Author's Note: This takes place during the first season of Voyager and the first season of Angel.
Actually, the only season of Angel, but why get technical?
"I don't know, Captain," Neelix said, puzzled. "I've never seen this planet before." He stood on the bridge, looking at the planetoid that filled the view screen. "I've never even heard of a planet like this. It has no sun, you say?"
Captain Kathryn Janeway nodded. "It has no sun, and yet still has a stable atmosphere and is habitable by humans. It's a complete mystery."
"It is almost impossible," Lt. Tuvok, at Tactical, spoke up.
"Almost, Tuvok?" Janeway asked, with a slight smile.
"The fact that it exists means that it is possible," the Vulcan pointed out. "Therefore, there must be a logical reason."
Janeway nodded, still watching the planet. It seemed almost like Earth, with broad oceans, and diverse landscapes. But this planet had an eternal night. Only the stars ever lit up its sky.
Her first officer, Commander Chakotay got up, to stand beside her. "Captain," he began, staring at the viewscreen. "I'd like to take an away team to visit this planet. It would be intriguing to walk around on the surface, to really explore it."
"Not to mention, its surface is quite rich in vegetation," Ensign Kim, at Ops, piped up. "We could get a lot of supplies."
Janeway nodded, smiling. "It'll be good to restock our supplies. All right, Chakotay; take Tuvok and Neelix with you on your trip. This will be a scout mission. Later, we can send down teams to harvest supplies."
"Aye, aye, Captain," Chakotay said with a grin.
The stars overhead revealed no familiar constellation. There were no obvious patterns and there was no moon; but for those facts, the away team could be standing on the surface of Earth.
"This is astounding," Tuvok was heard to mutter.
Chakotay said nothing, but stared around him in wonder at the old-fashioned skyscrapers that covered the horizon. There had been no indication that there was a city of any kind near them, let alone one of that size and complexity.
"I'm picking up large amounts of proteins and amino acids," Neelix said, checking the tricorder studiously. "And apparently, a very large concentration of humans."
"Humans?" Chakotay's head whipped around from the metallic skyline view. "You mean humanoids."
"No, sir, I mean humans," Neelix corrected, innocently. The first officer took out his own tricorder and confirmed the readings, as did Tuvok.
"Neelix is right," the commander said softly. "Humans. And there must be millions of them, to create these readings."
"That is not all," Tuvok interrupted, directing his tricorder at the surface of the planet. "This planetoid's core has nowhere near the temperature that is needed to generate a surface temperature of twenty degrees centigrade. There must be another force acting on the planet, one which is not readily detectible."
Chakotay snapped his tricorder shut. "I think this bears investigating."
"I would concur," Tuvok remarked dryly. He tapped his commbadge. "Tuvok to Voyager."
"Kim here, Tuvok. What is it?" The young ensign's voice floated out into the balmy night air.
"We are investigating what appears to be a city, approximately a mile south from our location," the Security officer informed him.
There was a long pause. "Tuvok," Kim began, hesitantly, "There's no readings of a city."
The Vulcan's eyebrow rose a fraction of a inch. "Indeed."
"I can't pick up any readings at all. Sensors say that there's nothing in the atmosphere that could be causing any interference, and yet, there is." Kim continued, confusion thick in his voice.
"Curiouser and curiouser," Chakotay muttered, still gazing out over the sky line cluttered with man-made buildings. He raised his voice a notch, so as to be picked up by Tuvok's commbadge. "Harry? Could you beam Paris down to our co-ordinates? I think he should beam down here--he's got quite an interest in twentieth-century Earth, doesn't he?"
There was a substantial pause. For a second, the first officer thought that the ensign had left his post. "I think so, sir," Kim stuttered, obviously taken off-guard by the inquiry. There was another pause, as he was now no doubt informing Paris and the Captain of the situation. "Sir? Paris will be taking a shuttle down shortly. The captain would rather not beam him with there's something affecting sensors right now."
"Understood," Chakotay said with a curt nod. He was almost--almost--upset that Paris was getting special treatment, but then he realised the shuttle could also be used for supplies, and to ferry them all back. "We're starting out now," Chakotay continued, "But we'll wait before we enter the city proper."
"Understood," Kim replied, clicking off the channel.
Chakotay caught the eyes of his away team, nodded, and they set out for the mysterious hidden city.
They were hungry. Not hungry for food, as the rivers that ran by the city, and the streams that flowed through the streets themselves were enough to simply feed them. But that's not what they were looking for, what they were hungry for. They wanted to hunt.
One pulled himself up from his perch by the side of a building. He dusted his off his black trenchcoat and stared around his surroundings dully.
"Christ," he moaned. "What I wouldn't give for a bite to eat."
"There's plenty to eat, Spike," pouted his companion, a young blond woman. "Lots."
"I want a bite to eat," Spike replied listlessly. "We've been trapped in this hell- hole for three days now and I've seen nary a human in sight. I want something I can stick my fangs into."
"I don't like it here either," she repeated, rubbing her arms to try and warm them, a futile gesture left from her former mortal days. "There's no shopping."
"No rest for the wicked, and no shopping for Harmony, what has the world come to," Spike sighed, sitting back down against the wall.
"You know, I don't think this is our world," Harmony said, after a moment. She glanced around the deserted streets with a frightened pout. "I mean, there's no sunlight, and no humans, and no nothing."
"So where are we then?" Spike snapped. "The face of the bloody moon?"
"She's right," said a deep voice from behind them. They both turned, Spike leaping to his feet, as a figure approached them from the alleyway.
"You," Spike snarled at the new-comer. "I didn't know you were trapped here with us."
"Who says we're trapped?" came the reply.
"Um," said Harmony, quietly, "can we get back to the part where I was right?"
The stranger, a tall dark vampire, looked at her for a second, but turned back to Spike. "We're not on Earth. The constellations are different, and besides, it's just plain wrong."
"Just plain wrong," Spike mocked, sitting back against the wall with a heavy theatrical sigh. "Now I know what made you so special, Angel, that marvellous intellect of yours."
Angel ignored the comment, and turned now to address Harmony. "What were you two doing, before you came here?"
"I was trying on an outfit," Harmony said, putting a finger to her chin as she tried to recall that moment. "It was a cute little chiffon skirt that I'd gotten from some girl I snacked on. But it wasn't me. So I put it back, and then I turned to ask Spikey something--"
"Don't call me that," he grumbled from his place on the sidewalk.
"Fits you to a tee, but go on, Harmony," Angel added.
"So I turned, and then I felt something really weird, like a slap to the face, or something, and then we were here."
"Here?" Angel asked. She shook her head and pointed southward.
"We were in a building a few blocks down, but some other vamps kicked us out. So we came here."
"Hmm. Fits our story," Angel murmured. Spike looked sideways at him, but didn't remark on the comment. He just looked very interested. "I had better be going, I want to collaborate with some others I met." Angel nodded to himself, and headed off.
"Wait!" Harmony called, after a second of hesitation. She started jogging down the street after him, much to Spike's chagrin. "Won't they try to kill you too?"
He looked at her. "No. There's no wood around, no stakes," he said simply. He gazed up at the buildings, that seemed to be artificial mountains, cutting the streets into miniature valleys. "It's almost like we're not supposed to hurt ourselves," he continued, staring up. "I wonder why."
"I don't like it here. I want to go home," Harmony interrupted. She sounded the world-- whatever world they were on--like a small child, and Angel felt a wave of sympathy for her.
"We'll get out of here," he said simply, and started on his way.
Reluctantly, she trudged back to Spike. "I hate it here," she grouched as she came to stop by him. She slid herself down the wall and landed with a bump on the sidewalk.
"Don't worry, pet," he said with a sly grin, his energy picking up. "I think it's going to get a lot more interesting here, pretty soon."
"Why?" Harmony pouted.
The sly smile widened into a smirk. "Angel's got humans with him."
"I don't think I like it here, Commander," Neelix said hesitantly. They were on the outskirts of the city now, and could see that it was deserted. Or seemingly so.
"There is something unsettling about all of it," Chakotay agreed. "I feel that the spirits are in unrest."
"Spirits of what?" inquired Tuvok, eyebrow raised.
"I don't know," Chakotay admitted.
"In Talaxia, we have creatures called Kraxens," Neelix said slowly, as they made their way through the long grass. "They're ghosts of the dead, who had unfinished business in this realm." He shivered. "My mother used to say that when you shivered and it wasn't cold, it was because one was in the room with you."
The commander chuckled. "Humans have an expression for that kind of shiver: `someone walked on my grave'."
"Colourful. Based completely on superstition and folklore, without any support from logic, but colourful," Tuvok remarked, still scanning with his tricorder, taking new readings with every step they took.
"Don't Vulcans have ghosts?" Neelix asked, but before the lieutenant could answer, Chakotay pointed overhead. A streak of light arcing down indicated Paris' shuttle.
"Maybe we should wait here," Neelix added, as he saw the shuttle himself. "Wait for him to catch up."
Chakotay only nodded. They stood in the waist high grass, and surveyed the landscape. Up close, the city was definitely deserted. There was no glass in the windows, and some of the brickwork had tumbled down and lay in the ghostly streets.
For a moment, he thought he saw a movement in one of the darkened windows, but he wasn't sure. It could only be his eyes playing tricks on him.
"Any signs of life, Tuvok? It looks pretty deserted to me," Neelix said.
"There are still indications of massive human occupation," Tuvok replied. His eyebrows were knitted together so firmly that they seemed to be only one. He adjusted the tricorder. Now the eyebrows shot nearly past his forehead. "It appears that there is a large concentration in that area, fifteen meters due east."
"Over that knoll?" Neelix clarified.
"Yes." Tuvok snapped the tricorder shut and hung it on his belt. He took out his phaser, and Chakotay realised with a start that the Vulcan was in a defensive stand.
"What's the matter?" he asked, concerned.
"Can you not smell it?" Tuvok asked, quietly, so tense it hurt to look at him.
"Smell what--" Chakotay began, but then the gentle breeze shifted just a notch and the full, rank odour hit him with a punch to the nose. "Oh my--" Beside him, Neelix staggered under the olfactory onslaught.
The trio cautiously made their way to the top of the knoll, holding their noses and with their phasers drawn. Chakotay nearly passed out when they reached the top.
"By all the ancient gods," swore Neelix.
"This is impossible," Tuvok said, a touch of incredulity creeping into his voice. Chakotay found he couldn't say anything as he stared at the wide river of human blood that flowed below them.
"Omigod, this is too gross!" Cordelia Chase squealed, before Doyle managed to slap a hand over her mouth.
Be quiet, he mouthed to her, indicating the outside with a twitch of his head.
Cordelia nodded, and wrinkled her nose as he drew his hand away. The thin trickle of blood was seeping under the rubble they had piled in the doorway to keep the vampires out, and Cordelia got up to walk to the farthest corner before sitting back down.
Doyle sighed and rubbed a hand through his hair. He wondered--not for the first time-- where Angel was. He didn't like being a sitting duck here in Vamp City, and Cordelia--well, he knew it was only a short matter of time before the delicate Miss Chase snapped like a brittle twig.
There was a movement in the rubble, and a hand emerged. Cordelia screamed, but Doyle waved her silent. Angel clawed his way through the rocks, apparently unharmed, and helped the half-demon replace them when he was through.
"Have you figured out why we're here, man?" Doyle asked in a low whisper. Angel shook his head.
"I think that you two were taken simply because of your proximity to me," he said. "But I have no idea why any of us were taken in the first place."
"But it's just vamps?" Doyle continued.
"I think so. The only other human I know brought here was..." The vampire trailed off. "Well, that's not important, now."
"Omigod," Cordelia threw her hands up in the air. "No food, no water, no stakes, lots of vampires, it's a regular recipe for disaster! What I wouldn't kill to be in L.A. right now. Even that icky part that lacks stores. I'd kill to be there, too."
"Well, we know Cordy's reached her limit," Doyle commented dryly.
"We'll find a way out of here," Angel said firmly. "Don't wor--"
Cordelia screamed, and leapt away from the rubble pile. Staring at her, through a gap between bricks, was an eye.
"I would worry, if I were you," he called out, as he began to push the bricks inwards.
"Get behind me!" Angel roared, shifting into Vamp Mode. "When I tell you, run. I'll hold Spike off."
"Where are we supposed to run to?" Doyle argued. "We're on a planet of vampires!"
"Just do it, I'll catch up with you later," Angel replied fiercely. He apparently couldn't wait for Spike to finish coming all the way through the debris, for he grabbed the vampire by the shoulders, yanked him out, then shoved him into the connecting wall.
"Aw, bloody hell," Spike groaned as he staggered backwards. Angel grabbed him again, spun him, and slammed him into another wall.
"Run!" he yelled, and Cordelia bolted, dragging a reluctant Doyle along with her.
Lieutenant Paris busied himself with getting his gear out of the back of the shuttlecraft before slamming the door shut. He could see the city in the distance--had guided himself by it, accordingly--and was taken back by the sheer resemblance it held to a twentieth-century city on Earth, on the North American continent. Records tended to be somewhat sketchy from that time period, after all the chaos of World War III, but he had seen enough to know the architecture anywhere. And to find it in the Delta Quadrant--!
