Future Winnings Ecolea Rating: PG for language and violence Spoilers: Fight The Future, Young At Heart, Demons, all of Voyager Summary: Mulder is trapped on an alien ship and awakens to find himself stranded aboard the Federation Starship Voyager. Can he win a place for himself in the future, or will replicated coffee be a stumbling block? Archive: Go for it. Disclaimer: None of the characters in this story belong to me and I'm not making any money. So, please sue me. At least that way I can maybe get on Oprah and have the other 7 minutes of my 15 minutes of fame. E-Mail: Comments, flames, superfluous remarks and vicious character assassination can be cheerfully sent to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org Author's Note: This story may have come about as a lark, but I have done everything possible to make certain the psychiatric and military terminology as well as their functions in the story are accurate. Any mistakes are definitely mine as is the dating for Federation history which probably doesn't conform to any known time line in the Trek universe, but,= hey, it works for me. Many thanks to Leathie for her patient explanations, and Sue for her interest, help and perseverance, especially after she told me Kirk was the only captain for her -- and Leathie agreed. And to Samantha, for beta above and beyond the call. You ladies are terrific! Dedicated to His Gracefulness Charles, for absolutely no reason. Future Winnings Ecolea DiNardio
"Captain?" "Yes, Lt. Paris?" "I'm picking up something on long range scan. A craft of some kind. It's huge." "On screen," Captain Janeway ordered, looking up from the report she'd been scanning. Staring at the view screen which now showed the vessel in question, she let out a small gasp of astonishment." "Captain?" "Chakotay, do you know what that is?" she jerked her chin in the general direction of the image. Commander Chakotay shrugged. "No. But it sounds as if you do." Kathryn Janeway nodded, a small smile creasing her lips. "I do. Lt. Paris?= How about you? You're something of an Earth historian." Paris imitated the Commander's gesture. "Not my kind of history, Captain.= But it appears to be a derelict, no signs of life." "No. There wouldn't be," Janeway murmured and sat back in her chair.= "Anyone?" "Captain?" Chakotay repeated, seemingly taken aback by her nonchalance regarding the unknown craft. "It's a quarantine ship, Chakotay. A ship designed to keep it's passengers in cryogenic stasis while a cure was located for whatever contagion they carried. Or so the records claimed." There were a few surprised murmurs from the bridge crew and a low whistle from Tom Paris. "I thought that was just a story," Paris softly exclaimed. "Something cooked up by reporters with too much time on their hands and access to some very obscure archives." "Oh no, Tom. It was all too true. 'A silent weapon, for a quiet war.' And that," Janeway gestured toward the derelict hanging in the center of the view screen, "is the one that got away." *** "Are you sure about this, Captain?" "That ship got here somehow, Chakotay. Maybe we can use that information,= maybe not. But we owe it to posterity to at the very least give those people on board a proper burial service." Chakotay nodded as he and Janeway headed for the lift. "And the historians would never forgive us." The captain chuckled softly. "I'm not worried about the historians, just my conscience. You read the report," she stated as the lift doors opened. "Yes," the commander nodded. "But do you believe it? I mean, a sentient pathogen that gestates inside a living human host? Sounds like one of those old movies Paris likes to watch." "Well, we're about to find out. One thing's for certain, Seven insists that ship has warp capability. If that's the case, we may have to revise our dates on first contact. Early 21st century Earth technology was definitely not that advanced." "And if it wasn't built by Humans?" Chakotay asked. Janeway grimaced. "Then we'll have to find out who built it, if we can. If that report is true..." Chakotay nodded. "If it is true, there may be more of those viral creatures back home, waiting to be reconstituted." *** "Commander, there appears to be a small room behind this panel," Seven of Nine intoned. "The material with which it has been reinforced is blocking my tricorder." Chakotay made his way over to stare at the door with a vague sense of unease. They'd been aboard the quarantine ship for several hours, much of which had been spent first trying to get power to the ship's computer and life support systems, then wandering through the vast expanse of the ship in horror. Men, women and children had been placed in cryo pods. Thousands of now nameless individuals whose lives had been cut short by a small group of men working in secret towards what they believed was a greater good. The commander sighed. "Can you open it?" Seven lifted an eyebrow. "Certainly. But I would recommend that we do not.= We have no idea what may be on the other side. Whatever gestated in these pods was released quite some time ago. There are no alien entities aboard this ship -- as far as we can see," she finished cryptically. Chakotay nodded and slapped his communicator. "Chakotay to Voyager." "Janeway here." "Captain, we've located a shielded room. Given the nature of the situation it might be best for the doctor to go in first." "I agree. I've been looking over the information the away team has been sending back here. I think caution would be the wisest course of action.= You can expect the doctor momentarily. Janeway out." The rest of the away team slowly made their way to the location of the hidden room. Lt. B'Ellana Torres, Ensign Harry Kim, and a pair of junior security officers who'd done double duty in Engineering and Sciences. They waited another moment before Chakotay hit his comm badge again.= "Doctor?" "Yes, Commander," came the bemused response. "It's safe for you to enter.= There are no dangerous viral entities in here." B'Ellanna rolled her eyes beseechingly at Chakotay, who grinned in return.= "Well, thank you, Doctor, for your assistance. You may return to Voyager." "No. I can't," replied the doctor, somewhat annoyed at the short shrift he'd been given. "I have a patient here." "You what? Seven, get that door open now." "Yes, Commander." A moment later they were inside. Chakotay gestured for the others to spread out and examine the contents of the room. "Doctor," Chakotay began, kneeling beside the hologram, who'd evidently removed the fully clothed corpse of a man from the cryo pod above them.= "This man is deceased. Has been for more than three hundred years. And after exposure to that virus..." "The only virus this man is carrying in his system is dead. Apparently, he was administered a vaccine at some point. As for his being deceased--" "Commander," Seven of Nine interrupted. "I've discovered evidence which may shed some light on this individual's presence." Chakotay nodded for her to continue. "There is some minor damage to the inner hull caused by the impact of several small projectiles," she opened her hand to show them the lumps of metal she had found. "I believe you call them bullets." Chakotay nodded again, glancing back at the prone figure whose color was slowly changing from deathly pale to pinkish white. "You were saying,= Doctor?" "Yes. I was," the hologram stated, clearly annoyed. "But given Seven's discovery I believe I can posit a probable scenario. However this individual came to be aboard, he was attempting to flee the ship, possibly just as it was preparing for departure. In an attempt to survive he entered a cryo pod. He was only technically dead due to the extreme cold which stopped his heart before he could drown from the cryogenic fluid in his lungs. His brain functions are intact. I've administered something to raise his body temperature and a myocardial stimulant to start his heart pumping blood as soon as it drops below freezing. Otherwise, there are no immediate medical conditions in need of attention." Chakotay sighed. "And the fluid in his lungs?" "If you will assist me in turning him on his side, Commander, I think he'll take care of that in a moment." Almost as soon as they shifted him the man began choking as the viscous fluid poured out of his mouth. He gagged then retched up the fluid which had filled his lungs and vomited the small amount of liquid that had entered his stomach. His eyes squeezed shut as he took a deep rasping breath into his burning lungs and began coughing so hard Chakotay had to hold him steady. "It's all right. You're all right," the commander told the shivering man,= wondering what the Captain was going to have to say about all this. "This man needs to be in Sickbay," the doctor stated succinctly. Chakotay tapped his comm badge. "Chakotay to Voyager. We have a survivor.= Two to beam directly to Sickbay." Chakotay leaned down over the man, whose coughing had subsided into a scratchy whisper. By the inflection in his tone it was obvious he was asking something. Chakotay laid a hand on the man's shoulder. "I don't understand you," he told the man gently. "What do you want to know?" Dazed eyes, blurred by the remains of the cryo fluid tried to focus on him. "Sc...Scully," the man rasped. "Where's Scully?" Before Chakotay could think of an appropriate answer he felt the surge of the transporter field and released the man, watching as he and the doctor disappeared in a shimmering burst of light. "Welcome to the 25th century,"= he murmured sadly. Whoever or whatever this Scully was Chakotay doubted it could be found at this point in time. And certainly not in the Delta quadrant. *** Tom Paris was the first to reach the stranger's side as the doctor hastily went to one of the fabricators to get him a change of clothes. "Biobed one,= Lieutenant," the doctor told his sometime assistant. "Right. Come on," he said, helping the man to his feet. "Let's get you out of these wet things." "Where?" the man asked, blinking hard as he allowed himself to be led to an odd looking bed in an even odder looking room by an oddly dressed blond. "You're safe," Tom said, helping him out of the black, "Nice! Real leather?"= jacket. "You got a name?" "Uh. Mulder. Fox Mulder." "Well, Fox," Paris went on, helping him out of his sodden clothes. "You're on board the Federation Starship Voyager." "Mulder. Not Fox. Just Mulder," he said as forcefully as he could manage,= coughing a little. "And I'm where? Where's Scully?" "Okay, Mulder," Tom reached under the biobed to pull out a towel. "First,= let's get you dry and on the table, so the Doc can check you out. Then you can have all the answers you want." Mulder grabbed the blond's wrist, shaking his head. "I want answers NOW!= Where am I? And where's Scully?" Paris sighed. He really hated being a medical assistant. "Look. Not that it's going to mean anything to you, but you're on board the Federation Starship Voyager. And if I knew what a Scully was I'd find out if we had any." Mulder cocked his head. "Are you trying to be annoying, or does it come naturally?" "It's a gift," Paris shrugged. "Now, can I do my job? Or do you want more answers?" Mulder stared at the man until a stern voice spoke up. "All right, Lt. Paris. Enough of that. This man should be in bed." "I'm tryin', Doc!" "Well try harder." "Come on, Mulder. Cut me some slack, will ya? I've got Atilla the Physician on my case, here." The doctor cleared his throat again and Mulder took pity on the younger man.= "I'm fine, Doc, really," he told them. "And where did you get your medical degree?" the doctor asked pointedly. "A Cracker Jack box, same as you." Paris grinned, not quite understanding the colloquial reference, but appreciating the humor nonetheless. The doctor was clearly not impressed. "Mr. Mulder, is it? You're suffering from an advanced state of exhaustion, dehydration and as near as I can tell, you haven't eaten in at least seventy two hours. Now. Get. On. The.