Xenogamy (expurgated version)By Alicia Ann Fox
Page 2 of 7
|Sickbay. Darkened. Someone with him...Kes, he identified, after long minutes of silence. He felt cold, sweaty, almost dizzy with adrenaline. Breathing hurt. He'd fallen asleep, but no-one had shocked him awake, he wasn't there anymore, so why--
"What did you dream?" Kes asked, her low rich voice almost hypnotic, slowing his rapid heartbeat.
He blinked a few times and swallowed; his own voice still came out raspily. "I don't remember." He tried to sit up; she moved to help him, and only then did he realize her hand had been rubbing his neck since he had awakened. Before, perhaps. Bemused, he asked, "Where's the Doctor?" not complaining when she switched to stroking gentle circles on his back, easing his return to the waking world. No one was here to witness the weakness.
"I volunteered to stay in sickbay, so he's switched himself off until he's needed. He does that now and then. Neelix went to bed."
Good, Avon thought. Neelix, besides being the strangest looking alien he had seen so far, made him nervous, as if he could see right through Avon's eyes. The cheery disposition was a thin layer over someone clever and knowledgable; the best kind of ally, the worst kind of enemy. He didn't feel able to defend against Neelix yet.
"And your captain? I thought she wanted to ask me questions." Or so the earnest Commander Chakotay had said.
Kes glanced at a chronometer on the bulkhead. "She might be along in a few hours. After she has her breakfast. I wouldn't worry, Avon, she's very reasonable. You might be able to help us, you know."
"I told you I don't know how I got here."
"But you came through...whatever is there. At least there's the possibility we might find something useful."
"Hmph." He wanted to see more of the ship, of its crew, to see what his situation really was. At the moment he didn't have the strength to think about it very much. He needed to know more....
Neelix brought a leather jacket for him along with other clothes: black boots such as they all seemed to wear, soft trousers that gathered at the waist and ankles, shirts that fastened up the front, a couple of vests with buttons. He chose a charcoal shirt, the black vest, and put the jacket on over it all, feeling better at once just from its weight. The ship was too cold for his taste.
Captain Janeway was waiting for him. Chakotay had reminded Avon of Blake, minus the misguided passion, but Janeway was in command, indisputably; her bearing, her level measuring gaze, her obvious intelligence, took over Sickbay. She reminded him of a professor he'd had once, who had later disappeared, surprising Avon not in the least. "Mr. Avon," she said. "We'll sit in the Doctor's office."
"Just Avon," he said, following her. He could see the Doctor across the room, bent over a console, and wished it would switch off again so he could watch. So far he had only seen it switch on. Avon sat, clasping his hands in his lap.
"Avon, then. Are you feeling better?" she asked.
She had the same peculiar flat accent as the rest of the crew he'd met. He nodded. "What should I talk about?" It was obvious to him that she would get what she wanted from him. He had no reason not to tell her everything he didn't know, and perhaps it would give her a favorable opinion of him.
"Around the time you probably arrived here, there was an energy surge we detected from a considerable distance. Was there any equipment that you saw? Any visible effect?"
"If there was any equipment, the Federation took it long ago. The place felt alien, the interrogators weren't comfortable there. And I never heard of any experiments along the line of alternate universes, that's the theory you are working with? It's too creative an idea for the Federation."
"That's our best explanation so far." She leaned back in her chair, looking him up and down. "Do you know where in your galaxy the planet was located?"
He shook his head. "We were in the Outer Worlds when I was...caught. I don't know how far I was taken, I was...they...I had no way of knowing."
"Can you point the general area out for me on a chart? First the Terran Federation, then the Outer Worlds."
"I don't see why not." Avon took mental notes as she brought up a display. He pointed out star systems, and when she brought up a complex map of the area where he had been found, tried to orient himself. His only clear memory was bashing his broken hand, falling; the pain had momentarily cleared the drugged fog from his mind. "I fell out," he realized.
"Of the tunnel?"
"Yes." He fought for memory, wanting an explanation as much as she did, now. He didn't like the blank spots. "There was a color. A golden color...it didn't look like a force screen, it was more like...?" He shrugged. "I could have been hallucinating."
"We've found no evidence of any kind of mechanism on this end, though we're studying the carvings in the walls. The ones in the tunnel seem to be text."
Avon frowned. "Carvings?"
"Everywhere. Made with some sort of molecular compression tool. Quite beautiful, some of them, though I don't suppose you had the chance to appreciate them."
He shook his head, slowly. "There were no carvings. All the walls were chiseled flat. If they were alien, I'm not surprised." He expanded, "Genocide was Federation policy, at the beginning of the New Calendar."
"And your people, you were against the Terran Federation?"
Avon crossed his arms across his chest, unobtrusively nursing his hand, which ached from the exercise of using the computer. He pictured Cally, carrying a rifle. "What do you care?"
Her expression hardened slightly. Avon tensed. "Curiosity," Janeway said, after a moment. "You don't have to answer any of my questions if you don't want to."
He reminded himself sharply that Janeway might have left him to die, could still kill him. This might prove to be a safe bolthole, if he cooperated. "Yes," he said, glancing down at the table. "We were fighting the Federation. We had no choice."
Janeway stood. "We'll talk again later, Avon. I'll be sending Ensign Kim to put you in some quarters. You don't have to stay with us, but you're welcome to do so."
Avon thought, If she thinks I'm leaving without knowing how solid holograms work, she's crazier than Bayban the Butcher. "Thank you," he said. "I accept."
"Very nice," Avon said to Ensign Harry Kim, to encourage him to leave. Much as he had enjoyed Harry's extensive and intelligent commentary on possible methods of bending the universe, he preferred to appreciate the comforts of his new quarters after he'd had a chance to look at the work console over in the corner.
"I'll get you when it's time for dinner," Harry said. "I'd better get back to the bridge."
Avon locked the door manually behind the young man, and sat down before the console. Harry had switched it on for him, pointing out how to get a map of the ship and other useful items. Surely they didn't want him wandering freely about their ship; this had to be a test of some sort. Avon hated to disappoint when tested.
If he'd been designing such a test, he would have netted off this particular console to reveal only a certain level of information, and then guarded access to it with barriers a terrorist from another universe could manage. He hadn't had occasion yet to mention what exactly he had done for Blake, but they knew he had some level of technical expertise. They would be expecting him to try something. He needed to do well on this first test to convince them he could be useful.
"Security files, why not the obvious," he murmured.
He could see the evidence of some recent manipulation of the data storage by a higher level program, after which some redefinition had been performed. He wondered if it had been Harry, who seemed from his conversation to be competent in such matters. The Security area was ringed with enough walls to scare off a casual searcher. He penetrated them, then wondered what he was supposed to do next. He'd been hoping the next level would slam down, perhaps with a time limit, but nothing happened. Next time, perhaps.
Avon scanned the file headings desultorily, skimmed through a file about a murder case (the murderer later dying to protect the ship), and more carefully studying the case of an information leak to the alien Kazon. That could be a warning to him, but then again it was not marked off in any special way to draw his attention.
The technical plans of the ship would have been altered to prevent him from learning too much, so he ignored them. Crew records offered a few moments' amusement as he scanned pictures to see what the various nonhumans looked like. He was disappointed that none of them looked terribly alien to him.
Eventually, when no-one came to tell him he could stop, he shut down the system and had a nap. He wanted to be alert for dinner; probably these civilized folk intended to quiz him over food.
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