He set off, whistling an obscure tune he knew, in the direction of the city, and the rest of the away team.
He noticed a faint, salty, metallic smell on the breeze as he was walking, but he couldn't place the odour, and decided to chalk it up to alien flora. Or fauna, although he hadn't seen any evidence of animal life.
Approaching the city, he realised how deserted it looked in the starlight. He felt a shiver at the base of his spine, and all the hairs on his neck stood straight up. He fished out his flashlights, clipped them to his wrist and turned them on.
The twin beams sliced out into the dark, illuminating the streets, but not the still- darkened windows.
He wondered where Chakotay and the others where. He had known their original position, so he should be on the same side of the city as they were, which meant that they should have been in eyesight, by now. He wasn't that slow.
His foot stepped out from the grass onto the asphalt of the street, and his footsteps sounded too loud. Somebody might hear him.
There's nobody here, he reminded himself.
But then the life-signs had to come from somewhere.
His echoing footsteps seemed to ricochet off the sides of the skyscrapers. Seeing them tower over his head, he began to feel closed in. He wasn't claustrophobic--you couldn't be, in Starfleet--but this was different. This was a sense of feeling trapped. Of being watched, and followed.
He stopped, mid-way down the street, and looked around him, shining his beacon into black empty windows and down darkened alleyways. The beam never made it farther than a few feet into the shadow before fading away.
He heard a sound behind him, a skitter of something on the pavement. Gravel being scuffed by boots.
He whirled, his own heart sounding loud in his ears. There was something there, and whatever it was, it wasn't friendly.
Every single one of Paris' left-over primitive response systems was hitting overdrive. There may not have been sabre-toothed tigers around, but something was urging Paris' nerves to red alert.
And that Something emerged around the corner.
Paris brought his flashlight up quickly, and watched as the creature shied away from the bright glare. It was humanoid, but...he couldn't really describe it. There was something intangibly evil about it.
Its eyes adjusted to the light, and it smiled at him, showing a mouthful of fangs. "Human," it said, grinning like the Devil. "You're a human."
"And you're not," Paris replied, his smart-aleck response system still working. He was surprised at the creature's behaviour, it seemed to be very cocky for a being meeting something from across the galaxy. He started to back away as the alien sauntered towards him.
Somewhere down the street, farther into the city's core, there was a scream. A very human-sounding scream. Paris could hear other footsteps, running ones, coming from that direction. He couldn't let this first creature out of his sight, but he had to know about the others.
He brought his phaser up, pointing it at his first contact. "Don't come any closer," he warned.
"Gun? Is that a gun?" the creature smirked. "Can't hurt me, and you know it."
Paris tripped over a loose brick and nearly fell backwards. The creature lunged, and he fired, the red beam catching the being in the chest. It staggered a few steps and collapsed.
The lieutenant was on his feet in an instant, and looked behind him, at last.
It was a man and a woman, barrelling towards him as though the army of Hell were on their tail. Paris could see a group of the aliens running after them.
"It's another one!" the woman screamed, starting to swerve as they caught sight of Paris.
"No, I'm a human," he quickly assured them. They came to a slight stop. "I can take you to shelter," he added, and started jogging out into the field.
"I don't know--" the man began, hesitating, but the woman grabbed him by the arm of his leather jacket and pulled him along.
"Do we have a choice, Doyle?" she snapped.
"No, I guess not," he replied, as they began to run again.
They made it to the shuttle, just as the alien legion was about to close in. Paris hastened them inside the shuttle and closed the door. It didn't seem to slide shut fast enough, but it was sealed long before any of the creatures reached them.
"Will we be safe, here?" the woman asked. Cordelia, her name was Cordelia, he seemd to remember her saying that while they ran.
The pilot nodded in response to her question, running a hand over his forehead that was thick with sweat. "This shuttle's strong enough to keep a Ketaerian during mating season out of here."
"A whatsit when?" Doyle asked, confused, and a little panicked as several of the creatures began to bang on the craft's exterior.
Paris ignored him, and went to the comm station. "Paris to Chakotay," he said, tapping a few keys. "Come in, Chakotay." There was only silence as a response. "Paris to Tuvok. Come in. Neelix, come in."
The only sound was the pounding on the walls, and the blood rushing through Paris' ears, which had to be twice as loud. He sighed, and sat down on the pilot seat. "Did you see any other humans?" he asked Cordelia, who was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor, catching her breath.
She shook her head no.
"Angel told us about some humans," Doyle volunteered. He was pacing the shuttle's interior, but stopped when he spoke, then looked ashamed. "Sorry, man."
"Sorry?" Paris echoed. He stared at him until the reality hit, and then all the blood drained from his face. "You mean--"
"We don't know that," Cordelia snapped at her companion. "Angel said that--"
"Who's Angel?" Paris interrupted. "He's not human?"
"Uh...no," Doyle trailed off.
Cordelia looked upset. "He's a vamp, too. But he's a good one, he doesn't eat humans anyway. Not since he got his soul back."
"What?" Paris stuttered. "Vamps--you mean vampires? That's insane."
"You don't believe us?" Doyle was incredulous. He pointed to a spot on the wall where someone was hammering intently. "How else can you explain that?"
"Aliens," Paris said confidently. The two laughed.
"Aliens. Doesn't believe in the creatures knocking on our door, but he believes in aliens." Doyle threw his hands up in the air. "Just our luck, huh Cordy?"
"We're safe," she assured him, while giving Paris a look-over. "That's the important thing."
"Look--" Paris began, but he was interrupted by a beep from the commpanel. He pressed the key.
"Voyager to Paris," came Captain Janeway's lovely, gorgeous, godsend of a voice.
"Paris here, Captain," he replied, thankfully.
"Are you all right?" she asked, picking up the worry in his voice.
"For the moment. We were attacked by some sort of native being. I've also lost contact with the away team." he reported calmly trying to ignore the hammering noises.
"When did you last see them? We haven't been able to pick up any sensor readings at all, even though our commsignal gets through, apparently." Janeway replied.
"Actually, Captain, I never met up with the others." Paris admitted. "I couldn't find them."
"What the--" Janeway paused. "Then who are you with?"
"You'll never believe this, Captain," Paris said, a slight smile on his face as he looked at the pair. "Humans."
"Humans? From Earth?" Janeway was incredulous.
"Where else would we be from?" Doyle asked, raising his voice to be heard.
"Is that an Irish accent, I hear?" Janeway now sounded a touch amused. But only for a moment. A split second later her business-like tone resumed. "Paris, I want you to scan for the away team. You might have better luck. If you still can't find them, return to Voyager. We'll figure out what to do from here."
"Aye, aye, Captain." Paris replied, turning the commbadge off. He turned to look at his new friends when Cordelia leaped to her feet.
"That's Angel!" she exclaimed. She was pointing out the front window. One of the creatures was being attacked by several others. "They're trying to kill him! Again!"
"Can we do anything?" Doyle asked pensively, coming up to the windshield to see for himself. A vampire threw itself at the window, bouncing off the "glass". "I guess not."
"Maybe we can." Paris slid over and began adjusting the transporter controls. "Dammit, I can't get a lock."
"Lock? Lock on what?" Cordelia asked.
"I need to isolate him from the others, then I could beam him directly into the shuttle," Paris explained.
"Beam?" Doyle inquired.
"It's uh...a way of moving people from one spot to another," Paris explained quickly, filing the question away to put in his report. No transporter technology where these guys were from.
"Teleporting?" Cordelia clarified. "If you separate him you can teleport him?"
"Okay, then I'm going out," she said, moving towards the door. "I'll be a diversion."
"Cordy!" Doyle pulled her back by the arm. "You can't--"
"He's right, sort of," Paris interrupted, an idea forming. He took off his commbadge, and held it out to her. She took it, questions on her lips as he pulled out a spare one. "I'm going to beam you outside. You run, put this on Angel, and the second you do, I'll beam you back in."
"Okay," she nodded, placing the first commbadge on her shirt, and holding on to the other one tightly. "This won't hurt at all, will it?"
"Nope," Paris assured her quickly. "Not at all."
Doyle started to protest, but Paris was already programming the sequence in. "Ready?" he asked. She nodded.
Cordelia closed her eyes, and clenched the brooch Paris had given her tightly in her fist. She had no idea what this was going to be like, and she didn't want to be taken off-guard.
There was a faint feeling of dizziness, which past quickly, and then she was standing outside.
She opened her eyes, startled, to see the horde of vampires standing shock-still around her. "Uh oh," she muttered, before she caught sight of Angel and lunged for him. She slapped the brooch on his arm, then started to jump out of the way as they made a leap for her. There was the dizziness again, and a haze of sparkles, and then she and Angel were inside the shuttlecraft.
"That was...interesting," Angel muttered, as he got to his feet, dusting himself off. Cordelia and Doyle both noticed how he had switched from his vampire face the minute he realised he was in the shuttle so that Paris didn't have a chance to see him.
"Okay, now that we have everybody--" Paris began, pausing to let Doyle or Cordelia leap in with any corrections they might have had, "--then we can get going."
"How?" the three asked simultaneously.
Paris smiled. "You'll see."
He turned around, and began to focus on the pre-flight. He skipped the log, as they werein a hurry, and in fact skipped several things that were in the procedure that weren't really necessary.
The shuttle's engines began to glow, as the nacelles charged, and the horde of vampires hastily stepped or jumped back, unsure of what was happening.
"And we have lift-off," Paris said smoothly, as the shuttle began to hover off the ground. "You guys might want to sit down for this."
"I don't understand," Cordelia muttered, as they took seats on the passenger benches that lined the back. "Are we flying? Is this thing an airplane?"
"It's no kind of airplane I've ever seen," Doyle answered. He looked to Angel, who shook his head. "'Course, it may be something the military's not telling us about."
"Military? What military?" Angel asked, suddenly curious.
"Oh--these guys, of course. Real weird too--lots of code language. They've got a base around here somewhere--called Voyager, that's it's code, you see." Doyle nodded to himself, proud of the way he managed to figure it all out. He leaned in towards Angel and murmured: "Their leader's a Captain, by the name of Janeway. Likes Irish guys."
"Oh, great," Angel muttered. He looked thoughtful for a moment, watching the back of Paris' head as the pilot took them over the city. "The only thing is--" his voice dropped to a lower whisper, and Cordelia, sitting across from him, had to lean over to hear. "The only thing is, we're not on Earth any more."
"What?" Cordelia wrinkled her nose at him. "You're crazy."
Angel shook his head. "I know it, Cordelia. We're not on Earth."
Doyle was lost in thought, but then he snapped his fingers. The noise nearly caused Paris to look behind him, but a sudden bit of turbulence caught his attention, and Doyle and the others sighed with relief.
"That Captain I was telling you about--" Doyle began again, pausing to make sure Paris was occupied, "asked whether we were really from Earth. I thought it was more of the code talk for, you know, civilians or whatever. But maybe--"
"Maybe she was really curious." Angel finished. He too sneaked a glance at the pilot. "That leaves only one question."
This one Cordelia supplied with a sharp nod of her head towards the front. "Who's he?"
The trio stared at the river that flowed into the city. "This is the source of the readings, isn't it?" Chakotay asked after a long moment of silence. He was doing his best to fight the urge to throw up.
"It is," Tuvok said, with a cursory examination with the tricorder. "This blood is indeed...human, and the source of the DNA traces we've been following."
"I think I would like to move on, now," Neelix said plaintively.
"I think that's a good idea. Let's move to the city, we can wait for Paris there." Chakotay agreed. Together, they headed into the darkened streets.
"It reminds me of a recreation of New York I once saw," Chakotay said, to break the heavy silence. "In the early twenty-first century."
"How could you have seen it in the twenty-first century?" Neelix asked, puzzled.
"I believe the recreation was of that time period," Tuvok replied for the commander. The Vulcan seemed a little annoyed at the question.
Chakotay knew that Neelix was just flustered after the sight of the river of blood. "Wasn't that a sign of something?" he asked out loud, his thoughts moving to his mouth without permission. The other two looked at him and he explained: "A river of blood. Wasn't that a sign of the Apocalypse, or something?"
"Apocky what?" Neelix interjected.
Tuvok frowned, lost in thought. "There are many such instances in historical texts, notably the Bible, where the rivers were said to `run with blood'. It was always believed that such details were fabrications."
Chakotay shivered again.
"Well, I for one have heard of no such story," Neelix exclaimed loudly. "Since I don't believe in ghosts! At all!"
Chakotay smiled slightly. He knew how Neelix felt. There was something in the air that seemed to be hung with foreboding.
There was a noise to the side of them, and all three whirled in an instant, phasers drawn. Neelix was relieved to see that even Tuvok wasn't immune to the creepy atmosphere of this place, for he was just as quick on the draw as the more paranoid Chakotay and himself.
There was a sound of a muted scream. "It's coming from over there," Tuvok noted, with his more sensitive ears. He and Chakotay began to advance on the location.
"Uh...." Neelix began hesitantly, "Shame on me for my lack of protocol, but shouldn't we just head in the opposite direction?"
Tuvok shot him such a glare that the Talaxian shut up immediately.
They crept toward the building, which was more run down than most of the others. There was another scream, and then something jumped down from the balcony above.
The man landed on Chakotay, sending the commander crashing to the ground.