= Table." "Fuck!" Mulder grunted, but grabbed the towel from Lt. Paris, gave himself a quick rub down and hopped onto the table. "Satisfied? Now, where's Agent Scully? She's a medical doctor. And if anyone's going to examine me it's going to be her." Paris and the doctor shared a look. "What?" Mulder asked nervously, concern coloring his expression. "Was she hurt? Where is she?" The doors whooshed open and an attractive woman dressed similarly to the lieutenant in black trousers and jacket with scarlet shoulders and trim strode into the room. Mulder quickly twitched the blanket across his middle and slid his legs underneath. "Captain," the other men greeted her. Mulder noted their deferential, yet friendly attitude as she reached the bed and held out a hand to him. "Kathryn Janeway, Captain of the Federation Starship Voyager." "Special Agent Fox Mulder," he responded, shaking the proffered hand.= "Federal Bureau of Investigations. Did you say 'starship'?" Janeway smiled, taking his hand in both of hers. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Mulder. Welcome aboard. And yes. I did say 'starship.'" Janeway's bright smile dimmed dramatically at Mulder's expression. "Please, Mr.= Mulder, you're perfectly safe. I know this is going to be a shock to you,= but you're not on Earth. And," she hesitated watching as Mulder stiffened and withdrew his hand from her clasp. "You've been trapped on that quarantine ship for more than three hundred years." Mulder blanched and his entire body seemed to go numb as a part of him suspected it could be true. He collapsed back onto the biobed, his breathing labored as his heart pounded in his ears. He felt rather than heard the soft pressure of something being injected into his shoulder. "No!" he gasped. "No drugs!" "Just a mild sedative, Mr. Mulder. Nothing to worry about," the doctor told him. "I said no drugs." "Doctor," the captain said, trying to placate them both. "I think Mr. Mulder has slept quite enough." Mulder nodded, trying to stay awake while the calming lethargy of the drug raced through his system. "He hasn't 'slept' at all, Captain. That's the problem. Mr. Mulder is exhausted." The captain took the tricorder, shaking her head as she read the diagnosis.= "You do need rest," she told Mulder. "I need to know," he whispered. "What... What are you?" She nodded, remembering the report she'd read. "We're, most of us, perfectly human. Cloning, genetic enhancements, all of that is illegal in this century." Mulder grimaced, fighting the pull of the sedative and what he recognized as his body's betrayal. "They were illegal in mine." "How can I reassure you?" Janeway asked solicitously. "Blood," Mulder whispered. "I need to see the color of your blood." Janeway nodded. "I think we can manage that. As long as you get some rest afterwards." "Captain!" the doctor exclaimed. "Will a prick of my finger do?" Mulder smiled grimly. "You're human." Paris looked surprised. "How do you figure that?" Janeway sighed. "Do you believe only a human being would offer to injure themselves for the sake of another's peace of mind?" she asked, somewhat concerned. Mulder gave a brief shake of his head. "You completely ignored the advice of a doctor." The doctor crossed his arms, looking very annoyed as the two officers laughed. "Corporeals!" he sniffed. Janeway chuckled softly. "You have to admit, Doctor, he's almost entirely accurate in his assumption." "He hasn't had to deal with Klingons and Vulcans. Yet," the doctor added pointedly. Janeway glanced at Mulder to see how he was reacting to the typical banter in which they were engaged and was shocked to see him almost completely withdrawn. "Please, Mr. Mulder. I can imagine how difficult this must be for you. But you'll make it through." Mulder shrugged, and if anything looked more forlorn. "I wish," he said so softly the Captain strained to hear him. She nodded knowingly. "Someone you left behind?" Mulder winced visibly. "Scully. My partner, Dana Scully." Janeway sighed. "We do have extensive archives on board. If you like, I can try to find out what happened to her." Mulder nodded tightly. "She got out. I'm sure of it." "Anyone else?" Janeway asked, pleased to see his eyes fluttering as the sedative pulled him into much needed sleep. "M...mom. My mom," he mumbled. "An' Sam." *** Mulder started awake, suddenly aware that he was not on his couch with the fish tank humming nearby. Someone yawned and he turned in the bed. It was the blond, Lt. Paris, sitting across the room with his feet up on a desk working on what looked like a small hand held computer. And then it hit him all over again. The mind numbing, stomach churning horror of just how stupid he'd been. They'd been searching for him and Scully and he'd ducked behind that pod thing by the exit to hide and give her cover. She'd gotten out. He remembered that clearly. Seeing her jump to the sand below. But the hatch had closed ahead of him and he'd fired his weapon hoping to disable the locking mechanism. Behind him, he could hear the creatures stirring and jumped into the pod to hide. Then the fluid had poured in, freezing cold and drowning him. He shuddered at the memory. "Done sleeping?" a soft voice called over. Mulder sat up and nodded, rubbing his face and eyes to wipe the sleep away. "There's clothes on the table to your right." Mulder reached for the pile, picked up the thin material of a dull brown body suit and grimaced. "Much as I appreciate the gesture," Mulder said. "Are my own clothes dry yet?" "Cabinet behind you. Touch the blue square on the left." Mulder followed the directions and a portion of the wall slid open to reveal his clothes, watch, wallet, keys, ID and empty ankle and shoulder holsters.= He dressed quickly, then realized he quite literally had no place to go. The crushing weight of his loss rolled over Mulder again. He squeezed his eyes shut and a soft moan escaped his lips. "No," he muttered, leaning against the wall for support. "This isn't real. It can't be real. It's not happening." "Mulder?" That soft smooth voice again. It was beginning to irritate him. "What?" "Captain Janeway left orders that as soon as you were released from Sickbay you were to report to her." Mulder felt his spine stiffen with anger. "Orders to report?" He turned on the young lieutenant, ready with a few choice words about where the lovely captain could stick her orders when Paris shrugged. "She didn't actually make it an order, but..." Mulder stared at Paris for a moment then nodded. "So it was just a request?= And seeing as how I have nothing to do..." "Sounds about right," he answered. "Actually, what she said was, 'As soon as he's able ask Mr. Mulder to come to my quarters. There's a lot we have to discuss.' And coming from a senior officer..." Mulder bit his lip and shrugged. Why not? "Any chance I could get a cup of coffee before my audience? I've got a feeling I'm gonna need it." He escaped Sickbay a short time later after a brief lecture from the doctor about nutritional supplements and proper sleeping habits. The man had appeared out of thin air and nearly caused Mulder to choke on his coffee.= As it was, Lt. Paris spent several minutes alternately patting Mulder on the back and explaining about hologram matrices, mobile emitters and computer generated emergency doctors. The only thing Mulder took away from this was a vague understanding that somewhere aboard this ship someone had access to an off switch. If nothing else, it made him feel that there was somebody with a real sense of humor left in the universe. "The Officer's Quarters are this way," Paris said, leading him down a slightly dimmed corridor and into a turbo lift, as Paris called the elevator. "Deck two," Paris said aloud and Mulder tried to hide his startled flinch when the lift began it's ascent. "What's with the lights?" Mulder asked curiously when they stepped out a moment later, presumably on the requested deck. "Starfleet policy is to try and keep to a 24 hour day. So the lights cycle to imitate Earth Standard time," he explained as he led the way down a corridor identical to the one they'd just left. "Starfleet?" Paris nodded. "I'd try to explain, but there's no real equivalent from your time. Our main mission is to explore and make contact with other worlds.= Our secondary function is defense of the Federation of Planets. Here we are." He touched the side of the door and Mulder heard a soft chime and a voice call out for them to come in. The doors slid open and he entered the room,= struck by the spacious, comfortable decor. Then he saw the large window and the stars beyond and he forgot all about Paris and the captain. All he could think of was Samantha and Scully and the pain caused by beings from the stars. Stars he'd loved and learned to hate. Stars he'd learned to fear for the terror of secrets they held. He heard the door whoosh closed behind him as the lieutenant was dismissed and a gentle hand rested on his arm. "It's all right, Mr. Mulder. You're perfectly safe," Janeway told him. "Why don't you come sit down. Can I get you anything? Tea perhaps?" Mulder gave himself a small mental shrug, repressing a shudder as he thought about food and beverages appearing out of thin air. "I'm fine, thanks." He looked at Janeway and gave her his most charming smile. The captain returned it and laughed softly. "That will work on everyone but me, Mr. Mulder. I didn't get to be captain of a starship without learning a few tricks." Mulder shrugged. "It never works on Sc...Scully, either." He swallowed hard,= squeezing his eyes shut against the thought that he was three hundred years too late to tell her just how much she meant to him. He took a deep breath and saw sympathy mixed with understanding in Janeway's eyes. "Come sit with me, Mr. Mulder," she said, gesturing toward a small sofa.= "I've found some information I think you'll be interested to hear." He took a seat, nervously wrapping his arms around his chest. "Well," she went on after sitting beside him. "I was able to track down Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully through our historical archives.= Apparently, she distinguished herself in a number of ways which made her life noteworthy." Mulder had to smile at that. "I never doubted she would, given half a chance." "So, let's see. Dr. Dana Scully resigned from the Federal Bureau of Investigations about a year after your disappearance. She went to work for the Centers for Disease Control and was instrumental in creating the final version of the vaccine against the alien virus she was exposed to and getting it distributed widely enough to prevent mass infection. There's no mention of this in the public records of the time, of course, since the information was suppressed, but she did receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Several years later she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her work on DNA restructuring and went on to head the CDC." "All right!" Mulder exclaimed. "Go Scully!" Janeway grinned at his enthusiasm. "In 2021 she wrote an account of your work together in the X Files. It seems to have been very controversial,= since there are a plethora of articles related to its publication." "I don't doubt it," Mulder grimaced. Janeway nodded. "We have the text on file if you'd like to read it," she offered. Mulder sighed. "Maybe later. I lived it, remember. Yesterday." "Well, I for one found it fascinating. You're an extraordinary man, Mr.= Mulder." He shrugged. "I'm not sure about the extraordinary part. But the work itself was fascinating. Did she ever...uhm...marry?" "I don't know," Janeway told him honestly. "There's no record of her after 2043 when the last world war began. But that's true of a great many things.