Friday, February 29, 2008

"VANTAGE POINT" (2008) Review




"VANTAGE POINT" (2008) Review

"VANTAGE POINT" is a tightly woven thriller about eight strangers with eight different points of view of an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, during an anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain. Directed by Pete Travis and written by Barry Levy, the movie starred Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt.

When I had first saw the trailer for ”VANTAGE POINT”, I had assumed it would be one of those remakes of the Japanese film, Rashomon (1950). I figured there would be an assassination attempt on the President and the film would follow with various points of view on the incident. This is what happened in ”VANTAGE POINT” . . . but not quite. ”VINTAGE POINT” did reveal the assassination attempt from various points of view. In ”RASHOMON” and other versions of the film, those views are shown as flashbacks. But in ”VANTAGE POINT” each point of view is not a flashback. Instead each POV merely gives a certain view of the story, while the story moves forward. For example, the movie started out with the point of view of a news producer (Sigourney Weaver), before ending at a particular point in the story. The next point of view belongs to Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), which ends a little further in the story than the news producer’s POV. And so on. The movie ends with an exciting action sequence told from the various viewpoints of the major characters – heroes and villains.

The more I think about ”VANTAGE POINT”, the more I realize how much I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the tight setting of Salamanca, Spain (actually the film was shot in Mexico). I must add that one of the things I enjoyed about this movie was that Levy’s script had a way of putting a twist on any assumptions anyone might form about the plot. I loved how Travis handled the film’s action, making it well-paced. I enjoyed the performances of the major cast members. I was especially impressed by the performances of Dennis Quaid as the emotionally uncertain Barnes, who eventually pieced together the real plot. I also enjoyed the performances of Matthew Fox as his fellow Secret Service agent, Forest Whitaker as an American tourist and Edgar Ramirez (”THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM”) as a Spanish Special Forces soldier involved in the plot against the President. But more importantly, I loved Barry Levy’s script, which put a twist on any assumptions the moviegoer may have formed about the story’s plotlines and characters. My only quibble with ”VANTAGE POINT” was the interaction between Whitaker’s character and a Spanish girl, which I found slightly contrived near the end of the movie.

I suspect that ”VANTAGE POINT” will not become a hit at the box office. It is the type of movie that forces the audience to think. And I suspect that most moviegoers would prefer a film that lays everything out in the open. And I especially doubt that many moviegoers will have the patience to deal with the constant rewinds in order to show the viewpoints of various characters. Since I have a history of liking movies that are not popular with the public or film critics, all I can do is hope that I will have the chance to see the movie again, before it leaves the theater for good. Personally, I would recommend ”VANTAGE POINT”.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Being Pure to Fleming's Bond"




BEING PURE TO FLEMING’s BOND

Lately, there has been a great deal of talk about EON Productions being pure to the James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming. Demands that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli adhere closely to the novels have increased on many Bond forums. And I cannot help but wonder what has brought about the increasing number of demands.

Certain Bond fans have demanded the following:


*The Bond franchise should avoid political correctness altogether.

*Bond should smoke on screen.

*M should be a man.

*Felix Leiter should be a white blond Texan, as described in the novels.



There are probably more demands, but the above are the ones I tend to encounter on the forums. I have also read demands that the Bond movies should either stick to the fantasy-adventure elements first introduced in “GOLDFINGER” or should stick to being tight spy thrillers like “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”. In regard to the style of the Bond stories, I personally prefer tight spy thrillers like “CASINO ROYALE”, “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”, “FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” and “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”. However, if a Bond movie with a fantasy-adventure style of storytelling is well written, I can be very tolerant of it. In fact, there are one or two of them that are favorites of mine – “THUNDERBALL”, “THE SPY WHO LOVED ME” and “GOLDENEYE”.

Now, in regard to the demands I had listed earlier, here are my responses to them:

*The Bond franchise should avoid political correctness altogether – Why? Why should the Bond franchise stay mired in the political incorrectness of the past? I have always had the impression that EON Productions made sure that the Bond films kept up with the times. I have no problem with James Bond remaining sexist. That is the man’s character. But I would have a problem if the movies maintained some old-fashioned view on women, non-whites or non-British characters. In 1962’s “DR. NO”, there is a scene on Crab Key in which Bond ordered Quarrel to pick up his shoes. Every time I see that scene, I wince. Even for 1962 that seemed a bit too much, especially since the Civil Rights movement was going on at the time. Hell, in the same year, “THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE” featured a black psychiatrist with Army intelligence. Many Bond fans have a problem with a Bond leading lady being a secret agent or someone capable of being an action character. I find this idea laughable. Are these people threatened by the idea of a woman being capable of shooting a gun or martial arts? Do they feel that such a character in a Bond movie would threatened their sense of well-being? I do not demand that all Bond women be spies or some kind of action figure. But I do not see the harm that they mix it up every now and then. In the end, I would find the idea of non-British and non-white characters being portrayed as inferior characters or the idea of Bond female leading ladies being nothing more than eye candy and bed warmers for Bond in all of the movies, repellent and a good excuse to avoid a Bond movie in the future.

*Bond should smoke on screen – Again, why? Why does Bond have to smoke on screen? What is the big deal? Personally, I could not care less. Connery did not smoke in all of his movies. As far as I know, Moore only smoked in two of his movies. Did Brosnan smoked? If so, I do not remember . . . and I do not care. Frankly, Bond as a smoker can go either way with me. I simply feel that it is a matter that is not a big deal.

*M should be a man – The United Kingdom has had a female monarch for the past fifty-five years. For a period of ten or eleven years, it had a female Prime Minister. And MI-6 – until recently – was led by a female. Why in the hell should gender matter in regard to M’s role? Are those who are demanding that M return to being a man are telling us that only a man can be an authority figure? This is the 21st century! That idea is ridiculous! Hell, it was ridiculous when Queen Elizabeth I ruled England back in the 16th century as one of the country’s greatest monarchs. I have also encountered complaints about M (Dench) castigating Bond whenever he screwed up. They act as if she did not have the right to lecture him. What nonsense! Dench is not the first M to castigate Bond. Bernard Lee did it “GOLDFINGER” after Bond had screwed up his assignment in Miami. Lee did it again in "THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN” when Bond and Hip lost that solar power device (I forgot its name). Robert Brown’s M castigated Timothy Dalton’s Bond in their two movies together. So why have certain fans decided to complain about Dench’s M doing the same during her tenure in the Bond franchise? And why on earth is it necessary for M to be a man?

*Felix Leiter should be a white blond Texan, as described in the novels – WTF? Why on earth is it necessary for Felix Leiter to be a blond, white Texan? Because he was one in the Fleming novels? So what? In the 44-year history of the Bond franchise, has the movie version of Felix Leiter EVER been a blond, white Texan? I certainly do not recall one. John Terry, who portrayed Leiter in “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS”, was born in Texas. But he certainly was not a blond. I do not even know if Rik Van Nutter of “THUNDERBALL” was a blond or simply prematurely gray. Neither Jack Lord, Norman Burton, Cec Linder or David Hedison were tall, lanky blonds from Texas. In fact, none of these actors have ever used a Texas accent in portraying Leiter. But they have all been white. Is that the problem? That the latest actor to portray Leiter was a black man? Well, black American actor, Bernie Casey, portrayed Leiter in the unofficial “NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN”. I do not recall any outrage over his casting. However, I do believe there should have been one. Although good-looking, Mr. Casey was never a very good actor. Since Felix Leiter has NEVER been portrayed as a lanky blond white Texan in the Bond franchise’s 44-year history, I see no reason why EON Productions should consider one now.

As to being a Fleming purist, I can honestly say that I am not one. Quite frankly, aside from a few titles like “From Russia With Love”, “Thunderball” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, I am not a real fan of Ian Fleming’s writing. Although he seemed to have had a talent for characterization and picturesque settings, I do not think that most of his plots were very good. In fact, his plots seemed to be the weakest part about his writing. I do not think that a Fleming plot is needed for that movie to be great. As for the battle between the fantasy-adventure elements and the spy thriller elements, EON Productions have switched back and forth between the two styles. In fact, so has Ian Fleming. In that case, one can say that EON has been “pure” to the novels.

And this all brings me back to this demand that EON Productions be pure to the Fleming novels. I am not saying that many of these “purist” fans stop posting complaints about the differences between the novels and the movies. Hell, they have every right to express their opinions. But if they are going to post these complaints for the world to see, then fans such as myself have the right to express why I do not agree with them. Just as these same “purists” have the right to express their disagreement with this article – which I suspect will soon happen.

I have one last question to ask - since when has EON Productions ever been completely “pure” to the novels? Was it “ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”? Well, there are some differences between the novel and the movie. One, the literary Tracy is a blond. The movie Tracy (Diana Rigg) obviously is not a blond. And in the movie, Bond is portrayed by an Australian actor, whose accent popped up every now and then. If EON Productions have never been completely “pure” to the novels – aside from changing back and forth between using fantasy elements and thriller elements – why on earth should it start now?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Holodecks and Practical Jokes" [G] - 1/1




Here is new VOYAGER fanfic in which everyone's favorite Vulcan deals with Harry Kim's penchant for practical jokes. Set during the series' Season 7:


"HOLODECKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES"

RATING: G
E-MAIL: lee66132000@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK: It would be nice to receive some. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Harry Kim goes too far in his campaign of practical jokes against Tuvok. Set in early Season 7. Spoilers to "Repression", "Unimatrix Zero" and "Body and Soul".
DISCLAIMER: Sigh! All characters and etc. pertaining to Star Trek Voyager belongs to Paramount, Viacom and . . . well, you know who.


