Friday, August 29, 2008

"A Wedding in Four Acts" [PG-13] - Act 1 (Part 1)


SUMMARY: A Wiccan wedding is invaded by a succubus and a witch, bent on revenge. Sequel to "Obssession".
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.

DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, Darryl Morris, Leo Wyatt and the Charmed Ones and other characters are related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills and a few other characters are my own creation.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: To understand certain parts of this story, please read "A Day in the Life of Paige Matthews", "Obssession" and "Whatever You Desire"


ACT I - Part 1

A tall, well-dressed man strolled across the terrace that overlooked the blue Mediterranean Sea. He paused beside one of the lounge chairs and kneeled down to speak to a dark-haired woman, sipping a glass of Sangria. "Padronessa," he murmured to her, "I finally have the news that you require."

The glass hovered less than an inch from the woman's lips. "Tell me," she ordered.

"I have discovered the name of the Streghore who had summoned your sister."

Disbelief radiated from the woman's voice. "A Streghore? It was a witch who had summoned Portia?"

The man, who happened to be a low-level daemon named Leonardo, trembled with fear. "Si, Padronessa. A Streghore named Nichola Marcano. I learned this from the seer, Venusia. This Marcano witch had summoned your sister, nearly a month ago. For what reason, I do not know."

"For sex, of course," Claudia Della Scalla retorted. "What else? This Streghore was probably desperate for sex and summoned Portia. After they had sex, he vanquished her before she could kill him. Simple." Her expression hardened. "Only he had vanquished the wrong succubus. Where can I find him?"

Leonardo replied, "San Francisco, California. Only . . ." he hesitated.

Claudia heaved a frustrated sigh. "Only what?"

"After Venusia gave me the name of the Streghore, I discovered a few things about him. For example, he was arrested by the authorities for murder and attempting kidnapping. He is now incarcerated in the local jail."

The news took the beautiful succubus by surprise. "He is in jail for murder? Hmmm, this witch sounds very promising. It is a shame I will have to kill him."

Doubt glimmered in Leonardo's eyes. "Before you do, Padronessa, perhaps you should talk to the witch. Find out what really happened. Something tells me that your sister may have been involved in his crimes."

Claudia nodded. "Good idea. Meanwhile, have Gia pack my belongings. We are off to San Francisco."

"We?" Leonardo hesitated. "Shall I inform the other members of the boschetto?"

The succubus took another sip of her Sangria. "No, I will only need you and Giancarlo to get this Streghore for me. Once I am rid of him, perhaps we can remain in San Francisco for a few days. It has always been one of my favorite cities."

Leonardo rose to his feet, bowed and marched back to the villa. Heaving a satisfied sigh, Claudia returned her attention to her drink and the view, beyond.

* * * *

Cecile Dubois glanced at the grandfather clock standing in one corner of the living room, inside her Garden District house. It read five-eighteen. "Where is he?" she demanded, glancing at her handsome boyfriend. "He's late."

"Only by eighteen minutes," Andre Morell protested. "C'mon, cherie! Be patient. It's not like we have a plane to catch."

The third person inside the room grumbled, "Considering that he hasn't even shown up yet, I'm beginning to think that we should catch a plane." At fifty-five years old, Vivian Reyes Dubois had maintained her good looks and vitality. She and her daughter shared the same bronze-colored skin, high cheekbones, dark eyes reminiscent of ancient Egyptians and diminutive form. "I wonder if there's a plane available for San Francisco, in the next hour or two."

Andre demanded, "Why are you in such a hurry? Once Cole gets here, it should take us at least a second to arrive."

"Because I plan to do a little shopping."

Cecile added, "So do I. Olivia told me about a sale going on at Macy's."

A sigh left Andre's mouth. "Shopping? We're going to San Francisco for a wedding, and all you can think about is shopping? I thought you two had already bought wedding gifts."

Vivian rolled her eyes in disgust. "You don't understand women very much, do you boy?"

Before Andre could reply, a tall figure clad in a dark business suit, materialized in the middle of the living room. Cecile sighed with relief. Andre rushed forward to greet the newcomer with a bear hug. "Cole! Glad you could finally make it, man!" he said cheerfully. "We were beginning to get a little worried."

"We were more than beginning to worry," Cecile added caustically. "Another twenty minutes and we would have ended up going to the airport." She walked toward him and pecked his cheek.

Cole graced the Vodoun priestess with a charming smile. "And it's good to see you too, Ms. Dubois." He returned her kiss with one of his own. Then he turned to Cecile's mother. "Mrs. Dubois. It's good to see you."

"Nice to see you again, Cole," Vivian responded. "Now, what took you so long?"

A heavy sigh left Cole's mouth. "I'm sorry that I'm late, but the Senior Partners' staff meeting took longer than I had expected. Is everyone ready?" He glanced at the pile of luggage near the fireplace. "Oh, I guess so."

The others gathered around the half-daemon. "Is this going to take long?" Cecile's mother asked, uneasily. "I've never teleported, before."

"Don't worry Mama," Cecile reassured the older woman. "Like Andre said, it'll be over within a second." Sure enough, the four people disappeared from the New Orleans house and reappeared in the middle of the McNeill foyer, a second later.