= Most of the major cities were destroyed, but, oddly enough there's a dedication in a work of supposed fiction naming you as the author's inspiration. The story details a convoluted conspiracy that nearly led to the colonization of Earth by an extraterrestrial pathogen. It's by a Dana Skinner and was published posthumously in 2067 by a Melissa Dumont with the notation that it was written by her great aunt." "She married Skinner! Jesus Christ! I can't believe she married Skinner!"= Mulder ran a hand through his hair. "Jesus, Skinner." "I take it you knew her husband?" "Knew him?" Mulder chuckled. "I got my head chewed off regularly by the bastard. He was the Assistant Director overseeing the X files. Our boss." "I see," Janeway nodded. "Would you like to hear the rest?" Mulder shrugged. "I...I guess. My mom?" "She passed in 2017, of natural causes as far as I've been able to determine. That's when several deeds in her name pass to a Samantha Ann Wescott." "Sam?" Mulder whispered. "What...what..." Janeway rested her hand on his arm. "You know who she is?" "I... My sister, Samantha. She...she disappeared when we were just kids. I looked and I looked, but..." The captain said nothing, waiting for Mulder to take in this long sought after piece of information. "I... I was led to believe," Mulder finally spoke, staring down at his hands. "That she'd married and had children. I couldn't be sure it really was Samantha. There was a clone. A hybrid that was killed. So I was never sure." Janeway sighed. "According to the records we have on board," she grimaced,= "the cloning program was halted in 2008 and the clones themselves hunted down and destroyed by 'agents unknown'. The systematic execution of genetically altered humans was part of the outcome of the Eugenics Wars. By 2013 genetic tagging was implemented by most of the world governments in an effort to catch any remaining hybrids which might have escaped the purge.= It was not," she admitted, "one of humanity's finest moments." "So by 2017?" "Purity Control continued up until the beginning of the Third World War. At the time Samantha Ann Wescott inherited she would have had to undergo genetic verification of her identity." "Purity Control," Mulder said, shaking his head in disgust. "They thought they were saving humanity. They destroyed the lives of thousands in the name of some greater good." "Most great evils are perpetrated in the name of a higher cause." Mulder rubbed his eyes with both hands, fighting the pain rising from his chest to constrict his throat. "And Sam?" he whispered. "I thought she might be related," Janeway nodded, glancing down at her PADD.= "Samantha graduated Harvard Law School in 1991. Married Captain John Thomas Wescott in 1993 and lived in Annapolis, Maryland until 2015 when she divorced and moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. She practiced law with a firm in New Haven until the war. There's no recorded date of death, but in 2062 a Christina Frances Wescott is listed as being granted property rights to the house in Greenwich." Mulder slumped back against the couch with a sigh. She didn't need me, he thought dejectedly. I needed her, but she didn't need me. None of them needed me. Not Scully. Not Samantha. Not even his mother it seemed. They'd all gone on without him. And now where was he? Mulder scrutinized the woman beside him, seeing both compassion and a weary acceptance in her eyes. He took a deep breath and pushed back the overwhelming need he suddenly felt to run screaming from the room. "What now?" he asked, finally looking toward the gaping maw of the star field in the window. "Now, Mr. Mulder," she patted his arm. "I'll have someone show you to your quarters. You need time to adjust. And that's something we have plenty of around here." Mulder heard the catch in her voice and fixed her with his most penetrating gaze. "There's something else you want to tell me, isn't there?" Janeway grinned ruefully. "Not much gets past you, does it?" He lifted one shoulder in a half shrug. "I've had a lot of practice picking the truths and half truths from the lies." "Then I won't give you half truths and I won't lie," she assured him.= "Voyager is headed for Earth. There's only one slight glitch in the program. Earth is in the Alpha quadrant. We were pulled into the Delta quadrant three years ago by an alien entity. The means used to bring us here no longer exists. Unless we can find a short cut, it's going to take approximately sixty seven years for us to get there." Mulder felt his mouth fall open and his eyes widen in shock. "Jesus,= Janeway, you don't pull any punches, do you?" "Not if I can help it," she admitted. "I've always preferred the direct approach." "Next time why not just hit me in the back of the head with a board?" Mulder rubbed his face with his hands and stood up, beginning to pace the room with a distracted look in his eyes. Finally, he turned and threw up his hands in disgust as he let out a long deep breath. "I guess there's not much I can do about it, is there?" The captain shook her head. "Short of hopping off at the next hospitable planet that suits your fancy, no." Mulder stared at her incredulously.= "You're not a prisoner, Mr. Mulder," she told him gently. "And you're not Starfleet personnel that I can just order you to remain aboard. Although,"= she admitted. "I've never insisted any of my crew make this journey if they thought they'd found a suitable home. And I won't. You have the freedom to choose. I won't deny you that. But I would ask that you remain aboard long enough to understand the choice you'd be making." Mulder nodded. It seemed reasonable. And, looking out at that vast array of stars, he did feel more than a little intimidated. But there were things he needed to know. Important things. "And if I decide to stay?" he asked cautiously. Captain Janeway smiled. "We could certainly use you, Mr. Mulder." He cocked his head, unsure of what she meant. Janeway rose and went to her desk, picking up a small PADD. "You have a particular skill which we desperately need," she told him, a hint of sadness reflected in the momentary slump of her shoulders. "When we were pulled into the Delta quadrant we lost our Ship's Counselor. We've suffered a number of losses. Most of us are so far from friends and family that the chances of seeing them again are slim to none, and the odds of getting back to the Alpha quadrant without further casualties is highly unlikely.= Many of my crew are pulling double duty on a daily basis and the strain is showing. Tempers get short, performance suffers. We're in unknown territory, Mr. Mulder, and we can't afford to get sloppy. You're a psychologist. Draw you're own conclusions." Mulder didn't try to hide his astonishment. "Captain," he began, moving to sit on the edge of the desk. "Much as I appreciate your predicament, I am in no way qualified to act professionally in any form of therapeutic counseling. Aside from the rotation I did to get my clinician's license I've dealt exclusively with psychopaths, serial murderers and the criminally insane. Not to mention that most people who know--knew me,= didn't consider me very stable to begin with." Janeway laughed softly at that. "But you were right. There was a conspiracy and there were non-humans attempting to colonize Earth. Which, in my opinion," she smiled broadly and laid a hand on his shoulder, "makes you insightful, honest, and incredibly stable. There aren't many individuals,"= she added, "that could or would even attempt to persevere in the face of such overwhelming odds, let alone the ridicule you must have endured." Mulder smiled wryly at the compliment, but nevertheless demurred. "Captain,= I let a quack doctor drill holes in my head because I thought it would help me find the truth about what happened to my sister." "Did it work?" Once again Mulder felt his mouth fall open. "I... Well, I thought it did at the time. Then I tried to blow my head off and nearly shot my partner. So,= I guess you could say the side effects had a significant downside." "You took a risk. Granted, a dangerous one, but you survived. And you learned something no doubt from the experience." Mulder twisted his lips in a chagrined half smile. "Yeah, never let anyone drill holes in your head or your partner will want to drill you a new one.= And in a place you don't want to even think about." The captain merely grinned and tapped the silver insignia they all seemed to wear. "Janeway to Neelix. Please come to my quarters." "On my way, Captain." Mulder looked around the room, then back at the little insignia device, its purpose now obvious. He stood as the captain moved around the desk to take a seat. "I understand your hesitancy, Mr. Mulder. But I would still like you to think about it. Take your time. Familiarize yourself with Federation history, cultures and technology. Mr. Neelix will show you how to access the ship's computer. If you find there are other avenues you'd like to explore I'm always open to suggestion." The door chimed once. "Come," the captain called out and returned her gaze to Mulder. "In the meantime, Mr. Neelix will assist you in acclimating yourself to your new surroundings." Mulder glanced over his shoulder, a moment of sheer terror sweeping through him. "Relax," he distantly heard the captain murmur. "Mr. Neelix is Telaxian, and very friendly." Mulder swallowed his fear as he watched the garishly dressed bewhiskered creature move forward wearing a broad, delighted smile. "Hello, Mr. Mulder!" the gregarious Telaxian exclaimed. "I'm sure I'm not the first, and I know I won't be the last to say, welcome to Voyager! This is so exciting! I've been reading up on you and your adventures with the amazing Dr. Scully. But not to worry," Neelix assured him. "I'm one of the good guys." Mulder looked from Neelix to Janeway, noting the amusement in her eyes as she nodded. "I'm glad to the hear that," Mulder responded a little breathlessly. "Most of the ali-- the...ah...non-humans," he temporized, "I've run across were generally trying to kill me." Neelix nodded sympathetically. "I know how that goes, believe me!" "Mr. Neelix," Janeway interrupted before the Telaxian could begin commiserating. "I'm assigning Mr. Mulder the counselor's quarters. Just in case," she grinned at Mulder's questioning gaze. "Would you see to it that he's made comfortable and given every assistance in adjusting to life aboard Voyager?" "Anything for you, dear Captain." "Thank you, Neelix. Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I have to go over some reports. Mr. Mulder," she added as he followed Neelix to the exit. He turned, wondering how she managed to be both gentle and commanding at the same time. A trait he'd always admired in Scully. "We'll talk again." Mulder smiled. "I'll look forward to it," he told her. "And thank you,= Captain Janeway. For everything. But especially for being honest." That said, Mulder followed Neelix out of the room, only just realizing as he did so what the captain had so neatly done. "Does she always get her way?"