"Humans!" the intruder yelled. "Humans!"
Tuvok grabbed the alien off the commander by the shoulder, giving him a Vulcan neck pinch as he did so.
Neelix leaned over the alien, giving him a good look. He seemed fairly human, except for heavily built up eyebrow ridges and fangs instead of normal teeth.
Tuvok helped Chakotay to his feet. "Thanks, Tuvok," he said, rubbing the small of his back where the alien had connected with him. "I wonder how he knew we were humans?"
"What else could you be?" said a voice from the other direction. They turned to see a group of the aliens, some male, some female, spreading out in a semi-circle.
"I don't think two of those are human," sneered one. "They must have brought in a couple of demons, too."
"Demon?" exclaimed Neelix huffily. "I beg your pardon!"
"Neelix--" Chakotay said warningly.
"I mean, of all the nerve! Calling Mr. Vulcan a demon! Preposterous!" Neelix finished.
Before either party could react to the statement, least of all Tuvok, someone came barrelling out of the building, crashing into Chakotay, sending him to the asphalt for the second time in as many minutes. It was a young woman, and a young man was only a few seconds behind her. He grabbed her by the arm, yanking her up.
"Looks like we've got more company, Cordy," he said, in a thick accent, before they started running down the street.
"Real humans!" screamed one of the aliens. "Real!"
"Get them!" roared the leader, the first who had spoken, and the main bulk charged down the street, right past the Starfleet officers.
A few stayed. "Why run, when there's plenty here?" snarled one, a brunette female. They were circling the trio like animals. Like hyenas, Chakotay thought. Not grand hunters but carcass snatchers.
The female charged, her mouth open, and Chakotay realised that she was intending to bite him. He brought his phaser up to bear, and fired. She staggered backwards, but that was all.
"Perhaps a higher setting?" Tuvok suggested, reprogramming his weapon.
"Might be a good idea," Neelix agreed, firing his own weapon at another of the aliens. This one at least collapsed, but the noise on the streets was attracting more of the creatures.
One came flying out of the building. He stopped, stunned, when he saw the trio, but continued down the street after the first group.
Then another man staggered out of the building, clutching his platinum-blonde head in agony. Chakotay noticed that the others ignored this one, although he was plainly human.
Another of the aliens flung themselves at Tuvok, only to be shot down by the Vulcan's super-swift reaction time. Another stepped forward, then drew back.
All the while, the blonde human watched them intently. Finally, he threw himself at one of the creatures, and they dropped to the ground, fighting. That was a turning point in the whole episode; it was as though Hell itself broke loose, for all the aliens went berserk, and charged.
Neelix was determined not to let any get within a few feet of him, and he fired his phaser like a madman. But he couldn't watch his back, and one managed to jump him.
He went down like a ton of bricks, but managed to roll and trap the creature beneath him. It let go with a gasp and he leapt to his feet, shooting it quickly before it had a chance to get up, itself. He then noticed Tuvok having difficulty fighting one off his back, so Neelix took very careful aim, and fired. The alien dropped, leaving Tuvok free to successful blast the other that he had been fighting.
After what seemed an eternity, all of the creatures were unconscious, or had fled. Chakotay paused to catch his breath. He'd been forced to go hand to hand when one of the beings had knocked his phaser from him. He was surprised how strong they were, and nearly impossible to hurt. He had nearly broken one of the creature's necks, but it still came at him, trying to sink its teeth into him. Only Tuvok's timely intervention had saved the day, and possibly Chakotay's life.
The commander looked to the side. Their blonde ally was still there, and watching them intently. "Thank you, for your help," Chakotay said, straightening up.
"Don't mention it," the other replied cautiously. "You're not one of them?"
Chakotay shook his head no. "We're from--somewhere different entirely." He didn't want to say too much; the Prime Directive seemed to loom directly over the man's head.
"But you are, indeed, human." The blonde's eyes flicked to take in Tuvok and Neelix.
"I am." Chakotay agreed. He exchanged a look with his two partners. "Tuvok is a Vulcan, and Neelix is a Talaxian." The commander hoped that wasn't giving too much information. Perhaps he would just think they were demons, as the creatures had supposed. Did the blonde hear that? Chakotay wasn't sure.
Their ally watched them, suspicion growing in his eyes. "I see."
"Perhaps you can help us in another fashion," Tuvok said, stepping forward. "What is this place called?"
Now the man was curious. "You mean, you don't know either?"
"No." Tuvok stood with his hands folded behind his back.
"I figured, what with that get-up and all, you were the ones behind it." The man stuck his hands deep into his pockets, and see-sawed back and forth on his feet. "Look, I don't want to be out here for much longer. Me and my bird, we've got a place a few blocks from here. I'll take you there, maybe together we can sort everything out."
"That's very generous, Mr., uh--?" Chakotay paused.
"Spike," the blonde answered. He had a sly smile, now. "And believe me, it's no problem at all."
Neelix didn't especially like being called a demon. He also didn't especially like this Spike character. What sort of a name was Spike, anyway? It brought to mind pointy metal, and that wasn't an image that Neelix relished. He wished mightily that he was back on Voyager, in his quarters, with Kes and a cup of hot liola root tea, and not in this dark hell hole.
Their new host was leading them farther and farther into the city, away from the beam-up point, from the open grassland, away from Paris, if That Walking Hormone even bothered to show up. That was another thing that Neelix didn't like: that arrogant pilot.
"Home sweet home," called Spike, leading them into one of the shells of the buildings. There was no furniture of any kind, indeed, no doors for that matter. "Harmony? I've brought guests in, pet."
Harmony, a thin blonde woman, appeared around the corner of a doorway. Her eyes lit up when she saw them. "Spikey! How did you manage?"
"Don't I always?" he replied with a slick smile. He led the Starfleet officers into a room. "Now, you do know how to treat guests, don't you, sunshine?"
"Of course," she called sweetly, from behind them. Neelix looked over his shoulder, and saw she was carrying a large brick. He started to say something to the others when she slammed the brick into the back of Tuvok's head.
Chakotay whirled in shock and anger, when Spike grabbed him from behind and administered something like a neck pinch, but with less finesse. And more biting.
Neelix gulped, and backed up, as the two started in after him. He could see the prone figures of the others lying on the floor, and that only helped drive his panic up a few notches. He tapped his commbadge frantically. "Neelix to Voyager! Neelix to Voyager!"
"We're here, Mr. Neelix--" Janeway began, before Harmony ripped the commbadge off his shirt and ground it under her heel.
"That's my girl," Spike said, enjoying Neelix's discomfort. The Talaxian hit the wall behind him, and tensed up, ready to fight his way through, if need be. Only, he never got the chance, as the last thing he saw was Spike's fist swinging towards him, and then everything faded to black.
Paris kept the shuttle on autopilot, so that he could begin to scan for the away team, below. He really should have had a co-pilot, but he didn't, and that was that.
"Why are we stopped?" Cordelia asked. She braved getting up, to sit her herself next to him. "Hey, we're over the city."
"I'm looking for my friends." Paris said checking the readouts. Nothing yet.
"You wouldn't be able to see them from here," Cordelia said, looking out the window. Paris chuckled.
"That won't be a problem," he said mysteriously. He gave her a good, long look before she turned back from the window and he turned back to the sensors. "Hmm."
"Hmm?" she inquired. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear in a way he found strangely fetching. "Hmm? Hmms are never good."
"The sensors are fouled up," he explained. He didn't want to go into too much detail, in case there was some Prime Directive problem later on. "I can't get an accurate read-out."
"Could it be something on the instruments?" Angel asked, coming up from behind them. He gazed down at the city.
"No," Paris answered, confidently. "I did two diagnostics. Nope, there's something out there--" he tapped the window to the side of him, "--that's making it hard to get a clear picture."
"Maybe an after-effect of whatever spell brought us here," Angel murmured to Cordelia, who nodded. Paris missed the remark. Angel leaned over Paris' shoulder, careful not to impede, but Paris noted that even Angel, who seemed remarkably knowledgeable, at least compared with Doyle and Cordelia, seemed stumped by the instrumentation. That was good.
Angel frowned, and reached towards the sensor panel. He was merely pointing, and started to say something, when Cordelia accidentally bumped him, and he was knocked slightly forward. Enough to touch the panel.
"Cordelia!" he snapped, straightening up immediately, and backing up out of the cock- pit.
"My leg was falling asleep," Cordelia said by way of explanation. Paris wasn't worried about the accidental contact; Angel hadn't done anything--
"Hey!" the pilot exclaimed. "The readouts are working! The sensors are picking up information!"
He called it up on the screen. "Woah--there must be millions of humans down there."
"No," Angel corrected. "I've just seen one or two. Well, that and a couple of demons."
"There must be millions--look at the DNA readings!" Paris exclaimed. He pointed to a graph in the corner.
"That thing reads human DNA?" Cordelia asked, then she continued, hesitantly: "Does it have to be alive?"
"Huh?" Paris seemed confused. "Yeah--otherwise the DNA would begin to break down. And it hasn't. It's alive and healthy--"
"It's blood," she interrupted.
"Blood. Rivers of blood. Some of the streets even have it pouring through the gutters. Human blood," she repeated. "Don't even get me started on the sheer grossness of it all."
Paris closed his eyes and shook his head as he cleared the life-sign readings. Cordelia recognised that look. It was one she became very used to after joining up with a certain bunch of Slayers and Slayerettes. "If I call up narrower parameters, it'll help me find the others. I know-- there's only one Talaxian, and one Vulcan, down there," he finished.
"What?" Angel asked, approaching the seats again, as it was evident he'd caused no damage.
"Got them!" Paris exclaimed triumphantly, ignoring the question. "They're on the east side, in one of the buildings. The signals are really weak. Widening the search parameter-- there's Chakotay, and there's two other humanoids with him."
"Not humans?" Angel inquired. Paris shook his head.
"Humanoids. The signs are human-like, but not quite."
Angel caught Cordelia's eye. "Vampires."
"Okay, I think I can bring them in, okay." Paris said, checking different readings. "I think they're hurt, though. You three will need to crowd in here, with me, while I bring them in."
"Don't you need to but the brooches on them?" Cordelia asked, fingering her own.
"Brooches? Oh, the commbadges. No, I don't, they're relatively spread out. He began to tap keys faster, and then tapped his commbadge. "Paris to Voyager."
"Voyager here," Kim's voice replied. Angel looked over at Doyle, who shrugged. The half-demon had heard every part of the conversation, and knew what Angel and Cordelia had already guessed: the two "humanoids" with the others were Spike and Harmony.
"Harry, I've found the Away Team. I'm bringing them in, but I think they're hurt. Have the Doc-in-the-box on stand-by, will you? You know how grumpy he'll be if he's not informed. Nothing I hate more than a difficult hologram."
"I will. Voyager out."
Smiling, Paris tapped his commbadge to deactivate it. Angel sneaked another glance at Doyle. This time Doyle shrugged; neither had been able to break that mouthful of code.
"Okay, Doyle, I'm going to have to ask you to move," Paris said, politely. Doyle got to his feet, and went to stand beside Angel, behind Cordelia's chair.
The pilot tapped a single key, and immediately a sharp buzzing sound filled the cabin. Three still figures materialised, lying on the floor. Paris leapt to his feet, and checked the pulses of each one. The colour drained from his face. "Chakotay, and Tuvok are nearly dead. They almost have no pulse at all," he said, getting back to his feet. "I don't know about Neelix."
"Hey, those are the guys we ran into, Cordy!" Doyle exclaimed, as Paris slipped by him and sat back down. The lieutenant keyed several more instructions, and another buzz resounded, the three figures disappearing.
"You sent them back?" Cordelia blurted, shocked.
Paris shook his head. "I stored them in the pattern buffer before they could..." he trailed off. "The patterns won't deteriorate, so they'll be okay for the Doc to work on."
"The doc-in-the-box," Angel said.
"That's the one," Paris replied, as he began to steer the shuttle into orbit.
"Dammit! Dammit it all to hell!" Spike fumed. Only moments ago, the bodies had disappeared in a haze of sparkles. "It must be Angel. It must be." He lashed out a stone with his foot, his anger temporarily cancelling out any pain from the contact.
Harmony didn't say anything, used as she was to Spike's rages.
"Dammit, dammit--hold up--" Spike stopped mid-kick. "Maybe this isn't so bad, after all."
"You don't think so?" Harmony asked.
He grinned. He looked up, almost through the ceiling. "No, I think it could all work out, in the end."
Harry Kim looked up from his console at Ops. "I've lost track of them, again--dammit, they just keep fading in and out--" He gritted his teeth in aggravation as he started to clean up the static for the fifteenth time in a row. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and jumped; it was Captain Janeway.
"You've been doing a fine job, Ensign," she said proudly. "No one could ask for better. We know Paris has them, that he's all right, and that they're alive. For the moment, that's all we need. You need to calm down, relax for a bit." She smiled at him, and he caught himself smiling back. "Plenty of time to solve this problem later."
"Thank you, ma'am--uh, Captain." Kim blurted, blushing. She just smiled and patted his shoulder again.
She stepped down the step to the main floor of the bridge. She stared at the planet on the viewscreen. It looked so harmless. "Bridge to Sickbay."