Vivian released a gust of breath. Then she glanced around and frowned. "Is that it?" she demanded. "What happened to our luggage?" No sooner had she spoken, the Dubois and Andre's belongings materialized.

The McNeills' manservant, Davies, appeared in the foyer. "Oh, I see that you've all arrived."

"Afternoon Davies," Cole greeted. "I finally got them here. You can tell both Mrs. McNeill and the others."

Nodding, Davies replied, "Yes sir. Mr. Morell, Mrs. Dubois and Miss Dubois, it's good to see you, again. If you will all follow me, I will take you to the others in the drawing-room. Carmen and Liam will take care of your luggage."

"Leave my baggage in here, Davies," Andre said. "I'll be leaving with Cole."

Cecile added that she will be leaving with Olivia. "That is after she gets here."

"Miss Olivia is in the drawing-room with the others," Davies announced.

Cole frowned. "She's here?" He glanced at his watch. "This early?"

"Yes sir." Davies led the quartet toward the drawing-room. "Miss Olivia is here, along with both Mrs. McNeills and Mr. Bruce."

Vivian murmured to her daughter, "Why is it that every time I'm around that man, I feel as if I'm in the middle of a Merchant-Ivory movie and I'm about to meet Helena Bonham-Carter?"

"You and me both," Cecile shot back.

The manservant opened the drawing-room's double doors and ushered the visitors inside. They found both Elise and Gweneth McNeill observing the other two McNeills engage in a heated conversation. "Why are you asking me, Livy?" Bruce McNeill was saying. "Harry's the one who is planning this party."

Bruce's red-haired sister replied, "Because Harry told me to ask you. After all, it's your bachelor party."

"Okay. Then the answer is no," Bruce answered coolly.


Davies interrupted the conversation with a slight cough. "Excuse me, but the Dubois, Mr. Morell and Mr. Turner are all here."

The McNeills' attention became riveted upon the visitors. Gweneth McNeill let out a cry of delight. "Well, look who's here! Vi, darling! How are you?" She rushed forward to envelop Cecile's mother into a bear hug.

Cecile found herself being hugged by Olivia. Soon, everyone - sans Cole and Davies - were exchanging hugs, kisses and handshakes. The younger Mrs. McNeill then turned to Cole and thanked him for giving the visitors from New Orleans a supernatural lift.

"No problem at all," Cole replied genially. He shot a quick glance at Olivia, who immediately looked away. Much to Cecile's surprise. "Unfortunately, I was a little late. The meeting at the firm ended a bit later than I had expected." He turned to face both Olivia and Bruce. "Don't let me stop you, two. What were you talking about?"

Bruce replied, "My bachelor party. It seems Olivia wants me to add a certain someone to the guest list."

"That certain someone is Paul," Olivia retorted, glaring at her older brother.

"And I said . . . no."

Cecile asked, "Is this that attorney, who happens to be a witch? One of Leo's charges?"

Cole rolled his eyes. "Oh. Him. He's going to be at the bachelor party?"

Olivia diverted her glare to Cole "And what exactly, is wrong with . . . him?"

"Well, for one thing, he's a bore," Bruce replied. Both Cole and Andre snickered.

Green eyes now focused upon Cecile's significant other half. "Gee Andre, I didn't realize that you knew Paul."

"Uh, I don't," Andre said. "I just . . . heard . . ." Cecile surreptiously squeezed his arm. "Never mind."

Vivian piped up, "Does anyone know what time the department stores close in this town? I need to do some last minute shopping."

"Macy's should be open until nine, tonight," old Mrs. McNeill replied. "Perhaps Davies can drive you over . . ."

Olivia cut in. "I'll take her. I have some shopping to do, myself."

"And I'm going with you," Cecile added.

"Okay." Olivia paused and glanced at Bruce. "What about Paul?"

Bruce sighed. "What about him?"

Impatience radiated from Olivia's eyes. "The bachelor's party. Is it okay for Harry to invite him?"

Rolling his eyes, the oldest McNeill sibling coolly replied, "Let me think about it."

"Think about it fast, huh Bruce? The bachelor party is in two days." Olivia nodded at both Cecile and Vivian. "Ready ladies?" She started toward the doorway. Daughter and mother followed. As the former glanced behind her, she noticed the pained expression on Cole's face. Interesting.

* * * *

Piper picked up a stainless steel saucepan and held it up in front of her husband's eyes. "What about this?" she asked. "Would this do?"

The oldest Charmed One and her whitelighter husband stood in the middle of the Appliance Department, inside Macy's department store. Leo shook his head in dismay. "A saucepan? Piper, we're shopping for a wedding gift, not a housewarming party!"

"What's wrong with a saucepan?" Piper protested. "Maybe Bruce and Barbara will like it. He's a chef, after all."

An exasperated sigh left Leo's mouth. "Don't you think we should get them something with a little more class? Like silver, for instance."

"Too expensive," Piper curtly replied.

Leo shot back, "Piper, you own a nightclub that's . . ."

". . . that has been losing a little business, ever since Wyatt was born."

Undaunted, Leo continued, "But we still have enough money. And I've been earning a few bucks with some carpentry jobs on the side."