= he asked, already guessing the answer. Neelix smiled broadly. "She's the Captain." *** The counselor's quarters were on the opposite side of Deck Two not far from the Mess Hall. Well away from the senior bridge staff's which Mulder suspected afforded as much privacy to crew members as possible. He'd been surprised at the sheer size of the ship as Neelix described it. Fifteen decks, a crew compliment of 141, and room to spare for lounges, labs,= offices and entertainment areas. Mulder's eyes widened at the sight of his assigned quarters. Unlike most of the crew quarters there were two bedrooms flanking a large central living/work area. The psychologist in him understood the need for the extra bedroom. There were times when a patient needed constant observation, or just a safe place to stay for a night. Someone had done their homework. In England, especially among doctors of the older schools of thought, this was the recommended layout for those in private practice. It supposedly kept the number of psyche admissions down to those who really needed hospitalization. "This Starfleet is really serious about the mental health of it's crews,"= Mulder murmured. "Oh, yes," Neelix told him cheerfully. "I'm the morale officer as well as the cook. A happy, healthy crew is a productive crew." "I'm sure," Mulder agreed, wondering if there'd be anyone here qualified to look after his morale. Well, if the lovely Captain Janeway was any indication, he didn't think it beyond the realm of possibility. He watched as Neelix moved around the room showing him various consoles and amenities. Food and clothing replicators, computer work stations, extra storage space. Mulder nodded as he catalogued each new piece of information, most importantly, the fact that the computer answered to voice commands as well as touch. It could, according to Neexlix, tell him anything he needed to know, or display it for him, as well as offering a vast selection of music and stationary holo entertainments. "Like the doctor?" Mulder asked nervously. "Not quite, Agent Mulder," the Telaxian explained. "His mobile emitter makes him capable of travel to any location. The holo matrices in here are for watching pre-recorded programs, kind of like your television according to Lt. Paris, who's something of an enthusiast of that era in Earth history.= For more interactive entertainment we have two holosuites which you can program to recreate any place, time or event you might want to enjoy.= Currently, we have one suite scheduled for full time use as a meeting place of sorts." Neelix grinned. "That was Tom's idea. It's a replica of an actual eating and drinking establishment on Earth he used to frequent, with music, dancing and a game called billiards. Do you play?" Mulder smiled widely. "Why? Would you like to go a few rounds? Say, for a small wager?" England had been nothing if not educational. Neelix chuckled, rubbing his hands together in gleeful anticipation. "Oh, I think Lt. Paris may have met his match!" Mulder let his brows rise up as he pursed his lips. Interesting. "Just let me get in some practice. It's been a while since I sharked anyone." The Telaxian nodded. "Would you like the rest of the tour now, or after you've had a chance to get settled in?" Mulder shrugged and looked around the suite of rooms. "I think I'd like that tour." There'd be lots of time later to sit alone and be miserable. "It would probably be a good idea for me to have a frame of reference for all this." They started at the bottom and worked their way up. Shuttle bays, cargo bays, science labs, and lots of very friendly "people". He was definitely going to have to read up on Bajorans. Along the way, Mulder had tried to prevent Neelix from introducing him as the new Ship's Counselor, but that only went so far with the irrepressible Telaxian. Instead of "our new Ship's Couselor" he introduced Mulder as "the man Captain Janeway hopes will be our new Ship's Counselor". The seemingly guileless little alien was very skilled in the ways of guilt and manipulation. Still, Mulder had to admit after meeting just a small portion of the Voyager crew that he was getting a little interested in the position. At the very least he wanted to find out more about this Federation of Planets and how so many different species came to be working together so peacefully. He found it hard to imagine that humanity could have overcome thousands of millenia of xenophobic behavior in a few hundred years. Then, of course,= Neelix brought him to Engineering. "Seven!" B'Ellana Torres shouted. "Did I ask you to make those changes?= You're in charge of the Astrometrics Lab, not Main Engineering! No one makes alterations to the warp core computer without first running it by me.= Then I go to the Captain. Then the SENIOR staff discusses it and then THE CAPTAIN orders the changes. WE ARE NOT A BORG COLLECTIVE! This is a Federation starship. Got that!? Protocol. We have PROTOCOL HERE!" "You are again over reacting to my attempts to assist you, Lt. Torres," the blond called Seven responded in a condescending tone. "I am well aware of Starfleet protocols. They are time consuming and unnecessary. The alterations were minor and did not require a meeting of the senior staff." "I DECIDE WHAT'S MINOR!" B'Ellana shouted. "Now, take your nanoprobes and your implants AND GO BACK TO ASTROMETRICS!" Mulder winced inwardly, yet felt somewhat gratified at the display of tempers. After meeting some of the happy-go-lucky crew of Voyager part of him had begun to think Captain Janeway had exaggerated the need for a counselor. Obviously, she hadn't. "I will speak to the captain," Seven stated, turning on her heel. At that, B'Ellana raised a hand as if to strike the other woman and Mulder leapt forward to grab her arm. For his trouble, she tossed him halfway across the room before she rounded on him, looking seriously pissed and very dangerous. "Who the hell are you?" she hissed, giving Mulder his first clear look at her forehead. Shit! Some kind of non-human and he'd just walked into it without thinking.= Can't back down now, he thought grimly. Slowly and carefully Mulder lifted himself off the floor, all too aware of the tension in the room. Most of it now directed at him -- the interloper.= Okay, time to pull a rabbit out of his hat. He took a deep breath, raising himself to his full height and crossed his arms over his chest. "Your new Ship's Counselor, ladies." B'Ellana raised a brow and looked him over. "Really? Just get hired?" Mulder didn't bother to respond. "What I just got is a classic example of bigotry." He watched as the woman's mouth opened and closed before she finally sputtered, "I don't like Borg! No one likes the Borg!" "I see," Mulder nodded, relaxing a bit now that he had Lt. Torres on the defensive. "And your dislike of this particular group gives you the right to scream insults whenever you please? Insults that have nothing to do with whatever action, no matter how egregious, has taken place?" That made the lieutenant pause and look faintly embarrassed. He glanced at Seven and saw the gleam of triumph in her eyes. "Oh no," he shook his head.= "Both of you," he crooked a finger at the pair, "come with me." He led them out into the corridor, giving Neelix a shake of his head to indicate that this would be handled privately. "First," he began politely. "My name is Mulder. Fox Mulder. But you can both call me Mulder. Second, you are?" "Lt. B'Ellana Torres, Chief Engineer." "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One." "Lt. Torres. Seven?" he raised an eyebrow, silently inquiring if this were the proper form of address. The woman nodded. "All right, let's see.= Seven," he glared at the young woman. "You said you're aware of the protocols involved, correct?" She nodded. "But you didn't use them because you didn't think it was important?" Again she nodded. "Who are you to make that decision?" The woman had the grace to say nothing, but flushed ever so faintly. "Lt. Torres, do these same protocols include procedures on how to deal with someone who refuses to accept the protocols?" B'Ellana nodded. "They do," she admitted uncomfortably. To Mulder's relief the lieutenant turned to Seven. "I shouldn't have brought up the Borg, or raised my voice. I'm sorry." "Your apology is accepted." Mulder waited, but Seven said nothing more. "Seven?" The Borg looked at him blankly. "You require an apology?" Mulder shook his head. "No, Lt. Torres does. She's the one you insulted." "Insulted?" He sighed. The woman didn't seem to understand. "Seven, do you think Lt.= Torres is incapable of understanding whatever changes you wanted to implement to the," he thought back for a moment until he had the phrase,= "warp core computer?" "Lt. Torres is an adequate Chief Engineer, but she is closed minded when it comes to my suggestions. Unless ordered to implement them by the captain she would not." Mulder silently admitted that this was probably accurate given the other woman's bigotry. "Lt. Torres," he asked quietly, "is Seven telling the truth?" The lieutenant shrugged. "I'm busy. I don't have time to run to the captain every few minutes with her ideas." "Are they good ideas?" Mulder asked curiously. B'Ellana sighed. "Yes. They are often very good ideas, but that's not the point." "Then what is?" Again, the lieutenant shrugged, apparently at a loss as to what to say.= She'd have to admit that her only reason for not listening to Seven was that she didn't like her which was obvious to Mulder as well as to Seven of Nine. "Okay, let's see if we can work out a compromise, shall we?" Mulder began calmly. "Seven, would you follow protocol if you felt you had a reasonable chance of having your ideas listened to with an open mind?" "I would," she responded. "Lt. Torres, can you make time, say once a week to meet with Seven and discuss her ideas if it meant she followed protocol?" "I suppose so," she sighed. "Good. The two of you can meet in my quarters, with me as mediator until you both get a handle on your tempers. Is that acceptable?" There was a short pause before the pair nodded. "I won't tolerate bigotry or condescension from either of you, so fair warning. The two of you are going to learn how to behave in an appropriate manner -- at least in public, if not in private. And Seven," he added before she could walk away. "You still owe Lt. Torres an apology for going above her head before seeking out an alternative method to have your plans implemented." The woman nodded. "I apologize, Lt. Torres, for any changes to the warp core computer that were made without your direct knowledge. In future, I will consult you." "Consult!" Lt. Torres spat angrily. "You'll damn well do more than 'consult'= me, Seven!" Mulder rubbed his face with his hands. "Enough!" he shouted. "Seven, when you apologize for insulting someone try not to make it a backhanded insult." The woman looked at him blankly. "I was not attempting to insult the lieutenant." "Forget it," B'Ellana muttered. "I know what she meant." With that, the lieutenant turned to go back to Engineering. "I have work to do," she said quietly then glanced back at Mulder and gave him a wistful smile. "Thanks anyway," she told him and disappeared behind the doors. "I too have work," Seven stated sullenly. "If you will excuse me, Mulder." Mulder sighed, nodding. "Yes, but we're definitely going to have to work on your people skills." "And you speak from personal knowledge, Agent Mulder?" Seven asked with mock innocence. Shit! He was definitely going to have to read that book Scully wrote. "I may not always choose to use them, but I have them," he told her bluntly. "Do you?" "I am Borg," she told him as if this statement covered everything he ever needed to know about her, then turned and walked away. He couldn't help but notice just how nicely the body suit she wore fitted to all her curves.= Jesus, he thought, I don't even know what a Borg is and I'm scoping one out! Oh well, if they're all as shapely as she is, who cares? *** "Dr. Mulder?" A tall man of native American ancestry, if Mulder guessed correctly, stood next to the table in the Mess Hall, where Mulder had been sipping his coffee and cursing himself for his stupidity. "I'm Commander Chakotay, the First Officer. May I join you?" Mulder nodded to the seat across from him and the commander slid his tray over as he took his place. The lights in the corridors had brightened in the last hour and Mulder saw what looked like ham and eggs on the other man's plate. Replicated food, he guessed, while he'd availed himself of Neelix's cooking. No matter how they explained that the molecules were simple matter, the idea still left Mulder queasy. When he pulled up to the drive thru at MacDonald's he might not have seen the cow, or the field where his potatoes were grown, but he knew they were there, somewhere. For a brief moment he wondered what Scully might have said if he'd told her there was such a thing as too fast food. Then he crushed the thought before it could overwhelm him. There'd be time for all that later. "I heard what you did in Engineering," Chakotay began. Mulder winced visibly. "Yeah, I put my foot in my mouth. Big time." "Is that what you think?" Chakotay asked curiously. "Well, given that, according to Neelix, I took my life in my hands over employee relations... And that I know absolutely nothing about Klingons or Borg... It was probably one of my less sterling moments." Chakotay smiled. "No. You were perfect. From what I hear, you didn't give either of them an inch. I know B'Ellana respects that and I expect Seven of Nine will too, once she really understands what you're trying to do." "Yeah," Mulder rubbed the back of his neck. "What is it with that anyway?