over onto his hands and knees, retching and wheezing.

Kathryn dropped the dishpan to the floor and stood looking down at the two most important men in her life, her hands on her hips and a completely disgusted expression on her face. "How many rugs am I going to have to ruin, before you two learn to have a conversation without throwing a punch at each other?" Tom opened his mouth to speak, but Kathryn cut him off with the Look. "That was a rhetorical question, Tom. And Chakotay, if you're going to throw up, have the courtesy to crawl over to the spittoon by the hearth. And don't give me that pitiful look. It's your own fault for getting in a scuffle so soon after being shot."

Kathryn walked over to the chair recently vacated by Tom and sat down. She waited until the two soaked and subdued men regained enough self-possession to take a seat on the couch.

"Gentlemen, while I will admit that I occasionally get a certain vicarious thrill watching the two of you roll around on the ground, we don't have time for that right now. Disastrous events are about to overtake us, and I need both of you focused and in accord." Neither Tom or Chakotay, who were jostling for position on the couch, acknowledged her comment, so Kathryn, taking a cue from her old friend, Lt. Colonel T.C. McQueen, who was stationed with the 58th Cavalry about 50 miles down the road at Fort Saratoga, reached out, grabbed the coffee table, and flipped it over. As the table landed, with a crash, upside-down on the floor, Tom and Chakotay froze andlooked sheepishly at the woman they both loved, but whom they often annoyed.

"You know, I may have to rethink Marshal Tuvok's suggestion about flogging," Kathryn mused aloud. "Now that I have your undivided attention, we need to develop a plan to deal with impending events."

"What events?" Tom asked, running his hand back through his damp hair.

"If you hadn't been spending so much time putting the moves on my daughter, you'd know," Chakotay said waspishly. "The Delta Q is having financial problems again. We're going to have to make some serious changes, if the ranch is to start turning a profit again."

"Is that true, Kathryn?" Tom asked, a little crease of concern appearing between his blue/gray/blue-gray eyes.

Kathryn nodded. "Yes, Tom. I'm afraid it is. But right now, the ranch's profitability is the least of our worries."

REWRITE of VC: As The Rotisserie Turns, The Fire Burns.
Ginny — 19 Sep 1998, 5:39 PM

Tom and Chakotay exhanged a worried look. "What else is going on, Kathryn?" Chakotay asked, leaning forward, his face intent, little trickles of hair dye and water running down his cheeks.

Kathryn looked exasperated. "You do remember that Sevenita in is jail accused of murder, don't you?"

Chakotay leaned back. "Of course I remember, but I wouldn't worry too much about it, Kathryn. Jabin was a loud-mouthed jerk, and he probably had it coming. I doubt any jury in Voyager City would convict her for it.

Tom nodded in agreement. "Especially if she wears that gravity-defying dress that Miss Peggy Lou bought for her."

Kathryn looked at them in astonishment. "Do the two of you actually think she did it?" Tom and Chakotay exchanged another look and both shrugged.

"Well, you know Sevenita, Kathryn," Chakotay said calmly. "Jabin was a pretty poor excuse for a cowboy, a criminal, and, in general, a human being."

"And you know how much inefficiency pisses her off," Tom chimed in. "He probably made some cheap move on her--"

"You would know," Chakotay muttered. Tom ignored him.

"--and she gave him the Borg skunk-eye, said something like, "Your continued existence is irrelevent.", and blew him away."

Kathryn looked shocked. "I just can't believe that Sevenita would betray all the trust we've placed in her, after she was reassimilated into civilized society." Tom and Chakotay both raised their eyebrows at her, their skepticism apparent. "Well, I can't. And I'm going to do everything in my power to help her. I like the look of her defense attorney, but I'm worried that the Ogla clan will try to interfere with the trial." She leaned forward and said, conspiratorially. "I'm thinking about staging a jail break--just to bring her back to the ranch where she'll be safe until the trial date."

Chakotay looked at her in amazement. "Kathryn, I simply can't agree with that course of action. It's completely ill-advised..."

Kathryn's lower lip trembled and her eyes grew bright. "Well, I guess I really am alone."

Tom rolled his eyes. "Oh, for God's sake, Chakotay. Just agree with her. You and I both know you're going to do whatever she wants, anyway." Chakotay sighed, resignation plain in his eyes.

"All right, Kathryn. You're the boss."

Kathryn beamed at him, and then her expression grew serious again. "I've already started putting together a preliminary plan."

REWRITE of VC: As The Rotisserie Turns, The Cauldron Bubbles.
Ginny — 19 Sep 1998, 5:54 PM

"A preliminary plan?" Chakotay asked, shifting uncomfortably in his wet jeans.

"Why am I not surprised?" Tom murmered to himself, tugging at the folds of his damp, clammy shirt and giving Kathryn a teasing glimpse of his chest.

Kathryn continued, unperturbed. "Marshal Tuvok has asked me to accompany him to the dance."

