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VC Compleat: Range War

Voyager meets The Big Country
AC — 11 Sep 1998, 11:10 AM

Tom wiped his forehead with a sigh, leaning against the porch railing. *Today is going to be another scorcher*, he thought, glancing at the sky. *It doesn't look like any rain for a few more days, either.* Taking a last sip of coffee, he set his cup down and stood, ready for a long day's work.

As he stepped down onto the dry, scraggly grass, he saw a dust cloud coming up the road and smiled. B'Elanna was driving the supply wagon as if demons were chasing her, but he would bet she'd just wanted to go fast for the fun of it. She was constantly working on the horses' stamina, insisting that more speed was always possible.

The horses grudgingly slowed to a halt as the young woman tugged expertly on the reins and leapt gracefully to the ground almost before the wagon stopped moving. "Ayala!," she yelled, "can you put away the horses and tell Dalby that the supplies need to be put away?"

"Yes, Miss," Ayala nodded, moving to lead the horses into the barn.

"Tom," she said urgently, "where's your mother? I need to speak with her at once."

"What's wrong?" he asked, frowning at the worried look on her face.

"Trouble," she replied tersly. "While I was in town I heard Culluh Nistrim talking in the general store, mad as a hornet. Mr. Ogla posted men down at the river and drove off Nistrim's herd. I know your mother gave water rights to both of them, and with this drought, if one rancher keeps another's herd away from water, the cattle will die like flies."

Tom nodded as they headed into the house. "And Nistrim wouldn't think twice before heading his men up to Ogla's Point and kill anyone standing in the way."

Waddya think?

During the Race preparations....
Leonie — 11 Sep 1998, 12:07 PM

"Who's this?"

"Leonie-Marie meet Mr Chakotay. Mr. Chakotay is the foreman of this ranch.

"A pleasure sir,"

"Miss Peters...."

"Please call me Lee-Marie, or Lee is fine in a crunch."

Miss Kathryn smiled. She had liked Leonie-Marie from the minute she first interviewed her. She was knowledgeable and was able to follow along on her ideas and make one or two good suggestions. She wasn't on the same level as B'Elanna, but she struck Kathryn as more of a "nuts and bolts" type of person. Once you told her what you wanted done, or what idea that you had, she could come up with ways to implement the idea and find any flaws in the plan. She was the perfect choice to help Mr. Chakotay implement the improvement suggestions that they had in mind for the ranch.

"All right, Lee-Marie is going to be working with you on some of the upgrades that we were planning to implement on the ranch. She comes highly recommended from the Alpha Q ranch where she helped them out tremendously."

Chakotay was growing angrier by the minute. Trust Miss Kathryn to do that to him. They had talked about the improvements which she thought would be needed to be made to the ranch, but they hadn't talked about hiring anyone else and now it seemed that Miss Kathryn had taken to do that by herself. Again. He forced his voice to remain calm

"You didn't mention that you were thinking of hiring anyone else to help make the improvements. I thought that I would be doing it with B'Elanna?"

Miss Kathryn's smile seemed to be frozen on her face as she said,

"I thought it over and I thought that it would be best if you had some help. Besides, B'Elanna and Tom are busy getting ready for the big race and we need to begin those improvements right away."

"We could manage to do this without HER" Chakotay found that his voice had risen in anger despite all he did to prevent it.

"Um, excuse me if you would like to discuss this in private I can leave...." Lee-Marie was decidedly uncomfortable. There was a big argument brewing and she didn't think it was right for her to hear it, especially since it was about her.

"No, this will only take a minute" Miss Kathryn replied. "I don't think that we can.", she turned her attention back to Mr. Chakotay. "And since this is my ranch, I'm the one who makes the final decisions around here. Clear!?!"

"Yes Ma'am!!!" was the sound that Mr. Chakotay made through clenched teeth.


Mr. Chakotay stormed out of the room.

"Come this way Lee-Marie, I'll show you to your room."

Leonie-Marie Peters was very uncomfortable with what had happened in that initial meeting with Mr Chakotay. She had jumped at this opportunity to work at the Delta Q ranch because she had heard about Miss Kathryn, and how good an owner she was. She did run one of the most profitable ranches outside of Voyager City. Lee-Marie had just finished working on the major improvements made at the Alpha Q ranch and was ready to move on to a new challenge. It was perfect timing and she knew that she was right for the job. At least Miss Kathryn thought so. And she had no doubt that she would be able to convince Mr. Chakotay of that in time.

Leonie sighed and thought to herself. "Great, with such a wonderful beginning, I can see that I'm just going to love it here."

Aloud she said. "Thank you Miss Kathryn."

(Well I had to find someway to get in there. Thanks to Terry for giving me the idea.)

A visitor rides to the ranch
Ruth — 11 Sep 1998, 12:58 PM

Just then Kes called from the front porch, "Ma! Someone's coming." Miss Kathryn stepped outside and saw a cloud of dust as a man on horseback rode under the broad arch emblazoned with the symbol of the Delta Q and headed towards the ranch house.

It was Marshall Tuvok. "Why, I wonder what the Marshall wants?" Kathryn mused aloud. "Maybe he's coming to call on you Ma," Kes said in a teasing voice. "You know he's always been sweet on you."

Kathryn let out an exasperated, "Oh don't be silly, child," but she had to admit that Tuvok had made his admiration for her clear in the years following Mark's tragic death. Still, she had never responded to any of his veiled hints, and old friend that he was, he respected her feelings. Tuvok himself had lost his own wife seven years ago and had also never remarried, and had no steady sweet heart. There were rumors, though, that on at least one occasion in those seven years he had "gone upstairs" at Quark's Saloon with one of the sporting gals, Miss Jenny.

Just as the Marshall reached the front porch, B'Elanna and Tom ran up, and Kathryn suspected that their heavy breathing had nothing to do with their being alone in the barn together. For once. "Ma!" "Miss Kathryn!" Hearing the commotion, Chakotay quietly exited the house and stood behind Miss Kathryn.

Kathryn held up her hand, and said, "Alright everyone, calm down. Marshall, what can we do for you today?"

Tuvok nodded at the group. "Kathryn. Chakotay. I've heard some unsettling rumors of hostile activity down at the river. I understand that Kaze Ogla is attempting to restrict access to the Big Coffee river, and that Culluh Nistrim is, logically, quite upset."

B'Elanna nodded vigorously, "I heard the same thing in town this morning, Miss Kathryn!"

Kathryn thought for a minute. "Chakotay, Tom, B'Elanna, get your guns and saddle your horses! Kes, you help Leonie-Marie settle in, then get to town and warn the Doc that there may be trouble. Marshall Tuvok, will you go with us?"

He nodded in the affirmative.

Minutes later, the five riders set off for the Big Coffee. Well four did. Chakotay got about ten feet, when he accidentally ran his horse into some barbed wire, and he had to go back and get another mount.

But he soon caught up.

There was indeed not time to lose....
Leonie — 11 Sep 1998, 4:24 PM

Kes looked at the riders gallop off in the distance and she knew that Chakotay would soon be back. She didn't have the time to attend to his wounds if he injured himself on the way as he was riding. She knew that it would be superficial wounds anyway. It was his steed that they would have to worry about. Well B'Elanna would take of her. She always did.

Turning to Lee-Marie, she said. "We should hurry."

"I left my bags in the front room when I heard the Marshall call for Miss Kathryn. It'll be safe there, let's go to the village and get the doctor."

"Right, I'll take Boston-Rick and you can take JTM, he's a spirited one for his age, but he can be dependable when need be. He'll get you there, even thought he doesn't know you."

"Good enough"

The two women straddled their horses quickly.

"I certainly hope that Ms Kathryn is able to hold off Kaze Ogla. The Big Coffee river belongs to everyone in these here parts." Lee-Marie mused as she mounted JTM.

Kes was getting on Boston-Rick. "Have you ever seen Miss Kathryn wield a gun."


"Let's just say that Kaze Ogla better pray that when this is over, when this is over, his remains don't end up polluting the river."

They made good time into town. Lee-Marie found that JTM had his quirks, but once she held tightly on the reigns, he knew when to fall back into line. He was indeed a good steed. She enjoyed the trip into town and vowed to ride him more often.

"What's all the commotion about?" Deputy Marshall Neelix came out of the station as he heard Lee-Marie and Kes come into the town, their steed's hoof beats coming up fast.

"Miss Kathryn has gone to stop Kaze Ogla. We've come to get the Doc. I'm sure that he's going to be needed."

"Would you two mind keeping it down, I'm trying to practice my singing in here!!!"

A tall man with a sour expression on his face came out of the Doctor's Office into the middle of the dusty road.

Kes and Lee-Marie dismounted. "Doctor this is Lee-Marie, she was just newly hired at our ranch." Lee-Marie nodded to him as Kes continued. 'We are going to have trouble, Ma has gone to stop Kazle Ogla we are going to need your help."

"Well of course you are. Miss Kathryn always does this, makes a mess with her guns and I have to clean it up!! Sometimes I wonder......"

"Um can we save this, we have to get to Miss Kathryn and the others."

"I was just pointing out...."

"Save it crome-dome. You're needed. Saddle up and let's go." Lee-Marie was already back on JTM.

"WELL!!" The Doctor charged, but he went to his horse and quickly complied. She was right, his services would be needed.

Kes only smiled as she got on her horse. She had a feeling that Lee-Marie was going to ruffle a lot of feathers in the Ranch. She also had a feeling that was part of the reason Ma hired her. She liked those kind of people.

They made their way to the river.

(I hope I didn't offend. If I did I will correct it later.)

Kim Phooey (Part 1)
Terry — 12 Sep 1998, 4:08 PM

Immediate followup to Leonie's There was indeed not time to lose....

Miss Kes, Lee-Marie, Deputy Neelix, and the Doc were riding swiftly westward towards the main ford at the Big Coffee where the confrontation between Nistrim and Ogla's men was most likely to occur. As they passed a copse of trees just beyond the turnoff towards the river, six mounted men appeared behind them.

Their leader, a big ugly brute, called out, "As I live and breathe, if it isn't Miss High-and-Mighty Kes Janeway herself. Need some help, darling?"

"It's Kaze's oldest son, Jabin!" Kes exclaimed.

"What do we do, Miss Kes?" asked Lee-Marie.

"I think --" spouted the deputy and the doctor in unison before stopping to glare at each other.

"No time for talk! We have to run!" Kes whipped her horse into a full gallop and was soon followed by the other three.

But the four had gone no more than a quarter-mile down the road before spotting another group of horseman on the trail ahead.

"It's more Ogla men!" cried Neelix. "We're surrounded!" agreed the Doc.

"No, we're not," calmly replied Kes as she plunged off the trail into the brush without even slowing. Lee-Marie followed without hesitation. After exchanging exasperated looks of disgust, the deputy and doctor did likewise. **Women!**

The chase northward continued for the next two hours. Their initial burst of speed had originally stretched the four's lead to nearly a half mile but the high-speed pursuit began taking its toll on the horses. (All except Lee-Marie's mount; he looked like he could keep up the torrid pace all day.) The pursuers with their fresher horses slowly started to close the gap.