= Nine of what? Peas in a pod? Pigs in a poke?" The commander grinned. "That's a Borg designation code. They don't have individual names as such." "That helps," Mulder dead-panned. Chakotay's shoulders shook with laughter as he tried to hide his smile.= "Don't worry, you'll get used to it," he told Mulder sympathetically. "Just remember, never let either of those two see you sweat, that's when they move in for the kill." "Jeez," Mulder muttered. "You couldn't have left me a popsicle?" "Actually, I probably would have," Chakotay admitted, "if we hadn't decided to send the doctor in first. We were only on that ship to collect information and give you all a decent burial." Mulder nodded. He'd heard as much from Paris. "And did you find what you were looking for?" he asked quietly. Chakotay grimaced. "More than enough evidence to put the humans involved to death for crimes against humanity -- if any of them were still alive.= Although," he added. "We still haven't been able to trace the ship to any known world." "You won't," Mulder told him succinctly. "The aliens first spawning ground was Earth. We all," he gestured to himself and Chakotay, "share genetic material with them." "What?" "They evolved from a simple single cell bacterium into a fully formed entity because a contaminated asteroid crashed into the Earth. It's their home.= Their home. Millions of years before it was ours." "That wasn't in the report I read." "It wouldn't be," Mulder admitted. "How do you tell anyone, in any century,= that they're merely the by-product of an extraterrestrial infection? And that the original pathogen sees humanity as the disease." Chakotay shuddered. "I see your point, but..." "You don't believe me?" Mulder offered him a twisted smile. "Go ask your holographic doctor. See if he can give you an answer." "I will," Chakotay said, nodding. "If it is true, then we'll deal with it." Mulder couldn't help smiling. These people were so innocent. He was sure the records -- the real records -- were somewhere in a Federation vault. No way they wouldn't be, if the Syndicate had been well placed enough to institute Purity Control on a national basis. But he said nothing. Scully had done what she'd promised. Stopped the virus and saved humanity. He knew the truth and the rest was history. "You don't believe that?" Chakotay asked curiously. Mulder shrugged. "It doesn't really matter what I believe. Not anymore." He stood, nodded to the commander and took his leave, heading back to his quarters to do some serious research on Federation history. "Mr. Mulder?" A voice called out before he could enter his suite. He turned to find Captain Janeway making her way down the corridor. "I'm so glad I caught you. I've just had a word with B'Ellana," she told him, her voice and eyes animated with delight as she took his arm gently.= "She was very impressed with what you did in Engineering. Thank you!" Mulder grinned at the Captain's obvious pleasure. "I'm just glad I didn't find out until later that she has twice normal human strength or I'd have probably tucked tail and run." Janeway slapped his arm lightly and released it. "Nonsense, Mulder. You'd have done just what you did. The right thing. I get more headaches from those two than any ten members of this crew. B'Ellana alone has-- Well,= let's just say I for one am glad to have you here." "That's good to hear," Mulder admitted. He'd been afraid he'd really overstepped his bounds by announcing himself as the Ship's Counselor and told Janeway as much. She merely smiled. "Mulder, if you'd announced yourself as the head angel that counted all the other angels dancing on the head of that pin I still wouldn't care." Mulder laughed and Janeway went on more seriously. "Of course, B'Ellana also mentioned that if you'd been in uniform she might not have reacted so strongly to your presence." "Strongly?" Mulder echoed. "Now there's an understatement. She threw me halfway across the room. I hope she doesn't do that to all your guests who get on the wrong side of her at an inopportune moment." "No, but--" "Captain Janeway! Please report to the bridge!" The captain tapped her comlink. "On my way," she announced with a touch of annoyance. "Now what?" she muttered. "Well, Mr. Mulder, duty calls. And if you were really serious about the counselor position..." Mulder nodded. "Yeah, I guess I am." "Good," she said beginning to move toward the lift. "I'll have Mr. Tuvok assist you in Starfleet protocol and security when he gets off duty. Have a good day, Mulder." "May the Force be with you," Mulder waved as he watched her move swiftly down the corridor, once again enjoying the choice view the uniform afforded. Well, he didn't look too bad in black, and at least he wouldn't have to go shopping for anymore stupid ties. *** The door chime sounded just as Mulder finished reading an overview of the First Federation Council. Without thinking, he reached for his weapon,= found an empty holster and gave himself a mental shake to clear his head. "Come in," he called, wondering if he'd ever feel as safe as the crew of Voyager apparently did. In any case, when he next spoke to the captain he fully intended to get his weapons back, even if he only kept them in a lock box. The idea of his loaded guns floating around on a ship full of scientists and technicians made him distinctly nervous. The doors opened and Mulder stood to greet his visitor -- a tall, dark skinned man with ears like an elf. A Vulcan, his memory supplied after a brief search of its internal references. "Good day, Mr. Mulder," the man greeted in a tone so devoid of warmth Mulder nearly shivered at the chill. No emotion, he reminded himself as he nodded in response. "I am Lt. Commander Tuvok, Voyager's Chief of Security. The captain wishes me to see that you are instructed in Starfleet protocol and given access to Voyager's crew manifest and personnel records." "That would be helpful," Mulder commented. "Please, Lt. Commander, come in." The man stepped into the room, moving toward the desk where Mulder had been seated. "Very good," Tuvok stated, glancing at the screen Mulder had been reading.= "You have been familiarizing yourself with Federation historical documents.= You will find them helpful. Computer," Tuvok said, activating the mechanism's voice mode. "Display Starfleet Regulation Manual." The screen changed and Mulder stared at it, still a bit leery of all this new technology. "This," Tuvok went on, "is a compilation of all Starfleet directives. Many of them will be meaningless to you. I would suggest that for the present you confine yourself to examining those sections which apply to Starship protocol and the duties of its personnel. Specifically, the Ship's Counselor." Mulder gave the man a twisted smile. "I've already read them, Lt.= Commander." "Reading is not understanding, Mr. Mulder." "True, I didn't understand everything, until I asked the computer," he agreed, crossing his arms as he leaned against the edge of the desk. "But for me, it's enough." The Vulcan lifted an eyebrow that would have had Scully envious at its height. "Please explain." "I have an eidetic memory. I can quote you chapter and verse right now if you'd like." The other eyebrow went up. "Fascinating. Then you are fully cognizant of your duties." Tuvok looked almost pleased as he handed Mulder a PADD.= "These are your security codes. You have complete access to the crews'= psychiatric evaluations. As it has been some time since they have been updated I would suggest--" Mulder held up a hand. "Already taken care of," he told the Vulcan. "I had the computer make up a schedule for interviewing every member of the crew over the next few weeks. As soon as the captain approves it, I'll send out the notifications. I think an initial 15 minute meet and greet is about all they'll tolerate at first. I can do evaluations later. It would be pointless," he added with a wry smile, "to expect them to trust me just because the captain does." Again the eyebrow rose. "On the contrary, Mr. Mulder. The captain's high opinion of you is perhaps the only reason the crew will offer you their trust." Mulder merely shrugged, not believing for a minute that anyone would be that foolish. "And for yourself," the Vulcan went on, "the regulations are quite clear." Mulder sighed and nodded. "It was the same in my day. One of the reasons I decided not to go into private practice." All treating psychologists and psychiatrists had to have a monitor. A shrink for the shrink, so to speak. "It is still required," Tuvok stated. "The Counselor Evaluation program can be accessed on the holodeck. Given the circumstances of your arrival I would suggest you take advantage of it, before you attempt any counseling." Mulder bristled at that. "I can handle myself without a babysitter, Mr.= Tuvok. But," he added. "I'll comply with the regulations." He didn't have to like it though. Besides, it was a computer program, for chrissakes! How bright could it be? *** Mulder stared at his image in the mirror. After Tuvok had gone, he'd asked the computer to fabricate a uniform for him. He'd never been keen on uniforms, but it was better than having the crew question his presence every few minutes. Appearance was everything, even at the Bureau. No more ties, he chanted to himself as he smoothed the short jacket into place, no more ties. And he did look damn good in this get up. Of course, the dull green trim of the medical branch didn't suit his tastes, but mixed with the black it made his eyes a smoky jade. That was another thing which had surprised him. He'd been born red-green color blind and farsighted. Apparently, the doctor had somehow managed to give him normal vision. At least, he hoped it had been the doctor and not that cryo soup he'd been trapped in. With a shrug at his reflection and a half hearted sigh, Mulder decided to get the worst over with. He'd spent enough time avoiding the issue of his sudden transplantation to the 25th century and if he didn't do something about it -- at least pretend to talk to someone -- his emotions would eventually come up and bite him on the ass when he least expected. Time alone would have been better, but he really didn't want to sit around and think about things he couldn't possibly hope to change. Not anymore. He left his quarters gaining a few curious glances and several smiles from crew members he'd met earlier. Well, that's different, he thought,= realizing his fear of Spooky jokes had been somewhat irrational. Hell, with telepaths, empaths and shapeshifting species being common in this era why would anyone think of him as spooky? He was a prophet in their eyes. The idea made him feel more than a bit uncomfortable as he entered the turbo lift and asked for Deck 7. Still, his strange passion as Scully had once called it, had been vindicated. He was amongst seekers of the unknown now,= and that warmed his aching heart just a little. As did the number of messages he'd received from several historians aboard. They want to pick your brains, Mulder thought with amusement. Images of Woody Allen in Sleeper danced through his head as he thought about skewering the truth just a little. He wouldn't, of course, but it was fun to think about. The holosuite was empty when he entered, just as the computer had said. A large, brightly lit room with walls, ceiling and floor covered in a black square design delineated by bright yellow lines. "Computer," he asked aloud, still feeling silly talking to the air. "Run Ship's Counselor Evaluation program." Around him, the room shimmered then solidified into a sunlit office with a huge window overlooking the San Francisco Bay area. Mulder gaped in astonishment as he moved to the window and caught his first glimpse of the city as it must be now. Amazing. There was the Golden Gate bridge and an array of skyscrapers, flying vehicles, and far below, people moving to and fro. And as far as the eye could see a clear, unpolluted blue sky with a fluffy cloud or two skittering across. "Good day, Counselor Belos," a woman's voice said from behind. Mulder turned, not having expected the original counselor program to be female.