"You're not going with him, are you?" Chakotay asked, astonished.

"Yes, I am," Kathryn replied evenly, then shot a withering look at Tom, who was trying, unsuccessfully, not to snicker. Chakotay kicked him in his bootless ankle, and Tom yelped.

"But Kathryn, it was my understanding that you would go to the dance with me." Chakotay said, disappointment and a touch of pleading in his voice.

"That's not what I heard," Tom said archly, rubbing his ankle. Chakotay tried to kick him again, but Tom scooted down to the end of the couch, pulled off his remaining boot, and threw it at the older man.

"You two are wearing on my last available nerve," Kathryn warned. "This is an excellent opportunity for me to find out, in detail, about the security measures at the jail. We have to have that information to plan the jail break, and we need it soon, to take advantage of the untimely death of Deputy Neelix." Chakotay frowned and started to speak, but Kathryn cut him off. "I don't intend to debate this, Chakotay. I'm going to the dance with Marshal Tuvok, and that's final."

Chakotay collapsed back against the back of the couch in the beginnings of a full-fledged sulk. Tom sat curled up in his corner of the couch, grinning smugly at the foreman.

"And you can just wipe that grin off your face, young man," Kathryn snapped. "Where's your sister?"

Tom looked bewildered. "Kes? I have no idea."

"Well, you're supposed to have an idea, Tom. She hasn't been home since early yesterday. Did you even bother to notice?"

Tom looked guilty and said, defensively, "I've been a little distracted lately." Chakotay perked up. This was getting good.

"A little? A little?" Kathryn repeated, sarcastically. "I have to question your recent conduct, Tom. You and B'Elanna have been making enough of a display of sneaking off together that half the town is gossiping about it."

"That wasn't our intention..." Tom began, in a small voice.

"You are the older brother," Kathryn interrupted, her voice cold. "I expect you to look out for your little sister. Now, I suggest you get un-distracted and go find Kes. I'm worried about her. Besides, we'll need her, if my plan to break Sevenita out of jail is to work." Kathryn paused, considering. "You might start by asking those two Delaney sisters if she's been by to see them." Kathryn shook her head and fixed the chastised young man with a disapproving look. "Although why you thought introducing those two tarts to someone as young and impressionable as Kes is beyond me."

Chakotay was thoroughly enjoying the sight of Tom's discomfiture, when it suddenly occurred to him that he had, in fact, seen Kes since yesterday. He groaned inwardly. Kathryn wasn't going to like this. She wasn't going to like this at all.

VC : Kes and her Gunslinger : A meeting with Sevenita (part 1)
Eric — 20 Sep 1998, 3:58 PM

Kes and her Gunslinger : A meeting with the Borg

(What's that? The Trial never had the trial? Well it turns out that it was called the Trial because it took me forever to get out of Big Coffee Canyon! So I'm changing the name.)

Voyager City, the medical building. 11:00 AM

"You have to help my daughter Kes! I know the two of you have never gotten along very well since she stole your part in the play, but you used to be friends as children!", wailed Doc Holliday. Kes wasn't sure. It was true that she and Sevenita were friends as children, but when she stole her part in Miss. Janeway's play about a ship lost at sea she had beaten the crap out of Sevenita. And she was still sure that the only reason Sevenita was given the part was because of her large, ahh, assets, a gift from her Borg indian heritage. Damn Sevenita anyway! That part was to have been for her! But when Judge Riker, the director of the play, saw her in her low cut dress it was all over! She hoped Sevenita still had scars from the beating she had given her that night. It was funny she remembered her anger so well after all this time. In fact, ever since she had put on her Warlord suit she had been feeling things more passionately then ever before. Somehow she didn't think she would ever be mild mannered Kessie the school teacher again.

"By the way Kes, have you been working out?", asked the ever tactfull Doc. That new outfit you have does wonders for your figure! I think maybe I should make something like that for Sevenita! Except I think her's should be silver, to set off her eyes.

"Maybe you should start at the beginning Doc ", Eric asked. What happened? I'm new to your town and Kes has been with me in the Canyon. But make it fast, we have to talk to your Sheriff about what happened to Deputy Neelix and the notes we recovered.

Ok, good idea. Yesterday (editor's note : I HOPE it was yesterday!) Jabin Olga was murdered. Now if you think I drink a lot, you should see that Kazon drink! And everyone knows that he had a thing for my beautiful daughter. Well, actually all the men have a thing for her, and a few of the woman as well. The Doctor gulped and hastily continued as he saw the murderous look that Kes was giving him! (MY, that suit made her look fierce!) Anyway, Marshall Tuvok found him dead at Quark's last night! Now Sevenita has a job there as one of the singers for the club, and she was at work that day. But she was on break when Tuvok thinks he was killed. But it's all a frame job! The only evidence is a glove of Sevenita's with Jabin's blood on it, and a spot of Sevenita's blood on her white horse.

