XTC
by Henry Wyckoff
Crossover: XF, DW (4th Doctor), HL, ST:Voy, and the world of David Eddings



Chapter 19

That's PONDscum to you!


Scully glared at the narc agent, "It looks like you put the 'narc' back into narc agent."

The narc shook his head, "Not even my three year-old son could come up with a comeback line that bad." His smile was pretty weasley. "Don't look so shocked - - do you think I can honestly send my kids to college with my salary?"

"How much did he pay you?"

"...and I'll double it?" he laughed. "I don't think so. The Sun King has my number, baby, and it's a nice one. Not even the CIA can match my price!"

"And what number would that be?" she spoke with a low and level tone.

He no longer smiled, "So much that I won't have to worry about a damn thing in my life again."

* * *

Silk was pacing back and forth.

"Get down!" hissed Pancho. "They'll see you!"

"Of course they will. But they're not going to do anything about it."

"Why's that?"

"Because in a few moments, it won't matter."

"I think you just lost me, Silky boy . . . "

Silk glared at him for a moment, then sat on the ground beside Pancho. "The way I see it, they have the lawn cleared of trees on all sides, so there's no way that we can sneak in unseen."

"Check."

"We have to get in, and we have no choice about it."

"Check."

"So we're going to charge in through the sewers."

Pancho blinked. "I think you lost me again there."

Silk smiled, pointing to a spot near his feet - a manhole cover, almost hidden by some shrubs. "I don't know how extensive these tunnels are, but I'd think that if an entrance was made this far from the city, then the tunnel should go far enough in to do us some good. Maybe there's an entrance into the grounds." He was lost in thought for a moment, "Melcenia had these kinds of sewers, and if they'd had thieves and spies like they had in the West, Zakath's Intelligence would've been a match for Drasnia, I'll tell you that much!" When Pancho looked at him blankly, he just said, "Forget it. Let's get ready to crawl through some muck."

"There's one hole in your argument," Pancho shook his head. "The utility companies don't put manholes in people's property -- they only put them on public land so that the workers can access the sewers."

"There's only one way to find out, isn't there? Come on! I need help getting this cover off."

* * *

Sarah paced back and forth in the large cell she and the others had been placed in. It was comfortable, as far as cells went, but it was almost infuriating how history seemed to repeat itself again and again. "...at least it's not an anvil falling..."

"What was that?" mumbled Methos, who was waking up after having been knocked out rather effectively.

"I said, 'At least it's not an anvil falling on my head again and again!' I've been put in more cells than I've ever been given vacation days!"

"You're trying to say you haven't had a vacation yet?" he smirked from the floor.

"You're impossible!"

The Doctor got up, "I think we should take a look around, rather than be surprised by what our host might have in store for us."

Methos smiled knowingly, "And what do you have in mind?"

The Doctor's smile was childish, "It's incredible how much faith people put in doors. Any door can be opened." Nobody except Sarah saw his sonic screwdriver, the most universal tool that the Gallefreyans would ever invent aside from the TARDIS. One moment, the cell door was shut, and the next, it slid open with a click. "Come on!"

Scully stared at the Doctor. "How did you do that?!" She looked as suspicious as she was startled.

The Doctor shook his head, "Just a screwdriver."

They had been locked in what must have been a wine cellar with bars, sans wine barrels. After going out of the cell and through the only door that stood a few feet away, they entered an unlit hallway with an earthy smell. A machine-like hum floated down the hall.

Of course the Doctor would be interested . . . Sarah looked resigned, knowing that when the Doctor was interested, there was trouble.

They hit a four-way intersection, and followed the sound, which seemed stronger to the right. The halls were still unlit, and all the light from their cell had faded. They had to use the feel of the walls to keep themselves from sillily crashing into things.

The humming sound was louder when they reached the metal door, which was unlocked. If they'd had enough light to see, they would have seen the Doctor look at them with a question in his eyes. Taking silence for consent, he opened the door.

After their eyes adjusted to the bright light, they looked at their new surroundings. It looked like any modern industrial setting. The floors, walls, and ceiling were all white. The ceiling had false-paneling with fluorescent lights. This room must have been big enough to hold at least forty luxury cars, and the center was taken up by a large, cubical machine that radiated a faint, bluish light.

The machine had glass panels, and looking inside, they could see a bluish sphere. It was this sphere that was radiating, and it was unclear what the large box containing it was doing. There was instrumentation within and without the box, and it was obvious that it wasn't there for decoration.