"Kes here, Captain," replied Voyager's Ocampan nurse. "Have you heard any more from Neelix?"
Janeway noticed the worry in the girl's voice. Woman's voice, she corrected herself. Kes was fully mature, although barely two human years. "No, but Paris is bringing them in, and they're alive." She heard the delighted gasp on the other end of the signal, and gritted her teeth. She hadn't meant it to come out like that. "I'm sorry, Kes, but all three are badly wounded. I need you to set up the Doctor and prepare Sickbay for an emergency."
"I see," Kes said, trying to keep the shock out of her voice, and doing a fairly good job at it. "I'll inform the Doctor. Sickbay out."
"It's beautiful," Cordelia breathed, as the shuttlecraft climbed higher, and left the atmosphere behind. "I've never--I never thought I could--"
"It gets better," Paris said with a smile. "Wait 'til we're in orbit."
She could only stare in amazement. Even Angel was agog with the view. Doyle was pretty stunned by it as well, but he was the only one who didn't lose himself completely in the sights, excepting Paris, of course.
"How can we go this far up, anyway?" he asked, breaking the spell of silence. "Shouldn't we be floating, or freezing, or at least not breathing?"
Paris laughed. "I guess this old bucket's a lot different than what you're used to," he said, careful not to give anything away. "But you haven't seen anything yet. This thing is a lemon, compared to Voyager."
"Lemon?" Cordelia wrinkled her nose. "Does anybody still call them that?"
"Uh..." Paris declined to answer, concentrating as he was on piloting.
Doyle wasn't convinced, and now even Angel was starting to snap out of his reverie. "Voyager? What's that?" the vampire asked.
"Your base, right?" Doyle added.
Cordelia shot the two a scathing look. She was not impressed by their questions, and would rather have spent the moment staring out in silence at the curve of the planet that floated beneath them. It was one thing that had actually rendered her speechless, and they were ruining the occasion.
"I guess you could say Voyager's our base, sort of," Paris said, finally, a little bewildered by the comment. "Here she comes."
"What? We're not landing?" Doyle blurted.
All three of the passengers were silent as Voyager appeared over the horizon, the curve of the planet itself, the ship being farther along in orbit. As they approached, the size of the vessel grew, until they had no idea how large it truly was.
"I knew that `international science station' was a front, I knew it," Doyle said in a hushed tone. Paris knit his brows at the remark, he didn't know what it referred to. Have to look that one up.
"I don't think so," Angel corrected, his mouth open in awe. "We weren't on Earth, remember?"
Paris' head whipped around. "What do you know about that?" he exclaimed, a little surprised. Before the vampire could answer, the commpanel chirped.
"Paris here," the pilot said, turning back.
"You are ready for docking, shuttle Lemure," announced the voice. "Proceed to bay two."
"Is the Doc standing by? I've got three wounded," Paris added.
"Affirmative, Lemure," the voice replied. "He's looking forward to your help, too, I might add."
Paris groaned. "I've got to take my passengers to see the Captain--I mean, I thought Kes would--"
"Don't assume, Paris, that's what got you into trouble in the first place. Voyager out."
Paris groaned. "That Bateheart, he's never one to let me forget."
"Forget what?" all three passengers chimed.
Paris rolled his eyes.
The Doctor nodded to Kes. She caught his eye, and nodded back, ready. He tapped his commbadge. "Sickbay to shuttle Lemure. We are ready to receive our patients."
In response, the air over the three biobeds began to glitter, and three people materialised, unconscious. Kes rushed over to Neelix immediately, tricorder open and scanning. The Doctor began on the sole human in the room.
"Neelix is alive, barely," she reported, turning to Tuvok. "So's Lieutenant Tuvok."
"Commander Chakotay seems to be in shock, he's lost a lot of blood. Transfer him to the operating bed. I want to work on him first." The Doctor walked purposely, with even, efficient strides, to the medical cart, and took off a hypospray. "I'm giving both Tuvok and Neelix ten ccs of osculicyne, that should help stabilise their condition."
"Chakotay is ready, Doctor." Kes announced, once the Doctor had finished administering the hyposprays.
"To begin, I want to use the plasma regenerator, replace his blood supply--"
The medical scanner began to sound the alarm as Chakotay's heart stopped beating.
"Twenty cc's of cordrazine, now!" the Doctor yelled, but Kes was already administering it, as the Doctor placed the cortical stimulator on Chakotay's forehead.
"A short burst, to begin--" he said to himself, programming the device. Chakotay's body seemed to spasm for a moment, and then life-signs began to climb back to normal.
"We did it," Kes said happily. "We brought him back."
"Yes, we did," the Doctor replied. He was relieved that the patient had not been lost. "I wonder what number of near-death experiences the crew is at now."
Captain Janeway sat across from Angel, and the two watched each other intently. To the others of the table, it was nothing more than a staring contest, but to the pair it was a silent appraisal.
Could Janeway be trusted with the truth about vampires? Angel was thinking. Paris was resistant to the idea, according to Doyle, and the military in general was usually closed-minded. But then, this Voyager didn't seem to be a standard military facility...
Could Angel be trusted with the truth? Janeway was thinking. It would no doubt violate the Prime Directive left, right and backwards to explain everything to people who thought they were on Earth, or at least in orbit around it. But then, they had a right to know what was going on, as much as the crew themselves knew.
"Okay," the woman known as Cordelia Chase exclaimed, "Angel, if you don't get this whole explanation ball rolling, I will." Angel snapped out of his examination to glance over at her.
"Cordy," Doyle whispered sotto voce, "I think this had better be thought out..."
"I have thought about it," Cordelia snapped. "I just think it out faster than Angel seems to." She turned to face Janeway, who was sitting on her left. "Captain, I think we should be honest with each other."
"Oh?" Janeway asked, interested.
"Yes." Cordelia nodded. "We should be open, and tell the whole truth, nothing but the-- "
"Cordelia," Angel interrupted, "That--"
"May not be wise?" Janeway finished with a half-smile. "I was just thinking that myself. But your friend is right; we do need to be honest with each other, about what we know."
Angel paused, not sure of how to begin.
"First off," Kim said, leaping into the silence, "where are all the people we detected before the sensors fritzed? Who attacked our people, and--"
"Ensign," Janeway said warningly, holding up a hand. He blushed, and lowered his head, ashamed at his talking out of line.
Angel sighed. "To answer the first question--there are no humans on that planet. Or a handful, at most. If they're still alive."
Janeway leaned back in her chair, puzzled. "We detected millions, a thriving culture."
Her new guest shook his head. "No. What you detected is blood."
There was silence in the conference room as the officers present digested that tidbit of information. "I have to agree with him," Paris began, weakly. "I have the sensor logs from the shuttle. There's no real humans--only rivers of blood."
"I'm starting to download the information from the away team's tricorders," B'Elanna Torres, Chief Engineer, added. "It might shed more light on the matter."
"There's nothing more to be shed," Doyle began to protest, but Angel held the half-demon back.
"That's not everything," he said, slowly, waiting for everyone's full attention. "The people that attacked your officers--and the main habitants of the planet below--are vampires."
He expected shocked silence, or even confusion. What he got was derision.
Torres snorted loudly. "Right. And the mummies of ancient Pharaohs are commanding the legion of the Undead, along with Frankenstein's monster and a horde of werewolves."
"Some of my best friends are werewolves," Cordelia protested quickly. "Or at least date one."
"You can't be serious," Torres shot back, scorn thick in her voice.
"B'Elanna," Janeway said quietly. Her chief engineer looked over at her, caught her eye, and calmed down. Order regained, the captain continued. "I believe we have a little problem regarding your claim, Mr., uh, Angel."
Angel's features shifted. He developed thick brows, hungry yellow eyes and sharp fangs, which he showed off obligingly. Cordelia nor Doyle even so much as blinked.
Paris on the other hand, felt the urge to pull his phaser on the creature sitting next to him. The hair was standing up on the back of his neck, his heart was racing, he felt like he was back on the starlit street, staring down something that could only be described as evil. Angel didn't have that diabolic aura, but he wasn't something Paris ever wanted to meet up with again.
Next to him, past Harry, Torres leapt to her feet, growling. Both Janeway and a shaken Kim pulled her down by her arms.
"You've seen worse," Janeway snapped. "We all have--the Vidiians, the Borg--"
"It's not right!" Torres yelled. "It's unnatural!"
"Lieutenant, you will be quiet this instant!" Janeway nearly rose her voice in anger before Angel quietly interrupted her, first shifting back to normal.
"She's right, Captain," he said. "I am unnatural, even for a vampire. Everyone here can sense that."
There was silence.
Torres struggled to contain her emotions. No doubt if Tuvok were here, the eyebrow would be at a right angle. There was just something about Angel's vampire face that inspired terror in her, and anger at being frightened so.
"Don't worry," Doyle said quickly, hands out, trying to reassure them. "Angel's not dangerous, at all."
"Except when he's evil," Cordelia added, nodding.
"I haven't been evil for a while," Angel protested.
"Does anybody else get the feeling that this conversation is like something from a bad dream?" Harry asked, chuckling nervously. "Any minute now, my old dorm officer from the Academy is going to walk in and announce that I've won the Space Cross." The other officers smiled at the weak joke, even B'Elanna, and it helped break the awkwardness of the situation.
"I'm sorry--" Angel began, but Janeway held up her hands.
"No, we were right in the beginning, we must be honest. You have told us what you know, now we'll do the same." She took a deep breath, and hoped that she was doing the right thing.
"You are aboard the USS Voyager, a starship from the United Federation of Planets. It is now the twenty-fourth century, and you are currently in what we call the Delta Quadrant. In layman's terms, you are on the other side of the galaxy, and seventy thousand light-years from where you started. Not to mention about three centuries down the line."
Three pairs of eyes met hers.
"You are so making that up," Cordelia blurted.
Doyle turned to face Paris. "So you weren't kidding about the aliens!"
Only Angel didn't say anything. He waited for a moment, taking it all in, then nodded once. Slowly.
"She is so making that up, right, Paris? Right?" Cordelia pleaded with the pilot to confirm that yes, Janeway was telling a big fat one.
He shook his head, instead.
"Omigod," Cordelia said, when she got no answer. "Oh-my-god."
"Cordy--" Doyle began, starting to put an arm around her, but she brushed him off.
"Oh my god. Oh my god." Cordelia started to cry. "How are we ever going to get home?"
"I ask that myself, every day," Janeway said gently, knowing what the poor girl was going through. "But every day, I know that I will get my crew home, and we'll find a way to get you home, as well."
Cordelia sniffed, but the Captain's words seemed to help her, for the moment.
Kim was already lost in thought. "You know, if the...inhabitants of that planet were from roughly the twentieth century--"
"Nineteen ninety-nine," Angel supplied.
Kim smiled a thank you. "If they're from nineteen ninety-nine, then something must have dragged them through a rift in the space-time continuum--"
"Meaning there might be traces of chronoton particles, or even signs of the rift itself," Torres finished, launching into Engineering Mode and completely forgetting about the vampire sitting down from her. "If the sensors can be fixed--"
"I think I can help there," Paris interrupted. The three officer's leaned in eagerly. "When I was on the shuttle, Angel accidentally touched a console--it cleared up all the static and interference, immediately."
"You don't think that was a coincidence?" Torres asked.
Paris shook his head no.
"Well, I suppose we can have you come down to Engineering, and finger all the consoles," Torres said, flashing a smile at the three, although she seemed to be aiming more for Doyle and Cordelia than Angel. Janeway was relieved to see her coping with her wild side, even if it meant she was a little cold toward the self-confessed vampire. When the engineer had a problem to focus on, she was more rational, and easier to talk to.
"I think that perhaps--" Janeway began, ready to dismiss everyone, when the Doctor's voice rang out into the conference room.
"Please activate the Medical Viewscreen," the Doctor asked. Janeway did so, with a tap of a button.
The Doctor's scowling face appeared on a screen on the wall facing the side Angel and his friends had chosen to sit on, Janeway's right.
"Ooh, Video Phone," Cordelia exclaimed. Doyle rolled his eyes.
"We have a bit of a problem," the Doctor said wearily. "Not that any one seems to notice when I have a problem of my one, they just keep sending me their's."
"Doctor..." Janeway prompted.
The scene shifted, as the Doctor directed his portable screen to outside the small office. Chakotay had his face pressed up against a force-field. He snarled, revealing fangs.
"Uh oh," Doyle said, rather unnecessarily. He and Angel exchanged looks.
"That's not the worst of it," The Doctor said wearily. He tilted the computer screen again, and now the crew could see Tuvok and Neelix standing over the sickbay wall console. Tuvok turned to see them, and his eyes glowed bright yellow.
"This is just what we need," Cordelia huffed. "More vampires." She shrugged. "Oh well, we'll just have to stake 'em--"
"No one's doing anything," Janeway snapped rising to her feet. "Computer, reroute all computer access from all Sickbay computers, excepting the Doctor's office monitor."
"Complying," the computer said. Almost at once, Tuvok slammed his fist against the console.
"Captain, Kes and I are all right, here for the moment," The Doctor said gravely. "But I suggest you do something, and fast."
"Can't you?" Kim asked. "They can't harm you."