Do you think the blood was planted, asked Eric. Yes! Everyone knows that Borg indians have different blood that the rest of us. All of the nanoprobes were dead in the samples from the glove, like it was a old sample. But because everyone remembers the battle of Wolf 359 nobody wants to talk about this evidence! They just want a reason to throw her in jail!

"All right Doc", "I've heard enough", said the Gunslinger. Come on Kes, we should head over to the...

Sheriff's Office : 11:31 AM

Marshall Tuvok was annoyed. His annoyance was trying to climb inside his office through his window (the doors were locked). Marshall!! Can you comment on the murder? Please Marshall!! We can make you famous! Is it true that you are raciest to Borgs? Can we see Sevenita? Marshall???

This was intolerable! He was just a small town Sheriff in the West, and it looked like the entire states media was outside HIS office! And now one of his Deputy's was missing! Where was Neelix? That was when he heard the gunshot and was racing outside...

VC : Kes and her Gunslinger : A meeting with Sevenita (part 2)
Eric — 20 Sep 1998, 3:59 PM

Kes could not believe the crowd! All of the wagons around the Sheriff's office were almost as big a city as Voyager City itself! And they all had strange cryptic words on them like : CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox, and UPN! And the people were milling about were all complete strangers to her. But wait, was that her brother standing there? "Tom!!", she called out.

Eric watched the young man heading toward him and Kes from under his cowboy hat. Kes had only good things to say about Tom, maybe to good. He may be a brother to her but she was adapted after all. He didn't like this at all. Tom would have to be watched...

"Kes!", "Mother has been looking for you all day!", yelled Tom over the din from the crowd. I will see him , she said, but now we have to get inside to talk to Tuvok. Tom answerd that Tuvok wasn't seeing anyone right now. He had his men looking for Neelix. Eric smiled, "I think he will see us", and pulled his gun and fired over the crowd of reporters!

"Excuse us please", said Eric into the stunned silence. We have a meeting with the Marshall. Tuvok was at the door, "Kes?" "What are you doing here?", "Is that Tom with you?", "Come inside at once!".

Sorry about the disturbance Marshall but we had to see you at once. Maybe you should sit down it's about Neelix. He's dead I'm sorry. Eric didn't like to give out news like this, but unfortunately his job had him saying those words to much lately. Maybe it was time to settle down somewhere, but he wanted someone to settle down with. He looked over at Kes and thought when all this excitement was over they would have to have a long talk. He smiled, and maybe more.

Tuvok, Kes was saying, we also found this by his body. She gave him the notebook. I think you will find it's very important to Sevenita's trial. And can we see her now? We have some questions for her. Tuvok gave her the key's. "Here, you know the way well enough", "I would like to be alone for a while, Neelix was a friend".

Kes lead Tom and the Gunslinger back to the cells. Sevenita was in the last cell. Seven walked forward into the light. The Gunslinger felt his jaw hit the hardwood floor....

Madame D'Alaireux's wagon : 11:45 AM

Mistress!! Mistress wake up wailed Baktag! I saw her!! I saw the chosen one!! She's here! Timmy the eunuch woke up and stock is head out the wagon. "Baktag settle down!", he groaned. His Mistress was VERY rough last night. "But she IS here!! I saw her!!

All the News That's Fit to Print
Ginny — 20 Sep 1998, 5:18 PM

Tom was standing next to the door to the Marshal's office when the Gunslinger informed Tuvok of Neelix's death. The young man was nonplussed. How the hell had Kathryn known Deputy Neelix was already dead? Tom thought in amazement. And what was in that notebook? Would it be enough to clear Seven? Or, at the very least, enough to change Kathryn's mind about the jailbreak? Tom really hoped so. He'd already done a couple or three stints in jail and wasn't anxious to repeat the experience. The last time, he and Harry had spent several horrific days in the Los Akriteria city jail. What a hellhole that had been! The food was terrible, the inmates were all crazy as bedbugs, and Harry had gotten his hair mussed pretty badly in the "My manifesto is better than your manifesto" free-for-all that had broken out the first day they were there.

At thoughts of Harry, Tom's eyes welled up. If only he were still alive. Tom blamed himself for the accident that had taken his little brother from him. He should never have allowed Harry to take his clarinet on the cattle drive. Dashing away his tears, Tom decided he needed a drink. He turned to make his way back through the press corps gathered in front of the Marshal's office and across the street to Sandrine's, when he came face to face with Jason Canuck, cub reporter for the Voyager Chronicle. Oh, great, Tom thought. Just what I needed.

Jason looked even unhappier than Tom. Oh, great, he thought. Just what I needed. There was no love lost between the two young men. Jason, as a young boy, had once been a great admirer of Voyager City's Big Man on Horseback, but as he grew older, he had begun to find Tom's considerable self-involvement less and less appealing.