"What is it?" asked Methos. "Some kind of radioactive rock?"

"No..." the Doctor shook his head. "Visible radiation like that would be enough to kill you instantly. That's something different. I've seen that before. But where . . ." His memory was genuinely lost, then his face took on an expression of fear.

Scully was also at a blank. "You're right. Even if it was radioactive, what good would it be doing? It wouldn't make sense if this was some illegal power station."

"What if it is?" muttered Methos. "Only, the power isn't electical power. Let's say it's something a lot more basic than that." Memories of his own were coming to mind. Not that he trusted them, of course, but a man of his age didn't change with the times by rejecting ideas that he didn't trust.

* * *

The sewers stank, that was for sure. For a modern, sanitary sewer, it smelled like the Paris riverfront during the Middle Ages. Pancho held a wet cloth up to his face, but it didn't help. All it did was make his face wet. Silk smiled at his discomfort, appearing to breathe easily.

"You should have been with me when I had to kill a corrupt Tolnedran official," Silk laughed softly. "He'd been responsible for selling secrets to the enemy, but because he was the cousin of the High Priest of Nedra, he couldn't be effectively charged with anything."

"I figured that you were a thief and a spy," interrupted Pancho, "but not an assassin."

Silk shrugged, "Sometimes we're called to do things we don't like. Trust me: the alternative was unthinkable."

"Oh?"

"He was personally responsible for leaking the certain whereabouts of a current king when he was too young for his manly duties. See, the king was in hiding at the time, and his location had to be kept a secret. Only, this man leaked it out to some rather unpleasant people who paid with red gold. It's a gold that's more addictive than a drug."

"Come now... a gold that's addictive? Lots of people love money, but an addictive money?"

Silk was serious. "I'm not jesting. Even noblemen have betrayed their own blood and country to get more of the stuff. Well, this man didn't need to be corrupted because he was as corrupt as a sun-dried windfall peach. He lived in a grand mansion, which was walled and constantly guarded. Viscious dogs roamed the grounds and pikemen walked the battlements. You'd think it was some Arendish castle that was intended for a seige...

"Anyway, I snuck my way in by pretending that I was some grandiose Nadrak who wanted to pay for certain information." He whispered confidentially to Pancho, "That was quite painful, let me assure you."

He continued at a louder whisper, "I told him that I needed to speak with him alone. Of course, he wasn't that stupid, so he only sent out everyone but his five bodyguards. I leaned forward as if I was going to whisper something in his ear, but instead I slammed a knife into his heart. Before his five men could react, I leaped out the window, ran past the guards, and dived into the moat that he was crazy enough to have built.

"It had become a cesspool that had collected several years of cow slop. But it hid me. Everyone searched in all directions, but never thought of looking near the moat, because it smelled so much."

Pancho stared at Silk, "You're crazy."

He smiled and shrugged. "At least I got us here. Look."

There was a ladder going upward towards the light, but things had become interesting in another way, too. The tunnel at this point took on a different quality. It looked like miners had built this tunnel instead of civil engineers. "There's something familiar about this place..."

"What?" Silk was ready to climb.

Pancho shook his head wildly, and for a moment, he thought he saw a rather surprised pig-dog looking at him, along with several zombie-like people. Then they vanished.

Silk was shaking him, "Come on! This isn't the time to go into a trance!"

"A what?"

"A trance! Come on! We don't have time!"

The ladder climb was easy. It was silently moving the manhole cover out of the way that was the hard part. Say... nearly impossible. When they managed to move it, it certainly wasn't noiselessly. It made a metallic scraping sound, and both of them nearly bit their lips off, afraid of the worst.

"What the hell?" Pancho whispered. They had emerged inside the guy's house, not on some street or in the middle of nowhere. "This isn't supposed to happen!"

Silk patted him on the shoulder, having climbed out while Pancho was gawking. "I knew it. This was the work of the man we're seeking."

It seemed pretty odd, a sewer entrance being in the middle of a ritzy mansion, but hey, if someone had the inclination to be a drug boss, then his mind had to be in the gutter, and gutters had to go somewhere.

* * *

Janeway whispered, "Clovis."

Clovis was startled enough to drop his book. He looked at her and stood up, but then recovered himself. "I know you. You were at the Stone. You were with the other me."

She nodded. "And now I am with you."

"Has anyone ever told you that you're really bad at overstating the obvious?" he smirked, walking away from his chair, towards nothing in particular.

"I've seen Jan," she whispered. "Were you responsible for his condition?"