NOTE: The ritual of Tal'loth was first mentioned in the Season 3 episode, "Displaced". As for the Desert of Tulak, I'm sure no such place exists. Even in the Trek universe. Or possibly the Temple of Surak. But I'm not sure about that.


Bridge duty finally ended for Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok of the U.S.S. Voyager. As much as he found his work satisfying, the Tactical Chief looked forward to the two hours he had reserved to be spent inside Holodeck Two. Two hours of meditation in the Temple of Surak.

Upon reaching his destination, Tuvok entered Holodeck Two and ordered the computer to initialize his program - Surak Delta Phi Tuvok. The holodeck's black-and-yellow grid immediately transformed into a familiar location on Vulcan. The Temple of Surak. A mecca for many Vulcans who traveled there to meditate and pay homage to the philosopher Surak, the very one responsible for introducing logic, reasoning and the suppression of emotion to the Vulcan race.

Anticipation filled Tuvok. He took a deep breath and strode into the stone-constructed temple. Then he proceeded along the dark passageways, until a corridor led him to a large enclave. The Meditation Hall. There, disciples came to learn new practices of meditation. Tuvok halted beside a robed attendant. The latter's hood fell back, revealing the smirking image of Voyager's Chief Medical Officer. "Please state the nature of the emergency," it squeaked. Over and over again. "Please state the nature of the emergency."

Tuvok heaved a very unVulcan-like sigh. Irritation and annoyance threatened to overcome his calm demeanor, but with great effort, he kept these emotions at bay. His suspicions were another matter. The Security Chief had a pretty good idea who was responsible for this "latest" joke.

* * * *

Ensign Harry Kim sat at a table inside the Mess Hall, studying the food on his plate. On it was a new dish that Neelix had created. The Talaxian called it Napenean soufflé. Exactly where it got its name from, Harry had no idea. Nor did he want to know. The dish suited the young Ops Chief just fine, as long as it tasted delicious and he remained ignorant of the main ingredients. Then again, one of Harry's personality traits was his curiosity.

"I see that Neelix gave you a sample of his latest culinary creation," a smooth voice commented. Harry glanced up at the sight of his two best friends, standing beside the table. Both Tom and B'Elanna held dinner trays.

Harry greeted the married couple. "Yeah. He calls it Napenean soufflé. I keep telling myself that I shouldn't worry what's in it, as long as it tastes good. But I can't help wondering."

"Don't," B'Elanna replied. "You don't really want to know." She and Tom eased into chairs opposite Harry. "Just follow your first instinct and eat it. And hope that it tastes good and won't upset your stomach."

Cautiously, Harry broke off a forkful of the soufflé and placed it in his mouth. A delicate combination of creamy egg filling and lightly spiced mushrooms and sausage exploded in his mouth. "Hmm!" he exclaimed, chewing. "This is delicious!"

Both Tom and B'Elanna followed his example and reacted in the same manner. "You're right!" Tom added. "This is great! Neelix has really outdone himself, this time."

The three friends continued to enjoy their meal, when a shadow fell upon their table. Tom glanced up. "Tuvok! Care to join us? You should try Neelix's new dish."

"Some other time," the Vulcan coolly replied. "At the moment, I am here to discuss another matter. Someone," his dark eyes glowered, "has made changes to my holoeck program. Again."

Tom immediately protested, "Look here, Tuvok. I haven't been near your . . ."

"I am quite aware that you are not the culprit, Lieutenant." Tuvok's eyes shifted toward Harry. "My suspicions lie elsewhere."

Aware of the looks directed at him, Harry kept his eyes fixed upon his plate. But reminders of his little "additions" to Tuvok's Surak program drew a spate of giggles from him.

"Do you find something amusing, Ensign Kim?"

Harry's laughter died down. A smirk remained fixed on his lips. "Okay, Tuvok. You got me. I was the one who tweaked your program."

A sigh left B'Elanna's mouth. Tom responded with an "Oh Harry!"

Tuvok's temple, much to Harry's amusement, began to throb. Disapproval poured from the former's eyes. "Ensign, time and again I have asked you to keep your hands to yourself and not 'tweak' my holodeck programs."

"C'mon Tuvok!" Harry protested. "Where's your sense of humor?"

"I am a Vulcan, Ensign. I do not have a sense of humor." Tuvok sniffed. "And even if I were not Vulcan, I would find your . . . sense of humor, infantile. In the meantime, please do not meddle with my programs again." He squared his shoulders and marched toward the exit.

The three friends watched the Security Chief's retreating figure. Then it was Tom's turn to heave a sigh. "Harry, Harry, Harry! Don't you think these practical jokes on Tuvok are getting a little old?"

"What are you talking about? It was just a joke," Harry exclaimed. "Besides, Tuvok should be used to them by now."

B'Elanna placed her fork down on her plate and gave Harry that stern look reserved for the engineers who served under her. "If Tuvok was so used to your jokes by now, Starfleet, we wouldn't have just experienced that little complaint from him. Now would we?"

"Well, maybe it's time someone got through that Vulcan façade of his." Both Tom and B'Elanna first stared at each other and then at Harry. He did not care for the knowing gleam in their eyes. "What?" he demanded. "Why are you two looking at me like that?"

"Harry," Tom said, "what's going on? This can't be about Tuvok being Vulcan, can it?"

Outrage flitted across Harry's face. "Of course not!" he protested. "What do you think I am? A bigot?" Privately, he could not believe that Tom and B'Elanna thought he was capable of such bigotry. After all, he was a Starfleet officer.

B'Elanna continued, "Then what is it? Why do you keep playing these stupid practical jokes?"

"They're not stupid. They're fun! Hell, it was Tom who introduced me to playing jokes on Tuvok in the first place."

B'Elanna glared at her husband. Who immediately cried out in protest. "What? All right! I admit I was the one who started the whole thing. But I've stopped. Remember?"

"Why?" Harry demanded. "It's fun putting Tuvok down a peg or two. Besides, he deserves it." His last remark drew stares from his two friends. Harry immediately found himself regretting his words. "What I mean is . . ."

"What do you mean?" B'Elanna asked sharply. "I was right, wasn't I? You do have some grudge against Tuvok."

Harry shook his head. Tom and B'Elanna's reactions were not what he had expected. What happened to them? Did marriage ruin their sense of humor? "What's with you guys? This is Tuvok we're talking about? Yyou know how annoyingly superior he can be."

"Annoying or not, I thought he was your friend," B'Elanna said. "After all, he did try to help you with your crush on that hologram."

Tom added, "And he taught you how to play kaltoth."

Harry had enough of the guilt trips. He thought B'Elanna and especially, Tom would appreciate his practical jokes. Apparently not. What a shame that Mezoti was no longer aboard Voyager. She would have enjoyed the jokes.

"I think you two have really lost your sense of humor," the young Ops Chief retorted. "I'll see you later." He stood up, picked up his tray and marched toward the nearest recycler. Harry never saw the looks exchanged between his two friends.

* * * *

Once again, Tuvok made his way along Deck, toward Holodeck Two. Today would be his second attempt to meditate in the Temple of Surak. Unlike yesterday, he was only able to reserve only one hour of holodeck time.

Tuvok paused before Holodeck Two's doors. Suspicion of further tampering of his program by Ensign Kim rose in his mind. "Computer, who was the last person to enter Holodeck Two?"

"Ensign Larson used Holodeck Two on Stardate 54261.3," the computer responded in its usual dry voice.

Relief flooded Tuvok. That meant that Ensign Kim had not . . . Another thought occurred to him. "Computer, when was the last time the program Tuvok Delta Phi Surak was accessed?"

The computer replied, "Tuvok Delta Phi Surak was last accessed on Stardate 54260.5." The very day and time the Security Officer had last entered the holodeck. Satisfied that he would not find his program tampered by Ensign Kim, Tuvok entered Holodeck Two.

Once again, he ordered the ship's computer to initiate his Temple of Surak program. And once again, the holodeck grid transformed into the temple on Vulcan. Tuvok surreptiously glanced around for any deviation. Although the computer had confirmed him as the last person that accessed the program, one could not be completely sure.

Utilizing the same caution, the Security Chief made his way inside the temple. He encountered the usual acolytes and disciples. Upon reaching the Meditation Hall, he paused. Careful observation of the robed attendant revealed no changes made by Ensign Kim. There seemed to be no sign of the EMH or anyone else's image. Good. Tuvok allowed himself a brief sigh of relief, took a robe from the attendant and entered the chamber.

He found an empty spot between two disciples and squatted on the floor. Ahead was the altar. A large gong rose from it. Two robed figures entered the hall and walked toward altar. One of them was the Oracle of T'Kol. The second figure announced the beginning of a new session by striking the gong. The oracle threw back a hood and the next thing Tuvok knew, the Oracle of T'Kol had transformed into a Klingon, bellowing Klingon opera.

Anger - genuine anger that Tuvok had not experienced since his mind meld with Crewman Lon Suder, nearly threatened to overwhelm his usual stoicism. But Tuvok was a Vulcan and with great effort, he squelched this latest threat to his emotions. However, he refused to deny one thing. Ensign Kim had finally gone too far.

* * * *

On Voyager's Bridge, Harry stood behind the Operations station, glancing at his computer console. A soft laughter escaped his lips. The console displayed a monitor, showing the interior of Holodeck Two. And Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok's reaction to his latest practical joke.

Harry chuckled again. Everything happened just as he had planned. Aware of the Security Chief's legendary paranoia, Harry suspected that Tuvok would check on who had last accessed the Surak program. And the young ensign made sure to delete any record of that person's identification. Namely himself.