Tom, on the other hand, had always thought of Jason as just another snot-nosed brat, treating him with the same amiable disdain that he directed toward all the other youngsters who followed him around. It was a measure of Tom remarkable self-involvement that he hadn't actually noticed that Jason had grown into an adult--until now.

"Tom," Jason said neutrally.

"Jason." Tom nodded in acknowledgement. The two men stood staring at each other awkwardly, neither with anything further to say. "I, uh, was just going to Sandrine's to get a drink," Tom continued. "If you'll excuse me." And he shouldered past Jason and pushed his way through the swarm of reporters.

VC: Much Ado About Nothing
Ginny — 20 Sep 1998, 7:33 PM

Clare Darrow rode slowly back to town and pondered the dynamics in the Janeway household. She was no chirosurgeon, but she knew there was more there than met the eye--and what met the eye was pretty darn provocative. There was something decidedly non-familial about Kathryn and Tom's attitudes toward each other. She would need to investigate further, since the answers to the questions racing around her trained legal mind might have some bearing on her defense of Sevenita.

As she approached the outskirts of Voyager City, Clare made a mental list of the tasks she needed to accomplish before the end of the day. After two accidental departures from the main road and an unintentional river crossing, she was finally getting the hang of operating the buggy, but she still preferred the idea of having a chauffeur. She also needed to locate a law clerk and set up an account at the telegraph office. And she really ought to send the judge a fruit basket or something.

She pulled the buggy up in front of Larson's Buggy Rental and Chaffeur Service. Alighting from the buggy, she entered the business establishment and found the counter manned, not by the pleasant, middle-aged woman who had rented her the buggy earlier, but by a remarkably attractive young man who looked up at her approach and smiled sweetly at her.

That settles it, decided Clare. I'm buying real estate in this town.

"Good evening, ma'am. Can I help you?" the young man asked.

"I certainly hope so," the lawyer replied, her southern accent just a trifle more pronounced than usual. "I rented a buggy earlier and would like to extend my rental period."

"That's no problem, at all, ma'am." The young man beamed at her. "How long would you like to keep the buggy?"

"At least two weeks," Clare replied. "And I'll need a chauffeur, as well."

The young man frowned charmingly. "Oh. Well, that could be a problem. Our regular driver, Miss Kaplan, was chauffering Mr. Torres, the foreman at the Delta Q, around the county a few months ago, and there was a terrible accident."

"Oh my," Clare said. "Was she killed?"

"We all thought so," the young man replied, a puzzled look on his handsome face. "But I recently heard that she started a new career as resident pro at the Voyager City Golf Club a little while back, so apparently not."

"Is there no one else I could retain as a chauffeur?" Clare inquired, batting her beautiful brown eyelashes at the young man.

He visibly swayed toward her across the counter. "Well, gosh, I reckon I could do it. Things are pretty slow this time of year, and the family could sure use the money." The young man came around the corner of the counter and gave a courtly little bow. "I'm Anson Larson, by the way. I suppose you'll want me to drive you to the dance tomorrow night."

"Dance? What dance?" Clare asked.

"The Grand Leola Root Ball. It's the biggest social event in Voyager City. Everyone who's anyone will be there."

Clare thought to herself, Really? Then that means Marshal Tuvok will be there. And Tom Janeway. And Chakotay Torres. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. And who knows, I might even talk to a few witnesses. "I think that sounds like a splendid idea, Anson. Now, if we have an arrangement, I'd like you to drive me to the best dressmaker in town."

VC: Still More Ado About Nothing
Ginny — 21 Sep 1998, 7:47 AM

The blonde man thought for a moment, pooching his lower lip out in the most delightful way. "I reckon Garak's Millinery and Hosiery would be the place to go."

"That's our destination, then." Clare gave a decisive nod and walked back out of the shop to the buggy. Larson reached over the counter, grabbed a chauffeur's cap, and hurried out after her. After helping Clare into the back seat, Larson climbed in and took the reins.

"Lay on, McDuff," the lawyer said humorously. Larson turned around and looked at her in confusion.

"Beg pardon, ma'am?"

Clare sighed. Apparently, Larson was a natural blonde. "Drive me to Garak's, Anson."

"Yes, ma'am." And the buggy rolled away down the street.

Three blocks later, the buggy neared Marshal Tuvok's office. An enormous crowd of people weilding pencils, notebooks, and sketchpads was camped out on the sidewalk in front of the jail.

"I wonder what's going on?" Clare mused. "Pull us up a little closer, Anson."

"Yes, ma'am."

As they moved nearer, Clare, with a lawyer's fine intuition, recognized the group as the press. She spotted a young man, obviously a cub reporter, on the edge of the crowd. And wasn't that Tom Janeway turning and walking away from him? This bore investigating.

Clare stood up in the buggy. "You there, with the 58th Cavalry spiral binder." The young man looked up. "Yes, you. Come here for a moment."