He shrugged, "He wanted to enter my world. He admitted his ignorance and sought wisdom. I believe he has discovered that he has just entered a black hole, for my world is an endless track going from nowhere to nowhere. My world was, at least. We traded places, in a sense. He entered the cage I was in, and I got my freedom."

"Is this," she gestured around, "your world?"

He smiled, "Call it the promise of a true paradise. I wasn't born here, but I earned my right to be here by suffering, and by grabbing an opportunity. Now, I am the oppressor and the torturer. I cause pain, and I call it good." His face became paler, the left side twitching nervously.

Janeway couldn't believe what she was hearing, even in the rare moments when she tried to put herself in Pancho's shoes. He had never shown these tendencies. He had never been cruel. "Why? Why do you want to hurt people? What did Jan do to you?"

Clovis started to become agitated, gesturing and pacing back and forth. "You're trying to find cause and effect. You're trying to find a reason that I might have hurt Jan. A motivation. There is no motivation. No reason. Things just happen."

"Really?"

"YES!" he shouted, then calmed himself. "We analyze the motions of what has happened, and plot them in a grid, and then throw the traces of these motions into functions. First, we say that the motion of something is the function of another value. Then we parameterize them, and say that we know exactly what causes the motion of an object.

"A little bit of child abuse, and you make the object move one way in space and time. Add some kindness and understanding later, and the object moves a different way. Understanding of the psyche becomes mechanical and absolute: 'An object continues in a state of rest or in a state of motion at a constant speed along a straight line, unless compelled to change the state by a net force.' All of a sudden, Newton's First Law of Motion defines an intangible object, and we have become no more than bodies flying in a tornado."

Janeway walked down the side of the room, observing the titles of some of the books. Most of them looked like fantasy novels. Some, she could even recognize, and those had to do with improbable situations and places. Some were all right as far as quality went, but most were 'books for the masses' as one of her English literature professors had once coined the phrase. "So then," she nearly whispered. "You want out of the tornado. You don't want to be thrown around."

"No," he grinned visciously. "I have become the wind that throws others around. Just as my happiness was cruelly stomped into dust, so will I destroy the happiness of others. They will slowly watch it drip away from their grasp. There has to be a cosmic justice, and I'll exact it."

"Are you saying then that somebody destroyed your happiness?"

His grin left him. "Nobody did it. Everyone did it. My parents brought me into the world. I didn't have the capability to leave it. It's nobody's fault, I know that. BUT SOMEBODY HAS TO PAY!" The last was a painful scream. A scream of pain, as if he was being sliced open. "If I can't be happy, then nobody can."

Janeway's expression was blank, and inside she felt just as blank. "So then you're hurting innocent people, just as innocent as you once were. Only nobody put you into a torture room."

"YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE!" he howled, screaming to the ceiling, his voice like sandpaper. He whirled around, advancing on her. His voice was now controlled and deliberate, "Imagine facing every day, knowing that no matter what happens, you will never be happy. Oh, maybe a moment of pleasure comes now and then, but it's fleeting. Maybe you might even have a relatively good day, but a truth cuts through it all; you can never, ever be happy, and you'll see that everyone else around you is quite happy."

"Clovis... nobody is ever truly blissful. Think about why past religions did so well. Everyone feels some sadness, guilt, or pain. We have good feelings and bad feelings. There's nobody who lives in paradise."

He nodded intensely. "You hammered it right on the nail. Everyone feels some of this or some of that. But you know why? They're feeling good because they're making me feel worse. They're taking my happiness from me."

"Who are 'they?' "

He covered his face, "You're playing with words! You know who I mean!"

"Do I?" she asked.

"Yes." He turned back around, his eyes glowing blackness. "I tire of this. I came here to feel the bliss that is entitled to me. I am not required to justify myself to you. But I think that you'll find yourself with new requirements."

"Oh?" She was unprepared for what happened next.

Out of the side of her eyes, she could see the spiked chains coming from the walls, and her reflexes took over. She leapt into Clovis, tackling him to the ground. The chains missed her, and fell lifeless to the floor.

Clovis was knocked unconscious as his head hit the floor. Apparently he had been just as unprepared.

She didn't know what else to do then, other than come back to the real world, holding Clovis' shoulders as she opened up her physical eyes.

* * *

Chakotay stood in an open area. An arena. The floodlights turned on, and the spotlight was on him.

A booming voice spoke from all directions. "You've hunted me. You brought me here. You don't even know who I am." The voice echoed back and forth.