"Kes! We have to slow down! The horses might break a leg in this rough terrain!" the doctor shouted.

"Kes, he's right! We have to find a place to hide or something!" added Neelix.

"They're too close for that! But look up ahead a few miles! See the smoke!" yelled Kes. "I think it's a fire from one of the Delta Q's line-rider's camps! We can make it there before they catch us!"

The four rode their exhausted horses around the last outcropping of rock hiding the fire's source with the dozen Ogla men hot on their heels. But what had appeared from a distance to be a chuckwagon and a small group of cowhands turned to be something very different.

The vehicle was a gypsy caravan, garishly painted in bright reds, blues, and yellows. "M*dame D'A*al*e*x, Seer *f Que*ns" in faded letters was painted on the side along with many undecipherable glyphs and runes. The people sitting around the small campfire were an old woman, a frail young man, a tall, lanky man, and a small dwarf. "Oh, no!"

Kim Phooey (Part 2)
Terry — 12 Sep 1998, 4:54 PM

Before Kes and her shocked companions could recover from their surprise, the camp was surrounded by Jabin and his men. Jabin dismounted and roughly hauled Kes down from her mount. "It were no use running, Kes. You're coming with us." His men also dismounted and pulled the other three from their mounts. "Pa always wanted title to the land around the Big Coffee an' with you as our prisoner, we aim to finally git it. Let's see Miz Janeway order us off when we're holding a knife to her little girl's throat!"

The tall stranger stepped away from the fire and placed his hand on Jabin's left arm which was cruelly twisting Kes' arm behind her back. "Please stop hurting her. She goes not wish to go anywhere with you. Take your men and go."

After overcoming his surprise, Jabin sneered, "You got a new boyfriend, Kessie?" His men cried out, "Shove off!" and "Keep your nose out of our business, Chinaman! If'en ya want to keep it!" and "Who does this yellow monkey think he is?!" Jabin started to shake his arm free of the stranger's surprising strong grasp.

"Aaiiiieee!" Jabin fell to his knees in agony as the stranger twisted Jabin's left thumb and wrist back in a painful yet unbreakable hold. Kes quickly went back to her horse. The stranger then released Jabin and calmy asked, "Will you go now?" The only reply was a choked cry of fury from Jabin as he and all of his men reached for their weapons.

Suddenly, the group of men exploded into a maelstrom of violence and harsh cries. The stranger seemed to be everywhere at once. A flurry of legs seemed to kick Ogla men on the right at the same time that open hands smashed into Ogla men on the left. Before Kes and the others could catch their breaths, their former tormentors were all strewn out on the ground.

All except Jabin himself. He groggily staggered to his feet with his pistol in his right hand, only to go down again after being hit with the flat of a large, sharp (kitchen?) knife. Surprisingly, it was the old? woman wielding the blade. Kes dazingly wondered, *She moves pretty gracefully for a old woman. Maybe she's NOT really that old?*

Several moments of stunned wonder were broken when Lee-Marie hurled herself at the tall stranger and wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace. "Oh, thank you for helping us!" *Hmm, firm butt. Nice dimples.* She finally raised her head from his chest to say, "You saved us from a fate worse than death!" *You could smell the breath on those freaks from a mile away.* "Whatever can we do to repay you?" *Maybe if he had a nice tattoo over his left eye?*

Kim Phooey (Part 3)
Terry — 12 Sep 1998, 5:13 PM

Kes decided it was due time to take charge of the situation again. "Down girl!" she hissed at Lee-Marie as she unpeeled her from the stranger. "I'm speaking for all of us -- let his butt go! -- when I say that we're extremely grateful for your aid. My name is Kes Janeway and these two are my friends, Deputy Marshal Neelix and Doctor Holliday. You've already met Leonie-Marie Peters."

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Janeway, Miss Peters, Marshal, Doctor. Doc Holliday?"

"I'm a doctor, not a gunslinger."

"Sorry. Let me introduce my travelling companions. These is Madame D'Alaireux, her twin brother Baktag, and her bodyservant, Timmy. My name is Kim, Qwai-chang Kim."

"Not to be unfriendly, Mr. Kim, but we don't usually see such colorful travellers in these parts. This is dangerous country. What are you and your party doing way out here?"

"Madame D'Alaireux and her party are snake-oil salesmen. I just met up with them a few days ago. Mine is the usual sad story: I am a ex-priest with a price on his head, fleeing the evil minions of the Emperor of China, searching for my lost half-brother, Harry, while spreading my message of peace, love, and understanding throughout the American West."

"What do you do when people don't want to follow your path of peaceful enlightenment?"

"Usually, I beat the crap out of them until they do."

"Enlightened, indeed." (Pause) "Well, I'm sorry to leave so abruptly but we have an urgent mission. We must be going -- Lee, I said going! Remember Chakotay's tight jeans!"

"Oh, yeah. Sorry."

"-- You and your party would be made welcome at the Delta Q if you're travelling that way. Maybe we'll meet again."

"Perhaps. Farewell. May you succeed in your mission."

Showdown at the Big Coffee
Vickie T. — 13 Sep 1998, 8:49 PM

These events follow those of "A Visitor Rides to the Ranch" and start at about the same time Kes and Lee-Marie are meeting up with Qwai-Chang Kim.

Marshall Tuvok, Miss Kathryn and the others reined in their horses on a bluff overlooking the Big Coffee River. This was where they expected to find Kaze Ogla and his men and they were not disappointed. Below, on the broad plain, they could see Ogla's two younger sons directing a dozen Ogla Point cowhands to defensive positions along the main cattle trail to the river's banks.

Marshall Tuvok spoke first, "I am gratified to observe that Cullah Nistrim and his men have apparently withdrawn from the area."

"True," observed Tom, "but you can bet that they aren't finished with this fight, yet."

At that moment, the cloud of dust which had been moving toward the little group resolved itself into a small band of riders. It was Cowgirl Vickie with a handful of men from the Circle V. "Howdy, Marshall...Miss Kathryn...Chakotay," Cowgirl Vickie smiled, nodding to the group. "We heard that a little trouble might be brewing down here and thought you might need a hand."

"Welcome and thanks," said the Marshall and Miss Kathryn.

Chakotay, deep in thought, did not immediately reply. "Thank God," Chakotay thought, "that Cowgirl Vickie brought some non-speaking extras along. I was getting really nervous, seeing that the bullets were about to start flying, no obvious red-shirts were in sight and I still haven't reached an agreement with TPTB on my new contract demands!"

"Nice to see you, Cowgirl Vickie," Chakotay said, giving her one of his dazzling smiles.

"I wonder," Cowgirl Vickie thought, "if I've ever mentioned to my Housewives Club just how attractive Chakotay is in person?"

"Well, Marshall, Miss Kathryn, what's the plan?," Cowgirl Vickie asked.

After some discussion, it was decided that Marshall Tuvok would ride down alone to speak to the Ogla brothers while the others remained concealed behind the rim of the bluff. This would allow them to get an idea of what the Ogla's had in mind. Miss Kathryn was not entirely pleased with this plan, but grudgingly agreed after the others pointed out that those two nitwit sons of Kaze would be afraid to act on their own and apparently Kaze himself was temporarily away from the camp.

Showdown at the Big Coffee, Part 2
Vickie T. — 13 Sep 1998, 9:39 PM

Larry and Darrell Ogla rode out to meet Marshall Tuvok as he descended towards the river. The group on the bluff couldn't hear the mens' discussion, but no one had yet drawn a weapon, so that was a good sign.

Suddenly, Tom and B'Elanna, who had been behind an outcropping of rock watching the trail which approached the area from the south - no, really, they were - rushed back to the group. "Ma!" "Pa!" "Miss Kathryn!" Both speaking at once, Tom and B'Elanna reported that Kaze Ogla and another group of Ogla Point men were fast approaching the Ogla camp down by the river - with guns in hand.

"Damn that idiot hot-head Kaze Ogla," spat Miss Kathryn. "Well, Betsy, she said, drawing her trusty rifle, "looks like you've got a little work to do." The Delta Q and Circle V riders spurred their horses towards the river just as the first shots rang out from below. Fortunately for Marshall Tuvok, dashing for cover, none of the Oglas could hit the side of a barn, broad or otherwise.

Before long, bullets were flying and curses and dust filled the air. And that was just Larry and Darrell fighting over the one tree big enough to provide adequate cover on the flat barren plain! Our heroes were outnumbered, but they were brave, ferocious fighters. They were waaay better shots, too. Before long, Kaze Ogla, his sons, and a small handful of surviving Ogla Point men were retreating from the little encampment.

As the Oglas rode away, Kes, Lee-Marie, Deputy Neelix and the Doc arrived. The Doc surveyed the battlefield with a frown. "Miss Kathryn," he scolded, "this sort of thing really must stop. I am getting more than just a little tired of having to dash off, on a moments notice, to try and repair the damage you..." His words trailed off into silence as Miss Kathryn impaled him with her Glare of Death.

Miss Kathryn looked at the dead and wounded cowhands around her on the plain and sighed heavily. "Kath...Miss Kathryn," Chakotay put his hand on her shoulder, "you had no other option. If you hadn't intervened, Kaze Ogla would surely have killed Marshall Tuvok. Ogla had to be stopped or many more men would have been killed fighting over access to the Big Coffee."

"I know, Chakotay," she replied, "but that doesn't make the loss of these fine people any easier to take."

By this time the Doc had examined the wounded and determined that all could safely be moved back into town. In their haste to flee, Ogla and his men had left a supply wagon and team of horses behind. Cowgirl Vickie and the Circle V riders agreed to fetch another wagon from the Circle V and transport the dead into town. The rest of the little band headed into town with the wounded. While they rode, Kes and Lee-Marie shared the story of their encounter with Jabin Ogla, the gypsy fortune teller and the Shaolin priest.

"I fear," Miss Kathryn sighed, "that the trouble around here is just beginning."

They'd been told to watch the south trail...
D'Alaire — 15 Sep 1998, 12:43 AM

(Oh, Annie, I'm so sorry I'm ripping off your idea. [slap, slap for me--cringe, I know] But I thought this scene came after, not before, they had their, ahem, hayride -- and it changed everything I'd planned...arrrugh!...So, this is all I think up under those circumstances. I'll make it up later in a post-hayride offering, as soon as I see a gap I can jump into.)

Tom helped B'Elanna down into a crevice between the rocks, where they could see the south trail. Only once they were there did he find the accomodations pleasing. Facing her, they were knee to knee in the "V" of the outcroping. At this vantage point, he decided he had a nice view indeed.

"My, my, Miss B'Elanna," he drawled appraising her, "you look..."

"Dusty?" she replied, tilting her head to peer across at him. Somehow her feet slipped forward, rubbing the inside of her knee against his.