"Leo . . ."

"C'mon Piper. I don't want to give Bruce and Barbara a . . . saucepan." Leo paused, as he squirmed with discomfort. "I mean he's a friend and one of my former charges."

Rolling her eyes, Piper replied caustically, "Then why did we receive our wedding invitations at least a week after Paige had received hers? Can you explain that?"

"What is there to explain?" Leo protested. "Our invitations probably got lost in the mail."

Again, Piper rolled her eyes. "If that's what you want to believe, Leo, go ahead. It seems obvious to me that Bruce and Barbara only wanted to invite Paige. So, I see no reason why I should spend my money on something better than a saucepan."

"Look, maybe you're right. Maybe Bruce didn't want us at the wedding. Can you blame him?"

Piper blinked. Had she heard right? "Excuse me?"

"Well, we didn't invite him, Olivia or Harry to our wedding. And aside from you and your sisters, they're the only friends I have here in San Francisco. It even took them a while to forgive me for not inviting them."

With a scoff, Piper replied, "Well, at least you now believe me that we were excluded from the guest list."

"Piper! Please!" Leo pleaded. "Let's just buy something better than a saucepan. Okay?"

Piper opened her mouth for a retort, when three women appeared. She recognized Olivia McNeill and the latter's friend from New Orleans, whom she remembered from last December. The third woman seemed to be an older version of Olivia's friend. "Leo!" Olivia greeted cheerfully. "And Piper. Fancy meeting you two, here. Shopping for wedding gifts?"

"Uh," Leo began, hesitating, "yeah. We, uh . . . didn't have much time for shopping. Until today."

Olivia's smile widened. Piper began to wonder if she was mocking them. "Well, that's nice. By the way, I'm sure that both of you remember Cecile Dubois. She's here for the wedding." Both Piper and Leo nodded at the Vodoun priestess, who returned their nods. "And this," Olivia continued, "is Vivian Dubois, Cecile's mom. She's also a close friend of my mother's."

Piper smiled politely at the older woman. "Nice to meet you. Are you a Voodoo . . ." She saw Leo grimace from the corner of her eye. "I mean, a Vodoun priestess also, Mrs. Dubois?"

"Yes, I am," the older woman replied. "Both Cecile and I hold the title of Mami."

What the hell "Mami?"

Cecile spoke up. "That's the title for all women who are priestesses."

Leo asked, "Do you have a power like Cecile?"

Mrs. Dubois frowned. "Sorry?"

Again, Cecile explained, "He wants to know if you have a psychic ability, Mama. Like my telepathy and visions."

"Oh." Mrs. Dubois nodded. "I suppose I do. I'm a metamorph. What you would call a shapeshifter."

Olivia added, "Like Bruce and Dad, only Mrs. Dubois can morph into anything - other people, animals, plants and any other object."

"Like Cole," Piper added. "Or a chameleon demon." Everyone stared at her. "My sisters and I had an encounter with one, nearly two years ago."

The older woman wore a confused expression. "I share a power with a demon? There's a spirit out there that changes form?"

Now it was Piper and Leo's turn to look confused. "Huh?" the Charmed One asked. "What do you mean by spirit?"

A salesgirl appeared. "Excuse me, miss." All talk of the supernatural and magic ceased between the five people. The salesgirl continued, "Do you need any help with that saucepan?"

"Huh?" Piper glanced at the object in her hand. She also noticed the others staring at it, as well. Especially Olivia. "Oh, um do you know where I can find some candlesticks?" she asked lamely. "Preferably silver ones?"

END OF ACT I - Part 1

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Guilty Until Proven Innocent" [PG-13] - 2/3



A disturbing image from that last hour on the Bridge replayed in B'Elanna's mind, while she headed for Engineering. Had she just witnessed the impossible? At least what her mind and emotions considered the impossible. The idea of those two as a couple . . . Impossible! He was Maquis and she was Starfleet. There was no way that two people of such disparate backgrounds could form a successful relationship. At least B'Elanna hoped.

"Hey B'Elanna!" Ensign Hogan greeted the half-Klingon after she entered Engineering. Like her, Hogan was a former member of Chakotay's Maquis cell. His intense face lit up with excitement. "Did you hear?"

She growled back, "Hear what?"

Hogan followed B'Elanna to her office. "About Seska and Paris. They had a fight in the Mess Hall."

"What?" B'Elanna stared at her subordinate. "Kahless! How in the hell . . . what happened?" Before Hogan could respond, B'Elanna spotted her close friend walking toward one of the consoles near the warp core. "Seska!" She rushed out of her office with Hogan right behind her. Both caught up with the Bajoran engineer. "Seska! What's this I hear about you and Paris?"

Anger illuminated Seska's blue eyes. "It's nothing. We had a little spat in the Mess Hall." By now, two other crewmen had joined the small group - another former Maquis named Mike Jonas and an attractive dark-haired Starfleeter named Sue Nicoletti.

"About what?" B'Elanna demanded. If Paris had insulted any former Maquis . . .

Seska heaved a large sigh. B'Elanna almost rolled her eyes. The former could be overdramatic at times. "It's nothing," the Bajoran insisted. "Just . . . well, Paris had made some comment about my time in the Maquis and I lost my temper."