Watching the monitor, Harry noticed how Tuvok's temple throbbed repeatedly. A sure sign of the latter was barely controlling his emotions. Life can be so wonderfully fulfilling at times. Harry thought it was a shame that neither Tom nor B'Elanna could see this. Or appreciate his joke. Harry allowed himself another chuckle.

"Find something amusing, Harry?" the First Officer's voice softly interrupted.

Harry's laughter immediately vanished. He quickly switched off the monitor, gave a slight, embarrassed cough and murmured, "Sorry, Commander. Just remembering a joke that Neelix had told me."

Dark eyes coolly bored into the young officer's. "Would you like to share it with the rest of us?"

"Uh . . . no. I mean . . ." Again, Harry coughed. "I guess not. It's a bit inappropriate, if you know what I mean. It won't happen again."

Chakotay nodded and returned his attention to the console at the Science Station. Harry surreptiously activated the monitor to the holodeck for another glimpse at Tuvok's discomfort. Unfortunately, Holodeck Two was no longer occupied. Harry was not completely disappointed. At least he had managed to witness the fruition of his latest practical joke. With that thought, he allowed himself a private smile.

* * * *

The turbolift slid open. Just as Harry stepped inside, he heard a voice cry out, "Wait for me, Harry!" It was Tom, who joined the younger man. "So, you seemed awfully chipper, today. Was Neelix's joke that funny?"

Harry's mouth stretched into a smile. "Computer, Deck 6." He turned to Tom. "Have you ever known Neelix to tell a funny joke?"

"Then what was with the . . .?" Tom stared at his friend. His blue eyes narrowed. "Harry, have you been up to something, lately?"

"Well, if you must know . . ." Harry's smile transformed into a smirk. The turbolift's doors had just slid open at Deck 2, revealing a grim-faced Tuvok. The Vulcan paused momentarily at the sight of the Operations Chief, before he entered the turbolift. He commanded the computer to take him to Deck 5.

The smirk remained fixed on Harry's face. "Good day, Commander," he greeted. "Missed you on the Bridge. Were you off duty, today?"

Tuvok's body stiffened. "I do not report for duty until the Beta shift, Ensign." Spotting Tom, he gave the pilot a polite nod. "Lieutenant." Tom responded quietly.

"So, were are you headed?" Harry continued.

A pause followed. Tuvok replied in a tight voice, "To my quarters, Ensign. Why do you ask?"

"Oh nothing. I thought you had reserved Holodeck Two for this time." Harry turned to Tom and winked. The pilot responded by rolling his eyes.

Tuvok gave Harry a long, cool stare. "Yes, I did. Unfortunately there was a computer . . . glitch."

It took all of Harry's efforts not to burst into laughter. A smile even threatened to tug the corners of Tom's mouth. "Oh, what a shame," replied in an innocent voice. "Would you like me to take a look at your program? Perhaps fix that glitch?"

Another silent moment followed. Tuvok stared at Harry for what seemed like eternity. "Thank you, Ensign," he coldly answered, "but I have no need for your . . . assistance." The lift stopped at Deck Five. "Good day."

The moment the doors slid shut, Harry burst into laughter. "Did you see his face? Tuvok looked as if he was about to have an aneurysm. You should have seen his reaction inside the Holodeck."

"So that's what you were laughing about," Tom said.

Harry took one look at the pilot's face and his laughter died. The usually gregarious Tom looked somber. "Oh c'mon Tom! Don't tell me you didn't find that funny? You almost smiled a minute ago."

The turbolift stopped at Deck 6. Both officers stepped out and marched toward Harry's quarters. Tom sighed. "Harry, Harry, Harry! I didn't realize you were smirking over another practical joke on Tuvok. I can't believe that you're still at it. When are you going to stop?" Disapproval radiated from his blue eyes.

"When I feel like it," Harry replied defiantly, his good mood spoiled. "Why do you have a problem with that?"

"Look Harry, I'll admit that Tuvok can be a stiff sometimes. And irritating. But who isn't on this ship? And to be honest, I rather like the guy. For some unexplainable reason, I have less trouble getting along with him than I do with . . . say, Chakotay." The two friends came upon Harry's quarters. "Remember when Tuvok cleared me of murder about six years ago? I told him back then I was a friend whether he liked it or not."

Harry retorted, "He was only doing his job as Security Chief. Besides, if he had thought you were guilty, you would still be experiencing those images the Benari gave you. Or you would be dead by now."

"At least he gave me the benefit of the doubt. Like you and the Captain. Hell, hardly anyone else did."

Harry's quarters loomed before the two friends. The younger man punched in his authorization code and the pair stepped inside. While Tom headed straight for the sofa, Harry walked toward his replicator. Contemplating on Tom's response, he realized he would never understand the pilot's relationship with Security Chief. It seemed odd that two men with such opposite personalities and who constantly sniped at each other could develop a friendly relationship. Whether that relationship was private or personal, Harry had no idea.

While Harry replicated two cups of coffee, Tom continued, "I noticed in his Insurrection Alpha program that Tuvok had not cast me as one of the crew who joined the Maquis uprising at the drop of a hat, unlike poor Neelix."

"What's the point of all this?" Harry found Tom's "tribute" to the Vulcan Security Chief a little hard to take. He handed the other man a cup of coffee and settled on the sofa with his own.

Tom took a sip of coffee. "The point is . . . maybe you should ease up on Tuvok. He's not that bad. Really. And besides, he's been through a lot, lately. Getting assimilated by the Borg, his . . . uh, Tarkalian flu. And getting brainwashed by that psychotic Bajoran vedek to start . . ." Tom broke off. Realization gleamed in his blue eyes. Much to Harry's dismay. "That's it, isn't it?"

"What?" Harry demanding, dreading Tom's answer.

The pilot's eyes narrowed. "These practical jokes. They have something to do with what happened after that Bajoran vedek brainwashed Tuvok into reviving the Maquis aboard ship. Especially when Tuvok was investigating the attacks upon the Maquis."

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Harry flushed, aware of the unconvincing tone in his voice. He tried to dismiss Tom's accusations. Tried and failed. Memories of Tuvok's interrogation and admission of accessing his private mail returned. And so did a familiar anger.

Tom gave the younger man a shrewd glance. "So, this unrelenting string of practical jokes toward Tuvok has nothing to do with . . ."

"Nothing at all," Harry added firmly. He finally managed to push the offending memory from his mind.

Okay." Tom shrugged. "But if it does, just remember. Tuvok was only doing his job. You remember those words, don't you Harry?"

* * * *

Maybe Tom was right, Harry decided after his friend left. It did seem pointless to get even with Tuvok for nothing. After all, Harry was a Starfleet officer. He that as Voyager's Chief Security Officer, Tuvok had every right to access private correspondence in regard to an investigation. Maybe he should end the practical jokes. Put the? incident behind him. Perhaps suggest a game of kaltoth to signify the end of hostilities.

"Mr. Kim", a deep voice called out, interrupting Harry's reverie. It was Tuvok. "I had asked you for the status on the data from the ship's sensor array."

Harry's mind jumped back to the present. A quick glance around the Bridge revealed the Vulcan Second Officer seated in the Captain's chair. There was no sign of Captain Janeway or Commander Chakotay. "Uh, I'm sorry, Commander," Harry replied. "What did you say?" A few snickers could be heard on the Bridge.

"Data from the sensors array, Mr. Kim," Tuvok repeated. "I am waiting for the status."

Coughing nervously, Harry reported that the array was operating at 100 percent. "The external sensors have detected a Class 'J' nebula, located five light years away."

Tuvok commented dryly, "Thank you, Ensign. Perhaps you should run a diagnostic on all of the ship's sensors." Something resembling a sardonic note (or so Harry thought) crept into the Vulcan's tone. "Perhaps this will keep your mind focused on your duties . . . and not on insignificant matters."

More snickering from the other crewmen followed. Along with a snort from a certain person at the Conn. A simmering anger replaced the embarrassment inside Harry. Any thoughts of regret, an apology or a game of kaltoth flew from his thoughts. As far as he was concerned, Tuvok was toast.

* * * *

The moment his shift on the Bridge ended, Harry rushed toward the turbolift and headed for Deck 6. Holodeck Two. He had already formed an idea for a new practical joke. One that would transform Tuvok's Surak program into a Captain Proton adventure and keep the Vulcan trapped inside the simulation during the latter's scheduled time. Harry allowed himself a smile. Yes, that sounded like a fine idea.

Upon reaching Holodeck Two, Harry entered and headed straight for the computer console. He ordered access to Tuvok's Surak program. "That authorization code is no longer in effect," the computer's voice chirped.

Harry smirked. Nice try Tuvok, he thought to himself. This was the Vulcan's second attempt to block Harry's access into the Surak program. The Operations Chief felt certain that any security measures created by Tuvok could be bypassed. "Computer, please state the last holodeck program filed by Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok. Authorization code, Kim Alpha Seven."

The computer responded, "Unable to comply. Private authorization code is required for that information."

So, Tuvok wanted to play rough. When it came to Voyager's computer, Harry considered himself master of this game. Undaunted, he set about creating a brief program to hack into Tuvok's new code. It did not take long before he finally succeeded.

"Computer, state the last program filed by Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok using the following decompiling system." Harry punched in a few codes.

The computer complied. "Last file saved by Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok is T'Pel Gamma Phi Six."

Harry ordered, "Initiate T'Pel Gamma Phi Six and open the narrative parameters."