"More along the lines of glorious," he returned.

"Thanks," she replied dourly and cocked her gun.

He cocked his as well, meanwhile sliding his own knee around her very accessable own. He saw her eyes glance away, and he thought quickly. "Hey, have I showed you yet this new belt hook? I can get three lasso ropes on it at the same time. I got it at the Big City when I was there for the fair, and you should have seen all the--"

"Let's watch the trail now, okay?" she said quickly, turning southward, pistol first. "We told your mama and my daddy we'd watch for the Ogla, and you know how...Besty...your mama can be when we're foolin' around at a time like this."

"Mama? What about your Daddy? Ain't you afraid he's spying?"

Her eyes were still pointed out on the trail. "Oh, he's not watching."

Tom slid his knee around B'Elanna's again, and grinned when she, seemingly under the pretense of getting more comfortable on the rocks, maneuvered his knee under her riding skirt. With that little move of hers, Tom had to ask, "Why not?"

She sighed a little, and looked back to Tom. "I don't know."

Tom scooted himself down a little, effectively trapping his own knee well between her own as he himself looked out on the range. "I think I could give your daddy a reason to spy on us, Miss B'Elanna, if that's all right with you."

To that--not to mention the feeling of his chaps on her inner thigh--she grinned. "You seem pretty eager to vex and annoy my daddy," she said suggestively.

"Yes, I am," he said, smiling broadly. Without looking at her again, he pulled back his boot and spun her spur with his own.

Just then, a small rumble was heard on the trail, and Tom pointed with his gun at a puff of smoke in the distance. They looked at each other, eyes wide and knowing.

"The Olga boys," they said in unison.

They jumped from the rock together, too, only to land on the dirt in a heap of tangled legs and spurs.

I'll get you yet, my pretty [Miss Kathryn]
Vickie T. — 12 Sep 1998, 7:21 PM

I just had to shift the scene away from that sponge bath Miss Kathryn was giving Chakotay. It's a good thing Leonie-Marie is still out in the desert!

Kaze Ogla paced back and forth in front of the fireplace shouting angrily to his two younger sons. His older son, Jabin, had gone out hours ago and wasn't back yet. It was just like that boy to take off whenever he was needed around the home spread.

"That...that...that woman has no right to stick her nose into my business. What goes on between me and Nistrum is between the two of us. It doesn't concern her."

"Yeah, Paw, that's right," nodded his two sons.

"Somebody needs to teach her a lesson," offered the youngest son.

"Yeah, her and that boy of hers, too," chimed in the middle son. "And let's not fergit that uppity foreman of hers, either."

Just then, Jabin burst through the front door, looking like he had been caught on the wrong end of a herd of stampeding cattle.

"What the h*ll happened to you?," his father asked.

"It was some chinaman and Frenchy woman friends of that Kes Janeway," Jabin replied. "Them, the dwarf, some other woman riding a damn fine horse, Kes, the Deputy and that pansy opry singing doctor."

"What?," his father roared. "You let a buncha furriners, some wimmin, a dwarf, and a citified pansy kick the snot out of you?"

"It weren't like that, Paw," whined Jabin.

"Aaah, never mind, boy," muttered Kaze. "I got me a plan. Them Janeways and their friends are gonna be mighty sorry they ever tangled with Kaze Ogla. You boys git some sleep. We'll git started tomorrow."

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then he fell asleep.

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

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

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

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

"Dangerous type?" asked the stranger.

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

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

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

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

"The Hirogen Detective Agency?"

"That's right," he agreed.

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

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

"You enjoy it, don't you?"

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

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

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

Grasshopper and Gadfly (part 1)
D'Alaire — 13 Sep 1998, 7:19 PM

Madame D'Alaireux shielded her eyes against the hot sun with the half-moon blade as Kes and and the others took off into the great expanse. Looking again to Quai-chang Kim, she gave a single, appraising nod. "Come, dear, I think it's time."


"Yes." Turning, she snapped her fingers. "Timmy, get me my robe. And--"

"Uh, but it's not pressed yet."

She sighed quickly. "Just get it. Baktag! Yes, you p'tahk! Bring...the Maker."

Quai-chang turned his emminently peaceful yet slightly curious stare her way. "What is...p'tahk?"

"To tell you, dear, would be more a burden than is worth. Now, come, let us sit." They did by the fire, and moments later the strange little creature brought forth an hourglass-shaped metal container, with what looked like a handle on the side, and a tin.

Quai-chang watched intently--trying at the same time to avoid the view of the effects of her very ususual corset. She placed a soft powder in the middle, water in the bottom, and, screwing it together, set it on the nearby fire.

"What is it? A food?"

"This," Madame D'Alaireux said, suddenly sedate, her unusual...wrinkles softened by her pleasant state, "is the Maker. Within it is the spice. It creates the water of life."

"That water of life?"

She blinked. "Oh, sorry. Wrong dimension. This, Quai-chang Kim, is Maker of Java. It will help you see many things. It will help you find your brother. Do not be frightened, it's perfectly harmless."

Quai-chang watched the steam begin to spurt from the nozzle on the side of the maker, and drank the smell through his nostrils, a deep, rich, pleasant odor. He considered it. He smelled again. A trace of a grin flickered upon his lips.

He bowed to the lady at his side. "I would be happy to share Java with you," he said respectfully.

Baktag then returned with a miniature place setting, which he placed, quick yet careful, before the lady.

He watched still as her well-groomed hands carefully layed out their places, the tiny white cups with "Café" etched on the side, the tiny spoons, sugar and napkins. Then she took the sputtering Maker from the fire and poured.

It was a black liquid, rich, thick, with an oddly irresitable scent. Quai-chang felt his senses come alive with only the smell. He paused, hesitant at first. But seeing her stir in the sugar and a dab of a brown powder from a small bag on her belt -- "Nutmeg," she said it was -- he followed suit.

She sipped, then smiled, breathing in its aftertaste, sighing, "Ahhhhh," and closing her eyes.

Quai-chang Kim watched this, then picked up his cup. Softly, he sipped, and the dark taste spread over his tongue. He took another sip, and drew a long breath. Suddenly, consciousness flooded over and through him, and he turned his eyes to the bright blue sky...

"Madame D'Alaireux," he breathed, "I can see...I see...so_many_things."

Slowly, wisely, she opened her eyes, and a curious smile found her full mouth. "And what is it that you see, Quai-chang?"

Grasshopper and Gadfly (part 2)
D'Alaire — 13 Sep 1998, 8:08 PM

The winged creature sat upon the Siameese cat. The cat seemed not to notice. Drip, drip -- the sound of the slow fountain, and the grasshopper making trails as it crawled out from its shore. The cat watched that instead, still. The winged creature sat contentedly for it.

"Master, what is the winged creature doing to the cat?"

"It is feeding. It bothers little, but sucks the fluid of life from others around it."

"But why, Master?"

The old man smiled softly. "To survive. It is its nature."

"Grasshopper! Grasshopper!" cried another little boy as he scampered into the garden. "You wanna play checkers now?"

The cat, startled by the sudden sound, jumped up, and the winged creature flew away. The cat pounced on the grasshopper and gobbled it up in two bites.

Grasshopper winced. "Gadfly, you have disturbed so much."

Gadfly gulped. "Sorry."

Grasshopper looked up to the old man beside him, whose mouth had uncharacteristically turned inward -- for a moment. "Master, will the creature starve now?"

The old man paused. "He will find other creatures to feed upon."


Another sip of Java, and Qwai-chang's face soon contorted, and he shook his head, breathing deeply, seeing...But he could not speak.

Several minutes later, Qwai-chang opened his eyes to see Madame D'Alaireux's dark stare pinned upon him.

"He feeds upon those who have captured him," Qwai-chang told her. "They are a group with little intelligence and...bad hair."

The lady nodded slowly. "You must go to him, Qwai-chang, before they swat him for good. It is time for us to part ways. It is meant to be."


She watched Qwai-chang walk slowly off towards the river, his calm yet steady gate a mezmerizing one. She smiled, hoped the man would find his destiny, then turned back to the men she'd put to work, drawing down the tents, folding up the ironing slate and hooking up the wagon.

She felt a need to go to town. Closing her eyes in the remianing haze of the Java, she saw ropes. Ropes of pleasure, ropes of pain. Tangled, a web of life that was and was yet to be. It might be interesting to watch, she'd concluded.

Turning, she hooked a long, crooked knife on her belt, and threw the strap of the half-moon blade over her shoulder. Looking out onto the plain once more, seeing the form of Qwai-chang Kim rippling in the heat of the day, she knew it would not be the last she saw of him.

A case of mistaken identity (pt 1)
Jules — 14 Sep 1998, 8:07 AM

The main street of Voyager City cleared almost before the echoes of the first shot died away. Some went straight to the livery stables, fetched their horses, and rode on back to their homesteads without even waiting to find out what the shooting was about. Some dived under the nearest boardwalk, or dodged around the side of a building. The more curious souls peeped cautiously over the sill of an upper window. But the very boldest of Voyager City's population headed for the seats on the verandah outside Quark's Bar or, when those had gone, for standing room there instead. As was customary on such occasions, the gaming tables had been suspended for the duration, and the bar's proprietor was taking bets on the outcome.

Miss Megan gave her companion an apologetic glance and sidled out of the door of the jailhouse. She knew that Quark's would now be a flurry of activity. In all likelihood there would be a big run on drinks, and her waitressing services would be required. More shots rang out, and she ducked as she ran.

The first shots had come from above. Cullah Nistrim had indeed withdrawn himself and his ranch hands from the disputed watering grounds down at the Big Coffee, but he had staked out the road into town. It had occurred to him that there were bound to be casualties, and that they were liable to take the dirt track up from the river valley on the way to Doc Holliday's place. So, he set two of his best shots on the rooftops with rifles, and settled down with the rest of his men in Widow Wildman's pigsty, just out of sight.

What he had anticipated was the opportunity to take a few easy pickings from the Ogla ranks when they brought their wounded into town. And indeed, when the Ogla wagon was sighted, it seemed that he'd guessed aright. It hadn't occurred to him however, that it would be the party from the Delta Q ranch that brought the wounded into town. And, unfortunately for Cullah, it didn't occur to his sharpshooters either until they'd loosed their first shots and Miss Kathryn swung Betsy up to her shoulder and started shooting back. She dropped one of them with her first bullet, and the other shortly afterwards.

At this point the Delta Q party and the Marshall would more than likely have stopped to ask questions, but the Nistrim ranchhands conveniently forgot that their men had shot first - in an unprovoked attack - and took their deaths personally. The wagon of wounded was suddenly beset by a hail of gunfire. Miss Kathryn turned her horse on a sixpence dime and called out to her party: "Throw down covering fire! We've got to get the wounded out of the way before this thing escalates!"