"That's what you think," The Doctor sighed. "Something about them is disrupting my program, when I get anywhere near them."
"Like the sensors," Angel murmured.
Janeway rested her palms on the smooth wood of the table. "People, I want a way to figure this out, and now. Kim, Torres, I want you looking for a way to reverse whatever it is that brought these people here. Take either Mr. Doyle or Ms. Chase with you, the principle should be the same. Angel, I want you to brief me on...vampires. Paris, you're at the helm."
She straightened up.
Chakotay snarled, and through himself against the glass of the Doctor's office. It was a futile gesture, he knew. It wasn't glass, but transparent aluminum and more than resistant to him, even with his vampiric strength. But he had to try. Kes, the mortal nurse, shuddered despite herself when she looked at him. She was leaning against the far wall, and when he smiled at her, she trembled. He liked that.
The Doctor was unaffected, physically or mentally, by his patient. That didn't worry Chakotay in the slightest. He didn't want to eat the hologram, even if he could.
"Leave them alone," Tuvok growled, trying to break into the ship's computer without any success. "They're not worth anything."
"I'm hungry," Chakotay whined. He slammed into the window again, just for the pleasure of seeing Kes flinch.
"There will be others to eat, when we take over the ship," Tuvok snapped. Janeway had locked out the computer access--or so she thought. His yellow eyes burned in concentration as he began to replace the isolinear chips, and scramble circuits. He looked less than a vampire than Chakotay did, no doubt because of his Vulcan heritage.
Chakotay had the full range of vampiric features. He had the heavy brow, the yellow eyes, and the teeth. Tuvok had the yellow eyes and the fangs, while the Talaxian, Neelix, had no physical differences at all. Neelix explained that Talaxian vampires looked indistinguishable from all other Talaxians, save for being unable to walk in sunlight. He was now guarding the main door, in case Janeway sent guards to take them down.
"I will be successful in a few moments," Tuvok said, finally. "This system is more heavily guarded than I realised."
"The great Vulcan makes a mistake?" Chakotay barked a short laugh. "I knew I had to wait until you were dead before I got to see that."
Tuvok started to get up, but Neelix bounded in between them.
"If we fight now, brothers, we will be picked off by the humans," he reminded them, putting a hand on Tuvok's shoulder. The Vulcan whirled, teeth bared.
"Don't call me a brother, you--"
Neelix growled suddenly, and his normally pleasant demeanour, even from beyond the grave, fell away. Tuvok backed down when he realised this Neelix was no push over.
The Vulcan bent down to finish his modifications to the Sickbay computer.
Janeway strode onto the bridge, Angel and Paris in tow. The pilot went to his station immediately, but the vampire was a little lost.
"You can sit here," Janeway said, gesturing to Chakotay's chair. She felt a pang when she realised that her first officer was now Undead, but she forced it down. There would be enough time to deal with that later.
Angel sat down in the seat, his black trench coat flowing over the low sides of the chair. "I think that the first priority--" he began, but Janeway waved him silent.
"I want you to explain, exactly, what a vampire is," she said sternly. "Then we can work on a way to reverse it."
He shook his head. "You can't reverse it," he said simply. She merely stared at him, and he sighed. "A vampire is a demon that has taken possession of a person's body, when that person is killed. The soul leaves, the body dies, and the demon takes over. If you take the demon out, you're left with a corpse. More accurately, a pile of dust."
"If you put the soul back in?" Janeway prompted, intrigued. Angel looked uncomfortable.
"If you put the soul back in," he began sadly, "you get me. I have a soul, and as such I can feel remorse for everything I did while evil."
Janeway didn't know what to say. He continued. "I've started using my powers now to help fight the evil in our world--other vampires, demons, zombies, that sort of thing. I know I can never atone for my past sins, but I hope to make a start." He gazed at her, silent.
Now she understood why he was so quiet, so contemplative. He was willing to help, but he understood the consequences and was trying to avoid any more marks on his soul. He had a conscience.
"How can you kill them?" she said, finally.
"A stake, through the heart, or decapitation is the only way." He answered her steadily, without his gaze wavering. He knew exactly how to kill his brethren, and had no regrets in thatarea of expertise.
When he spoke, Paris swivelled around. "Ma'am? I think phasers can do the trick--I shot one when I was on the planet, and he wasn't moving afterward."
Janeway considered this. "Could they adapt, somehow?"
"They aren't Borg, Captain. From what I saw, if it kills them once, it'll do it again." the pilot replied.
"I agree, Captain Janeway," Angel said. For a second she was distracted by his voice and penetrating gaze, but she forced that feeling down too.
"Okay then. We'll set up some security--"
Angel interrupted her. "I think it would be better if I do this alone, or with Doyle and Cordelia. We've done it before, we know what to expect. Your security guards will go in there, planning to fight like normal humans, and they'll get cut down like weeds. Maybe even made into more vampires."
Janeway sighed. She didn't like the idea of sending in one person--even a vampire--to deal with three, without back-up. But if that's what he thought was best. This was his arena.
"All right. But Security will be on stand-by."
"Thank you, Captain," he began, before there was an agonizing scream over the commsignal.
"Captain!" Kes wailed. "Help--!"
"Transporter!" Janeway barked, fear seizing her heart like a frozen hand. "Get her out of there!"
"Already got her," came Bateheart's shaken reply. "And she's alright--they didn't touch her."
"No bite marks?" Angel asked, raising his voice and looking around the ceiling.
There was a pause. "Nope," Bateheart replied. "She's behind a force-field, just in case."
"Good work, Ensign," Janeway said. "Bridge out." She turned to Angel.
"Go and check Kes out, then send her to the bridge if she's got a clean bill of health," she ordered. He leapt over the rail and was into the turbolift before she managed to blink.
"He's kinda spooky, when he does that," remarked Paris, his back to the Captain and his head bent over the piloting controls.
Janeway nearly smiled.
"I've got it," Chakotay said, as he pried off the cover to the Jefferies Tube. There was a blue force-field covering the entrance, but the Doctor took care of that. He stepped forward, and shoved his hand through.
"I am changing the wavelength of the field," the Doctor said, calmly, "There. It is now safe for physical beings to walk through."
"You're a life-saver, Doc. If I had a life to save, of course," Chakotay said, scooting into the tunnel.
"But you do--you are alive," the Doctor explained, confused. "You were only dead for a fraction of a second before I brought you back."
Tuvok, standing behind them, was puzzled. "I do not understand," he said, finally, "but it does not matter."
Behind him, Neelix shrugged. "What's debating over it going to help?" he said. "Doesn't change any facts."
"No, it doesn't, which is why you three should shut up," Chakotay barked, from inside the tunnel. "Now are you helping me, or not?"
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Neelix exclaimed, shoving past Tuvok. He disappeared down the Tube.
"I will be with you in a moment," Tuvok called. He turned to the Doctor. "Are you sure Kes will not be a threat?"
"No," the Doctor replied. "She has no idea what is going on. But if Janeway learns that you've hacked into my program, she may realise you can escape."
"She is fairly intelligent, for a human, and with that traitor Angel to fill her in, she may realise our plan." Tuvok agreed. "Time is now of the essence."
"That's what I never liked about Vulcans," Chakotay grumbled. "They talk to much. When we capture them all, let's not turn that other one, the ensign. What's his face, Vorik? Doesn't matter, anyway, but can you imagine two of those pointy-eared freaks running around?"
"May I remind you that it is my skill and superior mental capabilities that allowed us to proceed with the plan?" Tuvok growled, crawling behind Neelix when the Talaxian suddenly kicked him in the nose. He howled, and stopped, while Neelix burst out laughing.
"Didn't see that coming, did you, Mr. Vulcan?" Neelix crowed.
Tuvok grumbled, and kept on crawling.
Torres began barking orders the minute the doors to Main Engineering opened. "Carey! I think we have a way to descramble the sensors--while I'm doing that, you concentrate on maintaining security blockades in and around Sickbay. I don't want any one getting around the Captain's measures."
"Aye-aye, Lieutenant," Carey acknowledged, before ducking around the corner.
Doyle was amazed by the activity in this place. Yellow suited soldiers--or officers, they weren't really soldiers, he supposed--climbed over catwalks, scurried around banks of computers and swarmed around a massive tower that stood dead center in the main room. It pulsed with energy.
"That's the warp coil," Torres said proudly. "It powers the ship."
"I can believe it," Doyle replied, mouth open. Beside him, Cordelia didn't seem that impressed.
"What are we doing here?" she asked Kim. "Shouldn't we be, like, staking, or something?"
"You can have a steak afterwards," Kim answered, puzzled. "Right now, we've got too much to do." He led them to the sensors for the ship.
"Okay, now what exactly happened on the shuttle?" he asked.
"Angel touched one of the computer keyboards," Doyle explained. "Didn't press anything, just touched it."
Kim and Torres exchanged a look. Clearly, they were dubious. "Well then, go ahead," the engineer said, waving towards the panel. "Touch away."
Cordelia and Doyle glanced at each other, and the woman shrugged. She stepped forward, and laid her palm on the console.
"Well, there goes that idea," Torres sighed, and from the look of her, Doyle realised that she hadn't expected it to work in the first place. "Kim, start work on manually overcoming the interference, again."
"Should I work on securing the transporters, too?" the ensign asked.
"No--they've worked before. I think clearing the static is the first priority. If we can't see, we're not going to be beaming anyone anywhere." Torres turned, and headed off to one of the other sections of Engineering, while Kim sat down, and started pouring over the sensors.
Doyle and Cordelia were at a loss.
"I'm going to go, uh, see if I can help Ms. Torres, with anything," Doyle said, hesitantly. "I might be able to help her, I'm good with computers."
"Well, I'm not," Cordelia replied sourly. "I'm going to go find Angel and see if I can help him. He always gets the better jobs, anyway." She turned and stalked off.
Doyle jogged after the not-quite-human engineer, nearly tripping over an ensign in the process. Torres looked up from her station as he approached.
"What are you still doing here?" she snapped, turning back to the computer. "Go help your friends."
"I'm good with computers, maybe I can help," Doyle explained.
She laughed. "I don't think your twentieth-century expertise is going to help much."
She whirled to face him, teeth bared. "I do not need any help from you, I can do this on my own, and if I do need help, for what ever reason, I will get a trained professional to do it!"
Doyle was taken aback. "All right," he answered, quietly. "I just thought that I might help, that's all." He started to back out of the enclave.
Torres sighed, and pushed her bushy brown hair out of her face. "Doyle, I'm sorry," she apologised sadly. "It's my Klingon half--it makes me moody, and gives me a fearsome temper."
"Your Klingon half, eh?" Doyle said, stopping where he was, a few steps from her. "Is that what gives you them--" he gestured towards her forehead.
She rolled her eyes. "Yes. My ridges." She looked uncomfortable. "I don't expect you understand what it's like being a little bit of both and not enough of either."
"Oh, I think I understand better than you think," he said with a slight smile. "I'm half- demon."
She whirled, astonished, and he looked upset. "Now, don't you go telling Cordy anything about that. Angel knows, and that's it."
She looked ashamed of her behaviour. "I'm sorry. I guess you do know."
She was quiet for a moment, then reached to the console across from her and pulled out the chair. She rolled it over to him.
"Pull one up," she said. "Maybe you can help, after all."
Kes was shaken, but unhurt. "I don't know how they did it," she said, on the bridge, sitting in the Captain's chair while Janeway stood over her, listening. Angel stood to the side, listening as well.
"Did what?" the Captain prompted.
Kes started to cry. "They turned the Doctor."
Janeway was confused, but Angel was horrified. "They turned the Doctor? Are you sure?"
Kes nodded fearfully. "He started after me, he had fangs, and yellow eyes--he said he was going to rip me apart, and put me together again. He could, too, that's what makes it all so scary. They all could--or would. And the feeling in that room--it was almost solid evil. I've never felt anything like it before."
She looked up at Janeway. "You've got to do something."
"I will," the Captain replied solemnly. She turned to Angel. "How do you think that happened? The Doctor is a computer program."
Angel was thoughtful. "Could they have re-written it?"
Janeway shook her head no.
"Then maybe it's a mystical thing. A spell." The vampire shrugged. "I don't know a lot about holograms. At least ones that move, and talk, and take temperatures."
"I've got an idea," Paris volunteered, "on how they might have done it, and that's happening in general." He swivelled around in his chair. "I'll start at the beginning, and that was when Angel touched the computer and it began to work. Cordelia touched it to, earlier, when she sat down, but nothing happened then."
"Go on," prompted Janeway, not following.
"We've been assuming that there is a rational cause for what brought the vampires here. That it was a rift, or a wormhole. But then, why would only vampires be taken? Why not humans, as well? So that got me thinking: what if it wasn't a space-time anomaly? What if it was a spell?"
"A spell?" Angel asked. Paris nodded.
"I've been thinking a lot about it since, and the set-up of the planet reminds me a lot of a twentieth century institution called a safari park." the pilot continued.
Angel took in a slight breath, as he began to understand.
"There have been zoos for a lot longer than that," Janeway chided.
"Not a zoo, Captain, a park. A sanctuary, to preserve creatures that might be endangered." Paris explained. "They would have food, and be protected from danger, and not be interfered with by humans."