The young man walked over. He had very pretty eyes. "Is there a problem, Miss...?"

"Darrow. Clare Ensfriggen Darrow. E-N-S-F-R-I-G-G-E-N." The young man dutifully wrote her name in his notebook. "I'm the attorney representing Sevenita. What's going on here?"

"Well no one's telling me much, Miss Darrow. I'm just a cub reporter with the Voyager Chronicle. Jason Canuck, by the way," he informed her, inclining his head in greeting. "But as near as I can figure out, Kes Janeway, who's been missing the better part of two days, just came back into town in the company of a scruffy looking gunfighter, who appears completely smitten with her. Deputy Neelix is dead under mysterious and violent circumstances, and Marshal Tuvok is in possession of a notebook that may contain exculpatory evidence concerning Sevenita and the murder of Jabin Ogla."

Clare was impressed, in spite of herself. "That's a pretty comprehensive report for someone who isn't being told much. I think you have a talent for this, Mr. Canuck." Jason blushed and ducked his head shyly. He really did have the prettiest eyes. "You know, whatever that notebook may or may not say, I think it might be helpful to Sevenita to have public opinion on her side going into this trial. And I'll need a contact in the press corps to accomplish that. What do you say, Mr. Canuck? Would you be interested in an exclusive interview with my client and her attorney?"

Jason practically spun around in his excitement. "That-, that-, that would be so cool," the young man effused. "When do we start?"

"Let me find out more about this notebook, and then you and I will talk. Are you going to be at the Grand Leola Root Ball tomorrow night?"

The reporter shrugged casually. "Well, sure. Everyone who is anyone will be there. It'll be a newsman's paradise."

Clare smiled slightly at the "newsman" reference. "Excellent. Now, if you'll give me a hand down, I need to speak with the marshal."

VC: More Ado About Nothing Than You Can Shake a Stick At.
Ginny — 21 Sep 1998, 1:37 PM

The trick was going to be getting to the Marshal through the throng of press people assembled outside the jail. Clare had no intention of setting herself up for a barrage of awkward questions about Sevenita's case. But how to manage the situation...?

Clare suddenly called out, "Hey, y'all!"

The waiting newsmen and newswomen turned to look at the previously unnoticed woman in maroon, who was standing on the road by a buggy and pointing off down Main Street. Clare continued, her clear, southern-accented voice infused with a sincerity honed by years of faking it before the bar. "Wasn't that Omega Spice that I just saw sneaking into Quark's?"

Like a school of fish, the members of the press corps turned as one, snatching up pencils and pads of paper and primitive photographic equipment, and raced off down the street toward Quark's Bar. Waving her hand in front of her face to clear the dust kicked up by the stampeding reporters, Clare thought, with satisfaction, Well. All that college finally paid off. Then she noticed that young Jason had started to follow his colleagues down the street, only to pull up short, turn around, and come back to stand in front of the lawyer, his 58th Advanced Cavalry spiral notebook, with the famous Wild Cards emblem emblazoned on the front, clutched to his chest.

He looked questioningly at Clare. "That was a ruse, wasn't it?"

Clare smiled approvingly. "Sugar, you're going to be one helluva newspaperman. But, for now, I need you to wait here with Anson, while I go talk to the Marshal. Warn me when the press corps starts heading back this way."

Then, in a swirl of maroon silk and crinolines, Clare swept quickly up the steps and through the door into Marshal Tuvok's office.

Ball's in your court, Eric.

VC : Kes and her Gunslinger : A meeting with Sevenita (part 3)
Eric — 21 Sep 1998, 8:15 PM

(Sorry, I'm to tired to do both parts tonight so only part 3 today. Thanks for giving me Claire on a silver spoon Ginny! Don't worry I treat her nicely!)

The Voyager City Sheriff's office : 11:47 AM

Eric could not believe it! It must be an Angel from heaven! He was having a heart attack, that must be it. It was all over. Well, at least he had had a good time.

WHACK! What the? Kes was looking at him concerned, "You looked like you were having a seizure or something, are you OK?". "Um, yes, I'm fine, It's my allergies there bad this year", he finished weakly. Well, you must be Sevenita, how are you feeling today?

"I am 100% operational", Sevenita answered in the way of the Borg Indians. Huh? That is how she always talks Eric, said Kes. She hasn't even tried to fit in with her new parents. I think that is why she doesn't have very many friends here. "Friends are irrelevant", answered Sevenita. Kes I like your new outfit, it combines aesthetics and functionality. You look angery, are you still unhappy about that part in Miss. Kathryn's play? That was many years ago, that is a very Ocampan attitude.

Kes was advancing, fingers stretched out to claw at Sevenita...

Eric felt like he was drowning. These two women were going to rip each other apart, if he didn't do something. He had to make peace somehow! "Kes! Come on, back off a little, Sevenita has been in jail for almost 2 days! She is just upset...".