Tom, B'Elanna, Lee-Marie and Chakotay joined her, with the accuracy of their firing keeping the Nistrim hands pinned down in the pigsty until the Doctor and Kes had managed to help the injured out of the wagon and into the safety of the Doctor's house. Chakotay was hit in the shoulder by a richochet, but he gritted his teeth and went on firing regardless.

A case of mistaken identity (pt 2)
Jules — 14 Sep 1998, 8:11 AM

"We can keep them pinned down, but I don't see how we're going to do more than that with the cover they've got!" shouted Miss Kathryn to the Marshall. "Any suggestions?"

"The logical thing to do would seem to be to circle around and come at them from behind," was Marshall Tuvok's response. "Unfortunately, we lack the necessary cover to do it. I am not certain yet how we can overcome the difficulty."

Then another shot rang out, from behind the pigsty, and one of Nistrim's men yelped in pain. A second shot rang out, and there was an indignified scramble for their horses from Cullah Nistrim and his men.

Cowgirl Vickie, bringing up the rear with the dead wagon, had caught up with the main party and in the face of these reinforcements Nistrim decided that the only thing to do was to cut and run. Miss Kathryn winged one more of them before their horses took them out of range.

The crisis over, Chakotay had time to notice that he had lost a pint of blood or more and had a ragged hole in his shoulder. Feeling suddenly light-headed, he half-dismounted half-slithered off his horse, and collapsed face down in the dirt. B'Elanna jumped down from her own horse and ran to him.

Marshall Tuvok, directing Deputy Neelix in the procedure of escorting those of the Nistrim fallen who had survived the experience into the jailhouse to await the Doctor's attentions when he had time to spare from tending the wounds of the Delta Q ranch hands and Chakotay, found himself being tapped on the shoulder. He turned, to find himself addressed by a stranger in a city suit. He raised one eyebrow in silent enquiry.

"You were expecting me, I believe? I'm the detective from the Hirogen Detective Agency. Nicholas Locarno, at your service."

(Well, hey if we can borrow Quark from DS9, I don't see why we can't steal a character from TNG as well. Blame Terry. He started it, with all his talk about multiple Chakotays. (He even contributed some thoughts about Mr Locarno's eye colour). And admit it: would you really rather I'd gone with Walter Baxter?)

As the dust settled in town...
D'Alaire — 12 Sep 1998, 2:26 PM

..., and silence filled the square, Miss Kathryn straightened, lowering her trusty 12-guage.

They were gone.

"Doc! Doc! Get over here!" B'Elanna cried out as she and Tom tried to make the groaning Chakotay more comfortable. "He's been hurt!"

Doc peeked out, sure that no more of the marauding Kazon were about, before hurrying to the scene and to his patient. He opened his mouth, checked his head, ran his well-practiced hands down both his firm, rippled flanks...

"Uh, Doc," Tom said, "the horse is fine. Chakotay's the one that's hurt."

"Oh, I see." Doc kneeled down beside Chakotay and began to examined the man.

Miss Kathryn approached then, letting her eyes fall over the man who'd honestly tried to do the right thing that day. She watched the Doctor loosen the Forman's belt, open his shirt, unclasp his...Miss Kathryn sighed shortly and whistled for one of her ranch hands. "He'll stay at the ranch with us 'till he's up again," she told them. "Kes can take care of him. -- Where is she, anyway?"

Tom shook his head. I dunno, she wandered off after the fight, but I didn't see who she was with. You want me to go after her?"

"No. You and B'Elanna come back to the ranch too."

B'Elanna shot a stare up to Miss Kathryn. "But Miss Kathryn, we just can't the Nistrum go! We've got to do something!"

Miss Kathryn shook her head patiently. "You've got your horses to look after, Miss B'Elanna, and..."

"B'Elanna's right," Tom jumped in, and gulped a little for the stare his mama gave him. Despite it, he continued, "It'll only be more trouble later if we don't stop them now." He turned and caught B'Elanna's eyes, nodded to her with them. "We'll go back, check on your horses -- then we'll make our plan after supper."

"Sounds good to me," she said, a little smile crawling onto her lips.

"Good," he returned, grinning, then motioned for the helpers Chakotay up in the wagon. Carefully, they picked the ailing man up and got him inside. Doc climbed in after, and looking back, he said, "Mr. Ayala, could you go tell Seventina to bring me my surgical kit and a pack of bandages?...Don't be afraid, she won't hurt you. Go!"

Ayala nodded and left.

Turning back to his mama, Tom offered a little shrug, a tiny, innocent smile. He knew he'd gone over her head, maybe once too often. Glancing to the nimble, pretty horsewoman, then back to his mother, he hoped she'd understand.

Miss Kathryn couldn't help but smile back. That was her boy, all right. She knew well his sights had been on her for longer than he'd even admit. To put it to rest, she returned a quick nod, and saw her boy's eyes begin to glitter as he turned to help B'Elanna.

Mounting her steed again, Miss Kathryn was sure to stay close to the wagon, keeping her eye on the Forman all the while.

Smile for the camera, please!
Jules — 14 Sep 1998, 8:14 AM

"My apologies for not being at the station to meet you, Mr Locarno. But as you can see, I was unavoidably detained."

Marshall Tuvok sat upright in a chair, looking across his desk at his fellow lawman, who had adopted a much more casual sprawl in his own posture. But his grey-blue eyes were alert and businesslike as he said, "No problem. I understand that you've been having some difficulties. And I regret that the business which brings me to town is likely to add to them. Shall we get down to it?"

He reached into his briefcase and brought out a handful of photographic plates, which he laid out delicately in front of the Marshall. "The Krenim Gang. Or at least their principals. Kid Obrist. Annorax Heyes. Wheat Carlsson."

Tuvok picked up the first of the photographs and studied it. "How did the Hirogen Detective Agency obtain these, Mr Locarno? I can hardly suppose that the Krenim Gang would be obliging enough to walk into a photographic studio and pose for their portraits."

The other grinned roguishly. "Actually, that's more or less what they did. Photographer was taking family portraits at the county fair in Garenor last month. The Krenim Gang were milling around, trying to lose themselves in the crowd, having hit the Garenor City Bank earlier that day. I guess that they didn't see any harm in standing just where they did, beside the photographer's stall, but one of our detectives recognised them from the descriptions given by the bank tellers and persuaded the photographer to turn his camera round a little. They got away, but at least we now know what they look like."

"Indeed," agreed the Marshall, continuing to study the photographs. Only the self control that he had spent a lifetime schooling himself in prevented him from raising his eyes to re-read the erroneous descriptions on the bank robbers' wanted posters above Locarno's head. He knew the wording off by heart and had no need to refresh his memory, but it was a natural reflex all the same.

"And you believe that they will strike here - in Voyager City - next?"

Nicholas Locarno shrugged. "I'm the errand boy. I go where they tell me to. But our intelligence suggests that yes, the Krenim Gang are very likely to consider Voyager City an inviting target. There's a lot of money coming into town this week, with that big race meeting of yours. It would tempt any bank robber. I doubt that the Krenim Gang will be able to resist that temptation."

"You are most probably correct. I will keep a vigilant eye on the activities of the town throughout the period of the festivities. Is there any particular assistance you wish me to render you in your attempt to apprehend them, over and above this?"

Locarno picked up the photographs one by one. "Just one. You could introduce me to the bank manager. If we're to get these men, I'm going to have to work pretty closely with him."

"Her," corrected the Marshall.

An uncrackable safe is like an unsinkable ship. Somewhat unlikely
Jules — 14 Sep 1998, 8:19 AM

"Miss Julie, this is Mr Locarno of the Hirogen Detective Agency. You will recall that I spoke with you yesterday about his coming..."

"Of course, Marshall Tuvok." The manager of the Empire Bank in Voyager City nodded a greeting to the Marshall's companion. "Mr Locarno. I'm sorry that we have to meet in such worrying circumstances. Do you really think that these men will attempt to hit my bank?"

"My Agency thinks it extremely likely." Nick Locarno noted with amusement that Miss Julie's long thick chestnut hair was beginning to escape from its bun, too heavy for its bindings. She was interesting looking rather than pretty, and didn't smile a lot. But she had an air of authority, and he could well believe that she had run the bank capably and well since the death of her father five years earlier. He realised that he wouldn't want to cross her. He hoped he wouldn't have to.

Marshall Tuvok departed to attend to his rounds, and the detective and Miss Julie discussed the bank's security arrangements. "We have a brand new safe," the bank's proprietress said proudly. "It only came in last month. A Brooker 404. They're supposed to be uncrackable."

"They have that reputation," agreed Locarno. "But let's hope that we don't have to put it to the test. It's agreed then, that I will work with you, in your bank, until the race meeting and the festival are over and Voyager City quietens down again? If it meets with your approval, I suggest that you might put me to use as a bank teller."

Miss Julie thought about it for a moment. "That seems sensible," she said at length. "I take it that you know enough about what the job entails that it won't be obvious that you're not an ordinary bank clerk?"

"You'd be surprised at the things a detective has to do," was the amused response. "I can do the job... and I'm a quick study. Rest assured, it won't be a problem.

"And now," he added. "I must find myself a bed for the night, and a meal. You have a place in town called Quark's Bar, I believe? A Miss Megan was telling me about it earlier."

The expression which crossed Miss Julie's face was less than charitable. It had the fleeting appearance of a scowl, although she hid it just as quickly. "Indeed we do. But... if you will excuse me for saying so, Mr Locarno, while Quark's Bar is certainly the place to go if you want to eat well, or to do a little gaming at the tables in the back room... I'd really recommend that if you want to get a good night's sleep you go to Sandrine's Saloon across the street instead."

Locarno tipped his hat. "I'll do that, ma'am. Thank you for your recommendations. Until tomorrow then."

(For Leonie, et al.) Later, that night at the ranch...
D'Alaire — 12 Sep 1998, 3:57 PM

Miss Kathryn watched off the front porch the two standing by the fence. Standing in the bright moonlight, the horses shuffling and brurring not far behind, her boy's foot was perched up on the first rung, and an elbow sat on the top. He was leaning in, though not too much, to the comely young lady beside him as he spoke to her.

The girl was leaning against the posts, trying to look plain, shrugging from time to time and letting her gaze wander about. Occasionally, she smiled--but not too often. She gave little away, which roped him in all the more.

But Miss Kathryn knew the way of things, knew it all too well. She smiled at the young people, that lover's game, remembering well and fondly.

A fine young lady in her own right, B'Elanna was a very good horse trainer, indeed, she thought, laughing quietly to herself. And Tom's just the breed she's found a fancy for taming. But she won't tell him that. Not 'till he's jumped through a few more hoops for her will she say he's welcome to gallop in her corral.

She couldn't hear their words, though they certainly were more cheerful than the ones that had occupied her supper table. The girl was too angry then, rightfully so, and all her plans felt too rash, too risky. It got them nowhere. Tom finally put off any more talk until the next day, saying a good night's rest would help them think.