"The blood," Angel said, under his breath. "No wood. No stakes." He raised his voice. "You're right; it's a park. Someone created this perfect environment for vampires." He gestured at the planet on-screen.
"No sun," Janeway said, seeing the light. "Warm temperature, and far out in the middle of nowhere, to keep it safe, and others safe from it."
"Exactly." Paris grinned. "Now, all of this leads to someone--probably from Angel's time--doing this with magic, since no technology we have could create this. No, it was a spell--and that's the interference."
"Keep going, Mr. Paris, you're on a roll," Janeway said proudly, her arms crossed and a smile creeping onto her face.
"The interference is some kind of wave, a side-effect, that periodically fouls up the sensors. But when Angel touched it, Angel being a sort of mystical person himself, it meshed the shuttle with the wave, put it in sync, so to speak." The pilot finished. "That's why it began to work properly again."
"Incredible." Janeway stared at the planet. "Someone went to a lot of trouble to create that sanctuary. And I can think of only one person--or race, that we know of, with such a prerogative."
It was Ensign Rollins, behind her at Tuvok's station, who supplied the answer. "The Preservers."
"The Preservers?" Paris echoed. Janeway nodded.
"It's been said that their technology must be so advanced from ours as to seem like magic. Perhaps that's what this is. Why else would the planet be out here, in the Delta Quadrant? Why so far in the future? Why not just whisk the vampires out of existence, instead of creating a planet for them? Why not just eliminate them all, if they're such a danger?" Janeway realised who was listening. "Present company excepted, of course."
Suddenly the lights flickered. "Captain, there's a massive power drain," Rollins reported. "I'm reading--"
"Captain!" someone exclaimed over the commsystem. It was Ensign Bateheart. "Capt-- "
The signal died.
"Oh my god," Janeway exclaimed. "They're in the transporter room."
Torres could feel the power drain before the instrumentation told her about it. She could sense it only as an engineer could.
"They must be trying to overload some of the force-fields," she said suddenly, snapping out of her conversation with Doyle. The half-demon, for his part, got out of the way as quickly as possible, giving her room to manoeuvre. "Carey!" she yelled. "I thought I told you--"
"I don't know how they did it!" the red-haired lieutenant shouted back, over the noise of Main Engineering. "They must have accessed the main computer directly, and there was no way to do that from Sickbay--"
"Except for the Doctor," Torres realised, with horror. "They must have corrupted his program, some how."
"That's impossible," Carey insisted.
"How much do you know about the EMH program?" Torres continued.
He opened his mouth, then stopped. "It's my first time using one."
"Mine too. There's a lot we don't know about him, yet." She rested her chin on her hands, looking thoughtful.
"Can you uncorrupt it?" Doyle asked, starting to brainstorm solutions. "Can you get them out of the computer, once they're in?"
She shook her head no. At that point, the sensors all spontaneously shifted, falling back off-line. She could here Kim's wail of dismay from across the room.
"We've got to get the sensors back on-line," Torres began, feeling her frustration welling up, until she wanted to throw her chair across the room. She was interrupted by Janeway's voice.
"B'Elanna," the Captain called, "they've broken into the main computer."
"I know, Captain, I think they've used the Doctor's program, to do it, too," she replied bitterly.
"They're going for the transporter rooms. Can you track them? Are they still on the ship?" Janeway asked anxiously. Torres growled to herself, frantically tapping keys.
"The internal sensors were knocked out as well, I can't make heads or tails of this." She gritted her teeth. She was dimly aware of Doyle standing over her shoulder.
"I recognise that pattern," Doyle said, pointing at the snow on the sensor screen. "It's like the one in the shuttle."
"Exactly like," she snapped. "What's you point?"
"Maybe Angel could fix this as well," he suggested.
"We tried that, Cordelia didn't do anything," Torres reminded him. "It must have been sheer coincidence."
Doyle leaned forward again, and rested his palms on the very edge of the console. "Then we must be missing something. It worked before, it should work again."
Torres shook her head, and began anew to restore the sensors, while Carey and the others tried frantically to restore main power. She growled Klingon curses to herself, and shifted her chair over slightly, bumping into Doyle and pushing him sideways. He put out a hand to brace himself, and it happened to land squarely on one of the diagnostic panels.
With a blue spark, the screens and displays were suddenly clear of any interference, and all the sensors were operational.
"I can't believe this," Torres breathed. She tapped her commbadge. "Captain, main sensors, on line. Internal sensors, on line. Everything is, in fact, on line."
"I knew you could do it, B'Elanna." Janeway sounded relieved.
"It wasn't me, it was Doyle," the engineer corrected. "He fixed it, some how."
"It was nothing," Doyle said bashfully. Then he looked concerned. "Really, it wasn't." He made a quiet gesture to Torres, and she understood at once. He didn't want it leaked about his half-demon heritage; it might get back to Cordelia.
Torres nodded. "I don't know why it worked Captain," she said, giving him a slight nod to let him know that his secret was safe with her, "but it did. Let's just be thankful."
"We are, B'Elanna, I can assure you of that. Now, can you track the--" Janeway faltered for words, but Torres didn't need her to finish the sentence.
"I can. They've secured Transporter Room Two, and Ensign Bateheart is in serious need of medical help. But he's alive, and not one of them, I'm pretty sure." Torres re-checked the read-outs. There were four signals inside the transporter room. There was one weak one that was clearly human--that was Bateheart. There were two that seemed to flicker, reminding Torres of the static that used to foul up the sensors, and then there was one other signal that was perfectly clear.
She looked up to mention this to Doyle, but he was gone.
Cordelia didn't really have any idea where she was going. She knew that she wanted to end up where ever Angel was, but that was the extent of her knowledge. The fact that she didn't really know where Angel was didn't help her either. So she kept walking.
She eventually wound up in some sort of cafeteria, although it was deserted, and she stopped to rest her feet. She had been running around an awful lot these past couple of days, and she wished she hadn't worn her four-inch-heeled boots, but they looked so good with her outfit.
She sat down at one of the tables, just as the lights began to flicker for a moment. They resumed after a few seconds, so she wasn't worried. She took off her boots, and rubbed her aching feet.
The doors slid open, and Angel bounded in, looking worried. "Cordelia, there you are," he said, coming to a stop. "Why'd you leave Engineering?"
"To find you," she said, putting her feet back on the floor and wiggling her toes. She wasn't putting those boots on until she absolutely had to. "And look, I did."
The vampire rolled his eyes. "We don't have time for this," he said. "We've got to get Doyle, and go."
"Go? Go where? Go home?" she asked, standing up, and bending down to reach her boots.
"No--to fight the vampires. They're in the transporter room, they've taken someone hostage." Angel explained. "And I have a really bad feeling that they're not beaming themselves to the planet to leave us in peace."
"Ohh," Cordelia muttered. "I hate these boots."
"Then leave them off. Fight in your bare feet. We have to get going." Angel was becoming anxious. "I'm not going to have the crew's lives on my head because you had to wear heels on the day we got captured."
"Bitch, bitch, bitch," Cordelia snapped. She set her boots, and socks, underneath on of the cafeteria tables. "You know, you're not the only one with stuff on your head. There's other people fighting too, you know. When do we get to feel guilty, huh? When do we get to go all broody?"
Angel sighed, not deigning to reply, and stormed out of the door, leaving Cordelia to pad after him in her bare feet. "Ooh," she said appreciatively. "This is lovely carpeting."
The doors slid shut behind her.
"So we're beaming ourselves to the surface?" Neelix asked, staring at the body of Ensign Bateheart, who was lying prone in the corner.
Chakotay laughed. "No, I don't think so," he replied with a sneer. "Why go back there?"
Neelix paled visibly, the blood draining from his face. "Then--"
"You idiot, we're beaming the others up here," Tuvok snapped. "Let Spike and Harmony feed for a bit, and then we'll use the ship and its crew to fly to other worlds. We'll be unstoppable."
"Oh," Neelix muttered. "I see. That is a better plan."
Tuvok made a scoffing noise, deep in his throat, and turned to work the controls.
There was the familiar high-pitched whine, and Spike and Harmony appeared, stunned, in the center of the transporter pad. "What the bloody hell?" Spike blurted, staring around him. His eyes alit on the three vampires that stood before him. "Hello, I see you boys did do what you were told?"
"Of course, Spike," Chakotay said, his tone the same as if he were speaking to Janeway. He led them down. "Shall we bring up more?"
"No, I think we're enough, for now," Spike said, sauntering around the small room, proudly. "And from now on, you boys can call me Captain."
They were walking down the corridor when Cordelia stopped him. "We've been here before."
"No, we haven't," Angel protested.
"Yes, we have," she continued. She pointed, and he recognised the door to the cafeteria, or the mess hall, as Janeway had called it.
"Now what do we do, oh fearless leader?" Cordelia snapped. "We're lost."
"We're not lost." Angel walked to the black screen that ran mid-way up the wall and along the corridor. He touched it, and it lit up, a computer access panel. "Computer, can you show us to Transporter Room Two?"
In response, a series of arrows lit up along the bottom of the panel. Angel started off in that direction, without saying anything to Cordelia.
"Wow," she muttered. "You asked for directions. You're the first guy I knew who did that. Course, you're also dead--so I think the generalisation still stands."
Angel just sighed, and kept walking.
Eventually, they found themselves in the corridor that led to Transporter Room Two. They were heading there when Angel suddenly stopped, and held Cordelia from continuing. He had a finger to his lips.
Faintly, Cordelia could hear someone walking towards them. It was hard, thanks to the carpet, but she could just make out the sound of footsteps.
"It's not Starfleet," Angel whispered. "It's not wearing boots."
"Shoes?" Cordelia murmured back. "Or sandals?"
Angel gave her a withering glare, and started to creep forward, hiding behind the wall of a small enclave that led to the "turbolift". They both waited in silence, as the footsteps approached, until finally, their person was almost directly in front of them.
Angel leapt out, catching him from the behind. They landed in a pile on the deck and Angel rolled away and leapt to his feet, ready to fight if the need arose. It didn't.
What did arise was Doyle, who shakily got to his feet. "Man, I'm glad to see you too, Angel, but do you think the reception could've been a little gentler?"
"Sorry," Angel muttered. Then: "What are you doing here?"
"Came looking for you, of course," Doyle answered. "Hello, Cordy--hey, you're not wearing those dominatrix boots of yours."
"My--hey!" Cordelia snapped. "I'll have you know those boots--"
"Guys..." Angel stepped in between them. "We've got more important things to worry about."
"Right." Doyle nodded. "B'Elanna said--"
"Who?" Cordelia interrupted suspiciously.
"Lieutenant Torres said," Doyle continued stubbornly, "that Ensign Bateheart was wounded, but not dead, and not turned. They were in Transporter Room Two, so I found my way here, using that Electronic Tour Guide on the wall here."
"Same with us. We need to get rid of those vampires before Security gets called in." Angel finished. "We can take care of it better than they could." The two started forward, but Cordelia held them back.
"Guys?" she snapped. "Uh, no stakes? No weapons? No shoes?"
Angel looked surprised. "I forgot."
Doyle smacked his forehead with his palm. "I completely forgot about that. No crates to break open around here, either."
"Maybe I can help," called a voice. They turned to see Paris walking towards them, along with two Security Guards. "Rollins reported that they've beamed two others on board, and the good Captain thought you might like some back-up." He tossed each of them a phaser.
"Oh, we get ray-guns?" Cordelia crowed.
"They're set to heavy stun. The Captain would like to avoid causalities, if at all possible," Paris explained. He turned to the two guards, and pointed at the enclave. "You wait here; you're the calvary. If you hear muffled screams--"
The two nodded in unison, and positioned themselves just out of eyesight from the corridor.
"Uh, why did she send you?" Cordelia asked, trying to figure out how to correctly hold the phaser. Paris flipped it around so that it wasn't pointing at her, and replied:
"Don't want me around?"
She gave him her best grin. "Did I say anything of the kind?"
He smiled back. "I've already got experience fighting vampires, so I volunteered."
"It's good that you did," Cordelia replied, with a flutter of eyelashes.
"Let's get this over with." Angel said, with a slight tone of disgust and Doyle didn't know whether he meant the fight, or Paris and Cordelia flirting. Personally, he'd rather get the flirting out of the way.
They started down the corridor when suddenly Doyle gasped. He pointed to the door.
"This is what I saw," he exclaimed.
"In your vision?" Angel asking, instantly understanding. Doyle nodded.
"Vision? What vision?" Paris looked to Cordelia for an answer.
"He gets visions," she explained, a little uselessly.
"I had one shortly before we got taken to Planet Vamp," Doyle picked up where she had left off. "I didn't know what it was of, but now I know it was of this. This door."
"Did we live?" Paris asked, not really wanting to know the answer.
Doyle shrugged. "I saw this door, and a lot of sparkles, and that was it. Haven't had a vision since."
Paris was silent.
"Perhaps we should just get on with this," Angel said, gesturing to the door.
"I think that would be good," Paris agreed, still looking a bit dubious.
They positioned themselves on either side, while Paris began to work the controls to unseal the door.
"Ready?" he asked, phaser held tightly.
"Ready," they chorused.
He blew the lock and the door slid open. They leapt into the room, phasers drawn and reflexes ready.
It was empty.