"I do not require your assistance, you are one, you are weak!", glared Sevenita.

"MY, aren't we just mister helper today Eric! What happened to the man at the canyon? Are are you thinking of running off with Miss. Nanoprobe over there?", glared Kes.

"Well this looks very interesting, and to think Mom wanted me to be a nurse", smiled a young woman in Maroon. "Clare Ensfriggen Darrow at your service, you must be Eric and Kes, I've heard a lot about the both of you".

The Gunslinger felt a migraine coming on....

"Migraines are irrelevent".

Madame D'Alaireux's wagon : Noon

"Come my pets!", cackled Madame D'Alaireux. "If the warlord has appeared we have work to do!". Hurry Baktag! Work faster Timmy! If you don't hurry up you will taste my bat'leth!

Part 4 later! Will Kes and Seven wrestle in the mud? Will they make up and become Lesbian Lovers? Will i get to watch? Maybe a threesome? Oh ya, and we might get to the trial to!

VC: Like Sands Through The Hourglass
Ginny — 22 Sep 1998, 11:28 AM

Clare considered the individuals in the tableau before her.

The handsome, stalwart Marshal Tuvok standing between Sevenita and his desk, his posture, as always, perfect.

Her comely client, Sevenita, looking practically irridescent and just a little sullen in her new silver dress.

Scruffy young gunfighter Eric, wearing a tan duster and six-guns, and seriously in need of a bath and a dictionary.

Pretty, petite Kes Janeway, clothed head-to-toe in form-fitting leather and thigh boots.

That's a really smashing outfit, thought Clare. I wonder if it comes in maroon.

Kes' voice reverberated in her head. I didn't even think to ask, Miss Darrow. Let me check with my personal shopper, Tieran, and I'll get back to you.

Clare gasped and stared at Kes in amazement, but if eleven years in the practice of law had taught her anything, it was to carry on with aplomb in the face of unanticipated revelations. She steadied herself and addressed Marshal Tuvok.

"Marshal, it is my understanding that you have come into the possession of a notebook containing evidence that may have exculpatory value for my client. I demand to see that evidence immediately."

Kes, always the schoolmarm, leaned over and whispered to the young gunfighter, "Do you know what exculpatory means?"

The gunfighter whispered back, "No. Do you know how to spell it?"

Marshal Tuvok picked up a notebook from his desk. "I believe this is the item to which you are referring, Miss Darrow. However, it has not yet been determined that there is any evidence in it pertaining to the Jabin Ogla murder, exculpatory or otherwise. I am therefore not at liberty to grant you access at this time. However, I am confident that Voyager City's prosecuting attorney will give full disclosure of all of the evidence to you prior to the trial."

Clare folded her arms across her chest, displeasure evident on her face. "That raises an interesting question, in and of itself, Marshal. I am the attorney of record for a woman on trial for murder, and no one has yet informed me who will be prosecuting this matter on behalf of the state. Why is that?"

Tuvok's face was impassive. "I have insufficient information to answer your question, Miss Darrow. Perhaps you should speak with Judge Riker."

Clare's beautiful brown eyes sparked with irritation, and she snapped, "Believe me, I will. In the meantime, I don't want that untidy young man ogling my client any longer." She stared pointedly at Eric.

"Hear, hear," murmured Kes.

Clare continued. "Kindly return her to her cell or release her on her own recognizance."

Kes looked at Eric. "Do you know what recognizance..."

"Give it a rest, Kes."

The Marshal shook his head and said. "I am afraid that, under the circumstances, I cannot release Sevenita, Miss Darrow, but I will return her to her cell."

The young gunfighter stepped forward, as Marshal Tuvok took Sevenita by the arm, preparing to lead her back into the cellblock.

"Sevenita," he began, his voice strangled. He stopped, cleared his throat, and began again. "Miss Sevenita, I'm sorry that you find yourself in such dire circumstances. If there is anything I can do to help, please do not hesitate to call on me. In the meantime, I'll be pulling for yo--, er, I'll be rooting fo--, er... Oh, hell. Good luck at the trial." And the embarassed young man turned and hurried from the marshal's office, Kes right on his heels.

As the small blonde woman passed, Clare caught a brief mental flash of restraints and a bullwhip. The lawyer sighed nostalgically and thought, Ah, youth.

To be continued in So Are The Dames Of Our Lives

VC: Kes and her Gunslinger : A meeting with Sevenita (part4)
Eric — 22 Sep 1998, 9:32 PM

(Ok, this is the last part before Ginny's and my epoch THE SEVINITA MURDER TRIAL. That's right, no more teasing, no more empty promises, the trial begins next!)

The Gunslinger knew something was going wrong. He was being whisked outside by the City Woman, Claire. He wasn't sure why his brain was working so slow. Usually his brain was lightening quick. Kes frowned, "You really don't know?", "It's Sevenita, she has the affect on ALL the men in town!".