Miss Kathryn couldn't have agreed more. Grudgingly, B'Elanna did too. That's when he took her out for their walk, which ended at the gate those hours later.

Where was Kes? she wondered. The girl had been gone much of the day...though she'd gotten a report that she was having dinner in town, it wasn't like her to go off wandering. Miss Kathryn hoped Doc would send a report back from town on her daughter's whereabouts.

For the time being, though, things were quiet, and glancing once more to the young people at the gate of the corral, Miss Kathryn turned and went inside.

She wandered her way upstairs, passing by Seventina, who slept -- oddly very still -- by the door. Considering for a moment, Miss Kathryn eased aside the door and looked in on the Foreman.

He was breathing right, she noted, but his head was a bath of sweat.

Maybe an infection, she thought, rolling her sleeves off her wrists. Dipping her hand into the cool water basin, she removed a cloth and wrung it. Carefully, so not to wake him, she sat at his bedside and pressed the cloth softly to his dark, moist skin.

He did not move while Miss Kathryn administered the cool cloth, cooling his cheeks, his firm jaw. She dipped the cloth in the water again, squeezed it out.

She placed the cloth on his neck gently, pulled it down to his muscular chest, patting softly away the beads of perspiration there, smiling gently with her work.

He had tried, she recalled. He would've done fine. Yes. He was a good man. Difficult. Stubborn. Hard to understand sometimes. But a good, solid man.

Seeing no movement from him still, she dipped the cloth in the water again. Carefully squeezing it out, she smiled. It'd been a long time since she'd been forced to be the nurse. She forgot how satisfying it was, even though hard work. But Miss Kathryn was never one to shirk hard work, only...

"Thank you, Miss Kathryn," came a whisper beside her.

She turned to see his dark eyes barely open, but staring straight to hers.

"Hush," she whispered. "Go back to sleep. --Don't argue with me, Mister Chakotay. You need it. Everythng fine here, B'Elanna, too. You get your rest and let me take care of you."

Holding her in his tired but curious gaze for another moment, his eyes did close, a little smile creasing his mouth.

Once sure he'd obeyed her, Miss Kathryn continued her work.

Everybody comes to Quark's
Jules — 14 Sep 1998, 8:22 AM

"This is Mr Locarno," announced Megan Delaney to her sister and friends, with just a touch of pride at having spotted him first. "We met earlier. He's a detective."

There were squeals of shock, disbelief, and interest from her listeners. Nick Locarno viewed them with an appreciative eye. He'd thought that Megan Delaney was a pretty girl when he'd met her earlier in the day, if a little overdressed for a town like this. But now, in the opulent surroundings of Quark's bar, with its marbled tables and plush red drapes through to the back rooms where the gaming took place, the silk gowns of his companions didn't look a bit out of place. Even the feathers which Megan and her sister had added to their elaborately coiffed hair for "eveningwear" seemed almost appropriate.

"How interesting," purred Jenny Delaney. She reached along the bar and touched his hand with her own. "You simply must tell us all about it."

"Of course." There was a wry smile on Nick Locarno's lips. He knew as well as the girls did that this was no more or less than a flirtation ritual, and that they had little real interest what he did for a living - other than that it allowed him to pay his bills. But he played along. "But I must ask that you keep the information to yourselves. You see, I'm working undercover. If too many people get to know my occupation... well, it could make my job more difficult."

There were more oohs and aahs at this. "We won't say a word to anybody," declared Jenny, with more enthusiasm than sincerity. After all, it was written into their job contracts that they pass on everything that the customers said to Quark. But Nick Locarno had a detective's trained eye and suspicious nature. He wasn't fooled for an instant. On the other hand, tempting though the prospect of the high rollers' poker game in the back room was, he didn't have enough stake money to buy into it, and the other games were hardly worth the effort. And the ladies were pleasant - if inquisitive - company.

"Perhaps I could buy you all dinner?" he suggested. "And then maybe you could all tell me something about yourselves?"

The dinner was a success, although nobody told anybody else anything of any significance about themselves. With one exception. Nick noticed that one of his companions was rather younger than the rest, and somewhat more demure in her dress. Pretty, although not really his type. He asked Megan, his neighbour at the table, about her.

"Who? Oh, that's Kes Janeway. She and Miss Ruth run the local school, and her ma owns one of the big ranches in the country west of here. Good family, you know? Probably think they're too good for the likes of us. But Kessie isn't like that. She likes everybody, and she likes to have a bit of fun. She quite often comes visiting, like today. Jenny's lending her a dress for the dance after the races tomorrow, so they spent the afternoon trying on everything she's got."

On the stroke of midnight he excused himself, much to the dismay of his companions, who voiced their disappointment. "You're leaving? But the night is still young..."

"Sorry, ladies," he countered, edging his way out. "I have to work tomorrow. But I'm sure that we'll meet again... at the dance, if not before?"

And with that they had to be content. Nick Locarno crossed Voyager City's main street and went to his room in Sandrine's Saloon. The proprietress gave him a sleepy smile of welcome, but merely handed him his key and left him to his own devices.

As Miss Julie had promised, he slept soundly and without interruptions at the Saloon. Well, until the whole town was awakened by the sound of gunfire, that is.

RE: Voyager City, A FanFic Round Robin
PegN — 12 Sep 1998, 9:03 PM

Ms. Kathryn tossed and turned in her bed that night. She knew Ogla was not going to let the matter of the Big Coffee River rest and she knew she had to be prepared for what he was planning.

Then there was the matter of the injured man in the bedroom next to hers. It was disconcerting to see such a strong and virile man lying so helpless and vulnerable. He had become delirious with fever earlier, moaning and thrashing as she tried to cool his smooth skin with a sponge bath, pressing the wet cloth to his full lips as her loosened hair trailed across his naked chest.

Voyager City, Part II
PegN — 12 Sep 1998, 9:14 PM

Great Heavens, it was a warm night! She threw back the covers and pulled a robe on over her pink silk nightgown (a gift from her dear Mark just before God called him home)and decided to check in again on the poor ailing foreman even though B'Elanna had relieved her earlier.

As she passed Kessie's room, she noticed that the young girl's bed had not been slept in. Alarm set in. As impetuous as Kessie was, she was no Miss Jenny. She crossed the hall to Tom's room, but it too was unoccupied.

"Doesn't anyone in this house ever sleep?" she wondered in dismay.

Downstairs she heard the front door open and Kessie's voice calling to her. Kathryn ran to the staircase to find Kessie running up the stairs to her accompanied by a young man she had never seen before. Tom and B'Elanna came running in from outside to see what the commotion was all about.

"Ma! Ma!" called Kessie. "Jabin Ogla's been shot in the head and Sevenita's been arrested for his murder!"

RE: Voyager City, Part III
PegN — 13 Sep 1998, 10:27 AM

Miss Kathryn was stunned. Fortunately, she was not one who easily succumbed to the vapors, but she did grab the stair banister for support. Her eyes sought out and met the gray blue gray-blue eyes of her son, Tom. An unfathomable look passed between them.

The young man with Kessie had discreetly taken his leave and headed back to whereever it is he came from.

"Ma," said Tom finally and quietly, but a strange undercurrent to his voice coming through, "I'll ride into town and wake Miss Peggy Lou, the general store proprietress and telegraph operator. I've heard tell of a lawyer back Memphis way who's the best. Then I'll go visit Sevenita, if Sheriff Tuvok will let me."

B'Elanna's eyes narrowed. She had not missed the shared look between mother and son or the odd tone to Tom's voice. What was the strange affect Sevenita had over them? The woman was as cold as Owen Springs which fed into the Big Coffee River. Apparently as deep too.

"I'm coming with you," she declared to Tom.

"B'El," he said putting his hands on her shoulders and looking deeply into her brown eyes. "This doesn't concern you. And besides, your pa needs you."

B'Elanna was not to be put off.

"I'm going with you! Miss Kathryn, I'm sure you'll take good care of Pa. In fact, I think it's time for another sponge bath. Mustn't let him get overheated you know."

Tom was already out the door and B'Elanna raced after him. Miss Kathryn walked towards Chakotay's room as if in a daze leaving Kessie to her own devices.

Okay, I have written a very small part. Its a start.
Annie — 14 Sep 1998, 7:10 PM

B'Elanna was in the stables, vigorously brushing down the chestnut filly, and was not in a particularly good mood today. She and Tom had had a whopper of an argument after returning from town to visit Sevinita in jail last night. He refused to tell her why he and Miss Kathryn are so all fired interested in the girl. He hadn't even let her go in the jail when he went in to talk to the girl. She stood outside the jail, and stewed the whole time he was in there. She had even tried to peek in the window to see what was goin' on. Then when he came out, he wouldn't tell her anything. She hadn't talked to him since that night, and didn't intend to neither. Not unless he apologized to her, and explained his interest in that Borg orphan.

She hadn't liked Sevinita, ever since she came into town. Raised by the Borg Indians (pah), so what. She acted all uppity, and aloof, and B'Elanna didn't trust her. Oh she knew how all the men in town thought how beautiful Sevinita was. Well, Tom Janeway had better think twice if he thought he was going to set his sights on Sevinita!

She was still brushing down the chestnut filly when she heard his voice outside the stables. Hearing his voice, made her take to brushing the horse even more vigorously. She looked up, and saw him enter with Ayala and Dalby. Then she turned back to tending the horse intending to ignore him completely. She began the process of reining the horse so she could lead her out of the stables as soon as possible. She heard him say a few more words to the men, then heard his footsteps coming toward her.

Damn, she thought, as she busied herself with the horse. She had done such a good job of avoiding him up until now. She heard his footsteps come to a halt near her. She continued her preparations with the horse, successfully ignoring him.

"B'Elanna?" He said her name softly.

Hearing him voice her name so softly was almost her undoing, but she steeled herself, and turned to face him.

"What," she looked up at him glaring.

"You have been like a caged rattler all day, and it's gettin boring.

Tom and B'Elanna in the Stables Pt 2 REWRITE
Annie — 21 Sep 1998, 9:36 PM

"Boring!" she hollered, stepping toward him menacingly. "So, you think I'm boring do you!"

"No B'Elanna, that's not what I meant, and you darn well know it!" he hollered back. He stood his ground, refusing to back down against her temper, lest he appear cowardly to her.

"What makes you think you can come in here to insult me anyway!" she spat at him. "You're the one who has gotten my dander up in the first place."

"Can't we just drop it B'Elanna," he said reaching up to run a hand through his hair impatiently.

"Drop it? No I can't drop it. If you don't trust me enough to tell me what's goin' on...,"

"I have already told you that I have no designs on Sevenita," he interrupted. You know how smitten I am with you." He stepped toward her hoping to take her in his arms, and swoon her with his charms.

"I don't really care Tom," she moved away from him, reaching for the horses reins. She intended on leaving him standing right where he was. She knew had to get out of there soon, or her temper was going to make her do something she would regret. She actually did believe him about not having designs on Sevenita, but it still didn't change the fact that he didn't trust her enough to tell her exactly what it was about the girl that had him and Miss Kathryn always coming to her rescue.