The holodeck grid transformed into the familiar stone temple of Surak. Another smile touched Harry's lips. But it disappeared, along with the temple. In a blink of an eye, the young ensign found himself standing in the middle of a flat, dry landscape with no temple in sight. "What the hell?" he murmured, confused. A humanoid materialized before Harry. It was Tuvok. Or a holographic simulation of the Vulcan. "Tuvok! What the hell is going on?"

"Good day, Mister Kim. You are about to participate in the ritual of Tal'loth," the Vulcan coolly replied.

Harry exclaimed, "The ritual of what?"

"Tal'loth. Since you have developed a fondness for Vulcan holographic simulations, I have decided to create this particular one. For your enjoyment." Tuvok strode forward. "This is the Tulak Desert on Vulcan. This is where I once participated in a Vulcan survival ritual. The very same ritual you are about to take part. I hope you will enjoy it."

"Wait a minute!" Harry cried. "I'm not going to take part in any survival ritual! Computer, end holodeck simulation!"

The computer's voice responded, "Unable to comply. The T'Pel Gamma Phi Six program is programmed to end in exactly three hours after its initiation. Only a private authorization code from Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok can end the program."

"Computer, end this program. Authorization code, Surak Beta Delta!"

"Unable to comply. A vocal authorization from Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok is required."

Desperation dominated Harry's voice as he cried to the holographic Vulcan. "Tuvok! Do something! Order the computer to end the program!"

Tuvok coolly replied, "I am not programmed to do so, Ensign Kim. Please enjoy your holodeck time." He began to dematerialize.

"Tuvok? Tuvok!"

* * * *

Tom stepped off from the turbolift and strode along Deck Six's corridor. Recalling Harry's dash from the Bridge, he suspected that another practical joke was about to be plotted against Tuvok. Especially after the Vulcan had humiliated Harry on the Bridge. Tom intended to stop the Ops Chief, but a summons from Seven required his presence in Astrometrics.

As he approached Holodeck Two, Tom found Voyager's Tactical Chief standing outside. "Tuvok," he exclaimed, "what are you doing here? Holodeck time already?"

"I am here to . . ." A blood-curling scream from inside Holodeck Two interrupted Tuvok. Tom immediately recognized the voice. Harry. He rushed forward to enter the holodeck, but Tuvok grabbed hold of his arm and stopped him. "I would not, if I were you, Lieutenant. Mister Kim is already in the middle of his holodeck recreation time."

Tom frowned. "What are you saying? Harry never said anything about reserving time for the holodeck, today." Another scream followed. Tom attempted to free himself from the Vulcan's grip. "Tuvok! Let me go! Harry's in trouble!"

"I assure you that Mister Kim is in no danger. Especially since he is capable of moving ten times faster than the Tulak Desert worm," Tuvok responded.

"Desert worm?"

The Vulcan continued, "A common native of the Tulak Desert on Vulcan. Granted, its appearance may be considered intimidating at 12 feet long and its bite is dangerous," Tom glanced sharply at the older man, "but the worm does not pose any threat, due to its slow movement." A scream from inside the holodeck punctuated Tuvok's remarks. "Of course, there are more than one worm."

Speechless, Tom found himself wondering how Harry ended up in a holographic simulation of a Vulcan desert. "I . . . uh, why would Harry . . .?"

"Apparently, Ensign Kim had access to my new Vulcan survival course program," Tuvok replied. One of his brows quirked upward. "While attempting to access my Surak program."

Tom blinked. "Survival course?"

Tuvok nodded. "The ritual of Tal'loth. I took part in it long before I had participated in any survival course at the Academy. And since Ensign Kim seemed curious about my holodeck programs, I thought he would also enjoy the Tal'loth ritual."

Tom stared at Tuvok. The latter's stoicism remained firmly in place. Yet, Tom thought he had detected a touch of smugness in the Vulcan's dark eyes. He finally understood. Tuvok had finally decided to teach Harry a lesson about practical jokes.

A fourth scream emitted from inside the holodeck. Tom and Tuvok exchanged looks. "Exactly how long will Harry take part in this uh . . . survival course?"

Tuvok's second brow formed an angle. "Unlike Seska, I have placed a time limit in the holodeck program." He paused. "At least three hours."

Three hours in the Vulcan desert, dodging 12 feet long worms that can bite. Poor Harry. Tom shook his head and smiled. That ought to finally dampen his friend's penchant for practical jokes.

The two officers walked away from Holodeck Two. Tom asked, "Say Tuvok, what if I had continued with the jokes. Would I be facing desert worms in the holodeck?"

Dark eyes stared pointedly at Tom. "Do you really require an answer, Lieutenant?"

Tom felt a wave of relief. "No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I don't." Thank God B'Elanna had weaned him off practical jokes. Then he added, "You know, I didn't realize that Vulcans were capable of revenge."

Tuvok's brows rose higher. "I assure you, Lieutenant Paris, we are not. Revenge is an illogical and unnecessary trait. What Ensign Kim is experiencing is merely a lesson in respecting another's possessions."

Tom allowed himself a smile. "Of course, Tuvok. Whatever you say."


THE END

Monday, February 25, 2008

"A Day in the Life of Paige Matthews" [PG] - 1/1



Here is a story about one day in the life of Paige Matthews, set during my Alternate Universe version of Season Five:


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PAIGE MATTHEWS

RATING: [PG]
SUMMARY: Paige's POV on her job, a new family member, romantic complications, and new dangers - all in one day. Over two months following "Second Power".
FEEDBACK: lee66132000@yahoo.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Darryl Morris, Cole Turner and other characters related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills and Barbara Bowen are my own creation.



6:45 A.M. - Oh God! What time is it? Jeez! It's not even seven in the morning and that damn kid is already crying! Sigh! I know! I know. He's not a damn kid. He's my nephew. My beloved, nearly two month-old nephew, Wyatt. Still, does the little runt have to wake us up every three to four hours? I haven't had a decent night's sleep, since he was born.

7:32 A.M. - Ah! Breakfast at the Halliwell manor. I see that Piper has already prepared one of her UBER meals. Scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, fruit . . . and OATMEAL? Well, at least Leo is trying to devour half of it. I wonder if he realizes that whitelighters do gain weight. Phoebe has finally arrived. Oh Lord! My fashion sense may be questionable, but I would never wear low-slung jeans and a blouse that reveals both cleavage and stomach to the office. Phoebe, Phoebe! What are you doing? Well, it's obvious. She wants to attract the new boss - yummy Jason Dean, who is the new owner of the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR and millionaire extraordinaire. Hmmm, I see that she's only eating toast and coffee. Well, I'm a little hungry, right now. I guess I'll settle for eggs, toast and juice. Unlike Phoebe, I have no desire to attract the attention of my boss. I mean, Barbara may be good-looking, but I'm just not into lesbianism.

Sigh! Now if only Piper wouldn't . . . oh, oh! She's left the kitchen. I know what that means. She'll be bringing Wyatt back with her . . . to feed him. Ugh! I suppose having a child is supposed to be beautiful, but does she really have to breast feed him, in front of the rest of us? While we're eating?

9:05 A.M. - Made it to work, just in time. Five minutes early, to be exact. A world's record for me. Sometimes, it's hard to believe that I've went from being a social service clerk, to counselor, to unemployed witch, and finally to shop's assistant. How the mighty has fallen! Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. I like working at Ostera, which is the word for the Spring Equinox. It's great! Fun! And working for Barbara is also fun. She's a lot of laughs.

On the surface, she looks like one of those blond, blue-eyed cheerleader types. You know what I mean, Miss All American - California style. Only Barbara has brains. And boy, does she know her potions and herbs. Even better, she has a wicked, wicked sense of humor. She reminds me of Olivia, to be honest. But without the latter's ruthless streak. Oooh! First customer! Mr. DiSilvo. He usually comes around every Friday morning, five minutes after the shop opens. Time to go to work.

10:39 A.M. - A friend of Barbara has paid a visit to the shop. He seemed like a nice person, for a geeky-looking fellow. Neither Madeline - Madeline Oser, the newest (and junior) shop assistant - or I really got to meet him. Barbara and her friend headed straight for the back, while we dealt with more customers. I did see him give Barbara some kind of plant, before they went into the back.

11:03 A.M. - Maddy and I finally met Barbara's friend. It turns out that he's a fellow witch she had first met in college. His name is Osborne. Osborne Pierce. Huh. Interesting name. Well, his appearance certainly lived up to the name. Medium height, rather thin, pale skin and unmemorable features. But, he did have a pair of very nice brown eyes.

11:58 A.M. - Lunch time! Nate came by to pick me up! He is sooo cool! And gorgeous! In a scruffy kind of way. He promised to take me to Caffe Freddy's on Columbus, one of my favorite restaurants. Yay! Oh look, he here! Gotta go!

1:03 P.M. - Lunch with Nate at Caffe Freddy's turned out to be great. The pizza was good, but Nate's company was even better. I haven't told the others about him. I guess I want to keep him as my secret . . . at least for now. Barbara has already left for lunch and now, I'm in charge of the store. Piper dropped by for a few purchases - rosemary and ajowan. She even brought along little Wyatt. I think Maddy is in love with him. I wonder why Piper didn't go to the grocery store. She could have paid less for the rosemary and ajowan, there. Well, at least for the rosemary. I guess she simply wanted to help her little sister maintain a job.

1:21 P.M. - A new customer had arrived, just as Piper and Wyatt were leaving. Weird-looking woman. With that dark hair and eyes, and pale skin, she looked like a cross between Morticia Addams and Drusilla the vampire from BUFFY. The moment I had laid eyes upon her, the old alarm clock inside me, went off. Demon? Warlock? Who knows? Piper took one look at her and decided to hang around, a little longer.