Chakotay looked around, finding nothing moving. No speakers. He called back, knowing that this time, he wasn't hearing the voice of an illusion. This was the real thing. Might as well treat honesty with an honest reponse. "I was told to find you here by the Vulture spirit."

The laughter was genuine and mocking, "Man... I don't know what drug you're on..."

"It's not a drug."

"At least you're looking for me. What did the Vulture say?"

"He said that I had to find you."

"Why did he feel you need to find me? He had to have a reason."

Chakotay looked inside of himself. The Vulture hadn't said this, but he knew it was true. "You're a killer. You push XTC on a lot of unsuspecting people, knowing that they're going to die."

"And so you're going to stop it? How? Will you kill me? That's the ultimate in hypocracy, killing a killer."

Chakotay smiled softly, "Not if the killer is a cancer."

The pimp, visible now in the shadows, shook his head, beginning to slowly walk circles around Chakotay, "Would you consider for a moment that you might be wrong?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if I can show you the truth? What if I show you what kind of people these addicts really are?"

* * *

Chuck patted Zedar on the shoulder. "Janeway's looking pretty good, considering the possibilities. This one ain't too bad either."

Zedar nodded. "Chakotay has walked the Dreamworld many times. He knows it as well as himself."

Chuck smiled knowingly, "How well does he know himself?"

The old man shrugged, "How well can any of us know ourselves?"

There were a few moments of silence. "Think we should give them a hand?"

"No. We're here to make sure that nothing happens here. It is their task to handle their tasks on their own. We cannot interfere with fate."

"Fate? Fate has a voice?" Chuck looked not just skeptical, but scornful.

"Fate has an awareness of what must be done, and occasionally it acts. If you challenge fate, you do it at your peril. It is more powerful than the gods themselves."

Chuck looked at the University, not that far away. "I wondered what kind of mind could come up with your ideas. Now I know. I guess you can't have any genius without lunacy."

Zedar might have been offended, but he hid it well. "You might look within yourself before you call anyone a lunatic. Have you never looked at the progression of history and thought that it could have happened no other way? Have you never seen a driving force in history? Men do not just act, they are driven. It is fate that drives us. Ask yourself this; no matter what you say or think, could you truly bring yourself to interfere?"

Chuck laughed, "Just to show you, I will!" He sat down next to Chakotay and made steps to enter the Dreamworld. Zedar had shown him how, but he'd spent enough time with other mystics and lunatics to pick up the basic idea anyway. It's just that most of them had some chemical assistance, and Zedar didn't need any.

Zedar shrugged, "It must be fated." No voices spoke to him, ordering him to halt Chuck, and Chuck apparently didn't quit on his own, so it most likely was.

Downstairs, he heard some coughing, and realized that he was the only one able to check on things. He frowned at Chuck, but didn't wake him. Instead, Zedar used the tree to get to the ground and re-entered the house cautiously.

The woman, Janeway, was rubbing her face. Clovis was vomiting. Jan was sobbing and babbling nonsense.

Janeway looked up at him, "It's over."

Zedar shook his head. "It's never over, and you've made only one of the decisions."

"What do you mean?"

Zedar spoke as he inspected Jan. Clovis didn't seem to need any help for the moment, and Janeway was keeping a watchful eye on him. "There are two forces at work, trying to make a decision. I have observed that this world is very secular, and so I will not say what these forces are or what they hope to accomplish, but I will at least say that there is nothing in this world that is not their domain. If they were to directly face one another, they would annhilate the universe, so they must work through tools. For a brief moment, you and Clovis were the instruments. You were the Child of Light, and he was the Child of Darkness."

Janeway was shaking her head in confusion, "I don't understand..."

Jan was a bloody mess, that was for sure, but it looked like his body was finally being allowed to heal. "In my own world, the two Prophecies, or the awareness of fate, as I call them, had settled their differences. However, time, I have noticed, does not travel at the same speed everywhere. In this world, the prophecies have not yet been reconciled. They play an elaborate chess game, agreeing on events that will decide who has more points. For some reason that perhaps only they understand right now, the Dark Prophecy chose Clovis to represent its interests. If you had been unable to bring him back," he looked briefly at Jan, "or worse, then it would have won the match, and perhaps the world might have been a darker place. Pancho did not look as troubled as this man, so perhaps you did him some good."

"...Are you saying that this was a war between good and evil?"