Tom had had enough. He wasn't about to let her saunter off in such a huff. He reckoned he couldn't fathom what it was about this particular woman, but she made his blood set to boiling like no other ever had. And he'd be damned if he was going to lose her. Suddenly, he stepped in front of her and reached out to take hold of her upper arms. He pulled her close to him, and looked into her eyes, their faces only inches apart.

"B'Elanna," he uttered pleadingly.

"Take your hands off me," she said through clenched teeth. His body pressing against hers was rightly getting to her now, and she reckoned she had to get herself away from him, or she would surely succumb to his nearness.

He held tight to her, knowing he had to make her understand his behavior with respect to Sevenita.

"If you told me something," he clutched her arms tighter, "and asked me to never ever tell another soul, I would go to my grave before I told anyone."

"What does that have to do with anything?" she was now very confounded, and suddenly uncomfortable with the iron grip he had on her arms. "Tom, you're hurting me."

He relaxed his grip, and unconsciously caressed her arms where he had been gripping her so tightly. He felt her relax, and continued...

"What I might or might not know about Sevenita, I swore to my Ma I would never tell. It's not that I don't trust you, it's that I've sworn myself to silence on this matter, and I will not break my vow of silence. Please B'Elanna, believe me," his eyes bore into hers.

"Tom, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...,"

"It's alright sweet pea," he cooed. "It may all soon come out in the wash anyways."

She let her arms come up around his neck, and moved her face closer to his. Then she smiled a crooked smile up at him.

"Can we kiss and make up now?" she breathed. "It's seems like forever since I felt your kiss on my lips."

He put his arms around her slim waist, and held her slightly away from him.

RE: Tom and B'Elanna in the Stables Pt 2 Second half REWRITE
Annie — 21 Sep 1998, 9:37 PM

"We can kiss and make up later. Right now we have to get these horses practiced for the race. We are already behind with the training." Tom knew that this was not a good time to go fooling around in the hay with her, much as he fancied the idea. Her Pa was limping around somewhere, and would surely have his hide if he found his daughter rolling around in the hay with the likes of him.

"B'Elanna, you know I'd like to, but now aint the right time," he reasoned.

She leaned up to give him a soft kiss on the lips. He nearly gave in to her then, but he willed himself to stay in control.

"I've wanted this for so long Tom. Just let it happen," she whispered against his lips.

She kissed him softly again. He tried to resist, but she had him under her spell. He returned her kiss, and took hold of her, burying his face in her neck, he backed her up against the wall of the stable. Then he kissed her thoroughly, their mouths and body's melting together.

There they stood clinging to each other, lost in their passion when suddenly B'Elanna took hold of his shoulders, and wrapped her foot around his knees. Before he knew it, he had landed with a thud on the hay covered floor of the stable. He looked up in surprise at her straddled across his thighs, her hands on his chest. She was leaning her face down to his, her intent perfectly clear by the gleam in her eyes. Just then, they heard the noise of someone entering the stable. Tom grabbed B'Elanna around the waist, and scurried them quickly to a standing position. He let go of her, giving her a warning scowl. She gave him a beguiling smile, and turned to leave him standing there in wide eyed wonder at her.

Okay, I guess Chakotay's wounds were superficial
Ruth — 13 Sep 1998, 5:21 PM

I now have him awake and fully functional. Time: the morning after Tom had brought the news about Sevenita.

"KATHRYN! B'ELANNA! ANYONE! Where the hell are my boots!"

Kathryn, who'd been in the process of buttoning her blouse, looked at herself in the mirror and smiled, "well, I guess the patient is awake." Not taking the time to pull her hair back, she hurried down the hall to the room where she'd left Chakotay just a few hours before after he'd finally fallen into a deep sleep. The door was open and she stepped in, ready to chastise him, but was taken aback by the sight that greeted her.

Her foreman was standing there wearing nothing but a pair of blue jeans and a day old beard.

And they both looked good on him.

She also remembered that she'd touched every square inch of that chest the night before. With a wash cloth, true, but occasionally her fingers had caressed ....

"Where are the rest of my clothes!," he demanded, startling her out of her reverie.

"Well, as I recall," she replied tartly, "we decided it would be a good idea to wash the blood out of your shirt, and maybe patch up the bullet holes. As for your boots, I've put them away. The Doc said you're to take it easy for a couple of days."

"Take it easy? I can't take it easy. I've got a ranch to run as you well know. You certainly pay me enough to do it."

"You've got things set up so well, this ranch can practically run itself, and *you* know that. Ayala and Dalby are taking care of everything."

"Ayala and Dalby?" he queried. "What about B'Elanna? What about that Lee-Marie that you hired yesterday?"

"Er, yes," she said hesitantly, realizing with some amazement that she had momentarily forgot about yesterday's surprises. "Quite a bit has happened since you were hurt. Why don't I go see if some of Tom's things will fit you, and then I'll fill you in over breakfast."

"And my boots?"

She signed deeply, knowing he would not let her win this battle. "You will take it easy today, won't you, Chakotay? The ranch can do without you for one day. But, I," she hesitated, "all of us at the Delta Q would be very upset if something happened to take you from us permanently."

"I'm not going anywhere, Kathryn," he said quietly, placing his hands on her shoulders.

Suddenly, at the same instant, they realized that they were alone in a bedroom, and that one of them was shockingly underdressed. They stared into each other's eyes for a moment.

"Kathryn," he murmured, as if asking a question. He tilted his head closer to hers. Suddenly she straightened and gently pulled back.

"Right," she said brightly. "Now that we have that straight, let me go to Tom's room and see what I can do about finding you something to wear."

The next morning, part 2
Ruth — 13 Sep 1998, 5:28 PM

She turned briskly, and walked out the door. Chakotay gingerly sat down on the bed. He would never admit it to a soul, especially Kathryn, but he was feeling a little shaky. But he wasn't worried; he'd had worse wounds.

And no wound was stronger than the one he carried in his heart when he thought of the beautiful woman who had just left the room. Chakotay had loved Kathryn for years, although he'd tried to keep his feelings hidden. Kathryn was not only his employer - she was Kathryn Janeway, owner of the Delta Q. Her ancestors had been judges and senators, not itinerant drifters like Chakotay Torres' had been.

Still, there were times when he wanted to grab her and kiss her, and tell her that while she may have known better men than he, she'd never know one who loved her as he did. But he didn't do that because of Mark Janeway. For the short time he had known Mark, he had liked and respected him.

And it had made him as guilty as hell, because even before the other man's death Chakotay had known he was in love with that man's wife.

Kathryn came back in carrying a pale blue shirt and a few other items that she placed on the bed. Chakotay rose. She'd also pulled her hair back into its customary pony tail. He'd liked it better down.

When she said, self-consciously, "well it's hardly practical to wear it that way around a ranch," Chakotay realized that he had spoken the words out loud. What was wrong with him today?

He smiled weakly, and said, "no, I don't guess it would be practical, would it?" He leaned over and quickly kissed her on the forehead, then said, "now go, and let me get dressed, and then you can tell me what's going on over a cup of that coffee of yours."

Sorry Terry if its too mushy. I couldn't figure out how to work in a shootout. I'll try my best to kill someone, or at least seriously hurt their feelings, in my next contribution.

"Where'd mama go, I wonder?"
D'Alaire — 12 Sep 1998, 8:40 PM

... Tom asked.

"I think I saw her go inside," B'Elanna said. "maybe checking on my father."

Tom nodded, watching the lady beside him shuffle a little in the dirt as the sound of crickets. "So?" he asked.

"I don't dance, and I don't like all the fuss in those parties....Thank you for asking, but I don't think I'd be comfortable there." She turned in her place, set a knee up on the rung of the fence, staring out at the beautiful beasts in the corral, silhotetted in the blue moonlight. "I always felt more comfotable with horses than I did with people, anyway."

"You're not doing that bad with me," Tom grinned.

She smirked. "Don't get your hopes up. We've only been talking about horses, Tom."

"Yeah, I guess so" he said quietly, staring at the corner of her eye until she would have to notice and turn. She did. "You know, now that you mention it, B'Elanna, I forgot to tell you that the mare you sent over's been pretty stubborn about gettin' to know our stud."

She straightened. "Why didn't you tell me that before?" She backed off from the fence and started off towards the stable. "Show me," she ordered.

Grabbing the lantern, Tom grinned and hopped off after her. In three large steps, he caught up easily with her pace, and peeked down to her determined facade. He moved ahead a bit to open up the stable door for her, then followed her inside when she strode pass him.

Moving swiftly into the stable...
D'Alaire — 12 Sep 1998, 9:06 PM

..., B'Elanna's hand had already gone to her pocket for some sugar cubes she kept there. Feeling Tom's guiding hand press just under her vest, she turned. Looking with him, she saw what was probably the best stall in the stable.

In the lamplight, the mare stood, perfectly groomed, clean as a whistle. Beside her was her mate, a beautiful white stallion, rubbing his nose against hers.

B'Elanna's face grew with her smile, and she collected a few more cubes for the stud.

Tom watched as the lady beside him moved forward with the treats, holding out her small out. She stroked her mare's mane, and laughed when the stallion nuzzled in for a cube of his own. Tom laughed, too. "He's a little feisty, but he's not all bad. Just knows a good thing when he sees it, is all."

B'Elanna looked up at the handsome young man as he joined her, leaning up on the stall door. She regarded him, Tom Janeway, former rogue turned around and straightened up. "Did you do all this for her, Tom?"

Tom shrugged. "She was ansty at first," he admitted, "so I figured to make her comfortable before letting nature take its course."

B'Elanna nodded. Her hand was empty, and she pulled it back to wipe it off. But Tom took a kerchief from his pocket, and, taking her fingers in his, dried her palm. "Here, B'Elanna," he said, his eyes melting into hers. "Wouldn't want to get our fine coats all mussed up, would we?"

She smiled again, looked down at what he was doing. She took a breath.
Suddenly, her fingers grabbed his and she pulled him up against her. "I suppose you're right, seeing as you've proved a pretty good groomer already."

Tom drew his hand around the hip of her leather riding skirt to hold her there. Finding her herding rope hooked on the back of her belt, he bent nearer, watched her eyes draw shut. "To be honest, ma'am, I wouldn't mind primpimg one lovely mare in particular."

She felt what his hand had found, she felt his soft breath near her lips. "What's wrong, Tom? 'Fraid I'm gonna buck you off and get away?"

He pulled the rope off her belt, looping it around his wrist so he could take her waist again. "Don't want to take any chances, B'Elanna. Now that I've got you, I don't want you to dart off on me."

His hand wrapped around her arm. He leaned closer. She bent her knees. "That's always been the practice of stallions," she told him.

He lowered her back onto the soft hay. "Not once they've set their eye on a fine and unique mate, B'Elanna," he said, and kissed her.