1:23 P.M. - Apparently, our new customer (a.k.a. Morticia) wasn't looking for herbs to buy. She wanted to know if the shop sold plants. I told her that we only sold herbs and spices, not plants. I recommended a plant nursery, nearby. She stared at all of us for a moment, with those dark and creepy eyes, smiled and left. Thank goodness Piper had decided to remain behind for a few minutes longer.

2:09 P.M. - Barbara finally returned from lunch. With Bruce McNeill, her fiancé, in tow. Oh-oh. I know what that meant. A little hanky-panky in the back room. Okay, I shouldn't begrudge a woman for wanting a little nookie time with her fiancé - especially since he is the sous chef of one of the city's hottest restaurants. But jeez! Does Bruce always have to come by, every other day?

2:17 P.M. - Another regular customer stopped by. Nick Marcano. He's a witch, but like Barbara, he doesn't have a practical power. And unlike the rest of us, he doesn't practice Wicca. He practices Stregheria, a pagan religion from Italy. Nick also happens to be the aunt of Carla Bianchi, an old friend of Bruce's mom. Nick is such a sweetie, and very nice. Although he tends to be a little obsessive about his interests. It's odd. He's known Bruce, Olivia and the youngest McNeill sibling, Harry, since they were all kids. Yet, he ended up becoming close to Barbara, of all people. I guess it's due to the fact that both have no special power and both love plants.

2:26 P.M. - Barbara and Bruce finally returned from the store's stockroom. Maddy, Nick and I took one look at their messy hair and clothes and guessed what they had been up to. Maddy smirked as usual. Okay, so did I. As for Nick . . . Huh, that's strange. Nick seemed . . . I don't know, upset? I knew that he and Barbara were close friends, but why would he be upset over her and Bruce fooling around in the stockroom? Weird! Never known for him to react like that, before. Then again, I may have been imagining things.

3:01 P.M. - One minute, I'm helping a customer and the next, all hell breaks loose. Hell came in the form of an alarm going off, and it seemed to be coming from the bank, across the street. Oh God! I think the bank is being robbed!

3:11 P.M. - There's nothing like gunshots to make a woman feel extremely vulnerable. Get this. Here I am, one of the three most powerful witches . . . okay, four. I forgot about Olivia and her fire staff. To get back to what I was saying - here I am, one of the most powerful witches of all time, and I'm down on the floor, trying to avoid flying bullets, while staring at a dead body. Powerful witch or not, I'm not invincible. Damn!

The moment we heard gunshots, some uniformed cop rushed inside the store and screamed at us to get down. Seconds after we hit the floor, a bullet shot through the window, killing the cop. Oh God! More gunfire was exchanged. Some guy in a business suit and black-knitted hood, burst into the shop, pointed a shotgun at us, screaming hostages. One of our customers wanted to crawl toward the stockroom, but none of us dared, not with that gun trained on us.

Finally, we heard Darryl's voice, screaming at the bank robber to put down the gun and free us. It wasn't long before both were in the middle of a screaming match. It was almost like a scene out of NYPD BLUE or that movie, HEAT. The robber aimed his shotgun at Barbara. I closed my eyes and heard a gunshot. I opened them and the next thing I saw was the robber on the floor. Dead. I wish I could mourn him, but I was too busy feeling relieved. Oh God! I think I have to pee.

3:27 P.M. - The bodies are gone, thank God! Both Darryl and Olivia took statements from all of us. Would you believe it? They were in the area, when they heard the call about a bank robbery in progress. After all of the statements were taken, the police excused everyone. Looking back on it, I can't help but wish I had used my teleorbing power to take that gun from the robber. But that would have meant exposing myself as a witch to the customers. And speaking of the customers, they got out of there like bats out of hell, after being excused. Barbara, Maddy and I remained behind to clean up. I only hope this day doesn't get any weirder.

3:51 P.M. - The police are still outside, dealing with the aftermath of the bank robbery, and the two deaths that happened inside the store. Darryl popped in real fast to check on us and then, disappeared. Barbara decided to close the shop early, after all of the excitement. We've already turned away three customers. However, two more customers decided to pay us a visit. One of them was our old friend, Morticia Addams, Part Deux. And with her was some hairy creature who could have easily passed as Cousin It.

Before we could even blink, Morticia zapped poor Madeline unconscious with a bolt of electricity. At least I hope she's unconscious. Her boon companion, Cousin It, lifted me off my feet . . . by grabbing my throat. Hell, I could barely breath. Morticia demanded that Barbara hand over something called the Soma plant. Apparently, this was the plant that Osborne Pierce had given Barbara. Who merely stared at Morticia with confused eyes. Oh, oh! This doesn't look good. Sure enough, Cousin It squeezed my throat a little harder. I finally had the good sense to orb out of his grip. While I tried to breathe again, Cousin It made another attempt to grab me. And once again, I orbed out of his way.

Meanwhile, Morticia continued to zap at Barbara with little energy bolts, while demanding the Soma plant. Barbara deflected her attacks. How, I have no idea. Cousin It started toward me and I knocked him off balance with a roundhouse kick. Thank God for Phoebe and Livy! Speaking of Olivia, she finally returned to the store, just as Cousin It produced a knife in his hand. I tele-orbed it into my hand and threw it at him. Unfortunately, he caught it and threw it back at me. Using her telekinesis, Olivia intervened and sent the knife into Cousin It's forehead, turning him into a pile of ashes.

We returned our attention to Barbara, who seemed in danger of being electrocuted to death. Somehow, she managed to produce some kind of wand and sent Morticia flying across the store. A large energy ball formed in the demon's (or whatever) hands to deliver the deathblow. Before she could, Morticia disintegrated into a ball of fire, thanks to Olivia. Boy! I see that Livy has finally learned to control that firepower of hers.

4:12 P.M. - Both Olivia and Darryl hung around a bit to see if we were okay. I guess we're all still a bit shaken by today's attacks. Bank robbery, nearly held hostage and a visit by demons or whatever who were bent upon getting their hands on some plant. Speaking of the plant, Barbara had no idea of what a Soma plant was. Apparently, her old buddy, Osborne, had failed to tell her. I could tell that she would dearly love to get her hands around his throat and choke the living daylights out of him. She was that pissed.

Madeline had, fortunately, survived Morticia's attack. I managed to heal her, before Barbara allowed her to leave for the day. Barbara also decided to close the shop about an hour early. I volunteered to clean up, before closing the shop. I'm glad the shop is closing, because I don't think I can take any more surprises. And my throat is feeling a bit sore.

4:27 P.M. - Barbara and Maddy have already left and I've finally finished cleaning the shop. I bet everyone at home will be surprised to see me. Huh. What's this? Looks like a small shopping bag. What's it doing on one of the shelves? I wonder who left it. Well, I'm certainly not going to leave it behind. Might as well take it home, with me.

5:09 P.M. - Everything seemed to be in a state of chaos when I got home. Wyatt was crying (no surprise there). Piper and Leo seemed to be searching for something. One of Wyatt's toys? A bottle perhaps? And I found Phoebe upstairs, nervously getting ready for a date with her boss. Hmmm, I guess that diet was working, after all.

5:26 P.M. - I finally opened the bag I had found at Ostera's. Inside was a red velvet box that held a dragon-shaped gold pin. Oooo! There was even a small ruby that served as the dragon's eye. In other words, it was probably worth a couple of thousand dollars. I wonder who left it? Mrs. McMasters with her silly terrier? Olivia? Or the Morticia/Drusilla look-alike? They were the only three I knew who could afford such a pin.

5:28 P.M. - Just as I was about to put the pin back into the velvet box, Phoebe popped into my room. She took one look at the pin and wanted to know how I got it. So I told her. Then . . . would you believe this? She asked if she could wear it tonight, for her date. You know, there are times when I don't understand Phoebe. Sometimes, I think she must be one of the most morally mixed-up women I have ever met. She had pushed Cole away . . . on moral grounds - something I still regret for encouraging her to do. She tends to act like Miss Goody Two-Shoes around her new boss (I've seen her in action, by the way). And yet, she sometimes dresses like a soft-porn actress. And then she does something like this - asks me to lend her the pin. Something she knows that I don't own. I wonder if Jason is aware of the kind of woman he's involved with. Phoebe is my sister and I love her, but sometimes . . . I have to be honest. Sometimes, she can be pretty flaky. Cole must have loved Phoebe very much to put up with her for so long. As for the pin, I told Phoebe that she couldn't wear it. For the obvious reason, of course - it didn't belong to me.

6:58 P.M. - With the mysterious pin, Phoebe getting ready for her date, the crisis over Wyatt, and dinner, I forgot about the two demons (or warlocks) at Ostera's, today. When I finally told the others, they freaked out. I asked Leo if he knew anything about a plant called Soma. Apparently, he didn't. Piper got very upset over the fact that Morticia had returned to the shop and caused more trouble. I guess she's feeling guilty that she had not stayed any longer. And I didn't help by reminding her that Olivia ended up saving our lives.

7:15 P.M. - Jason Dean arrived to pick up Phoebe. I must say that he looked delicious. Tall, dirty blond hair and somewhat slender. Very handsome, by the way. There's something about his eyes that almost reminded me of Cole's, but they were not as intense. I still found it hard to believe that he and Phoebe began dating because of some computer chat forum.