"Why would he do that?" Nicoletti asked, earning a glare from Seska.

B'Elanna, who was very familiar with her friend's traits, added, "C'mon Seska. Give. I may detest Paris, but I also know you. You must have said something to piss him off."

"All right," Seska admitted. She punched a few sequences into the console. "I may have said something about what happened to him on the Banean homeworld." B'Elanna responded with a shake of the head. "What? Don't tell me that you sympathize with that scum?"

"I don't," B'Elanna replied shortly. "But you did start the fight, didn't you?"

Seska opened her mouth to reply, but remained silent. Jonas added, "If you ask me, I don't see why Janeway allows that murderer to roam free on the ship." A scowl appeared on his usually placid face.

"He's Starfleet," Hogan brutally explained. "What else is there to say?"

Hogan's remark spurred a spirited response from Nicoletti. Her pretty face twisted with distaste. "Tom Paris is not Starfleet," she said with great emphasis. "Not as far as we're concerned."

"What about his father?"

Sue shot back, "What about him? He washed his hands of Paris a long time ago."

"Then how do you explain Janeway giving him the Conn? And letting him roam the ship, despite being convicted of murder? I even hear that Tuvok was ordered to exonerate him."

It was B'Elanna who answered Hogan's question. "Lieutenant Tuvok was ordered to investigate the murder, not clear Paris. And the Baneans have already planted memory engrams, forcing him to relive the entire murder from the victim's point of view every fourteen hours. According to Harry, those engrams are frying Paris' brains."

A low whistle emitted from Hogan's lips. "I guess Paris is getting a little payback, after all."

"Huh!" Jonas grunted. "I still think he needs his ass kicked. Maybe some of us should do it, ourselves."

"Hear, hear!" Seska cried. A smile curled her lips. "Maybe a little Maquis operation is in order." She glanced at Nicoletti. The latter squirmed with discomfort. "Something wrong, Nicoletti? I would think you Starfleeters wouldn't mind getting into the action, considering how much you detest Paris."

Nicoletti looked away and returned to her duties. Seska sniffed. B'Elanna, as head of Engineering, decided it was time to nip Jonas' idea in the bud. Even if she liked it. "There isn't going to be any Maquis or Starfleet operation against Paris. So why don't we all end this conversation now? I'm not ready to find myself in Chakatoy or Janeway's bad graces. And I think neither are you."

"What's the matter, Lieutenant?" A smirk formed on Seska's lips. "Afraid of losing your precious position as Chief Engineer?" Both Hogan and Jonas chuckled.

B'Elanna coolly replied, "Let me put it this way. Do any of you want to serve under Carey or another Fleeter?"

The idea seemed to have cooled the other ex-Maquis' ideas of any "operations" against Tom Paris. Hogan and Jonas returned to their duties. Seska turned away from her task to face B'Elanna. "What was going on while you were gone? I thought I felt Voyager encounter phaser fire."

B'Elanna told the Bajoran about Voyager's encounter with several Numeri ships. "They tried to board us. I guess they didn't care for any of us visiting the Banean homeworld. Chakotay . . . he had suggested we use an old Maquis trick to drive them off." Her lips quirked into a small smile. "You know, the one we used against the Cardies."

Seska returned her attention to the console. "I'll bet Janeway snipped that idea in the bud."

"Actually, she didn't. She told . . ." B'Elanna paused, recalling the conversation between the red-haired captain and the First Officer. And the electricity that seemed to flow between the two. And electricity that hinted a future B'Elanna personally found unappealing.

"What did Janeway say?" Seska insisted.

The half-Klingon snapped out of her reverie, aware of a pair of narrowed eyes staring at her. She let out a gust of breath. "Nothing. Just . . . Janeway said that the trick was very old."

Seska grunted. "I'll bet that pissed off Chakotay."

"Not really," B'Elanna replied in a soft voice, recalling Chakotay's expression. "In fact, he seemed . . . amused."

The look on Seska's face told B'Elanna that the former did not care for that description anymore than she did. "Hmmmph," the Bajoran commented before turning away from B'Elanna. "Does that mean we'll be encountering the Numeri again?"

Thankful for the change of subject, B'Elanna replied, "I suppose so. Especially if Lieutenant Tuvok and Janeway have to return to the Banea to clear up this matter with Paris."

"Personally, I think Tuvok's investigation is a waste of time," Seska added in a sardonic voice. "Even if he wanted to, there is nothing he can find that will exonerate Paris. The man is a liar and a murderer. I say Janeway should wash her hands of him and toss him back to the Baneans."

B'Elanna remained silent. How could she argue with the truth?

* * * *

Tuvok came to the conclusion that he had finally arrived at the truth. Lieutenant Paris did not murder Dr. Ren. In fact, the volatile pilot was nothing more than a scapegoat of a more insidious plot.

Inside his quarters, the Security Chief sat on the floor with his eyes closed. Only he was not deep in another meditation session. Instead, his mind raced over the details and revelations he had unearthed during his investigation of Dr. Ren's murder.

