by E. L. Zimmerman
Eyes closed, Kathryn Janeway meditated peacefully, her comely shape draped in a slender cherry gown, her body cradled on a pillowed, jade-colored bench resting adjacent the balustrade enclosing Wyxlyn Falls. Tranquilly, she enjoyed the roar emanating from the crystal-green waterfall cascading thousands and thousands of gallons of shimmering emerald fluid majestically down into the sea green river far below Menis Pavilion. Slowly, serenely, she opened her eyes to the ivory-feathered birds fluttering in the misted updraft nearby. From a Rintellan hostess, Janeway learned that the fowl were called Lycilli, after the Rintellan goddess of flight. Gliding, the birds soared over the balustrade and dived down Wyxlyn Falls, passionately singing their call as they rode the wake through the plummeting mist.
'The world is a fantasy-come-true,' the Captain thought.
Opening her eyes, Janeway considered Brall'tor, sitting politely beside her on the luxurious bench. His ceremonial robes now removed, the ambassador wore a solitary aqua jumpsuit. His chest was decorated with what she could only guess must have been his planet's royal crest.
"Brall'tor," she tried, unsure of what his response would be due to the universal translator's difficulty in cracking his cultural idioms, "Rintellan is one remarkably beautiful planet."
Smiling, he replied to his guest, "You, Rintella bids fancy."
"And my crew is most thankful," she admired.
Waving his hand toward the waterfall, he struggled, "The Rintella ... is pleasing?"
"Pleasing, yes. Very."
Nodding rhythmically, as he did when excitement overwhelmed him, Brall'tor bobbed his head up and down. "Rintella, beauty is proud." Raising his single eyebrow, the ambassador visibly wrestled with his phrasing. In that moment, Janeway understood that, as much as her crew experienced 'technical difficulty' in communicating with the Rintellans, the Rintellans were struggling to bridge the communication gap as well. "You, Rintella bids ... ah ... a jewel?"
Stirred by his choice of words, she smiled. "Very well said, Ambassador."
Sighing pleasantly, he nodded. Quickly, Brall'tor returned her smile.
The peace ...
The beauty ...
The people ...
The unanticipated splendor of the Rintellan paradise helped, but the planet's influence fell short of keeping Janeway's thoughts from straying too far from her first officer. Curious, she wondered where Chakotay had disappeared. She tried but distractive therapy didn't help. She couldn't resist mentally returning to the subject of the commander.
'Where was he off to?'
'Has he found some voluptuous Rintellan female with which to explore the countryside?'
Dubious, knowing her first officer all too well, she shook her head dismissively.
Studying her movements closely and with concentrated poise, Brall'tor shook his head in response, eventually smiling, sighing, and bobbing his head.
From across the massive pavilion overlooking Wyxlyn Falls, Kes elbowed her way past the gathered throng of shipmates and Rintellans, approaching the two of them. Nodding politely, the Ocampan said, "I'm sorry to bother you, Captain, Ambassador."
Quickly, Brall'tor stood, smiled, and nodded. "You, Rintella bids fancy!"
"Don't apologize, Kes," Janeway answered, rising. "Mr. Brall'tor and I were just the peace and quiet."
"Captain, may I speak with you?"
Smiling tentatively, Janeway considered the Rintellan ambassador. "Brall'tor ... ah ... will you excuse us for a moment?"
Perplexed, the man raised his eyebrow. Slowly, his wide nostrils flared.
"Umm," she continued, searching for the words. "How do I ... ?" Suddenly, inspiration struck her, and she said, with authority, "You, Janeway no bids fancy."
Suddenly excited, the ambassador threw his head back and laughed. Slowly, he backed away from the two of them, his arms gestured wide. Smiling, he showed Kes and the Captain those notched Rintellan teeth. "Shaneway, Brall'tor bids silence, Kes, Shaneway." As he disappeared into the crowd, the two women giggled softly, and Kes sat on the bench, beside her senior officer. "The Rintellans certainly are an unexpected source of entertainment, Captain."
Janeway offered the Ocampan a wry, knowing grin. "Well, if I remember my Academy days correctly," she counseled, crossing her legs and folding her hands across her prominent knee, "no instructor of mine ever said seeking out and exploring new worlds would be without the occasional chuckle." Again, Janeway cocked her head, indicating a sardonic reply was forthcoming. "I'm not sure that our experiences with the Rintellans would qualify as a textbook example of First Contact."
Kes's smiled softened, her eyes narrowing slightly. Briefly, she glanced about and then turned her undivided attention back to the Voyager's captain. "I don't mean to alarm you, as I certainly have nothing pressing to report, but something has been ... well ... troubling me since we arrived."