Phoebe made her entrance on the staircase. She looked great in her long red satin gown with spaghetti straps. Instead of jewelry, she wore a crushed dark red velvet choker. But there was one problem - the slit at the side of the dress. It just didn't work. I know she's my sister, but like I've said before, Phoebe usually has no fashion sense, whatsoever. Sometimes, her outfits seemed to clash in colors or in styles. Hell, she's worse than me and my tastes tend to slip every now and then. But I must admit that she looked great, tonight. But that damn slit had to go. Sorry, but Pheebs simply lacked the height to carry a slit. Jason didn't seem to mind. His expression clearly stated that he approved. And Piper and Leo obviously approved of Jason. I guess a mortal, who happened to be a millionaire seems a whole lot better than a powerful half-demon, who also happened to be a lawyer.

7:26 P.M. - While Leo was showing off Wyatt to Jason, the doorbell rang again. Surprise, surprise! It was Olivia and Cole! Oh boy! I never saw so many intense reactions in my life. I almost felt as if I was in the middle of some daytime soap opera. Leo became tense; Piper, hostile. I couldn't tell whether Phoebe was nervous, angry or jealous. Maybe all three. Cole seemed wary, but cool. And I was simply staring at everyone else, like an idiot. But the biggest surprise turned out to be Olivia and Jason. They simply stared at each other with shocked expressions on their faces. Then Olivia called out Jason's name - as if she had not seen him in a long time. Whoa! Olivia and Jason knew each other? Jason began to have the shakes. And Phoebe and Cole stared at their significant others, surprised by this little development.

7:31 P.M. - Apparently, the dragon-shaped pin I had found, belonged to Olivia. She had just bought it, this afternoon and wanted to wear it at this charity dinner that she and Cole planned to attend, tonight. Phoebe and Jason were also going to the same charity dinner. And damn, did they look fabulous! Olivia and Cole, I mean. Olivia wore this aquamarine gown with a halter-top that displayed a tasteful amount of cleavage. And like Phoebe's gown, it had a slit. Only Livy had the height to do justice to it. I hate to say it, but she made the rest of us women look like girls. As for Cole - dare I say more? Six feet-two, broad shoulders, dark hair, vivid blue eyes and a handsome mug. In that tuxedo, he made Leo and Jason look like background chorus boys. Looking at him, I could not help but wonder how Phoebe could let him get away. Until I remembered, rather guiltily, that Piper and I were partly responsible for encouraging her to dump him.

7:33 P.M. - While Olivia and I were upstairs, getting her pin, she spilled the beans about her and Jason. They had dated some three years ago. Just before she had met Richard. Whoa! Phoebe is dating Olivia's ex-boyfriend? And Olivia is dating - well, is just friends with - Phoebe's ex-husband? This is too much! Boy, I can't wait to tell Piper and Leo!

7:38 P.M. - Olivia and returned downstairs. Phoebe and Jason had already left. Damn! I wanted to see more fireworks. After Olivia and Cole left, I told Leo and Piper everything. Piper made some nasty little comment about how Olivia's taste in men had deteriorated. Sigh! Some people never change - including older sisters.

9:22 P.M. - Barbara called. She had just received a call from Darryl. Apparently, the police has discovered Osborne Pierce's body in an alley, off Montgomery Street. Electrocuted. By Morticia, no doubt. The police believe that someone had deliberately killed and tortured Osborne with a taser. Thank God that Morticia and Cousin It are gone. Barbara also added that she believes that Morticia was a warlock named Bebe Harris. Bebe? The name doesn't fit. Cousin It, on the other hand, was definitely a demon - a Kaliff demon, whose name she doesn't know. Along with Bruce, Barbara had returned to the shop to fetch the Soma plant. She also decided to stay with the McNeills for a while. As for Ostera, it will open tomorrow. Too bad. I could have used a Saturday off.

11:43 P.M. - Phoebe's back. I can hear her and Jason, downstairs. I guess he didn't bother to hang around, very long. I just heard the front door shut. It wasn't long before Phoebe appeared in my room. I know what she wants. Information on Olivia and Jason. Apparently, the boss had failed to tell her about his relationship with Olivia. So I told Phoebe. Needless to say, she didn't take the news very well. I asked her if she had enjoyed the charity dinner. The look on her face said it all. I guess it must have been difficult spending the evening in the same room with Olivia and Cole. I wonder how they felt. I really need to call Livy, tomorrow. Phoebe said good-night and left. Probably went to cry on Piper's shoulder . . . if Leo's not there.

2:38 A.M. - Goddammit! It's almost three in the morning and that goddamn kid decides to wake up the entire household! All because he's hungry! Deep breath, Paige. Calm down. God! Leo and Piper are going to have to do something about that kid. Drug him before he goes to bed, if they have to. Or maybe Leo can soundproof Wyatt's room and spare us the early morning scream fests. I mean, geez! I've already endured a horrible day and I have to get up in a little over four hours. Is it too much to ask for a decent night's sleep?


THE END

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"VANTAGE POINT" (2008) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery featuring photos from the new political thriller called "VANTAGE POINT". The movie stars Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forrest Whittaker, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt:


"VANTAGE POINT" (2008) Photo Gallery

















































Saturday, February 23, 2008

"JUMPER" (2008) Review




"JUMPER" (2008) Review

Doug Liman ("THE BOURNE IDENTITY" and "MR. AND MRS. SMITH") directed this film adaptation of Steven Gould's science-fiction thriller about a young man who discovers that he has a teleportation ability as a teenager and finds himself the target of a group of bounty hunters known as Paladins. The movie stars Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, Michael Hooker and Diane Lane.

I really did not know what to expect of this movie. I have never read Gould's novel and the sequels that followed. The movie trailer looked promising. But with the film being released in February and the critics being lukewarm . . . I really was not expecting much. Lo and behold, I ended up enjoying "JUMPER" a lot.

Liman did a good job in keeping the story interesting and well paced. Hayden Christensen (dubbed "wooden" by the critics) gave a subtle, yet entertaining performance. And he seemed to have good chemistry with his co-stars Rachel Bilson and Jamie Bell. I have to admit there were times I could not understand Bell's accent, but at least he gave a solid performance. Samuel L. Jackson was particularly scary as Roland Cox, the bounty hunter (also called Paladin) who belonged to an organization that did not approve of teleporters or "Jumpers". These religious fanatics believed that people like Christensen and Bell had no right to such abilities. Only God. Hmmmm. Michael Rooker was surprisingly sympathetic as David's embittered father, who still harbored great concern for his son. And Diane Lane and Kristen Stewart appeared as David's mother (who was also a Paladin) and his half-sister.

Judging from what I have read about Gould's novel, I can see that the film adaptation was not completely faithful. Not that it bothers me. I have never read the novel. And Hollywood - along with other film industries - never possessed the habit of being completely faithful to the literary source. But I must admit that screenwriters David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg did a pretty good job with their adaptation. Mind you, I believe that the movie could have been a little longer than 90 minutes. But it seems a little clear that the writers have set up a possible sequel in case the movie proves to be successful. However, I do wish they had cleared up two matters - 1) the fate of David Rice's father after the latter had been assaulted by Cox; and 2) the fate of David's former nemesis - high school bully Mark, after David had left him in a jail. But at least the story did not end in an abrupt manner that had left moviegoers slightly puzzled at the end of "MR. AND MRS. SMITH".

"JUMPER" is not exactly the best action film to hit the theaters. It is basically a good solid movie that will keep you entertained to the end. On the whole, I give it at least three out of four stars.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Lover Man" [R] - 3/3



"LOVER MAN"


PART THREE

The Bridge's turbolift doors slid open. Tom Paris emerged from the lift and strode toward the Conn Station to relieve Mariah Henley.

From the Engineering Station, B'Elanna watched the entire exchange from the corners of her eyes. She noticed that Mariah's shoulders stiffened under contact from Paris's hand. And the smirk that appeared on the Chief Helmsman's lips. A red flush tinged Mariah's face, as she walked toward the turbolift.

B'Elanna's console beeped. She glanced down and found a message flashed across her screen. "Keep your eyes on the job, Maquis. Tuvok is watching." B'Elanna's eyes widened at Harry's message. Then she looked up and found a pair of dark eyes that belonged to the Vulcan Tactical Chief. Observing her. The engineer coughed slightly and returned her attention to her work. However, not before she returned Harry's message. "Thanks Starfleet."

Since the day Harry had convinced her not to report Tom's indiscretions to Chakotay, B'Elanna has found herself growing increasingly obsessed with the pilot. She tried to curb this obsession and convince herself that she was wasting her time. After all, she has failed to come across any signs of sexual activity in Cabin Nine-I since that second time. Unfortunately, B'Elanna also continued to be plagued with dreams of her and Paris. Much to her mortification.

There seemed to be one bright light in the horizon. Ever since Paris's troubles on Banea, his circle of female admirers seem to have shrunken to almost non-existent. Like B'Elanna and other crewmen, they had heard about his affair with the wife of a murdered Banean scientist. And his conviction for murder by the Banean government. Paris ended up reliving the entire killing from the victim's viewpoint, thanks to some implanted memory engrams. However, his punishment ended up short-lived. Lieutenant Tuvok managed to exonerate Paris after discovering a murder-and-espionage conspiracy that had allegedly framed the pilot.

Many believed that Tuvok had conjured up evidence to exonerate Paris at Captain Janeway's behest. B'Elanna found that particular theory ludicrous. Tuvok may have been a traitorous spy, but not even he would go that far. She had to admit - most reluctantly - that Paris was innocent.

There still remained another matter regarding the blond helmsman. The identity of his secret lover from Cabin Nine-I. It was a mystery that B'Elanna felt determined to uncover. Who else, besides Paris, had kept her awake with sounds of passion on two separate occasions, during the past several weeks?