"What? I didn't say that out loud!". Kes grinned, "It's a Ocampa ability, it can come in handy every now and then" . Kes was running her hands down his body as her mind went running through his thoughts showing him things .

"I could really learn to like this", he squeaked.

But, I just remembered, I wanted to ask Sevenita about the night Jabin was killed! That Claire woman escorted us out to fast! "Don't worry", Kes handed him a paper manuscript, "Tuvok gave me this, he said it's the least he could do since we got him Neelix's notebook". This is great! It's a manuscipt of Seven's interrogation. With this we can use what Doc told us about her blood and begin to put together a good defense.

"Why are you doing this Eric?", asked Kes. Why are you helping us? Well, I came here looking for work, the Gunslinger joked. Kes looked at him her eyes pinning him to a serious answer. "Well, I reckon because it's important to YOU". Kes smiled. "Let's go back to the Delta Q ranch and have a look at the manuscript. It was a special moment that should never have been interrupted by the likes of...

"The CHOSEN ONE!". Yes my pretty, at least one of them. You there! Both of you! The figure approaching them was a strange apparition indeed. She was a gypsy woman in a strange dress, clanking with jewlery and smelling of strange herbs. She was joined by a strange gimpy man and a effeminate young man in..... jungle clothing??? I am Madame D'Alaireux, this is Gimpy Baktag and Tim of the Jungle. We are here to find the two Chosen Ones, we have just found our first she said pointing a finger at Kes!

Kes and Eric looked at each other, then at D'Alaireux, then at each other and said, "Right". And started to untie their horses. Sorry Ms. D'Alaireux, said Eric. We are way to busy, then he whispered to D'Alaireux "And I think I'm going to be VERY busy tonight. D'Alaireux saw Kes grin as she said "But I think we would be rude if we didn't invite you to the ranch to find out about this chosen thing". She lauged out loud at Eric's hurt expression.

So the little group traveled to the Delta Q ranch. It was a interesting building thought Eric as he saw it for the first time. A circular family building joined by a long stable with to outlying storage sheds growing off the long stable. He smiled he could almost see the two sheds stretching out and flapping like giant wings as the whole Delta Q took off for parts unknown.

Then the most fierce looking woman Eric had ever seen came storming out of the building. "Kes", she seemed to hiss like a poisonous snake as her thin lips bit together, "Where have you been?", hissed the serpent woman.

"Aahhhhhh", "ahhh", stammered Eric as he struggled to say something.

"Hi mom!", chirped Kes seemingly unaffected by the hideous crone approaching.

"All is proceeding as I have foreseen", nodded D'Alaireux.

Things were really starting to move to fast thought Eric.

RE: VC: So Are The Dames Of Our Lives
Ginny — 23 Sep 1998, 9:52 AM

The sound of the door closing behind the Gunfighter and Kes startled Clare out of her reverie.

"Since it appears that I can expect no more help from you, Marshal, I suppose I should go see Judge Riker. Will you kindly direct me to his office?"

Marshal Tuvok shook his head and said, "It is after 5 p.m. on a Friday, Attorney Darrow. Judge Riker will no longer be at his office."

"Oh. Do you have any idea where I might find him?"

Marshal Tuvok hestitated and then said, "It has been his custom for many years to spend Friday evenings with various companions, female and otherwise, in the Risa Salon at Sandrine's. It is logical to assume that he could be found there now."

Clare looked at the Marshal with one eyebrow raised. Tuvok's face betrayed nothing--neither approval nor approbation. Clare smiled slowly. "Thank you, Marshal. You've been very helpful."

"I am gratified to have been of assistance, Attorney Darrow. Good evening."

"Good evening, Marshal." Clare stepped out into the early evening light and walked over to her buggy. Larson gave her a hand up into the vehicle.

"Where's Mr. Canuck?" Clare asked her chauffeur.

"He had to leave, ma'am. Some sort of journalistic emergency. Said he'd catch up with you sometime tomorrow."

Clare settled back in the buggy seat. "Very well. Drive me to Sandrine's, Anson."

A few minutes later, Larson pulled the buggy up in front of an low, shabby French provincial structure. As she and Larson walked up the front steps and into the establishment's foyer, she said to him, "I would prefer for you to wait for me at the bar, Anson. I'll call you when I'm ready to leave."

"Yes, Ma'am!" And he was off like a shot. A handsome, if somewhat underdressed, woman stepped into the foyer. Through the open doorway, behind her, Clare could see similarly attired young women and men in suits in a poorly lit room, playing pool. The woman closed the door and said, in a dreadful French accent, "Bonsoir, ma cherie. I am Sandrine. How may I help you?"

"I'm attorney Clare Ensfriggen Darrow. I would like to speak with Judge William Riker, if I may."

Sandrine gave her a knowing look. "Certainement. Come with me, please."