The widow of the murder victim entered his thoughts. Lidell Ren. One would say she was a very attractive woman, fully aware of her charms and ability to seduce. Lieutenant Paris seemed the obvious type who would find her attractive and act upon his feelings. However, Tuvok could not see the volatile pilot kill for her. Even Mister Paris was intelligent enough not to take such a woman like Mrs. Ren seriously.

A mind meld Tuvok had conducted with the pilot had revealed the latter's belief in his innocence. Despite the engrams. And although the meld clearly painted Mister Paris as the perputrator, Tuvok found a few details questionable. First, the pilot had allegedly plunged the knife into Dr. Ren's heart, which was located in the same spot as the Human stomach. Tuvok found it illogical that an offworlder like Mister Paris know the exact location of the Banean heart. He also noticed that both the pilot and the widow seemed to be the exact height in the memory engrams. Yet, after meeting Mrs. Ren, Tuvok noticed that he was taller than the Banean widow and Lieutenant Paris was taller than both of them. And there was the matter of the mysterious inscriptions included in the ex-convict's memories. What did they mean and why were they included?

One last detail concerned Tuvok. To prove a theory, he had asked Captain Janeway to send Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim to the Banean homeworld in one of Voyager's shuttles. The Numeri ships, to everyone's surprise, went after the shuttle, instead of Voyager. Their actions not only confirmed Mister Paris' innocence, but the identity and motive of the true murderer.

Tuvok's eyes flew open. He tapped his combadge and suggested to the Captain that they make another trip to the Banean homeworld. And that Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim should join them.

* * * *

STARDATE 48606.41

"What was that you said to Tuvok in the Mess Hall?" Harry asked Tom. The two friends sat inside Sandrine's, each enjoying an after-duty drink.

Tom took a sip of his bourbon and grimaced. Synthehol. Someday, he would have to find a way to replicate genuine alcohol. "I merely thanked him for helping me and told him he had a friend."

"A friend?" Harry snorted. "Lieutenant Tuvok was just doing his job, Tom. I doubt he really believed you were innocent."

"Maybe. But he didn't naturally assume I was guilty, either." Tom forced himself to take another sip. "Unlike many others on this ship. You know, when we first went to Banea, I had no idea I would end up as a courier for spies."

Harry shook his head and swallowed a mouthful of brandy. Unlike Tom, he seemed to enjoy his drink. "Or have a dog exonerate you for murder. You were very lucky, buddy! Very lucky. Maybe this will teach you to be a little more circumspect about the fair sex."

Tom gave his friend a hard stare. "Is this your way of getting back at me for that remark I made inside the shuttle, Harry?"

Dark eyes shined with innocence. Not very convincingly, as far as Tom was concerned. "What remark?" the younger man asked.

"You know. The one about you never finding romance with the wrong woman." Tom's eyes narrowed. "I was serious, Harry. It could happen to you. You're only human and I wouldn't dismiss the possibility if I were you."

Harry responded with a knowing smile. "Knowing you Tom, you just might set me up with a woman like Lidell Ren. Just to make your point."

Poor Harry. Tom shook his head. He valued the young ensign as a good friend and decent guy. But the latter also possessed an unshakable arrogance regarding his sense of morality. Just like any good little Starfleet officer. Tom also realized that many of the Maquis shared a similar sense of self-righteousness. How long would this morality last under decades in the Delta Quadrant?

Two crewmen passed their table. Starfleet, judging by the pips on their collars. They gave Harry a polite nod. And ignored Tom. "I can't believe this!" Harry protested. "Tuvok had cleared you of murder and they still treat you like a pariah!"

Tom shrugged in an attempt to mask the slight hurt. "Forget it, Harry. The crew has other reasons to dislike me. Like my prison sentence and getting cashiered out of Starfleet."

"How long are they going to hold that against you?"

A bitter smile touched Tom's lips. "Forever? Hell, the Maquis practically hate my guts! I'm sure everyone is disappointed that I haven't been executed. Or had my brains fried by now."

The tavern's wooden doors swung open, revealing B'Elanna Torres. "Oh great!" Tom muttered. "Look who's here!"

The two friends watched the half-Klingon sauntered toward their table. She took one look at Tom and hesitated. Hostility filled her eyes.

"B'Elanna!" Harry cried, waving at the Chief Engineer to join them. "Over here!" Tom suppressed his disappointment, as B'Elanna walked over to the table and slid into the booth, next to Harry.

She flashed a quick smile at the young ensign. "Hey Starfleet." A frown creased her ridged brow as she faced Tom. "Paris." After ordering a glass of scotch from Sandrine, she asked, "You didn't show up in the Mess Hall for dinner. Where were you?"

"Here," Harry replied. "We decided to replicate dinner here at Sandrines. It was pleeka rind casserole night. What can you say?"

Tom added in a low voice, "I can think of a few choice words. But I don't think they will make Neelix happy."

His comment was met with an amused grin from Harry and a stony glare from Torres. Tom wondered if the half-Klingon had a sense of humor. Or maybe she had been under Chakotay's influence too long. "Something bothering you, Torres?" he asked.

Her eyes glittering, the engineer shot back, "Yeah, the company."

"That's funny. As I recall, I was here first." Tom gave B'Elanna an acid smile.