While B'Elanna contemplated the question, Paris's combadge chirped, breaking the silence on the Bridge. "Janeway to Paris," the Captain's voice announced. "Have you forgotten about our appointment in my Ready Room?"

This time, B'Elanna openly stared at the pilot. Like everyone else on the Bridge. A crewman in Command Red relieved Paris at the Helm. And the latter made his way to the Captain's Ready Room. The moment he disappeared inside, B'Elanna sent a second message to Harry's station. "What was that about?"

Seconds later, Harry's response flashed across her console. "Have no idea, Maquis. Will ask Tom later."

B'Elanna eventually found herself forced to contemplate upon the meeting inside the Ready Room, between the pilot and the starship captain. She admitted to herself that the meeting could be innocent. But when Paris failed to reappear on the Bridge after ten minutes, B'Elanna became suspicious. Another five minutes passed and yet, Janeway and Paris remained inside the Ready Room. B'Elanna glanced at Harry, who shrugged. Then her eyes rested upon the First Officer. Who casted uneasy glances at the Ready Room's door.

After twenty more minutes passed, those doors finally opened. Tom Paris strode onto the Bridge, wearing a satisfied smile. He tugged at his jacket and relieved the pilot at the Helm. The Captain emerged two minutes later, looking quite happy and unusually bright. One look at the pair and B'Elanna immediately rejected any idea of an innocent meeting. Something had just occurred between Paris and Janeway. Something that had nothing to do with the ship's business or Starfleet protocols.

* * * *

"What?" Harry stared at B'Elanna with disbelief. So did Seska, Henley and Ensign Lang. The five crewman had gathered at a table inside the Mess Hall for dinner, that evening.

The Chief Engineer repeated her speculations about Janeway and Paris. That the two might be involved in an affair. "C'mon Harry! You saw what happened on the Bridge, today! Why would Paris remain in the Captain's Ready Room together for over a half hour? Thirty-five minutes, Harry! And don't tell me that it had something to do with what happened on Banea. That was nearly two weeks ago!"

"The real question should be," Seska added, "why would you care?"

B'Elanna stared at the Bajoran. "What?"

Seska continued, "I can understand why Henley would be upset." The pilot responded with a glare. "But why are you upset, B'Elanna? You don't like Paris. You've barely given him a thought since we arrived in the Delta Quadrant. Why do you care whether or not he's having an affair with Janeway?"

All eyes focused on the half-Klingon. B'Elanna squirmed under their scrutiny. What could she say? That the lovemaking in Cabin Nine-I was keeping her awake? Or that she was having erotic dreams about her and the chief pilot? "I don't like the idea of us suffering, due to some illicit affair between those two," she finally answered.

A brittle laugh escaped the Bajoran's mouth. "Oh B'Elanna! You are so naïve!" The Chief Engineer winced under the latter's derision. "I doubt that 150 crewmen are going to suffer over some tawdry affair Janeway might be having with Paris! Unless she becomes pregnant or something. I may not like the woman very much, but I can't blame her for wanting a little comfort to ease her loneliness."

"Seska's right," Henley added. "After all, Chakotay's romance with her didn't hurt us." She remained stoic under the Bajoran's dark glare. "Of course in the Captain's case, I cannot see why she would even have . . ." Her voice dimmed to a whisper. B'Elanna noticed the slight jealousy in her voice. Obviously, Mariah also became aware of it.

Seska smiled. "What were you about to say, Mariah?"

Fortunately for the ex-Maquis pilot, Harry and Deborah Lang seemed more interested in defending Janeway's honor than in any jealousy on Henley's part. Lang stoutly declared that Captain Janeway would never break Starfleet protocols by fraternizing with someone under her command. "It's against regulations," she added.

"Actually, it's not," Harry corrected. "But it's not encouraged. An intimate relationship between a starship commander and a subordinate might lead to . . . well, certain problems. Problems that might have a bearing on the conduct of any starship."

Seska snorted. "And knowing Janeway, she'd rather die with her ideals intact than enjoy a little pleasure. So much for your theory, B'Elanna."

"Oh yeah?" the Chief Engineer shot back. "Then can someone explain why the Captain and Paris were in the Ready Room for at least a half hour? And why they were smiling, when they left?"

* * * *

"We had tea," Tom explained to his lover, the following afternoon. They laid stretched on the bed, inside Cabin Nine-I, with their naked bodies pressed against each other's. "The Captain had invited me for tea." He leaned toward her and nipped the side of her long neck.

She managed to scoff and moan at the same time, while Tom continued to nuzzle her neck. "You've got to be kidding! Why would . . . ah!" He bit into that sensitive junction where the shoulder and neck met.

"I think the Captain considers me her little reclamation project. We were suppose to have tea after the shift, but the Captain had another matter to deal with. So," Tom's hot tongue flickered across the hollow of her neck, "she rescheduled it for a little earlier." He sat up and lavisciously eyed the stunning body beside him. "If you think something is going on between us, you're mistaken. Captain Janeway is not the type to make out with a subordinate, just several feet away from the Bridge. That's just plain idiocy."

Slender hands trailed up Tom's chest. Her fingers slide through the chest hair. "You seem very defensive about her."

A malicious smile touched Tom's lips. "What's the matter? Jealous?"

Her hands grabbed a handful of chest hair and pulled, causing Tom to wince. "Don't insult me, Paris. I don't take kindly to any disrespect."

Tom jerked her hand away and gave it a hard squeeze. This time, it was her turn to wince. "Let's get something straight," he murmured. "Unless I'm on duty, I am not in the habit of jumping through hoops for anyone. At least of all, for you. I've had enough of that in my life."

"Then why are you here?"

"For a good, fuck. What did you think? Because I'm madly in love with you?" Tom retorted.

She threw back her head and laughed. Out loud. Her laugh immediately died as Tom covered the mound between her legs. He inserted two fingers into her hot flesh. She let out a gasp, as her body jerked automatically. "Gods! I hope you're not in love," she said breathlessly. "What would be the fun in that?"

Smiling, Tom removed his fingers and gently forced her legs apart. Then he took her by surprise by ramming his member into her. She let out a cry and her body arched upward. Tom's thrusts became deeper. Harder. He leaned forward and covered one tantalizing breast with his mouth and began to suckle. And her cries grew louder.

* * * *

Unbeknownst to the occupants inside Cabin Nine-I, a certain chief engineer had slowly made her way to her quarters, two hours earlier than usual. She would have remained in Engineering a bit longer, but a shortage in one of the EPS relay circuits led to a slight electrocution and minor burns.

One of B'Elanna's engineers had beamed her into Sick Bay. There, the Doctor treated her injuries and gave her an anaglesiac for the pain. He also ordered her to return to her quarters for a long rest. B'Elanna's first instinct was to ignore the EMH's order. Unfortunately, he threatened to inform both the Captain and Chakotay if she did not obey.

Feeling slightly dazed from the medication in her bloodstream, B'Elanna eventually stumbled into her quarters. She peeled off her uniform and headed for the bedroom. Just as she was about to sink onto her bed, voices drifted from next door.

"Oh! Oh yes! Oh spirits! Don't . . . don't stop! Don't . . . oooh! Oh yes! Aaa . . . aaah! Yes! Don't . . . oh! Oh To-ooo-omm!" The orgasmic cry snapped B'Elanna out of her fog. She had not heard such a cry in over two weeks. Before Paris's murder conviction on the Banean homeworld. Her eyes closed and she sighed.

Muted laughter reached B'Elanna's ears. Apparently, Paris and his . . . "mate" had finished. She had hoped that news of Paris's affair with that Banean woman would end the illicit trysts in Cabin Nine-I. Harry must have informed Paris about her knowledge of the affair, leading the pilot to use the cabin a few hours earlier. No matter. B'Elanna had finally figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone - learn the identity of Paris's lover and get even with both for keeping her up at nights. Just before Paris and Harry's mission to Banea, she had installed a holovideo monitor in Cabin 9-I.

B'Elanna had forgotten about the monitor - until now. She planned to upload a recording of this afternoon's activity into the ship's computer. Or better yet, transform it into a holoprogram. And finally allow the crew an intimate look of Lover Boy Paris in action. It should be the talk of the ship for months to come.

* * * *

Like many of her plans in life, the one to expose Tom Paris and his lover did not proceed as B'Elanna had expected. The following morning saw more problems in Engineering. More malfunctions with the EPS conduits led to repairs that lasted nearly an entire day. By the time B'Elanna and her staff finished the repairs, she was too exhausted to even think about the video recording.

The following day, Voyager came across an M-class planet that provided the crew an opportunity to stock up on foodstuffs and other supplies. Also, both Chakotay and Seska had a near-fatal encounter with a group of Kazons. The latter continued to weigh on the crew's mind, when Voyager responded to a distress signal from one of their ships. B'Elanna made up part of the Away team that discovered not only a ship filled with dead Kazons, but also Federation technology that was not properly integrated into their system. Someone aboard Voyager had given Federation technology to the Kazon without Janeway's knowledge.

No one had been more surprised than B'Elanna when Tuvok and Chakotay revealed the culprit, the following day. Like many of the other former Maquis, B'Elanna assumed Joe Carey to be guilty. They believed he wanted revenge for being passed over for the position of Chief Engineer. Instead, Seska - one of her closest friends - turned out to be guilty. Even worse, the latter was revealed to be a Cardassian, surgically altered as a Bajoran, in order to infiltrate Chakotay's Maquis cell.