= But Belos had been a Betazoid, some kind of empathic telepath and that might have been his choice. "You are not Belos," the woman stated. "You're Vulcan," Mulder murmured quietly, his surprise evident. The last thing he expected was a Vulcan. Then again, he thought ruefully, if he were an empathic telepath he'd probably choose a species which thoroughly quelled its emotions. Frankly, he thought the choice of Betaziods as counselors was more than a bit loopy. It might be helpful for an initial diagnosis, but the last thing any therapist wanted was to become entangled in the patient's emotional turmoil. No wonder Belos had wanted someone who didn't exude emotion. "I am T'vrill of Vulcan. And you are not on my morning schedule." Mulder had to smile. God, this was so realistic! The hologram look faintly annoyed. "No," he agreed. "I'm not. I'm Fox Mulder, Voyager's new Counselor. Counselor Belos was killed about three years ago. In a nutshell,= the crew hasn't had any psychiatric assistance since then. I'm sort of a catch-as-catch-can compromise." "Why?" "Well," Mulder began. "I am a psychologist, but I'm... Well, I'm from the 20th century and my expertise is in Abnormal Psychology." "I see," T'vrill stated. "Sit down, Counselor Mulder." Surprised at his own compliance, Mulder took a seat in the over stuffed high backed chair across from where T'vrill sat on a small marble bench. "Why did you choose to run this particular program, Counselor?" "I didn't," Mulder said, startled by the woman's forthright manner. "It was there and I don't know anything about the new advances in human psychology,= so I thought I'd stick with whatever the last guy had." T'vrill nodded. "Logical." "I thought so," Mulder grinned, beginning to like this woman. No touchy-feely stuff here. No pretending the couch is your father and telling it how you feel. He could deal with this. "So," she began. "You are capable of logical assumptions," she paused for a moment. "I have accessed the ship's data base for your personnel file,"= T'vrill told him succinctly. "You will need counseling for your own feelings of displacement as well as instruction on how to offer therapeutic counseling to members of this crew. While I do not approve of your being chosen as Ship's Counselor, I understand the necessity and will assist you in becoming qualified. I will not allow you to treat patients until such time as you are qualified. This program will inform the Captain of it's decision." "Now, wait a minute," Mulder began. Without warning the holo images froze then shimmered out of existence. "Shit!" he said, pulling himself off the floor. Was there something wrong with the program? The ship suddenly shuddered and a warning claxon sounded startling Mulder as he made his way out the door. "What the hell!" He searched the corridor, finding Paris, a young Asian man and two women,= identical twins, all dressed in bizarre 1950's style sci-fi costumes at the far end. "What was that?" Mulder demanded, striding down the hall. "And why are you dressed like Captain Proton and Buster Kincaid?" "I don't know!" Paris responded, tapping frantically at his communicator.= "We've lost contact with the bridge. Harry, check the nearest terminal and see what you can find out." "I'm on it," Harry said, sliding aside a panel in the wall and beginning to work on the computer manually. Paris turned to Mulder. "The last I heard the captain had been negotiating with some agro-colonists for foodstuffs in exchange for dilithium and was giving them a tour." "Dilithium?" Mulder asked, recalling the word from his reading just a few hours before. "Isn't that the stuff that made warp travel possible?" Paris nodded. "What the hell would farmers want with dilithium?" "Maybe they want to bring their product to a wider market?" one of the women offered. "Fox Mulder," he introduced himself absently. "And colonists by definition are small time. Get big enough to not be a colony and you're a nation,= that's when wide scale trading of excess surplus usually occurs, unless it's for necessities and dilithium wouldn't be considered a necessity. A colony preparing for eventual trade would have chosen a location where plentiful supplies of fuel existed for later exploitation." The woman nodded her agreement. "Makes sense. Jenny and Megan Delaney. And that's Ensign Harry Kim." Mulder grinned, looking at their costumes and unable to resist the opening.= "Also known as trusty side-kick Buster Kincaid, and the evil sisters Malicia and Demonica, sometime allies of Dr. Chaotica." "You know Captain Proton?" one of the girls, Megan he thought, asked curiously. "I grew up with him. My dad loved that show. Better than Buck Rogers." "Tom!" Harry called. "Communications, the warp core, sensors -- just about every system is off line -- and we're being boarded." "So much for simple farmers," Tom muttered, glancing at Mulder. "Now what?" Harry asked. "According to the computer, Captain Janeway, Tuvok and Chakotay were all taken prisoner." "Where?" Mulder asked. "They're being held in Cargo Bay Two. They were supposed to be waiting for a shipment of foodstuffs. When the shields went down the colonists boarded." Mulder sighed loudly. "Some things never change," he muttered. "Okay, we need to set up a command center, find some weapons and--" Tom stared at him a moment. "Who put you in charge?" Mulder shrugged. "Is there anyone else here whose recently led an armed assault in close quarters on friendly territory with hostages taken?" "He does have a point, Tom," Harry chimed in. "But he doesn't know the first thing about this century!" "Look," Mulder interrupted. "While you two stand there debating, the enemy is solidifying its position and taking new territory. I may not know how to use a ray gun, but I'll be damned if I don't know how to read a set of blue prints or organize a raid. Shit! It's what I do. Now, for chrissakes, let's get the hell out of this hallway, find a secure, defensible location and figure out how to re-take control of this ship!" "But--" "Okay, you're in charge!" Mulder told Paris in exasperation, beginning to move down the hall. "Now, follow me." The four crew members looked at each other then at Mulder, who exuded a confidence none of them felt. "We're with you," Paris finally said, the others nodding as he led the way to the nearest access shaft. "Come on, I know just the place." Mulder grabbed his arm before he started climbing. "Good, but we need weapons and we need them now, in case we run into any of your simple farmers." Paris nodded. "Okay. We're headed for Sickbay. There's an emergency shaft that leads down to Deck 13. The auxiliary bridge. There's a small armory inside." "My guns?" Mulder insisted. "Sickbay," Paris admitted. "I put them in a secure cabinet there. But you won't need them." Mulder smiled grimly, "But I want them. Now, let's move." A quarter of an hour later they'd carefully made their way to Sickbay,= meeting up with Seven of Nine on the way there. She too had been headed for the auxiliary bridge and was very much surprised to see Mulder in charge of the little group. "Primitive," she said scornfully as she watched Mulder check his weapons. He chambered a round and grinned, "but effective." "But there is no stun effect," she insisted. "Sure there is," Mulder told her. "You shoot them in the leg -- they're definitely stunned. I know I was when I got hit. Boy, was I stunned!" Seven, the Delaney sisters and Harry stared at him, while Tom was laughing as he opened the panel that led to the emergency shaft. "''Boy was I stunned!'" he chortled. "That's great, Mulder!" "Glad I could amuse you," he told the lieutenant. "Now, let's get the fuck out of here." A few minutes later they entered the auxiliary bridge. It's power system,= independent of the rest of the ship, had turned itself on as soon as the em ergency shaft was opened. Mulder glanced around the room, nodding silently.= A classified deck with a separate security system and a hidden access shaft made it unlikely that anyone would come searching down here any time soon.= But that didn't mean they had all the time in the world. "I need everything you can get me on these colonists," he told them.= "Background, voice recordings, video feeds. I want to know who they are and where they came from. Then I want you to find a way into both Cargo Bay Two and Main Engineering. I need, if possible, a current video feed from those areas as well. If we can't get the captain out safely we'll need an alternate plan for negotiations." "Negotiations?" Megan asked as the others set to work. "Why don't we try that first?" Mulder looked at her as if she was two cans short of a six pack. "Because they don't want to negotiate. If they'd wanted to negotiate, they wouldn't have taken the ship." "But why would they take it in the first place?" she asked, clearly not understanding the motivation behind this particular act of piracy. "We offered to trade for what they wanted. In fact, the captain would probably have given them the dilithium even if they didn't have anything to trade for it." "Okay," he said with a sigh. "Let's try this. Why should I trade for what you have when I can take it and have what you have, too?" He could sense the attention of the other crew members, though they continued working without looking up. "That is irrational," Seven of Nine stated as she brought him a PADD containing a download of the original negotiations. "That's what unbridled greed is," Mulder told them. "An irrational desire to possess what someone else has without giving anything in return. Then not only do they have what you have, they now have twice what they had before." "But there are far easier ways to obtain the desired item." "All right," he said. "How about this? I want to be you. I want your life,= your family, your job, your home. Now give me that. What do you have left to trade?" "But that's..." Seven trailed off, looking shocked and disheartened. "That is much like the Borg way. To assimilate entire cultures, regardless of their desire to become part of the collective." Mulder nodded. The first thing he'd done was read up on Klingons and the Borg. "Yes, it is. And I can pretty much guarantee you the very first Borg was a sociopath." Seven of Nine stood stiffly as she handed him the PADD. "I find this conversation disturbing." "And well you should," Mulder told the woman, refusing to let it slide.= "There is such a thing as artificially induced psychopathic behavior, which is what happens when people are assimilated into the gestalt of the Borg.