Clare followed the hostess in a wake of maribou feathers to a curtained salon. Sandrine parted the curtain slightly and spoke softly through the opening to the unseen occupants. Clare heard a good-humored male voice saying, "Send her in."

The lawyer stepped into a small, comfortable room and saw two tall, dark-haired men sitting in plush chairs and sipping bourbon. One of the men, a big, burly, handsome fellow with blue eyes and an affable expression stood up. "I'm Will Riker, Miss Darrow. I understand that you're representing Sevenita."

Clare extended her hand to the judge, who shook it warmly. "Yes, your Honor. I apologize for interrupting your evening, but I had a couple of questions that I needed answered."

The other man remained seated, watching the lawyer and the judge, a curious, not-altogether friendly look in his eyes. Clare continued.

"I've been unable to discover who is prosecuting the case against my client. Marshal Tuvok suggested that I speak with you."

Judge Riker laughed, a pleasantly masculine sound, and Clare once again thought of real estate. "You're in the right place at the right time, Miss Darrow. The prosecutor is sitting right there." And he pointed at the other man. "May I present Voyager City's district attorney, Wyatt Billiard Balle."

"Mr. Balle," Clare said, inclining her head toward the other man, who rose from his chair with an easy, almost indolent grace and smiled smugly at the woman in maroon.

"Please, call me Cue. Everyone does."

Grasshopper and Gadfly go to the Brothel
D'Alaire — 16 Sep 1998, 10:43 PM

It was possibly the lushest establishment Qwai-chang had seen in America. The velvet wallpaper of a tasteful deep red and white pattern, plush mahoghany furniture, below fine works of art, crystal chandeliers and decanters, and a fine upright grand played quietly by a man in fine clothes.

There were cats strewn about the amber lit interior, puffy, fat cats, licking their paws or carelessly watching from their chosen perches, and nicely dressed men, most of them supplied with a silken-clad lady on his lap as they sipped their sweet drinks and listened to the music. The sultry singing began eminating from the other side of the room, and coming closer....

"Woman is fickle, false altogether;
Moves like a feather, borne on the breezes
Woman with witching smile, will e'er deceive you,
Often grieve you
Yet as she pleases, her heart's unfeeling
False altogether,
Moves like a feather, borne on the breeze."

Qwai-chang watched without reaction as the scantily clad, wildly red-haired woman prowled around her audience with a mewing, pampered kitten her other hand, wafting her feather boa under their noses as she huskily sang, purring out every note...

"Wretched the day is when she looks kindly
Trusts to her blindly his life thus wasting;
Yet he must surely be dull beyond measure,
Who of love's happiness ne'er has been tasting...."

Qwai-chang merely stared as the woman ran her silky white hand around one gentile man's neck, making him grin. Then she teasingly rubbed the kitty against his cheek. In turn, he goosed her. Qwai-chang blinked.

"Like that?" Max grinned. "That's our own Miss Racine. She's the best. Her evening act draws 'em like flies every night."

Qwai-chang was polite. "I am, unaccustomed to...this, behavior."

"What? Oh, don't worry about Mister Larson, he's easy to tease. Truth is, he likes all the attention he can get."

"I did not mean Mister Larson. I have not visited a place like this before."

"Loosen up," came a woman's voice from behind him and he turned. Appraoching softly on the embroidered scarlet carpet was a sharp-eyed lady with a sanguine bustier, a heavily embriodered satin skirt, and a thin lace shawl draped behind her and over her elbows. "This is the nineteenth century, you know."

Max grinned and tipped his bowler to her. "Madame Maxine, meet Qwai-chang. Gonna have Doc looking after his brother in the last room--if we can dig him up, that is. He's pretty beat up, I'd barely recognize him. But Qwai here's helping with the Merlot and the kitchen 'till he's paid off."

Qwai-chang bowed politely. "I will work very hard, for my brother."

Madame Maxine looked the quiet man up and down, then grinned. "Okay, Mr. Chang, but you keep you hands off my ladies, and remember-- the Merlot belongs to me and Max here -- we bought it fair and square, no tips, no sips. Aside from that, welcome to the Provencal."

Qwai-chang bowed again. "I am, grateful, Madame Maxine."

Max grinned and replaced his toothpick. "Right this way, Qwai. We'll start unloading, and send ol' Hogan off for the doc."

Madame Maxine raised her brow at that. "Are you sure Doc's okay?" she asked, giving him a look. "It is past ten o'clock."

"He'll do fine," Max grinned. "Doc can rip out a tapeworm with three sheets to the wind."

Madame Maxine smiled. "I guess you're right -- put don't remind Mister Hogan about that. You know he reacts when you talk about worms."

"Got it. -- C'mon, Kwai, we've got crates to tend to before the sun gets too hot."

"Yes, Max," Qwai-chang said, and followed him into the back.

Maxine peered down the back hall after them. "Thirty crates, twenty per, right, Max?" She heard no reply but turned back anyway. She had a business to run after all, and the day was only beginning.