"What the hell?" Paris groaned, just as Spike leapt down on him from his hold on the ceiling. They crashed to the deck, and Cordelia screamed as Chakotay appeared from behind one of the consoles. He tried to grab her, but she lashed out, striking him in the face with the phaser, cracking his nose. He howled.
Doyle and Angel grabbed Spike off of Paris, throwing him backwards into the bulkhead, while Chakotay dove across the room, rolled, and came up behind the transporter controls.
"Stop him!" Paris yelled, seeing the plan instantly, and firing his phaser. Unfortunately, the sequence was already begun, and Chakotay ducked in time to dodge the blast.
The transporter whined, and Tuvok, Neelix and Harmony appeared on the pad. They wasted no time in leaping onto the intruders.
Paris found himself fighting off Tuvok, who with his augmented Vulcan strength was nearly impossible to hold off, and in the close quarters was too risky to fire at.
"I shall enjoy eating you," Tuvok said, his yellow eyes glowing.
"I bet you would," Paris said, barely holding the vampire's arms back as Tuvok slammed him against the wall. "Seeing as I'm oh so tasty and delicious."
"Probably tender, too," Tuvok growled with a smirk. "Since you never do anything."
"Okay, let's keep it impersonal, shall we?" Paris said, bringing his head forward and smashing it into the Vulcan's. Stars came to his eyes soon after, but Tuvok was dazed enough that he staggered backwards, allowing Paris to smash his fist into the vampire's jaw and he crumpled. "I've always wanted to do that," the pilot said grimly, shaking his sore hand. "But under different circumstances, I think."
Some one jumped him from behind. It was Harmony, and she was trying to sink her teeth in. He scrambled to get her off, but she stayed on, and he fell to his knees under the weight.
Angel punched, but Spike blocked the blow, and lashed out with his leg, catching Angel in the side.
"Isn't this fun?" Spike snapped. "Think of it--whole new worlds to see and eat. It'll be so exciting." He kneed Angel and the vampire doubled over. "I always wanted to be an astronaut when I was a boy."
"They didn't have astronauts when you were a boy," Angel retorted, catching Spike's leg with his heel and jerking him off his feet.
"Oh yeah, I forgot." Spike rolled to the side, and scrambled to his feet. He was on the edge of the pad, on the step up.
Cordelia was busy trying to fight off Chakotay when she realised that she couldn't see Doyle anywhere. The other vampire, the weird one that she had thought was a demon on the planet, was gone too, and she began to fear for the worst.
"Doyle!" she yelled, before Chakotay got a grip on her throat. She began to choke, and smashed the phaser into the side of his head. He let go, stunned. Useful thing, phasers. "Doyle!"
From behind the transporter console, Doyle groaned. He'd been knocked headfirst into the wall by Harmony, and was unconscious. Neelix couldn't tell whether he'd be all right. He was hoping so. He propped Doyle up by the body of Ensign Bateheart, whom he had convinced the others not to kill. It was hard keeping up the act, and he knew that he had better do something to turn the tide.
He looked up over the console's edge. Paris was fighting Harmony, and it looked like she was winning. Trust the pilot to fall for a blonde. Angel had Spike nearly cornered on the transporter pad, and that gave Neelix an idea.
First he had to get Harmony into position. He grabbed Doyle's phaser, that he'd made sure Harmony didn't get by snatching it from her on the pretence he'd cover her. She wasn't the freshest liola root in the storeroom, that was for sure. He stood up, and fired towards her. She gasped, and fell limply to the ground.
"Curses!" Neelix said loudly when he realised that the vampires were staring at him. "I missed!"
"You were always a bad shot, Neelix," Chakotay agreed. He stepped backwards, and nearly tripped over Tuvok, who was still unconscious.
Paris, meanwhile, was getting to his feet. He started towards Neelix when the Talaxian shook his head, and pointed towards Harmony, and then to the pad. Paris stopped, confused, and looked over his shoulder. He could see Angel grappling with Spike on the pad, and realised what Neelix meant. He picked Harmony up.
"Angel! Get out of the way!" Paris yelled, as he threw Harmony. She landed on Spike, knocking him backwards. He tripped over the step and fell on the pad. Neelix's fingers flew over the controls, it was already set, he just needed to--
Chakotay grabbed him around the throat. "Traitor," he snarled, squeezing.
Neelix founded the execute control and pressed it. Spike, leaping to his feet, disappeared in a haze of sparkles, screaming silently in fury.
Chakotay, meanwhile, hadn't let go, and Neelix was beginning to see sparkles of his own in front of his face when Chakotay suddenly gasped, and collapsed, letting Neelix go. Cordelia stood behind him, phaser held like a club.
"Handy things, these," she said with a grin.
Janeway nodded, and the security guard flipped a switch on the console. The force-fields activated themselves with a shimmer.
"That'll hold them?" Angel asked, looked at the two cells, each with a vampire inside.
"Yep. We're not sure how they got through the force-field around Sickbay, but B'Elanna thinks that it was due to The Doctor." Janeway sighed. "The Doctor. How are we going to cure him?"
"Holographic holy water?" Paris quipped.
Angel fixed him with a stare. "Holy water doesn't kill vampires."
"Oh." Paris stuttered. Cordelia sighed, and rolled her eyes, while she linked her arm through Paris's.
"Don't worry," she said pleasantly. "I'm sure we'll get it all taken care of."
Kes and Torres stared at each other from across the Sickbay door. Kim was beside Torres, and he tapped her shoulder.
"I've set the flashlights to emit ultra-violet radiation as well as the visible spectrum. That should mimic sunlight enough for us. If Angel's right, of course." he said in a whisper. She nodded.
Kes pressed the door lock, and it lit green, and then the doors slid open.
The Sickbay was darkened, and seemingly deserted. Torres was the first in, then Kim, then Kes. The Doctor was no where in sight.
"Perhaps they turned him off," Kim said, in a hushed voice.
"Maybe," Kes agreed. She made her way to the emergency packs, and started collecting supplies that she needed to treat Doyle with. He and Ensign Bateheart both needed treatment, and if they couldn't fix The Doctor then Kes would have to do. "I've got what I need; I'll see you on the bridge." She made her towards the door when the Doctor suddenly shimmered into existence.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," he said, through force of habit. He shook his head. "I really have to learn to stop saying that."
He lunged for Kes, fangs bared. She screamed, and Kim, doing a flying leap, pushed her out of the way. The Doctor stumbled over the ensign, and whirled on the pair. He growled, and started towards them.
Torres smiled to herself. The plan was working. The Doctor was kept totally occupied, and so she crept towards the computer panel that accessed his program. She checked it out with the tricorder, and it was showing the same sort of interference that had previously affected the computers. Somehow, Tuvok had been able to channel that interference directly into the holoprogram, where it had corrupted The Doctor's program. She snapped her tricorder shut and began to work.
Meanwhile, Kim and Kes were cornered in between the biobeds. They made it look as though the Doctor was forcing them in that direction, while it was actually them making sure that his back remained to Torres as she worked.
"I'm going to enjoy dissecting you," the Doctor hissed. "I can learn so much more from autopsies than simple scans."
"I thought you were supposed to drink our blood," Kim corrected, pushing Kes behind him.
"I'm a hologram, I don't drink." The Doctor lunged again, and Kim brought up the wrist flashlights. The bright light illuminated the Sickbay, and the Doctor screamed, and winked out of existence.
"Did you kill him?" Kes asked, nervously.
"No, I don't think so--" Kim was interrupted by the Doctor materialising behind him, and shoving him to the ground. The hologram strode toward the fallen ensign. He grabbed the flashlight.
Kes tried to throw herself at the hologram, to get the flashlight, but the Doctor knocked her, and sent her flying. She crashed into the biobed and tumbled to the floor.
"I won't have this sort of behaviour in my Sickbay," the Doctor grumbled. He picked Kim up by the collar. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to...remedy the situation, Mr. Kim."
"Uh oh..." Kim blurted, trying to escape. "Any time now, B'Elanna!"
The Doctor's head whipped around, and he noticed the engineer by the panel. "No!" he roared, dropping Kim and running towards her.
Torres cursed inwardly as the Doctor noticed her presence, but didn't stop entering the codes. The Doctor was charging her now, and frantically she entered the last key when he grabbed her, and yanked her away from the wall. She rolled with the fall, and leapt back up.
"You'll have to do a lot better than that," Torres said threateningly.
"Oh, I will." The Doctor grabbed a hypospray. "You know, I think I'll dissect you, too. Lay you open on the operating table." He started towards her. She made a dive for the flashlight, and grabbed it.
He hissed in fear, frozen.
"Harry!" B'Elanna called. The ensign was standing beside the panel, fingers poised.
The Doctor started towards him, but paused when Torres held the flashlight a little higher. If he made a move towards Harry, she'd flick on the light, and that would be that.
"Resetting...now," Harry said finally, pressing the final key.
There was a strangled scream from the Doctor, and he then winked out of existence. Torres got to her feet, and checked on Kes, who was just starting to wake up.
"Did you...?" the Ocampan began, when Torres nodded.
"Just watch." The engineer gestured to Harry, who flicked another switch. The Doctor appeared in the middle of Sickbay, fully human.
Or as close to fully human as he ever got.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," he said blandly, looking around him.
"You cured him!" Kes exclaimed. "How?"
"Reset him. He won't remember anything from today, though." Kim explained. "Lights."
The computer turned the lights back on, and the three crew winced.
"Will some one please explain what is going on?" the Doctor fumed.
"I'm glad to hear that," Janeway smiled. "That was quite a feat, B'Elanna. I only wish we could reset Tuvok and Chakotay, too."
She was in the conference room, surrounded by Angel, Paris, Cordelia, Torres, Kim and Neelix. Kes was helping the Doctor tend to Doyle and Ensign Bateheart.
"You know, Captain, I was thinking about that, while I was with them," Neelix said suddenly.
He didn't look at all ashamed that he had been helping the vampires try to take control of the ship; as he explained it, if he had told them he was still human, they would have killed him. If they had done that, he wouldn't have been able to foil their plans. He insisted that he was the one that kept Ensign Bateheart from being killed outright, and who had protected the ensign and Doyle during the fight.
Janeway believed his story, and had to agree with his plan, although she wished that she could have known about it sooner.
"Continue," Angel said. He seemed very interested in what Neelix had to say.
"Well, to begin, The Doctor said that Chakotay and Tuvok weren't actually dead. According to Spike, we had to be, in order to be turned into vampires." Neelix looked around for agreement to the fact. He got several nods.
"I beamed you out before anything like that happened," Paris explained, "But Kes said that Chakotay died for a few moments, before The Doctor brought him back. Maybe Tuvok, being a Vulcan, didn't need to be dead for the vampire to take him over."
"The Vulcan mythology has quite an interesting section on Vulcan demons," Janeway interjected. "Perhaps they're stronger than human ones, and don't need the host to be...quite as dead." She laughed. "I can't believe how that sounds."
"It's strange, but Talaxians don't have demons," Neelix added. "We have ghosts, yes, but no demons. Or vampires, come to think of it. Nothing like that, at all."
"Interesting," Angel said, chin in hand, leaning on the table, deep in thought. "Maybe that's what protected you in the first place; no native demons means no Talaxian vampires. It's an interesting idea. And the that Chakotay and Tuvok were both alive when they were possessed..." He trailed off.
"You have an idea?" Janeway asked. The vampire nodded.
"As I said before, a vampire is a demon in a human body. If you remove the demon, you're left with a corpse, for the soul has usually left the body at the point of death. But if the body is still alive--if the soul is intact--" Angel trailed off.
"Then a simple exorcism ought to do the trick!" Cordelia exclaimed. "Presto! Two normal, non-vampy guys again."
"Are exorcisms easy?" Paris asked her with a doubtful grin.
"Oh, totally. I can do them by heart, now," Cordelia replied with a dismissing wave of her hand. "No problem, right Angel?"
"Right," Angel said weakly. "Uh, we'll need a few ingredients."
"That might be difficult, out here in the Delta Quadrant," Torres interrupted, "If the things you need are rare, or hard to find. They might not even exist in the twenty-fourth century, since after--" She stopped abruptly, realising in the middle of her sentence the problem of saying too much.
"I think I can manage some substitutions," Angel replied. "Spell's don't really require the specific plants and herbs, we just use symbolic ones, to help the caster focus."
Janeway smiled. "If herbs are all you need, then you're welcome to them. Now that we've got a plan, albeit a mystical one, then we should get right on it. Neelix, help Angel and Cordelia with whatever they need out of stores, or the replicator." She stood up. "Dismissed."
The others stood. Harry left for the Bridge. Torres headed down to Sickbay, to check on Doyle. Janeway left for her Ready Room.
"You coming, Paris?" Kim asked, before he left. Paris shook his head.
"I'll help these guys," he replied. Kim shrugged, and left.
Neelix led the three into the Storage facilities, chattering the entire time about Talaxian mythology, which Angel listened to interestedly and Cordelia and Paris with only half-an-ear. He also explained replicators on the way, and Angel decided that substituting fresh herbs for the missing Earth natives would be preferable.
Neelix agreed whole-heartedly. "It's always better, fresh from the garden," he exclaimed. "Isn't that right, Mr. Paris? Paris?"