= Now, see what you can do to get me a set of holsters for these guns," he requested, silently cursing himself for leaving them behind when he'd changed. "Shoulder and ankle," he added, watching as Seven purposefully straightened her shoulders in the uncomfortable silence of the room. *** I am definitely going to have more than a few words with the captain, Mulder thought disgustedly, looking up from a visual display of Voyager's first contact with the Byrlyx leader. The man, mostly humanoid in appearance, was a text book psychopath, down to the lack of eye contact and inappropriate head motions at key moments in the discussion. He hadn't even learned how disguise it in public like a Ted Bundy or a John Wayne Gacy. How could the captain have missed it? "This isn't gonna be easy," he murmured, turning to face the dozen or so crew members who had made their way to the auxiliary bridge. The rest were either being held in the cargo bays, or rumored to be still fighting in various parts of the ship. None of them were members of the ship's security team. Just crew members who happened to be in non-essential areas when the ship was boarded. "All right, everyone, the plan is this. We split into two groups. Team One.= Harry, Seven and anyone with an applicable background will head for Main Engineering. Team Two. The rest of us, except Megan and Jenny, will take Cargo Bay Two. Ladies, I want you to keep an eye on our progress. As soon as Team One has control of engineering you grab control of all the ship's systems and lock the raiders out. Use those forcefield things where you can to isolate the Byrlyx. Just make sure none of Voyager's crew is caught with them. Don't give them any more hostages." The twins nodded. "Team One, once you've got control of engineering I want you to seal every door and shaft into there manually. Solder them shut if you have to, I don't care. No one gets in or out until the senior officers enter the self destruct code. It's the only code the Byrlyx aren't going to immediately want. Therefore, it's the only secure code left. Assume anyone and everyone has been suborned by coercion, including Team Two from the moment we separate. No exceptions.= Not even for the captain until you get the all clear. Tom," he went on,= "have you programmed in a course away from the planet?" The lieutenant nodded. "As soon as we have warp we'll be out of range of any reinforcements. But with shields up we shouldn't really have to worry about that." Mulder sighed. "Remember the codes? Those shields may be compromised.= Consider every system aboard to be under suspicion until the last Byrlyx is dead or dumped. These people aren't stupid. They took the ship so smoothly we have to assume they've done it before and know what to look out for." Paris nodded. "That makes sense." "I'm glad you think so," Mulder said quietly. "As for any crew members you might meet. Use your best judgement. Make sure they're armed and able to defend whatever location you find them in. I don't want people added to the teams unless it's an absolute necessity. Stay small, tight and focused. Any questions?" "What do we do with the Byrlyx we capture?" Ensign Kim asked. "Terminate them on sight." "But that's--" He moved on Harry and had him by his jacket before the other man could let out a squeak of protest. "Look, Ensign. You're in outer space with no place to run. They don't need you to run this ship and they sure as shit don't need you alive, unless it's to keep you for slave labor or sell your smart ass as merchandise. If we were some place with another option I'd use it.= But given the circumstances, I think we can safely assume the government of Byrlyx isn't about to prosecute these men. Nor is the captain likely to want to keep them aboard. The only alternative is to put them back where you found them and let them do the same thing to other passing ships. Now what part of survival of the fittest don't you understand?" Harry looked chagrined while Seven simply nodded. "He is correct, Ensign Kim. Our choices are limited." "Why not use a heavy stun setting?" Jenny interjected. "That should knock them down and keep them out long enough. We can round them up later and let the captain decide." Mulder shrugged and released the ensign. "If you can't bring yourselves to shoot to kill then do that. But remember, these guys are going to be at your back when you move on. Just be certain they're going to stay down."= Most of the crew nodded, readjusting the settings on their phasers. While Mulder would have a preferred a clean kill, or at the very least a disabling wound, he suspected that most of the people in the room were essentially desk jockeys. Pushing them beyond their limits wouldn't be helpful at the moment. "Okay, if everyone's clear on the plan let's move out." They made it up to Sickbay and into the access shafts without meeting any of the Byrlyx. The surveillance cameras were tied into the ship's security system leaving Mulder without the reconnaissance he would have preferred.= His best guess put the majority of the raiders on the Main Bridge and in Main Engineering -- the two key locations on the ship -- with perhaps enough armed men down in the cargo bays to keep the prisoners under guard.= Elsewhere, there would be small armed groups patrolling the corridors looking for stray crew members and pockets of resistance. Not a good situation, but with the access shafts it was doable. After the two teams split up, Mulder let Tom lead the way to Cargo Bay Two,= stopping him only when they were within a few yards of their goal. "How accurate is that weapon?" Mulder asked tightly, looking at the phaser rifle the lieutenant had slung over his shoulder. Paris shrugged. "It'll disintegrate the broad side of a barn if you point it in the right direction, or create short sustained bursts in closed quarters." Mulder chewed his lip. "Can you be accurate to within a few inches of the target?" Paris shook his head. "I can narrow the beam, but I'm a pilot, not a sniper." Mulder nodded. "Okay. Let me take point. I just requalified on the range last-- Shit!" he grimaced, but unholstered his weapon. "Well, let's see what we have first," he muttered. "Is that the crawl space?" he asked when they reached the hatch at the end of the shaft, jutting his chin toward a typical ventilation duct set above them . "Yeah," Paris gave him a tight nod. "It runs out pretty much over the center of the bay." "Kinda narrow," Mulder noted. "It widens out a bit at the cargo vent." "Good. I'll go first. The rest of the team stays here until we open the shaft from the other side." There were nods all around as Paris opened the first vent and Mulder slipped inside, sliding gracelessly along the narrow duct. After a few yards it did indeed open up in a wide circle around the ceiling vent. Paris moved in along side Mulder, who silently scanned the room below as the lieutenant carefully removed the vent cover. Lips pressed tight against his anger, Mulder glared across to the right side of the room, where one of the raiders had a young woman pressed against the bulkhead. He could barely see the top of her head, but he could hear, or imagined he heard her whimpering softly. "I see one armed on the left, no crew," Paris whispered. "Must be beneath us to the rear." Mulder nodded tightly. "On the count of three you take him out, Paris. Not down. Out." The lieutenant merely nodded and they crossed weapons, synchronizing their fire. "One. Two. Fire!" The flash of the phaser coincided with the boom of Mulder's gun which was quickly followed by screams from the deck below. Mulder holstered his weapon and lowered himself through the vent. "Heads up!" he shouted,= dropping down the twenty odd feet to the floor below. Paris quickly followed though Mulder didn't bother to check his progress. He drew his weapon and moved on the raider he'd shot, shoving him over with his foot as he pointed his weapon, making sure the bastard was very dead. He did the same with the other, satisfied that Paris hadn't wimped out in the end. "Mr. Mulder!" Captain Janeway shouted in between calling for silence. He wandered over, ignoring the half a dozen crew members puking at the stench of sulfur, excreted fluids and death -- as well as others, who simply stared in horror at the sight of spattered brains and pooling blood on the pristine floor of the cargo deck. Of them all, the Captain,= Chakotay, Tuvok and Paris seemed least effected by the ugly death he'd rendered. Then again, as Scully used to say, good captains panicked when the battle was done. "Captain," Mulder drawled, nodding to himself as he saw Paris giving comfort to the young crewmember whose rape had been imminent. "Give me a minute,"= he told her, going to the access shaft, where he let in the others, who quickly began passing out phasers to the rest of the crew. Janeway's eyes fairly snapped with fury, but she held her tongue. "Tuvok,= Chakotay, let's get the rest of the crew out of these bays and get this space trash off my ship." "Yes, ma'am!" Chakotay grinned, nodding at Mulder with approval. On her way toward the exit she grabbed Mulder's arm, pulling him along as she spoke tightly. "Since you seem to have placed yourself in charge,= what's the status of my ship?" "Well, if everything's gone as planned your warp core should be coming back on line any minute and the ship should be moving away from Byrlyx as soon as that occurs." Janeway tried unsuccessfully to hide her astonishment as she pointed to various members of the crew and sent them down the corridor to the others bays. "You've retaken Engineering and the bridge?" "Just Engineering," he admitted. "I only had about a dozen people to work with, so the Delaney sisters are manning the auxiliary bridge." "Well I'll be," the captain murmured. "All right, we'll talk later. For now,= you're with me. I want that garbage off my bridge." *** The clean up went fairly swiftly as far as Mulder could tell. Once armed and on their game the crew of Voyager proved themselves quite capable. Although Mulder did have some issues about their search and seizure skills. On at least two occasions he'd had to physically pull people away from open doors to prevent them from getting killed. Apparently, keeping to cover wasn't in the Starfleet urban combat training manual for guerilla warfare. It also helped that most of the Byrlyx had fled the ship as soon as they realized they were out gunned, out numbered and that the ship itself could be turned against them. He'd finally retreated to his quarters, exhausted and in desperate need of a shower. This was definitely not how he'd wanted to spend his first full day in the 25th century. Once clean, all he wanted to do was sleep. On the couch, on the bed, he didn't care. As long as it wasn't the hard tiled floor of the head he was happy. The bed turned out to be closer. Mulder awoke, how many hours later he didn't know, but there was an incessant buzzing. "What! What!" "Good morning, Mulder," Captain Janeway's cheerful voice filled the room. He glanced around to see her face on a display panel in the corner. Then checked to make sure he was fully covered. "Is it morning?" he asked, looking over at the view port filled with stars.= "Must be that damned Daylight Savings Time again," he muttered. The captain looked vaguely confused at the reference, but persevered nonetheless. "I'd like to see you in the conference room in an hour for debriefing." Mulder grunted his assent and the screen went dark. Well, that's nice.= Captain of the ship gives me a wake up call. Apparently, she also has no sense of shame, he thought as he shoved the covers aside and grabbed a robe from one of the many storage units hidden in the walls. Showered, shaved, and dressed in another easily replicated uniform -- no more trips to the dry cleaners -- he asked the computer for directions to the conference room. Deck One, next to the bridge. The one place on the ship Neelix hadn't shown him and Mulder hadn't asked to see. Ship's captains were funny about that kind of thing. Or so Scully had led him to believe with all those stories about her father in the service. He paused a moment as he entered the lift. Odd, but it didn't hurt as badly as it first had to think of Scully. And all the previous day he hadn't thought much about her either. Even in the thick of things his mind had stayed focused. Was it, he thought after asking for the appropriate deck,= that his mind had accepted the fact that she had lived and died? Could it possibly be that by knowing he could never again place her in danger, he was somehow freed of that concern? He considered how he felt. Considered the dull, painful ache in his heart every time he thought of her. He missed her. God, how he missed her. But there was no question in his mind that she was gone. And better her gone than here, he realized. No way would she have wanted this time or place without family or friends. She'd had a good life.