She gasped and he pulled back a little, seeing if he'd done wrong. But she wrapped her arms around him. "Guess you'll have to make me comfortable then, and let nature take its course."

She pulled him tightly to her, relishing in the feel of the young rancher's hands as they poured over her lithe frame, his mouth as it moved deeply over her own.

Then she felt him pull the rope from under her.

Suddenly, she grabbed his arms, taking him by surprise. Flipping him onto his back, she straddled him. She drew his hands over his head and bent down close to his mouth. When she grinned, his initially stunned expession followed hers.

"Well, Miss B'Elanna," he whispered invitingly, "don't you trust I won't run off?"

"Can't be too careful with stallions, Tom," she purred.

He wrangled one hand free and drew it into her dark, thick hair. "Guess not," he said, smiling mischeviously. "Never know when they get it in their mind to surpise you."

"I think I can handle one uppity stallion in particular," she returned.

"Glad to know you'll be holding on for the ride."

"Maybe I should get my cro--" Without warning, he pulled her lips back to his.

Simultaneously, their hands flew to the rope laying by.

Behind them, the mare and stallion backed off, brurring a little as shards of hay began flying in the air.

No gunplay, but some Tommy angst
Ruth — 15 Sep 1998, 6:58 PM

And I have absolutely no idea where this would fit in the timeline. Maybe after the scene D'Alaire is talking about writing. The guns could come later if Chakotay actually catches the two of them "spooning" as it were.

BTW, has anyone else noticed that in our story, Chakotay is still getting all the "guest babes" -- Lee-Marie, Cowgirl Vickie and now Madame D'Alaireux. Meanwhile, Janeway is alone with Betsy and her coffee pot.

Chakotay strode into the barn, pushing the door wide open with great force. Startled, Tom looked up from the harness he was working on, and stared at the other man. At first Chakotay thought Tom looked guilty, but this was quickly replaced by his usual air of cocky nonchalance. It was one of the things that Chakotay most disliked about young Janeway, his seeming inability to take anything seriously except perhaps his horses and his mother.

"Hello, Chakotay," Tom said smarmily. "Anything I can do for you on this fine day?"

"You have hay in your hair."

Tom quickly reached up and brushed his hand through his hair, dislodging the bits of hey. Then he looked at Chakotay with a blank expression, "That's it? You came in here to discuss my grooming habits? I'm really *touched* that you care."

Chakotay turned around and shut the door to the barn. He then turned back to the younger man and said, "I think you know this is more than about your hair. I want to know why B'Elanna just left here looking like she'd gotten into a fight with a bale of hay and lost."

Tom turned back to mending the harness. "I think B'Elanna is old enough to make her own choices, Chakotay. I don't see that it is any of your business."

Chakotay walked angrily over to Tom and yanked the harness out of his hands. "It is my business when my daughter gets involved with someone like you. She's had enough problems in her life already, she doesn't need her heart trampled on by a smooth talker like you, Janeway."

Tom's own temper was kicking in, "This isn't about B'Elanna at all, is it Chakotay? It's always been about me - you've never liked me from the first moment you stepped foot on the Delta Q. Come on now, the truth for once. My mother's no where around, and besides she always taught me to treat the *hired hands* like they were part of the family," he added sarcastically. "Tell me what you really think, Chakotay!"

"I didn't dislike you when I got here, Tom. But you were a drunk and a gambler, and I could never understand how two fine people like Mark and Kathryn Janeway ended up with you as their first born. I felt disgust more than anything else. The dislike came when your father came to me the night before he died, and told me that he suspected that you had taken some of Miss Kathryn's jewelry and sold it to some confidence man named Jonas. He knew you'd been gambling a lot and had been heavily into debt to Kaze Ogla. Suddenly, the jewelry was gone, and so were your debts."

Tom looked stunned. "Why didn't my father tell me any of this?"

"He couldn't find you. You were off in town, probably hanging around with Miss Jenny or Miss Megan. Drunk. He had this on his mind the night of the stampede. I've always thought it may have affected his judgment."

Tom paled. He stared at Chakotay, but Chakotay knew that it was not he that Tom was seeing but his father. Without saying another word, Tom left the barn.

A Day In the Life...Part I
PegN — 15 Sep 1998, 8:55 PM

Tom stalked into the house, passing B'Elanna on the way. She saw him come out of the barn and then her father emerged. From the way both walked and the looks on their faces, she knew they had been arguing and no doubt, over her. Men, you can't live with them and you can't shoot them! (Sevenita found that out last night.) A scowl on her own face, she set off for the barn to confront her father.

Kathryn didn't miss any of the action from her spot on the front porch either. Putting down her coffee, she stopped the young man.

"Tom, this has to stop. Maybe this isn't the time to persue B'Elanna. Sevenita needs you right now. She needs your strength and your cool head."

Looking into Kathryn's eyes, Tom felt a part of his anger fall away. He forced himself to unclench his fists and to clear his head.

"You're right. She needs me right now and I need to get away from here for awhile. I'm going to town."

Kathryn stroked Tom's golden hair and smiled warmly at him.

"I'll talk to B'Elanna for you," she promised. Tom leaned over and kissed Kathryn on the cheek.


RE: A Day In the Life...Part II
PegN — 15 Sep 1998, 9:39 PM

Tom rode straight to the Sheriff's Office and walked in and straight Deputy Neelix.

Neelix jumped up from his chair. "She has another visitor...." But Tom didn't hear him, instead going directly to Sevenita's cell. He stopped a short distance from her cell and watched the scene before him.

Reverend Windes was already there, talking softly to her and holding her hands through the cell bars. Tom's eyes narrowed briefly. It was no secret that the good reverend was smitten with the girl and, for some reason, he was one of the few people in town she liked and trusted. He watched as Reverend Windes kissed one of Sevenita's hands, his lips lingering just a breath longer than might be proper. The reverend turn to take his leave and saw Tom standing there. He colored slightly then left with an "'Afternoon, Tom." Tom's eyes followed him out then Tom turned to Sevenita who was looking at the hand that had been kissed.

"Curious," she said softly to herself then looked up at the handsome man before her.

"Seven," he said, using the pet name for her he always did when they were alone. "How are you this morning?"

"I am well," was the cool reply, "Although I was awakened last night by Deputy Neelix's snoring." She turned toward the back of the cell where a sliver-blue dress was hanging. "Miss Peggy Lou brought this dress in for me from her store earlier. She believes I should wear this to the trial." She held the dress up to her and Tom eyes widened. "I told her my dress would be irrelevant," she continued, "but she has stated otherwise."

Tom found his voice then. "How so?" he asked.

"Her reply was not logical, however she said since I was inexperienced in certain ways, I should trust her. She explained that the judge and jury would all be male and that I should direct my answers to them, not the attorneys. She stated that the Memphis attorney is the best, but that the dress might help things along. I do not understand. I thought my innocence would be determined through a fair trial."

Tom smiled warmly at her. She was still an innocent in the ways of the world. He also knew Judge Riker and he was a sucker for a pretty woman and a jury of males would not be able to take their eyes off of her. He wondered how much of the trial they would even hear with her sitting at the defendent's table in that dress. He would have to go and properly thank Miss PeggyLou. At times, the woman acted as though she was addled, but he suspected it might be a cover.

He spent a good amount of time with Sevenita, then left.

A Day In the Life...Part III
PegN — 15 Sep 1998, 10:13 PM

"D@amn! Just my luck," thought Tom as he walked towards Miss Peggy Lou's General Store and Telegraph Office. Chakotay Torres and Marshall Tuvok were walking into the store. Miss Peggy Lou always had on a pot of coffee in the back of the store for her favorite customers. "Well, too bad," he decided. "I'm not letting Chakotay get the best of me."

Miss Peggy Lou had just walked out of the back room when Tom entered.

"Well, hello, Marshall Tuvok, Chakotay, Tom. Her smile was warm and her voice caressed each man's name. "See anything you like?"

Tom ignored the glare Chakotay threw his way and answered first.

"Well, I came to thank you for what you did for Sevenita, but I can thank you properly later. I also wanted to know if my telegraph from last night was answered."

"Oh, yes. I believe Mz. Barty was operating the telegraph when something came in for you. Ah yes, here it is," she grinned as she slipped it out of the top of her dress. She turned her attention to the Marshall and Chakotay as Tom read the telegraph. "What can I do for you gentlemen?"

Marshall Tuvok spoke without hesitation. "As a matter of fact, I was looking for Mz. Barty. I believe she was playing the piano at Sandrine's Saloon when the gunshot was heard last night. I would like to see if she is able to corroborate the time of the gunshot."

"Well, Marshall, you'll find her over at the church practicing for Sunday's service."

Mz. Barty happened to be the best (and only) piano/organ player in Voyager City, so Reverend Windes was indulgent when, sometimes, Mz. Barty forgot which job she was at and launched into the first notes of "Buffalo Girl" before she remembered." Even though it sounded strange on the organ, it would wake up the few congregation members who dared sleep during his sermons. Besides, no one was perfect and the reverend had a skeleton or two in his own closet.

"Thank you, Miss Peggy Lou. I believe I'll go see her at the church as soon as I have a cup of your delicious coffee."

"Why Marshall, you say the nicest things. How 'bout it, Chakotay? It's the special blend I make up for Miss Kathryn."

Chakotay smiled and accepted. With a "I'll be back later, Miss Peggy Lou, when you're not so busy," Tom departed.

The Bond [1]
Leonie — 15 Sep 1998, 8:04 AM

After a quick glance of the summary, I guess that this can still fit.

Written after Sevenita's trial and definately before the dance.
Writers dibs on the dance wrt to Miss Kate, Lee-Marie and Chakotay.

Lee-Marie woke up and stretched. She was a lot sore these days and it was no wonder, with all the goingons of the days before. She had come to the Delta Q to be an assistant For(wo)man, but instead she ended up in "Shootout City". She could wield a gun with the best of them, but in truth her weapons of choice was sharp knives. They had never been in close-up, hand to hand combat so she never got to use "good ole Joe", whom she always kept in a special compartment in her gun belt. She wore pants. A lot of the men grumbled when they saw, saying that no woman should be wearing "man's" clothes but Lee-Marie took it in stride. She didn't care what the men of the town thought. She was only interested in what one man thought. Sighing, her mind drifted on him and what had happened to him in the past few days, and what had happened to her in the past few days.

Her mind came upon an unpleasant memory. She groaned. 'Damn the *Woman's Curse*', she thought. 'What do I have to do to get rid of it? Grow.......' She sighed once again. 'The last thing that I need is more flesh on my body serving no useful purpose'. 'That's a particularly ornery thought'. 'Yeah, well be glad that no man will hear it.'

She did that sometimes, argue with herself, it was a way to diffuse embarrassment. 'I can't believe that I grabbed a perfect stranger's butt, two days ago. What was I thinking? I have to ask Sevenita to ask Doc if he knows of a better treatment for the 'Curse' than these here herbs, they don't do squat. Maybe she'llknow of a better cure, she was with an Indian tribe for a long time, maybe some herbs I haven't tried yet. I sure hope that I don't see Quai-Chan Kim again. But knowing my luck I probably will.'