A wall of silence surrounded the trio. Then B'Elanna slid out of the booth, signaling her departure. Harry stopped her before she could leave. "Wait a minute!" he cried. "Where are you going, Maquis?"

"To find better company," she growled, glaring at Tom.

"C'mon! Stay with us. This is suppose to be a celebration for Tom. For his exoneration."

B'Elanna sniffed. "That's not a reason for me to celebrate."


Tom added in a curt voice, "Let her go, Harry. The last thing I need is to spend my free time with another one of Chakotay's noble warriors. Especially one who still thinks I'm guilty."

"I never said you were guilty!" B'Elanna shot back.

"Of course you did," Tom retorted. "You just never said it to my face. I'll bet you even told Harry." The two engineers exchanged uneasy glances. Tom noticed. "Oh. I see you have."

Harry turned to the pilot. "Look Tom, I'm sorry about that. I was talking with B'Elanna and Seska and it just came . . ."

"What are you apologizing for, Starfleet?" B'Elanna growled. She slid back into the booth. "At least you didn't screw some married woman! Or get your best friend behind bars for two days!"

Tom added, "You forgot to mention it was for accessory to murder."

Fierce brown eyes turned on the Chief Helmsman. "Everything's a joke to you, isn't it Paris? Someone always has to pay for your irresponsibility! Harry almost died after the Baneans interrogated him and yet, you laugh over the entire matter!"

"Hey! B'Elanna!" Harry protested. "Tom has already apo . . ."

However, the Chief Engineer's tongue seemed to be on a roll. Tom noticed that Sandrine's other inhabitants seemed interested in what she had to say. "Tell me Paris, did you laugh after you crashed that shuttle at Caldik Prime? Or when you sold the Maquis to the Federation?"

Caldik Prime. Torres' comment brought up guilty memories of that infamous moment in his life. It also sparked a growing anger within Tom. Anger and resentment over her assumption that he had felt no remorse toward the deaths of his late friends. Like nearly every person he has encountered in his life, Torres made assumptions about his character without bothering to learn anything about him.

His body grew tense. A low, deep anger resonated in Tom's voice. "As far as I'm concerned, Torres," he growled, "the topic of Caldik Prime is off limits." The half-Klingon's face paled suddenly. Harry stared at Tom, his mouth gaped open. "And as for your precious Maquis," Tom continued heatedly, "I joined because I needed money."

"Mercenary!" B'Elanna spat out in disgust.

Coldly, Tom replied, "If you say so. However, that didn't stop the good Commander from recruiting me. And yet, from the moment I joined his cell, Chakotay and the others made it quite clear that I was nothing more than a mercenary and treated me like one. They never gave me a chance to prove otherwise."

"What did you expect?" B'Elanna shot back.

"What's the matter, Torres?" Tom snarled. "You don't believe in giving someone a second chance? Isn't that what the Captain and Chakotay did for you? Hey, I may not be the straight arrow type around Harry, Kes or the Captain. At least they gave me a chance to prove I was more than some good-for-nothing who was not worth their time. I can't say the same for your precious Maquis. And if you expect me to feel guilty for how I came aboard Voyager, you'll be holding your breath." Tom slid out of the booth. "For a long time. Now if you'll excuse me, this place has gotten a little too crowded for me." Tom glared at B'Elanna before he marched out of the holodeck.

* * * *

The chatter inside Sandrine's ceased to exist following Tom's departure. Barely a soul made a sound, aside from one crewman who coughed. Too embarrassed to speak himself, Harry finished his brandy in two gulps. Then the chatter returned, much to his relief.

A familiar figure, Sue Nicoletti, approached Harry and B'Elanna's table, carrying a glass of wine. "What was that about?" she asked, nodding toward the tavern's doors.

"Nothing," Harry replied. "Nothing at all." He signaled Sandrine. The tavern owner appeared and Harry ordered another glass of brandy.

A trembling B'Elanna finally recovered from her bout of silence. "Just Paris deluding himself that he has something to be righteous about." Her response produced a chuckle from Sue.

Harry remained silent, staring at the table's wooden surface. "Maybe he does," he mumbled darkly. The two women stared at him. "Let's face it, Tom has made mistakes in his life, but he's no murderer." He glanced up. "And he's not cold-blooded, despite what others may think."

Nicoletti quickly returned to her other companions. A deep flush colored B'Elanna's olive-skinned face. "Okay, maybe I was a little out of hand abut him being cold-blooded. But you can't deny that he had no business messing around with that Banean woman."

"He apologized about that, B'Elanna," Harry retorted.

B'Elanna added, "And the Maquis? Can you blame us for hating him, after he sold us to Janeway?"

"What are you talking about? Tom had been in prison for nearly a year before the Captain recruited him! How would he have known your last position?"

Persistent to the end, B'Elanna retorted, "That didn't stop him from accepting Janeway's offer to help her find us!"

Harry immediately replied, "B'Elanna, in a way, Tom had no choice. The Captain had insisted upon bringing him along; even after he told her that using him to track you down would be useless."

"Yeah, right," B'Elanna mumbled. "I suppose Paris told you this."