B'Elanna felt humiliated and betrayed. Chakotay might feel even worse, but that knowledge did not lessen her feelings. She tried to alleviate her mood with an evening trip to Sandrine's. But the idea of listening to smug 'Fleeters berate the Maquis for allowing a Cardassian spy in their midst did not appeal to her. She needed something else to relieve her anger.

Then she remembered. Tom and Cabin 9-I. At first, B'Elanna wondered if she wanted to watch a vid of Paris having sex with a crewmember. Witnessing his little bout with Mallory Aiwa had been bad enough. But, dammit! She had to do something! Brooding over Seska's betrayal did not help her mood. So, B'Elanna switched on her computer console, entered a few codes and uploaded the recorded images from the monitor next door. Satisfied that she had completed her task, she played back the images. What she saw nearly sent her into a state of shock. How could Tom Paris end up in an affair with her?

The plans to reveal the recording to the crew became null and void. B'Elanna did not kill her plans out of any feelings toward the lovers on the screen. She simply did not want to embarrass or hurt a friend. And revealing this to the crew would do just that.

* * * *

Tom bent over the pool table and sunk his last ball into a pocket with ease. His opponent groaned. "Your game is really improving, Tommy," Gaunt Gary commented with a sigh. "Maybe just a little too much. When did you learn that maneuver?"

"From watching you," Tom replied. "I only learn from the best." The hologram grimaced.

With the exception of a handful, only holographic characters like Gaunt Gary and Sandrine filled the Marsaille tavern that evening. Although Tom had left the program opened to the entire crew, three crewmen other than himself, had bothered to show up. Ensigns Lang and Ashmore only hung around for an hour, before leaving. Crewman Henley sat in a corner table with a few of the program's characters. It seemed the ex-Maquis preferred their company to his.

Henley and the other Maquis must still be in a state of shock over the revelations about Seska. Tom did not blame them. He felt the same. That she would hand over Federation technology behind Janeway's back did not really surprise him. The shock came from news that Seska had been a Cardassian in disguise. A Cardassian with the Obsidian Order. That meant . . .

The tavern doors opened. B'Elanna Torres strode inside, causing Tom to groan inwardly. She waved at Henley, glanced at Tom and headed toward the pool table. Much to the pilot's dismay.

"We-ell!" Gary proclaimed. "Look who's here! Wanna game with me, honey?" He oogled at the Chief Engineer, who fixed him with a deadly stare. If looks could kill, B'Elanna's glare would have destabilized Gary's matrix by now. "On second thought," the pool player added in a shaky voice, "maybe I had enough for this evening. See you, Tommy." He gave a quick wave and headed for Henley's table.

Torres stared coolly at Tom. "Up for another game, Paris?"

Tom frowned. "You want to play? Against me?" he asked.

"Why not? It's not like you've been beaten before."

A tart smile curled Tom's lips. "Yeah, but I don't see the Captain around, anywhere. And you're not exactly in her league."

"Rack 'em, Flyboy!" Torres snapped back. "And be prepared to have your ass kicked!"

Again, Tom smiled as he set up the balls for another game. Granted, he was not particularly fond of the half-Klingon. However, he had to admit that he found her to be a fascinating personality. And a very beautiful woman. His eyes roamed appreciatively over her slim body. But even better, she was, at best, a mediocre pool player.

Sure enough, the pilot proved to be more than a match for the engineer. The latter managed to sink in a ball or two during the game. But in the end, Tom emerged victorious. "Another game," Torres imperiously demanded.

"Look Torres, why don't we end this evening on a good note? If we play another game, it will only end embarrassingly for you. Trust me."

Dark eyes challenged Tom. "Don't count on it, Paris. I plan to make this next game unpleasant for you. C'mon, rack 'em up!"

Tom gave the engineer a long, cool look. "What's going on, Torres? You usually try to avoid my company. And now you want to shoot pool with me?" He paused, as an idea came to him. An unpleasant one, at that. "Has this something to do with Cabin 9-I?" he asked.

Anger replaced the challenging look in Torres's eyes. "Cabin 9-I?"

"Come off it, Torres! You know what I'm talking about!" Tom retorted. "Harry told me everything. Look, I had no idea that your cabin was next door. Nor did I realize you would hear everything . . ." Neither Tom nor Torres heard the tavern doors creak open. Or see the tall figure that entered, since they were facing the opposite direction.

"Believe me, Paris," Torres shot back, "I heard everything. Just tell me this. When you fucked Seska, did you ever realize that she was a Cardassian?"

A gust of breath left Tom's mouth. He stared at the half-Klingon in total shock. "Gods! How did . . .?" Tom finally recovered his voice. "How did you find out about Seska and me?" He tried his best to sound calm. "What did I do? Scream her name out loud?"

"No, she screamed your name," Torres responded. Tom almost blushed. "However, I didn't find out about Seska until I saw this." She removed a data chip from her pocket. "I had placed a video monitor in the cabin, nearly two weeks ago. And captured both of you in action."

Tom stared at the data chip. He wondered if the Chief Engineer planned to use it for some blackmail scheme. "By the way, I'm not in the business of blackmail," she added, as if reading his mind. "I don't stoop that low."

"Really? And what do you call placing that monitor in the cabin?" Tom shot back. "Why did you do it?"

Torres's stare became accusing. "Why did you sleep with Seska? Why her, Paris? It's bad enough she turned out to be a Cardassian. But you fucked her, even though she was suppose . . ."

"Suppose to what? Be Chakotay's lady love? As I recall, they broke up not long after he became First Officer. Something tells me that Seska didn't take the change in their relationship very well."

Disgust tinged Torres's voice. "And you just decided to screw her, so you could add one more notch on your belt. Is that it? Or was this your way of getting back at Chakotay?"

Tom smiled. He might as tell her everything. It would be interesting to see how she would react. "Actually, Seska caught me off guard, one night. When I was on Deck Nine. After that, she wanted to meet there, because it was convenient and she didn't have to worry about someone spotting me enter her quarters. Can't have a former Maquis be seen with Tom Paris. Granted, both of us could barely stand each other, but . . . I must say, she was great in bed. Something I had recalled from our time together in the Maquis."

A gasp left Torres's mouth, much to Tom's amusement. Bullseye. Her dark eyes grew wide with disbelief. "You mean to say that you and Seska were . . .?"

"That's right, Lieutenant. Lovers. Only, I wasn't the only one. Both here on Voyager and back in the Maquis," Tom added softly. "Seska had her little circle of lovers available, whenever she and Chakotay . . ." Suddenly aware of a third figure standing nearby, Tom glanced to his left and the words died on his lips. Trembling in rage, stood Voyager's First Officer. Torres's eyes followed Tom's and she gasped for the second time.

Chakotay stepped forward, rage reflecting his his black eyes. For a few seconds, Tom experienced genuine fear. Would he find himself in Sick Bay, covered in bruises and blood? He hoped not. Then again, he had endured beatings before.

"What others?" the older man demanded softly. "Who were the others, Paris?"

Torres stepped forward. "Chakotay . . ."

Tom took a deep breath. Squelched the fear within him. "I don't know," he curtly replied. "Why do you care anyway, Chakotay? You were never in love with Seska. Hell, you proved that when you dumped . . ." A bronze fist cut him off and sank into his gut. Another clipped him on the jaw and Tom fell back onto the floor.

Blood trickled from the corner of the pilot's mouth, as he remained sprawled on the floor. He could see the other figures, including Henley, drifting toward the pool table. Tom struggled to his feet and wiped the blood from his mouth.

"Thomas, are you hurt?" a concerned Sandrine asked.

Laughter, soft and bitter, rose from Tom's throat. "I'm fine, Sandrine. Just caught off guard, that's all." He faced the First Officer. "Good punch, Chakotay. I see that you haven't lost your touch."

"That was nothing, Paris," Chakotay growled. "I'm not through with you, yet."

Tom smirked, despite the pain from his bruised jaw. "If I were you, Commander, I'd drop the whole matter. Or else the Captain is going to start wondering why I have extra duty assignments. Or why I have to show up at Sick Bay for unexplained bruises. I am curious as to how you're going to explain this."

Chakotay retorted, "Explain all you want, Paris. It will be your word against mine. And I don't think B'Elanna or Mariah will be willing to testify on your behalf."

"Oh, I don't I'll need them. Don't forget the video monitors inside the holodeck. I'm sure they've recorded the whole thing. Unless you plan to tamper with them. Then again," another painful smirk touched Tom's lips, "knowing your penchant for truth and justice, you just might march up to the Captain's quarters and tell her everything." Tom paused. "Do you really want to do that?"

A long silence followed. Tom met Chakotay's stare with his own cool one. Finally, the First Officer let out something like a cross between a grunt and a snort. "You're not worth the effort," he said with disgust. Then he turned on his heels and stalked out of the holodeck.

* * * *

B'Elanna cried after the older man. "Chakotay!" But he did not hear. She whirled upon Paris and found him staring at her, coldly. "What? What is it?"

"Congratulations, Torres," he said softly. "Looks like you got what you wanted, after all. My humiliation. Only you got a friend humiliated as well. Tell me, why did you put that monitor in that cabin? Because we interrupted your sleep for a few nights? Why in the hell didn't you just let it go?" He walked out of Sandrine's, rubbing his jaw.

Henley walked up to B'Elanna. Her gray-blue eyes expressed concern. Curiosity. B'Elanna, are you okay?"

"Yeah," the other woman murmured.

"What was that about?"

Revenge gone wrong, B'Elanna silently replied. She kept the response to herself. Along with the memory of Chakotay's humiliation . . . and Paris's contempt. Then she took a deep breath. "Nothing. Nothing at all."



THE END