Zedar laughed, "Belgarath always liked to think about it in those terms. I think it's too simple, and not accurate. Perhaps it would be better to compare it to entropy and enthalpy. We associate enthalpy with good and light, and entropy with evil and black... but what do we really know? Both have their uses and needs. Without darkness, what would be light?"

* * *

A black-skinned man calmly stepped slightly into the spotlight. It was indeed the selfsame pimp Chakotay had seen in the Stone. "You're not wrong. I killed many people with XTC, but you have to keep in mind that I was fulfilling their every wish. I was a genie, and I was their servant. They commanded me to bring them death."

Chakotay grabbed for his phaser, aiming it at the man. "So you're saying that your killing is justified?!"

"Sure," he spread his arms out. "Somebody has to. Everyone dies. No exceptions. The question isn't when, but who should die first. Has the thought ever occurred to you that maybe some directed death might do the world a favor? Kill off the sick, and the healthy get healthier. Let the suicidal blow off their own heads. Let the stupid kill themselves. Let those with the capability succeed."

"You're sick." Chakotay tried to fire, but found that he couldn't.

The pimp stayed where he was, his expression unreadable in the shadows. "Am I? What is a sickness?"

"You are."

"Why? Because I evoke the evil and sickness resting in us all? Would I be any less evil if I didn't bring out the sickness that rested just under the surface? Just think of all the potential those smiling corpses had for causing destruction in this world. What kind of damage do you think addictive personalities can cause? If they're weak enough to succumb to a drug, do you think they just might succumb to the subtler poisons of life?"

Chakotay blinked, and found himself in a dump. Not a landfill, though it smelled like one. This place was a small house somewhere in Tucson (or some place as hot as it was). It was filthy, strewn with trash, and ugly. There wasan . . . aura about the place as well.

The pimp stood next to him, waving around. "You have a distaste for this. Why?"

"It's filthy."

He smiled, "You seem like a pretty orderly person yourself, so I guess you do have a right to throw stones. What would your judgment be about the kind of people who live here?"

"I don't know... I haven't seen them yet."

"Here's your chance. Let's enter the living room."

They entered what passed for the living room. A pot-bellied man with a dirty shirt slouched on a sofa, watching football. He had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in his other hand. A week-old beard was on his face and his hair was uncombed. The expression on his face was... well, there wasn't much of one. Almost frightening.

The pimp narrated, "There's Bill, the man of the house. He does construction for a living, and thinks that he deserves the right to jell out watching TV, drinking beer. He doesn't ever think of doing anything around the house. That's the wife's job. And where is the wife...? Let's go and see..."

In the kitchen was 'the wife' who looked even more frightening than the man of the house. To say that she looked like a mess didn't even begin to describe it. Maybe to say that she'd been rolled over by a few diesels and then given to two different tug-of-war teams to fight over would be more descriptive. She wasn't drinking beer, but she was smoking a hemp joint. Her eyes were expressionless.

The pimp looked at Chakotay with a smile just ready to hop on his face, "What do you think of them now?"

He shook his head, "I don't know enough about them."

"But you don't hold them in high regard, do you?"

Chakotay didn't answer, instead, watching the 'son' enter the house. He was a young teenager, complete with a careless appearance, long and uncombed hair, a faint start of a beard on his face, and an arrogant sneer. He nearly barged into the kitchen, not even noticing his mom, as he raided the pantry.

The food, Chakotay decided, wasn't even fit to be used for field rations, though the family didn't seem to mind. He didn't even know what the kid was eating.

Mother and son didn't talk to one another as he scarfed down the food and left the kitchen.

"That's the 'loving' son," observed the pimp. "Let's see what he does when he's not hanging out with his friends."

They followed the kid to the back of the house. His bedroom was an even worse dump, plastered with posters of heavy metal musicians and satanic symbols. A few paper posters of naked or scantily-clad women were stapled on the door. He dropped his bag on the bed and opened it eagerly.

"What do you think it is?" asked the pimp softly. "A new music tape? He's too poor to afford a cd, but at least he can get tapes. Or could it be something else?"

Chakotay didn't answer, nor did he say anything when the kid took out a bag of white powder and a bottle of vodka.

"You figure that kid has to be pretty tired of life, if he's going to take his XTC with something tasteless like vodka." The kid carelessly dumped the whole bag into the vodka bottle and shook it up. Then he started to slam it down. "That kid can handle his drink, but how many minutes do you figure until he keels over?"