Harry stared at his friend through narrowed eyes. "It was the Captain who told me, B'Elanna. We were talking about how a Starfleet officer can utilize any resource. She realized that bringing Tom aboard may have been a shot in the dark, but she did it anyway. And that it all worked out in the end, with Voyager being stuck in the Delta Quadrant with a top-notch pilot like Tom."

The half-Klingon opened her mouth to respond, but as before, was rendered speechless. Sandrine returned with Harry's second brandy. He took a sip. "Look Maquis, Tom may not be the easiest person to deal with, but who is? You certainly aren't. And I know I can be very irritating sometimes. Yet, look at us. We managed to become friends. So when are you going to give Tom a chance to become your friend?"

Dark brown eyes belonging to the chief engineer blinked. Harry looked away and returned his attention to his drink. For once, B'Elanna had no ready answer on the tip of her tongue. Perhaps his words had finally penetrated her stubborn brain. Make her realize that Tom Paris might be a worthy friend to have. Harry hoped so. Because he had no idea how long he can endure being torn between his two best friends.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Broken Heart in the "STAR WARS" Saga


There have been many complaints of Padme Amidala’s role in the last installment of the STAR WARS saga – “Revenge of the Sith”. The main contention for many fans seemed to be her death. Many felt that Lucas had weakened her character by allowing her to die of a broken heart. Others accused her of abandoning her newly born children through death. And others have excused the circumstances of her death, claiming that she was “sacrificing herself” so that her twins could be separated and hidden from Emperor Palpatine.

I am not going to try to explain the "sacrifice", simply because I do not buy it. I do not believe that Padme had sacrificed herself in death, for her children’s safety. I believe that she had genuinely died of a broken heart.

My next question is . . . why is it that Padme was not allowed to give into despair by many STAR WARS fans? Why? Because she is supposed to be a strong woman? Since when are strong personalities incapable of giving in to despair or depression? Do any of you understand that nearly everyone possesses both strengths and weaknesses? What is this lack of tolerance over the possibility that Padme may also have her weaknesses? I get the feeling that many feel she should have been this one-dimensional portrayal of a strong character with no weaknesses. What did these fans expect her to do? After giving birth to Luke and Leia, sit up and start singing, "I Am Woman"?

Padme had just witnessed the ascension of the Empire . . . and the death of the Republic she had served with great devotion. Even worse, her dreams of a private life with her husband were dashed by news that he had participated in the deaths of hundreds of Jedi – adults and children, alike. She tried to confront Anakin about the situation and was brutally attacked by him (strangulation). His attack eventually perpetrated the difficult birth of the twins – Luke and Leia. By the time she had even considered that Anakin might still have some good in him, it was TOO LATE for her. At least physically. Both Anakin (who finally gave in to desapir after learning of Padme's death) and Obi-Wan (who spent the next 19 years wallowing in despair, regret and guilt) were lucky that they were not in their third trimester of a pregnancy and on the verge of giving birth.

Years ago, female characters had been in danger of being stuck in nurturing roles or simply the hero's love interest. Now, it seems that female characters "have to be" some kind of Xena the Warrior Princess or a female "Action Jackson" in order to prevent being labeled as WEAK. Apparently, female characters are still not allowed to be all of the above.

Someone on a STAR WARS forum had claimed that females roles are either of the “Xena the Warrior Princess” archetype or the “Dora Dorrit” (or weak female) archetype. This person criticized Lucas of turning Padme from a female warrior into a weakling. My question is . . . why not allow a woman – or anyone, for that matter – to be both strong and weak? It would seem like a very human thing to be.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"TROPIC THUNDER" Photo Gallery

Here is a gallery of photos from the new comedy, "TROPIC THUNDER", starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr.:

"TROPIC THUNDER" Photo Gallery

Friday, August 22, 2008

"CHARMED" - Things That Make Me Go . . . Hmmm?

The following is a list of questions regarding storylines that have been featured in past episodes of "CHARMED". If you have an answer to any of my questions, please feel free to reply.

"CHARMED" - Things That Make Me Go . . . Hmmm?

1. In Season 7’s “A Call to Arms”, how did Inspector Sheridan and nearly everyone else know about Chris’ death in the Season 6 finale, "It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World II”, when just about everyone – except for Leo and the Halliwells - had lost their memories of that alternate dimension, following Gideon’s death?

2. Why did Vinceres tell Prue that her powers were no good, when she was using martial arts and not magic, against him in Season 3’s "Primrose Path"?

3. Why did Cole in S7’s "The Seven Year Witch" confess to deliberately impregnating Phoebe in late Season 4, when he was actually possessed by the Source at that time?

4. Why did warlocks in Season 1 morph into vampiric game faces? Are they not suppose to be witches (who are mortals) that had simply gone bad?

5. Speaking of warlocks, why were they portrayed as immortals? Was Constance Burge, Brad Kern and their writers trying to hint that when witches become warlocks, they become immortals?

6. Why do the Charmed Ones keep referring to their witch ancestors as the "Halliwell women" or the "Halliwell line" in their conversations and spells? According to family tree depicted in Season 2’s "Pardon My Past", their mother, Patty, was the first in their family to be born as a Halliwell.

7. And why did Grams remind Prue and Piper in S3’s "Just Harried" that the women in their family kept their maiden names after marriage? She used the name of Halliwell, which belonged to her first husband. And her maiden name was Johnson.