Lee-Marie felt dispirited. Woman's Curse was over so she knew that there was no feminine ailment that was causing her mood. It was all her, and as usual, she wanted to take some action rather than lying in bed and feeling sorry for herself.

'What I need is a ride.'

She bolted out of bed and began to get dressed. She made herself a cup of Joe and drank it while she threw on her clothes. It was one of her favorite activities, a ride just as the sun was about to rise. Delta Q had some beautiful inclines that faced the East and the sunrise was absolutely gorgeous. Lee-Marie loved to sit and watch it. It was her time alone before the BROTD (The Bad Ranchers of the Day) came to upset the quiet in the Delta Q and Voyager City. She named them that because she had had to deal with them daily since she had taken the job with Miss Kathryn. She used the time to think, to plan, to reflect on what was happening to the people around her and what was happening to her. She needed a lot of time to think about the latter, because she knew that she was falling for the Foreman of the Delta Q.

The Bond [2]
Leonie — 15 Sep 1998, 8:05 AM

Lee-Marie began to walk out to the stables in order to prepare JTM for the ride. Since she had ridden him the first day she was on the Ranch, Lee-Marie had never mounted another horse in Miss Kathryn's stable other than JTM. They understood each other. When she had first ridden him, she knew that they were a good pair and had felt no need to get comfortable with another mount. They had some kinks that they had to work out in their riding relationship. Lee-Marie liked control, in fact she craved it. JTM indulged her once and then she had found out the hard way that he liked her to ease up on the spurs and just give a light touch on the reigns. He seemed to want her to trust him to get her to where she wanted to go. It was hard, Lee-Marie did not trust easily, but she learnt to, and she found that JTM usually knew where he was going, unlike a lot of other horses that she had ridden.

Lee-Marie stopped short. She had reached the stable and JTM wasn't there. She felt the panic rise from her stomach.

"Where was he!?!"

His stall door was opened. She didn't think, she just reacted.

"B'Elanna, TOM?" Her voice rose as she failed to keep her emotions under control. How could she, JTM was gone. He must have been stolen. Lee-Marie knew that B'Elanna was very careful in locking the stalls for the night, so there was no way that JTM could have wondered off.

B'Elanna came into the stables,

"Lee-Marie, what's wrong?"

"JTM.....he's missing..." her breaths were in pants as her stomach churned even harder.

B'Elanna gave a knowing smile, she understood the bond between horse and rider and she could relate to what Lee-Marie was feeling now.

"He's not, Pa took him out this morning."

'No that can't be right, Lee-Marie is looking more alarmed than before.'

Lee-Marie caught B'Elanna's puzzled look. She forced herself to 'fix her face' as her mama had always told her.

'There, it's gone now. I must have just been imaging things.', B'Elanna thought.

"Do you know where he went?" She did indeed fix her face, even her voice had returned to normal tone. But she was anything but calm. Chakotay Torres was on her mount. Lord only knows what could happen to JTM while he was riding him. She had a brief thought that it should be the other way around, that she should be more concerned about Mr. Chakotay instead of JTM. But from the things that she had seen, he seemed to be able to ease a lot easier than the horses he was riding. By this time she felt as if she could bring up the coffee that she had before she got to the stable, her stomach was churning so hard. Normally, when the Coffee hit her stomach, it went straight to her blood to bring her caffeine content back to the 'work setting.' Only God could make it leave her body. Now with the mere thought Chakotay Torres on her mount made it seem like it was possible to accomplish the separation of body and caffeine without divine intervention.

"He went over to the North Pasture." Lee-Marie moved to straddle Boston-Rick whom she saw was saddled up and ready to go. B'Elanna must have just returned from somewhere.

"Don't forget to button your shirt, it could get nippy this early." She was talking to the wind.

The Bond[3]
Leonie — 15 Sep 1998, 8:57 AM

How on earth Kes rode Boston-Rick was a mystery to her. The horse began with all good intentions and lots of power, but would literally burn out in the middle of the stretch. He just could not make his performance endure. Lee-Marie had to allow him to slow down twice so that he could catch his breath and there were times when he was just plain uppity. She had to dig in her spurs a lot to get him to go where she wanted to go for the length of time that she desired. She supposed he just preferred Kes to her, as she had seen how well she rode him. Well each to her own. Her own. JTM.

She missed JTM. She missed the feel of the raw power pulsing underneath her. She missed the stamina and spirit coupled with intelligence. With Boston-Rick you had to literally draw a map with the reigns and the stirrup for him to figure out where he was. Lee-Marie gave a sigh of relief as she came through the clearing that signaled the beginning of the North Pasture. She could barely make out a man sitting on the slope and the horse grazing nearby.

She gave an audible sigh of relief. JTM was fine. She heard him neigh. It seemed as if he was confirming it to her. She dismounted with a little less grace than she was accustomed to, in her haste to really make sure that JTM was OK. He was. She walked up to him and began to stroke his head. He nuzzled against her arm. She was finally convinced.

"Hey boy, happy to see me. Why on earth did you let that man mount you. Don't you know how dangerous he could be" Lee-Marie said all of this softly to JTM. He neighed.

'Nothing I can't handle'. He seemed to say.

"You're good, but you're not that good." JTM neighed loudly and bucked just slightly as if to throw her hands off his reigns and head. Lee-Marie held firm.


He neighed loudly in protest. "Fine, smart-horse"

Chakotay was watching all of it with an amused grin.

"Whatcha doing up so early Miss Lee."

He was the only one who could call her that and get away with it.

"Sunrise" Lee-Marie said succinctly.

"Well now, what a coincidence, so am I, join me?"

Lee-Marie sat. She tried to focus on what she had wanted to think about that morning, but his presence was short-circuiting her. Every time she was near him, all of her concentration normally went out the window. It was only when she gave a little effort, she was able to lose herself in the things that she was doing when she was around him. Except when she was being shot at. He was a handsome, solid man, but she was not that airheaded. When her life was in danger, that was what she was tending to. Fortunately for her chores, she was doing a lot more shooting than working. She thought in time, this crush that she had would pass. But it hadn't, in fact it had increased. She knew it wasn't the best thing. Lee-Marie had seen Miss Kathryn and Mr. Chakotay together and she knew that in spite of their bickering, there was some interest on his part towards her. But she knew the type of woman Miss Kathryn was. It was the type of woman that Lee-Marie was struggling not to be. She had missed a lot of opportunities in the past and if this was one, she wasn't going to let it slip by her fingers.

The Bond [4]
Leonie — 15 Sep 1998, 9:00 AM

But that would have to be his decision. She would show her interest, and then it would be up to him. There was another wild horse in this race. Cowgirl Vickie. She and Mr. Chakotay had a past, she could see it when they looked at each other. Longing was a look that Lee-Marie recognized easily, even if it was as cleverly disguised as Cowgirl Vickie wore it. Being part of a triangle was bad enough, but a square!!

Just then the sun bust forth from behind the forest range. It was dazzling, the brilliant yellow, the streaks of blue just fading from midnight into sky blue. It kept getting lighter and lighter. In the corner of her eye, she could things becoming more visible to her as the light increased. Lee-Marie concentrated. She always tried to pinpoint the exact minute that dawn gave way to day. It was her way of capturing the magic and the beauty that was happening around her. Of being open and present to the gift that was the dawn, of this golden moment, because....

Nothing gold can stay.

It was day.

Chakotay turned his attention to the woman who was sitting besides him. Since she had ridden up in such a hurry, he thought that something had occurred back at the ranch. But she seemed to have come out just to see the sunrise. She must have been in a hurry because she thought that she would have missed it. He had stole glances of her while she was taking in the sunrise. She had a look of wonder on her face that he had never seen before. He found that she was indeed competent and she had helped them to get out of a lot of scrapes since she had come to the ranch, but he was honest, he never gave her that much thought. She just functioned so much like a man, he forgot that underneath the jeans and the oversize shirts, she was very much a woman.

Very much a woman. His eyes wondered down from her face.

Lee-Marie chose that time to look at Chakotay and she followed his eyes down to the source of his attention.

The Bond [5]
Leonie — 15 Sep 1998, 9:04 AM

'Oh sh*t" She thought silently. She had forgotten to button her outer shirt and it was open, revealing her inner, form-fitting shirt. She knew what he was staring at. It was the reason why she wore oversize shirts, so that men's attentions would not be diverted when they were talking to her. Sometimes, they got so much attention, she thought that she should name them; Admiral Right and Captain left. She felt like saying,

'What?, you think that they just *sprung* overnight, I've always had'em ya know"

Instead she diverted his attention.

"Oh it's still a mite bit chilly out here" and Lee-Marie buttoned up fast as if she was fighting off an on coming cold.

At least Mr. Chakotay had the decency to look away and blush a little in shame, knowing why she had said what she had.

"We should get going, got a lot of things to do before the dance tonight."

"Yeah" Lee-Marie, began to mount JTM.

"I rode JTM out here."

"Ah'm riding him back, problem pardner?" She exaggerated her slang just a bit with a crooked grin.

*D*mn, now I'm flirting with him*

He grinned. The dimples alone nearly made her faint. "No MAM!!" he said as he straddled Boston-Rick

"You know he is a difficult stallion to ride. So much raw power, surprising for his age, sometimes it's difficult to control him."

"It isn't once you know how." He guided Boston-Rick to her side

"How's that"

"He's a typical stallion. All showing off his strength and power, all that blustering and attention getting, deep down, he's still a colt. Looking for a little attention and lot's of love. You just need to be gentle with him and of course teach him what your body means. JTM is more perceptive than most, I normally only have to give the slightest of hints and he knows what to do"

"Oh, really now." *D*mn, she's flirting with me*

"He can read the slightest change in my body and respond rightly."

"Better than any other horse" There was a mischievous grin on Mr. Chakotay's face as he asked the question

"I wouldn't know, I haven't ridden him long enough."

They were way too close now and every fiber of Lee-Marie's brain was screaming to get away from that Mr. Torres before she ended it with Miss Kathryn and Cowgirl Vickie to deal with. But her heart was firmly in charge and there was no going back.

They stared at each other for a long time. Finally Mr. Chakotay said

"Come with me to the dance."

"Yes" He didn't have to ask her twice.

Chakotay gave a wide carefree grin. "Race you back to the Ranch."

"You're on."

They galloped away. Of course Lee-Marie would win. If Mr. Torres made it home without running Boston-Rick into something on the way, she'd eat join the herds and graze for a day

Lee-Marie felt JTM's power coursing underneath her as they continued onto the ranch. It felt soo good to be on top of him again.

Personal Note:
Grabbing strangers' butts indeed!!! Terry, I hope you see that I am indeed a "Formidable Woman."
Just remember, you drew First Blood.