It was about ten minutes before the kid started to grin and giggle. He was flopped on the bed when the dad came in. He just opened the door abruptly, and on noticing that his son was senseless, he snorted and shook his head. "Stupid f---!" He noticed the vodka bottle and shrugged, slamming about a fourth of it (half was left) and smiling as he walked out.

The pimp looked at Chakotay. "Tell me with honesty that this kind of people is giving something positive to the world. Tell me that they're living happy, harmonious lives. Tell me that they even enjoy life."

Chakatay shook his head helplessly, "Who are we to judge? The moment we start judging, we have to judge ourselves."

"You're trying to tell me that you never judged anyone for their actions? You never had someone arrested, or killed, because they were doing something you thought was wrong?"

The pimp didn't know him, but Chakotay had to admit that the man asked relevant questions. His life with the Maquis immediately sprang to his mind. He had killed Cardassian, Romulan, and human alike -- whoever opposed his own ideals. He had judged them and found them guilty. "I have, but it wasn't like this. I was fighting a war, and killed those who gave us no choice. It was a battle for our very lives."

"And this isn't? Has it never occurred to you that these people are a cancer that not only deserve to be wiped out, but must be wiped out? Don't just ask yourself if you'd want these people as your neighbor... Ask yourself if you'd want diseases like this polluting the gene pool."

"I can't judge them."

They found themselves back in the arena. Only now, Chakotay was lying on a counselor's couch, and the pimp sat on a chair behind him. Just like an old painting he'd once seen, titled, 'Psychiatrist and Patient.'

Chakotay nearly jumped off the couch, he was so irritated!

The pimp shrugged, crossing one leg over the other, resting a notepad on his thigh. The couch vanished. "Let's explore this interesting aspect of you. You snuffed out the lives of people during what you call a war, and yet you will not apply the same rules to your enemies during another war."

"What war? I don't see any war!"

The pimp smiled sadly, "That, my friend, is where you're wrong. The war is called daily life, and it's something that you fight every day. We all do." He wrote something down. "Tell me this. If you are not willing to judge these people, then at least tell me what your opinion is of these people."

Chakotay nodded, walking around a little bit. "I feel pity for them more than anything else. They couldn't help being shaped by their environment. The eductional systems throughout the world in this time were abominable, and their upbringing reinforced negative patterns."

The pimp clapped his hands. "Spoken like a true, politically correct sociologist. But you know better, don't you?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Sure you do! Haven't you ever seen cases where a kid growing up in affluence and ideal surroundings turns out to be a criminal and a jerk? What about where a kid living in poverty, violence, and the whole string of negative influences rises out of it and becomes the shining example of decency? So you see, environment and upbringing is nothing; it's free will.

"We all choose to do what we want. In fact, we all do what we want to. So I say that these XTC addicts took these drugs willingly because they're diseased losers, and, well... they just entered the Roach Motel. Come in, and you never come out. The world's problem is solved."

* * *

Chuck observed the two from the edge of the arena. He had wandered around in Chakotay's dream for a while until finding them. He too had been taken to that slum house, and observed the same things as they had, and had come to a very different conclusion.

Of course, his own thoughts weren't the issue was at the moment.

He too didn't know much about Chakotay, but based on his answers, figured that the man felt the way that the pimp did, but that he was sticking with what he felt he 'knew' to be right, rather than what he 'felt' was right. The inner struggle was very evident.

Chuck held back a snort. He recalled a very similar discussion in India. He'd been working for the Black Monk for quite a while, and had decided that after snuffing out people in out-of-the-way places, it was time to enjoy himself in the midst of fast-flowing drink, slow women, and loud American music. Not hard to find.

The question was, did the guy get it out of his system, or did something happen to almost kill him or give him a reality check?

* * *

Chakotay shook his head once more. "I'm sorry I have to do this, but you have to be stopped." He raised his phaser (which hadn't really left his hand the whole time) and fired. It was set on kill.

The pimp had rolled out of the way at the last moment. The chair behind him, which hadn't, vaporized.

Then the pimp must have woken up in 'the real world', because he vanished, leaving Chakotay alone in the arena. A million thoughts raced through his mind then, but he voiced only one aloud, "A monster is still loose."

Chuck chose this moment to show himself. "Oh... I don't know if I'd call that a failure. At least you took the time to hear him out and make an informed decision. You chose to oppose him, which is what I'd say is more of a victory."

"Maybe... but the XTC is still going to be sold. More people will die."

Chuck was merciless. "So they die. The pimp was right, you know. They are asking for it. If they don't die from XTC, they'll die from something else."

* * * *


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