8. And what was the first name of the Charmed One’s maternal grandfather – Jack (S2’s "Pardon My Past") or Allen (S6’s "Witchstock")?

9. Why did Leo claim in S3’s "Exit Strategy" that he was born in 1924? Does this mean that he was attending medical school at the age of 17, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941?

10. Why would the BAY-MIRROR’s editor-in-chief, Elise Rothman, leave Phoebe, an advice columnist, in charge of the newspaper for a whole day in order to teach the witch a lesson in S7’s "Scry Hard"? Was she crazy?

11. Why did Leo tell Victor that the sisters were NOT mortals, when nearly every demon on the show has referred to them and other witches as mortals?

12. Both Cole and Vinceres had discussed that mortals (witches included) who were not natural empaths, could not handle an overload of emotions in "Primrose Path". Yet, Prue had claimed demons could not handle such a large amount of emotions, despite the fact that Vinceres had carried Father Thomas’ empathy power for at least two years. Did the writer(s) of "Primrose Path" create a contradiction?

13. Why was the Source so contemptuous of Phoebe’s psychic abilities in Season 4’s "Charmed and Dangerous", when he had relied so heavily upon seers like the Oracle and the Seer?

14. Why did Darryl take orders from Inspector Sheridan, when as a police lieutenant, he ranked higher?

15. How did Cole get his job back at Jackman, Carter and Kline at the beginning of Season 5?

16. Why are other witches on the show portrayed as helpless or semi-helpless?

17. Why did Leo assumed that Cole was automatically "good", when the latter had lost his powers in S4’s "Black As Cole" and S7’s "Sympathy For the Demon"? Had he forgotten the evil humans that the sisters had confronted in the past?

18. Why did Phoebe assume that she would die on the same date that her past self had died, back in 1924 in "Pardon My Past"? She made this assumption before acquiring any real proof.

19. And why did Phoebe say in the above episode that she was the same age in February 2000, as her past self – P. Russell - was in February 1924? Phoebe was 24 years and 3 months old at the time. Her past self was 29½ years old at the time of her death.

20. Why did the Charmed Ones and Leo had automatically assumed that using the Hollow made Cole the Source? He had the old Source's powers when the sisters killed the latter. And possessing Piper and Paige’s powers did not make the Source two-thirds of the Charmed Ones.

21. Why didn’t the Source simply kill the Charmed Ones after he had failed to turn Paige in "Charmed Again II"?

22. Why did Cole have such difficulty fighting the Halliwells in S3’s "Power Outage", when had had managed to kill the more formidable Triad so easily?

23. Why are whitelighters (guardian angels) given authority over witches?

24. Why does the show feature witches engaged in demon hunting/slaying ONLY?

25. Once they had discovered that Cole was the Source in late S4, why didn’t the Charmed Ones bother to investigate on how he had become the Source in the first place?

26. How did Darryl explain Andy’s death inside the Halliwell manor in Season 1’s “Déjà vu All Over Again"?

27. Why didn’t Paige simply orb the gun out of Rick’s hand in S6’s "Hyde School Reunion"?

28. When Phoebe was taken over by the spirit (karma) of Mata Hari in S6’s "Used Karma", why was she speaking with a French accent, when the former spy had been born in Java to Dutch parents?

29. Why did Phoebe become hostile toward Cole between the S4 finale, "Witch Way Is Now" and the S5 premiere, "A Witch’s Tail"?

30. Why would the supernatural world depend ONLY upon the Charmed Ones to fight demonic activity? What about other witches and demon hunters who were around long before the sisters had first retrieved their powers in the S1 premiere, "Something Wicca Comes This Way"?

31. Why is pyrokinesis (fire power) regarded by Leo and the Charmed Ones as evil in most of the episodes, and neutral in S4’s "Lost and Bound"?

32. Why did Cole have to become increasingly demonic in order to kill another half-demon in S4’s "Black As Cole", when he did not have to do so in order to form an energy ball strong enough to kill the Source in "Brain Drain"?

33. Why would the Vampire Queen’s death enable Paige to avoid remaining a vampire in S4’s "Bite Me"? This does not make sense. Surely she should have remained a vampire, once she had been bitten.

34. How can the Charmed Ones travel to or exist in the past and their powers cannot, especially since their powers are supposed to be a part of themselves?

35. How can the Charmed Ones be witches, when they have never taken oaths or taken part in an initiation ceremony to become one?

36. According to the show, a witch becomes a warlock in the first place when he/she breaks his/her oath as a witch. So, why are warlocks described as immortals on the show?

37. Why does the Halliwell Museum of Witchcraft in "Chris-Crossed" featured the outfit Phoebe wore as a mermaid and the outfits the sisters wore in "Witches in Tights" (shudder!) on display? All outfits should have no longer existed, since Phoebe reverted back to being a human and the superheroine outfits were figments of that kid's imagination.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"THE SEA HAWK" (1940) Photo Gallery

Here is a gallery featuring photos from "THE SEA HAWK" - the 1940 adventure film starring Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Alan Dale and Henry Daniell:

"THE SEA HAWK" (1940) Photo Gallery