= Done important things. And, heaven help him, he was so proud of her it made him tingle with pleasure just to think about what she'd accomplished. The doors slid open and he easily found the conference room. On entering, he found himself facing the captain and her senior staff. He braced himself for a confrontation, memories of OPR meetings flashing quickly through his brain. "At ease, Mulder," the captain said, offering him a smile and pointing to a chair next to Chakotay. "We aren't here to criticize what you did yesterday. In fact, we'd like to know how you did it." "How?" Mulder asked, confused, as he took his seat. "Yes, how," the captain repeated. "I've already spoken to Tom and Harry.= They tell me you...profiled? Is that the term? That you profiled the situation with almost no information, and despite your lack of knowledge about ship's functions, were able to come up with a workable plan and get it implemented in record time. How?" Mulder had to smile. "You know, I've been asked that question by review boards almost since my first day at the Academy. And I'll tell you exactly what I told them. Damned if I know! It's just what I do." "Perhaps I can be of assistance," Tuvok interjected. "Mr. Mulder possesses an eidetic memory. Much like a Vulcan, he is able to retain and process information at a rate far exceeding normal human capacity. In addition, I have been studying the kind of training the Federal Bureau of Investigations offered it's trainees. Much of it was conducted by former members of the military with an extremely high standard of achievement required to become an agent. Both academically and in combat. With such a background it is not implausible that Mr. Mulder would have been able to quickly assess the situation and take charge." Harry Kim looked surprised at what seemed to him a glowing endorsement by the Vulcan. "Are you saying their training was better than Starfleet's?" "Not at all, Ensign Kim. Just different." Mulder nodded. "And designed for a different era. From what I gather you've almost eliminated crime in this century by identifying possible offenders before they can do any damage. Whereas, I've interviewed men, women and teenagers who would just as soon bludgeon you to death because they didn't like the color of your shoes, and thought they could get away with it --= and some who just didn't care." The captain looked appalled. "And you can identify such people just by looking at them?" Mulder shook his head. "It isn't quite that easy. Or, it wasn't in my day.= Of course," he added, "one look at Mydyn of Byrlyx and I could have told you not to deal with the man. Classic psychopath." "Explain." Mulder nodded. "Computer, run the video feed of the first visual contact with Mydyn of Byrlyx." The view screen on the wall activated as the recording began running. When it reached a particular point Mulder paused it. "First, Captain Janeway,= notice his eyes. Dead. No life in them. He isn't even looking at you, or at your image. He's looking beyond you, because to him, you aren't there.= You're an object, an obstacle at most. Second, listen to what he says and the way his eyes shift when he's speaking." The recording continued. 'Once we were nomads until we found this colony...' "Okay," he paused it again. "Now, here he's looking almost straight at you.= But listen to what he's saying. 'Found this colony.' Not founded. Now watch. 'We became peaceful farmers...' "Peaceful farmers? Why would he stress peaceful? And why are his eyes shifting away as he says the words? Coincidence? No," Mulder stated emphatically. "Because he does the exact same thing when he later asks for dilithium -- straight toward you -- and tells you the reason why --= shifting away." "Yes," the captain said quietly. "Lt. Paris mentioned what you said about the request for dilithium." Mulder nodded. "I checked your scans of the planet, Captain. More than half the cultivated farm land is lying fallow. If it were a legitimate request they would have been asking for help in the form of farm implements or soil additives, or even settlers. In my opinion, these raiders showed up, took what they wanted, and either decided to stay and use this place for a home base, and/or lost the ability to travel off planet. Assuming they killed,= sold or enslaved at least half the population, I'd bet money the original settlers are rebelling as we speak." "Have rebelled, Mr. Mulder," Chakotay told him. "We've been in contact with them since we shipped the first prisoners planetside. They took advantage of the confusion among the raiders during our fight. And you're correct.= They disabled the raiders ships, but not before they landed." Mulder nodded. "Good for them. I hope they execute the bastards." "They did," the captain added grimly. "And we are offering them assistance to help rebuild their colony and give them better defenses." "Well then," Mulder said. "That settles that." "Not quite," Janeway said with a smile. "We need to discuss your future." Mulder's eyes narrowed, expecting censure. "Given your actions during this crisis, I'm giving you a field promotion to lieutenant." That certainly startled Mulder. He hadn't even realized he'd had rank to begin with. "I'm also moving you into the command track. You'll work with Tuvok on learning how Voyager functions and cross train in all departments. You'll still be our Ship's Counselor, but you have other needed talents as well.= You did a fine job, Lt. Mulder, but you could have done even better if you'd been aware of everything this ship and it's systems are capable of. I want you to have that knowledge. Do you accept?" Mulder nodded, astonished at the outcome of this little debriefing. "You're not angry?" Janeway smiled gently. "A little surprised perhaps, but not angry. Invoking the self destruct was a bit cumbersome, but that's why I want you trained.= You have the ability to lead and get others," she nodded at Paris and Kim,= "to follow you. It's a raw talent, but I'm not about to throw that away."= The captain glanced around the table. "All right. Dismissed." Mulder rose with the others. A bit overwhelmed when Chakotay patted him on the back and told him, "Good work, Mulder," while B'Ellana turned and gave him a wink as she left with Paris. Definitely too good to be true, Mulder thought -- and he was right. Before he could make good his escape from the happiness brigade Captain Janeway called out that she wanted a word in private. He made his way over to her and she held out a hand. "I'm a bit uncomfortable with your carrying 20th century fire arms around on my ship." So that's why she was angry in the cargo bay! Mulder sighed and pulled aside his jacket for an instant to reveal his holstered weapon. "And I'm uncomfortable with them being out of my possession and in the hands of someone who isn't trained to use them." "No one on this ship is armed, Mulder." He nodded gravely and crossed his arms. "I've noticed. But these weapons are my responsibility. Have been since the day I was issued a permit to carry them. If I give them to you and something happens it's going to be on my conscience. And I can't live with that. I won't live with that hanging over my head." Janeway lowered her hand and sighed. "Then they are your responsibility. But if you ever draw one on a member of my crew I'll toss you out the airlock myself. Is that clear?" "Very." She turned away in silent dismissal and he left, surprised that she simply hadn't ordered him to turn over his guns. She could be giving me enough rope to hang myself, he thought, but that didn't really seem Janeway's style. The woman was reasonable. And given logical reasons as to why he should retain possession of such deadly weapons she seemed willing to make an exception. It was, he realized, a measure of trust. He knew it wasn't misplaced, but did she? Was it merely the same blind faith in the 'goodness' of human nature he'd observed, or did she offer that trust as a means of gaining his? He didn't really have an answer to that, except to guess that time would tell, whatever the case might be. Mulder entered the lift, asking for the holodeck. There had been something at the back of his mind since he'd awakened and he was curious as to what the Vulcan, T'vrill, would have to say about it. She was there, still seated on the bench. "You have had an eventful day,"= she stated succinctly. Mulder nodded absently, slumping down in the over stuffed chair. "That's not what's bothering me." The hologram waited patiently for him to continue.= "I... I slept really well last night." "And this is troubling you?" "I usually don't sleep much, and when I do I have nightmares. Last night, I didn't." "Nightmares about what?" "My sister, mostly. Her being abducted and me doing nothing to stop it.= Sometimes Scully, my partner -- usually she's dying and I can't get to her in time. Crime scenes I've worked." "I see." They sat in silence as Mulder pondered what he'd said. "It's because they're dead, isn't it? They're dead and I know what happened to them." "They have been dead for three centuries, Counselor Mulder." He nodded sadly. "They're not my responsibility anymore." "Were they ever?" Mulder glared at T'vrill, but the Vulcan didn't flinch. Just sat there waiting patiently, emotionlessly, until he glanced down at his hands and reconsidered his memories. Intellectually, he'd known he wasn't responsible for Samantha's disappearance, even before he'd ever left for Oxford. In his heart, of course, he'd carried the weight like an albatross. It was never knowing the truth that had hurt more than anything. That, and being slapped down by the Syndicate for daring to ask. And then there was Scully. Another Samantha laid on his shoulders to protect and care for when he couldn't even handle the original. But then, he really should never have thought of her that way in the first place. And he hadn't, he realized, not consciously. If he looked at their partnership objectively, evaluated it without the omnipresent Samantha issue, their relationship had been fairly normal. A bit more intense given the things they'd seen and done, but no closer than dozens of other partnerships he'd witnessed. He'd known more about what his former partner, Reggie Pardue,= did in his spare time than Scully. Mulder cleared his throat. "So...what's happened is that my subconscious has resolved these issues and I'm feeling guilty about it." "Human emotions are notoriously slow to accommodate what the brain has learned," T'vrill agreed. He had to smile at that assessment even as he stood to leave. "There are other issues," he commented, wondering if she'd force it. "Indeed. Where humans are concerned, I have found that there are many." He really did like this woman. Liked her therapeutic style. With a grin he told her, "I'm still not drinking replicated coffee. It isn't natural. The stuff should be brewed or not made." T'vrill nodded placidly. "Just as no Klingon would eat dead gakch, so you must follow the dictates of your palate." 'Dead' gakch? I don't want to know, he told himself firmly, making a hasty exit before his curiosity got the better of him. He was on his way to the mess hall when a thought suddenly occured to him. Jesus! Don't they have to replicate the coffee beans? Future Winnings 2: Cafe Americano coming soon.