Curious, Janeway raised an eyebrow. "Whatever do you mean?"
"Telepathically," she added emphatically.
Her mind locking into command mode, the Captain leaned forward.
"What is it, Kes?"
For a moment, the Ocampan showed signs of fatigue, the skin under her eyes darkened, her eyes momentarily glazed. "Captain, I hadn't noticed it until we arrived here, but, for the last few weeks, aboard the Voyager, emotions have been ... I don't know ... stressed?"
Relieved, Janeway reclined a bit on the comfortable bench, letting the roar of Wyxlyn Falls fill in the silence. "Kes, it's no secret that every one of the crew has been pushing themselves lately. Except for Engineering, efficiency is practically non-existent. In fact, I'm certain that you understand that these precise impressions you're speaking about have everything to do with why I agreed to a bout of shore leave."
"Yes," Kes continued, "but I believe it's more than that." The Ocampan fought, trying to decide on precise diplomatic phrases. "Captain, could we ... could we talk about you, as an example?"
Surprised, Janeway sat up.
"Kes," the senior officer began, "what are you sensing from me?"
Plaintively, Kes replied, "Amorousness."
'Chakotay,' Janeway realized, her thoughts transparent to the Ocampan.
"Please, Captain, don't misunderstand me. It isn't you. Well ... it isn't only you. It's everyone. Everyone aboard Voyager has been acting slightly out of the norms, slightly off-center. It isn't much. In fact, their behavior is just enough so that I can sense an emotion or psychological variance."
Graciously, Kes leaned forward and laid a hand across her Captain's arm. "I understand perfectly that space travel wears anyone down. Mentally and physically. But ... what I'm sensing ... this is far more psychological than physical."
'Chakotay,' Janeway thought. 'I've been fixating on Chakotay.' She shrugged. 'There's always been an attraction. An interest. But ... lately ... my desire to engage him in more than professional conversation HAS been stronger than usual.'
"Kes," the Captain tried, "are you saying that something extraordinary is ... manipulating the emotional state of the crew?"
Arching her shoulders, Kes sighed heavily. "I'm not sure, Captain. To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely certain of what I'm sensing ... except to say that I've felt significantly ... relieved ... since we arrived on Rintellan surface."
Again, the roar of Wyxlyn Falls besieged the silence between the two of them.
"Captain, Neelix and I have been ... quite romantic lately." Slightly embarrassed to be having this conversation, Kes turned away, staring in the direction of the flowing water. "Extremely romantic, if you understand my meaning." Defensively, she held up her hands. "That isn't to say that we're not attracted to one another to this extent."
Lowering her hands, she turned her eyes to the floor of the pavilion. "It's just ... well ... we've not done ... we've not done ... we've not made love so often ... since the beginning."
Against her better judgment, the Captain found her mind straying to thoughts of Chakotay.
"I'm following you, Kes."
"Call it intuitive love," the Ocampan explained. "However, now that we're on the planet's surface, our desire's intensity has somehow ... diminished."
Casually, the Captain leaned forward. "Kes, are you saying that you believe the planet has somehow suppressed your true feelings for Neelix?"
Frustrated, Kes rose.
"I don't know, Captain." Lost in thought, she stared at Wyxlyn Falls, studying the emerald waters. "For a moment, I thought my empathic abilities were playing tricks on me. The last few weeks, aboard Voyager, it was almost as if my and Neelix's lovemaking was being driven by something not completely beyond our control but slightly out of reach."
Quiet, the Ocampan faced her Captain and studied her eyes for a moment. "Did I just say 'lovemaking?'"
Forgiving, Janeway smiled.
"It's all right, Kes. Consider it our secret."
Clearly frustrated, Kes held her hands out to the Captain. "Am I making any sense?"
Standing, the Captain replied, "You're making perfect sense, Kes. Now that you mention it, I'm feeling unusually better than when I was aboard Voyager. Given our surroundings, I wouldn't think that my sentiments are out of the norm. Could it be that you're sensing the collective mood of a relaxed crew?"
Frowning, Kes shook her head. "I don't think so, Captain."
"Then, you may be right," Voyager's senior officer conceded. "Do you feel as if any of us are in any danger?"
Kes considered the prospects. "Quite frankly ... no."
"Let me know the minute you sense anything new, Kes."
"Of course, Captain. And thank you. For listening."
Sighing, Janeway watched as Kes departed to a waiting Neelix.
Muttering to herself, the captain said, "So much for the holiday."