The pilot was nowhere in sight. Neither was Cordelia. They must have split off from the group during Neelix's treatise on Talaxian ghosts.
Angel sighed. "Just don't tell Doyle, all right?"
"You won't hear a peep out of me," Neelix agreed. Secretly, he was quite happy; this meant that for the time being, Paris wouldn't be hanging around Kes.
Doyle sat up, his head spinning. Torres was standing by his bedside. "What happened?" he asked, groggy. He looked to his other side and noticed Bateheart, still unconcious and sporting two argry red marks on the side of his neck. Doyle felt faint.
"Apparently you were slammed headfirst into a bulkhead by someone named Harmony," Torres explained. She smiled. "Who then went on to try and throttle Paris."
"Oh, she did? Well, that saved my ego, a bit," Doyle laughed shakily. He swung his legs around, off the bed. "Where's Angel?"
"He's getting ingredients for an exorcism," Torres said, shaking her head at the wonder of it all. "He's going to try and drive the demons out of Chakotay and Tuvok."
"Oh?" The Doctor sauntered over. "What's that, I hear? Commander Chakotay is having another out-of-body experience? That man attracts them like a magnet."
"It's different this time," Torres insisted, helping Doyle up. The Doctor humphed scornfully.
"I didn't say Mr. Doyle could be discharged," The Doctor protested. "You're taking him without permission."
"They need my help," Doyle explained, nearly tripping over a random air molecule somewhere in the carpet region, but the engineer caught him. He put an arm around her shoulder to steady himself. "I've got B'Elanna here, to help me."
"That's what I'm worried about," the Doctor grouched. "She's liable to give you another concussion."
"I'll bring him back in one piece, Doc, don't worry," Torres said with a grin. She and Doyle started to laugh as they left Sickbay.
"Okay, now sprinkle the paprika around the circle, clock-wise--no, clock-wise--" Angel sighed, and threw his arm up in defeat. "This isn't working."
"I'm doing the best I can," Neelix protested. "I want to make amends."
"I know you do, Neelix, but you're a cook, not a spell-caster. See? You've made decorative arrangements out of parsley! That's not in the spell!" Angel sighed again. "I need Cordelia, or Doyle to help me. They know about this sort of thing, they've done it before."
Neelix looked ashamed, and Tuvok laughed. "Can't do anything, can you, Neelix? You are, and always have been, a joke."
Chakotay joined in from the opposite side of the cell wall. "Don't listen to him Neelix-- you make a fine example to this crew--when you're not cooking!"
Angel put a hand on the small Talaxian's shoulder. "Don't listen to them. They're vampires, not your real friends."
"I know," Neelix admitted with a heavy sigh. Angel looked thoughtful.
"There's one part you can help with," he said finally. Neelix perked up immediately. The vampire held out a candle. They had to replicate that, but Angel wasn't worried about the freshness of the parafin so much. "When I tell you, light it, and then place it in the center of the circle."
The doors slid open, and Doyle and Torres walked in, together. "Hey there Angel, man. Need any help?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. I could." Angel gestured to bring the two in. "The more people here, the stronger the circle, the better the spell."
"Captain Janeway will want to see this," Torres said suddenly. "I should go get her."
She looked to Doyle, but he didn't protest, so she jogged out of the Brig. After all, that the exorcism was about to begin was not something you announced over the commsystem. Not that the ship wouldn't know about it by the end of the day, but this being Starfleet, they wanted to have at least a shred of decorum.
Doyle took a step forward and something gritty caught under his feet. He lifted his shoe up and examined the heel. "Got the paprika, I see," he said blithely.
"I see you've moved on," Angel commented, finding the basket of herbs and plants that Neelix had found for him.
"What are you talking about?" Doyle asked, picking up the parsley sprigs that the Talaxian had carefully arranged. Neelix himself was busy trying to light the candle with the archaic book of matches Angel had given him out of his coat pocket.
"I'm talking about you and that engineer," Angel said awkwardly. "I'm, you know, glad you're moving past Cordelia."
"What? No, I--B'Elanna and I are just friends. We understand what it's like to be different from everybody else, that's all." Doyle shrugged. "Should we wait for the Captain and B'Elanna?"
"Oh no, why don't you do it now," Tuvok snapped, stepping to the front of the cell. "Get this little old show on the road."
"Maybe we will," Doyle retorted, "Only we'll change the recipe and you'll end up a slug or something. Would make a real improvement."
Tuvok growled, and charged the force-field, shrieking when it shocked him.
"Sounds like someone is misbehaving," Janeway announced, as she and Torres entered through the sliding door. She gestured at the guard. "Wait outside."
"Yes, Captain," he said, heading out into the corridor.
"What would you like us to do?" Janeway said, standing and waiting for orders, hands behind her back and chin up. "We're at your disposal, Angel."
"Just stand in a circle," he replied, setting down his basket. "Hold hands with Neelix and Doyle--"
The door opened again. It was Kes. "I'm sorry to interrupt," she said shyly, "But I'd really like to help."
"The more the merrier," Doyle replied, holding his hand out. She stepped into the circle, joining hands with him and Janeway.
Angel stood apart, as he began to shake salt in a trail around them, just beyond their heels. "Gods of above, and below. We are not on the sacred earth, nor near it, but we hope thou will hear our plea, and respond."
"That's some nice improvising, Angel," Doyle muttered.
The vampire ignored him. He took the basket, and shredded up a leafy green stalk. "Take these sacrifices in supplication."
He tossed the stalk--one of Neelix's favourite alien and nameless vegetables, Janeway and Torres realised--into the center. "Neelix, get the candle."
Neelix set the lighted candle in the center of the circle, then took his place, between Janeway and Torres. "Lights off," he said to the computer, and the room fell dark, except for the flickering of the candle flame.
There was now an eerie silence. Not even the two caged vampires made any sound, although they were both pacing fearfully.
"We hope that thou can remove the curse placed upon the two," Angel continued, his voice loud in the stillness. "Remove their demon spirits, and let their souls reign again."
Chakotay leapt at his force-field, and the resulting crackle caused all the participants to jump, startled by the sound. Janeway found that her hair on the back of her neck and her arms was starting to stand on end, whether from the atmosphere or the charge from the fields, she wasn't sure.
Angel raised his voice. "Remove their demon spirits, and let their souls reign again!"
There was a chill breeze that came from nowhere and wrapped itself around their ankles like a hell-cat. Torres shivered, and found tales from her mother coming to life before her eyes in the shadows cast by the dancing candle flame.
Tuvok howled in pain.
Angel grabbed another herb from the basket. "We grant thee a sacrifice and hope that thou will remove their demon spirits and let their souls reign again!" His voice was rising in pitch, as he began to realise it wasn't working. He tossed the herb into the circle. Janeway knew that particular legume: it was liola root.
It hit the deck with a dull, wet thud. The candle flame suddenly exploded, nearly searing the circle's faces with its heat, and then it died down to nothing.
The breeze was gone, and so was the electric atmosphere.
"Lights?" Doyle said hesitantly. The lights came on, and they stared into the cells.
Both Tuvok and Chakotay were lying, unconscious, on the ground. Their vampiric characteristics were gone. Janeway looked to Angel, catching his eye.
"They're back to normal," he said softly. "I can tell."
He looked so forlorn that Janeway put a hand on his shoulder. He looked towards her, smiled gently, and held the hand. He was glad that Chakotay and Tuvok were back to their old self, and he tried not to think about what it would mean if he was also mortal, again.
"So," Doyle began, breaking the silence. "I guess that's it, then." He paused. "There's only the question of how to get us home."
Angel turned away from Janeway and began to pick up the ingredients from the spell. "I don't know how to do that one," he said quietly. "Maybe a general reversal spell--but I don't know any off by heart. Do you, Doyle?"
The half-demon shook his head.
"Wait a second--would any magic work?" Kes interrupted, her face bright with hope. "Does it have to be Earth magic?"
"No, I don't think so," Angel said, puzzled.
Kes linked her arm through Neelix's. "Neelix, on his shuttle, has a book on ancient Talaxian magic. I caught him reading it, once."
They all stared at him, and he began to blush. "Oh, Kes, I doubt that would do."
"It's worth a shot," she answered, and the others nodded.
"Okay then--I'll go get it." Neelix bounded off. "Wait for me."
He was back in a few minutes, as promised. "Okay," he said, flipping through the book, which was bound in white leather, on rings, instead of with a spine. "Let's see. Reversal spells-- that would be Le'rex ogeth in Old Talaxian...let's see. Ah. Here it is!"
"Should we be in a circle?" Janeway asked.
"No, no--let's see--it's just a chant--" Neelix read through the spell briefly for requirements. "Oh no, wait, I need to be standing on some liola root for this to be working."
Torres snickered, despite herself. "You use liola root for everything, don't you?"
"Food of the Gods, that's what my grandfather used to call it," Neelix agreed whole- heartedly. He found the liola root and placed it on the floor, then dutifully stood on it. He began to read, loudly:
"Ere-goc, ere-goc, abiretex res. Res, res, resix abiretex." He slammed the book shut loudly. Torres nearly jumped.
"Did you have to?" she snapped. He nodded.
"That was step three," he explained.
"I don't know about you, but I'm not home," Doyle said, sotto voce to Angel.
Janeway sighed. "Well, back to the drawing board--"
She was interrupted by her commbadge beeping. She tapped it. "Janeway here."
"Captain, it's Kim," the ensign said, sounding puzzled.
"What is it, Ensign?" she asked.
"The planet, Captain--it's disappearing."
"What?" she exclaimed, turning to look at Angel, who was becoming faint before her eyes. "Angel--!"
He smiled. "Thank you for the help, Captain," he said. "I guess Neelix's magic worked after all." He lifted his hand to wave, but by then he had faded completely.
Torres turned to Doyle, who was beginning to vanish. His disappearing trick was much slower than the vampire's had been. He looked straight at her, not everywhere else on on the floor as he normally did. "I'll call," he said. "A simple message spell--even I can manage that."
"You don't need to bother," she replied sadly. She had hoped to get to know him better.
"I will," he said simply, and she knew that he really meant it. He was gone then, and she waved goodbye futilely, knowing that he couldn't see her. She never got a chance to tell him that she'd miss him. But he said he'd try and get in touch.
Only he never did.
Cordelia slipped her boots back on. "I guess I had better be getting back to the others," she said sadly to Paris.
"It's all right, it had to end sometime." he replied.
"True. But I'll never forget this," she said, taking his hand. "You make the best tomato soup I've ever had. That wasn't in a horrendously expensive restaurant."
Paris laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment," he replied, clearing the soup dishes away. They had come to get Cordy's boots from the mess hall, since her feet were getting cold, and when they arrived, she mentioned that she was hungry. So Paris thought, his tomato soup was the best on board...
"I hope that Angel's been okay with all the spells and stuff," Cordelia continued, oblivious. "I mean, I would've helped him, but not in my bare feet. That would've been so, you know, more Willow than me. And I am so me. Know what I mean?"
"Not really," Paris called back from inside the galley. He chuckled to himself, and put the dishes in the automatic washer Neelix had installed. It was then that he heard her shriek, and ran back out into the open area.
Cordelia was disappearing, fading rapidly before his eyes. He stood there, for a moment, mouth open, before running to the table. She reached out for him, but it was too late. She was gone.
He tapped his commbadge. "Paris to the bridge," he called. "Harry--Cordy's disappeared--what happened?"
"They created a spell to send themselves home," Kim replied, sounding a little confused about the details. "Sent the planet back where it came from, too."
"The planet?" Paris was incredulous. "The planet is gone?"
"Yep. Who knows how they pulled that one off," Kim agreed. She sighed. "Just another day at the office, huh Paris?"
Paris looked down at the spot where Cordelia had been sitting. "Yeah, Harry. Just another day."
Spike sat up, confused and more than a little panicked. "What the--?"
They were in their hide-out, lying on Harmony's bed. Harmony herself was lying next to him. She started to wake up, clutching her head.
"Oh," she groaned. "I have such a headache..." She looked around her. "Hey! We're home!" She paused, and looked at Spike in confusion. "Does this mean it was all a dream?"
Spike sighed heavily. "I guess so, Harm. I bloody well guess so."
"It's good to be back," Chakotay agreed, sitting down in his chair, away from it for far too long, in Janeway's opinion. "I wish I could remember what happened."
"It might be best for all concerned if you didn't," Janeway said mystically. "Especially for poor Ensign Bateheart. He won't be going near Tuvok for the next couple of weeks."
At Tactical, the Vulcan raised an eyebrow. "Indeed."
"Indeed yourself, Mr. Tuvok," Janeway replied jauntily. She leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs and leaning her chin on her arm. "It's been an interesting little adventure, but I for one am glad it's over with." She raised her voice slightly. "I think it's time to go home, Mr. Paris. Set a course for Earth, warp two."
"Aye-aye, Captain," the pilot replied, rather sadly. He set the course, and engaged the engines.
They stood around the image.
This is interesting, was the response of one.
Perhaps we should re-evaluate our plans, mused another.
One quieted them down with a wave. The plan will happen, one way or another,it told them. What form it will take is immaterial.
This was greeted with a wave of cheers, and then they decided to get down to the real business at hand, and implement the next move.