A Good Pilot is Hard to Find
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do not belong to me.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Janeway.
"They are in need of pilots. They will likely try and make him one of their pilots," answered Guntak.
"And if he refuses?"
"They will do everything in their power to change his mind."
"And if he still refuses?"
"They won't kill him if that's what you're asking. I'm afraid I can't say the same for his companion- unless he is also a talented pilot?"
"No, I'm afraid not, he is more of an engineer"
"Well, he may still have a chance then. They are also in need of engineers, but if your pilot continues to refuse them, they will kill his friend."
"Then I'm afraid we won't be able to make it to your planet in time for the festivities. We have to turn around and save them."
"I would advise against that."
"Why? You just informed me that my crewmembers are in danger. I can't leave them there."
"Their planet is surrounded by a minefield. Unless your pilot is very skilled, I'm afraid they won't even make it to the planet. Also I believe we should give them a chance. It has been many years since our dispute with the Dakians, perhaps they have changed."
"If the path is so dangerous, how did the Nuloom make it out?"
"They didn't. If they had, we would have detected their ship approaching you. If you saw a ship it must have been a hologram."
"How can it be a hologram? Our sensors detected it and you need holographic emitters to project a hologram. There is no place to put them up in space."
"We have a similar technology to them. Undoubtedly they sent a probe equipped with a mobile holographic emitter and a transmitter and sent false sensor readings to your ship."
"Incredible," muttered Chakotay.
"What exactly was your dispute with the Dakians?" asked Janeway.
Guntak sighed. "That is a subject that we don't like to talk about."
"Well, you'll just have to get over that. I have some crewmembers possibly in danger and I think we deserve to know why the Dakians would want them."
"You're right, of course. We should have been more forthcoming on why we were so concerned for your pilot. This could take a while. Are you certain you want to take the time to hear it?"
"You can give us the short version," Janeway replied dryly.
"Very well. It was not always like this. We once lived in peace as the same race until a neighboring race, the Larans, tried to take over our world. Most of us wanted to settle things peacefully, but there were a few that dissented and felt we should fight them. As we met with the Larans for peace talks, the dissenters met in secret to plot a war. They used our technology to create weapons. Before this it had it only been used for good. Our technology was more advanced than the Larans's and we could make weapons that were more powerful than they could imagine. They would not have tried to conquer us if they thought we would fight back. The dissenters built a bomb that they set off in the peace conference room. It didn't matter to them that our own leaders were killed along with the Laran leaders. This event sparked the war. With so few on our side willing to fight our losses were great. In the end, the dissenters built a more powerful bomb than before and secretly attached it to the underside of one of their ships. It was sensor activated so that when the ship landed it would go off. Their entire planet was destroyed. The remaining ships also had bombs attached to them set to go off when the first one did. In one move, the entire race was wiped out. We were outraged at the dissenters for their terrible act so we forced them to move to another planet."
"How many dissenters were there?" asked Janeway.
"About three or four hundred."
"And there were no good pilots among that group?"
"No, there were. We wanted to make sure that they could not cause trouble in the future, so we sent a spy to infiltrate their colony. We found out who the good pilots were, and who the smartest people were and had them eradicated."
"I thought your people were peaceable."
"We felt that it was a necessary evil. Once there were no more good pilots we constructed the mine field to trap them on their planet."
"How long ago was this?"
"Approximately 40 years ago."
"And in all this time have they ever tried to escape?"
"No, they know that there is one mine that, if triggered, will start a chain reaction which could destroy their planet."
"Have they ever tried kidnapping other pilots?"
"Then what leads you to believe that they will try and kidnap our pilot?"
"When we first imprisoned them, they warned us that if they ever found someone who could help them escape, they would get their revenge."
"I see. So your basis for believing my pilot to be in danger is a warning made 40 years ago?"
"Yes, that is why we can't be certain what their intentions are."
"I guess we will have to remain on
course to your planet then and hope they show up," sighed Janeway.
Harry fired another energy burst into the minefield and Tom slowly moved around where he remembered the mines to be.
"How much farther do you think it is?" asked Tom.
"Well, if it is the same as the other parts of the mine field, then I'd say we were maybe halfway through."
Tom could hear the worry in Harry's voice. "Don't worry. I can get us through this."
"Are you sure you remember where the mines are from that brief glance?"
"I got a good enough look and I have a pretty good memory. I think I can remember what I saw a few seconds ago."
"I didn't mean to say that you had a bad memory."
"I know you didn't. It's okay. This minefield has me a little on edge too."
Tom stopped and Harry fired another energy burst. Tom watched as the mines were illuminated, then continued on.
"You just don't like going this slow."
"No, I don't, but I won't risk going faster. I know how you feel about near-death experiences. Besides, if I get through here, I'll be the only one to have made it through."
"Yeah, but how many people have been foolish enough to try?"
"Hey, this was your idea."
Harry fired another energy burst. Tom watched, but didn't move.
"Fire another burst," said Tom.
Harry fired another burst. "Is something wrong?"
"I'll say there is. I don't see any more non-sensing mines."
"What? Are you sure?"
"So, it's impossible to get through this field?"
"Oh, I'm not giving up just yet. Fire another burst to the port side."
Harry fired another energy burst to the left of the shuttle.
"Great. I see a path."
Tom carefully turned the shuttle to the left and moved in the same slow pace.
"You think they'd make it a little easier once you made it a certain distance as a sort of congratulations for making it this far," complained Tom.
Harry had to smile at that. "Maybe you should bring it up with them when we get there."
"Oh, I'll have plenty to bring up with them. I just hope it's worth it. If it turns out the mineral they have isn't close enough to dilithium for us to use, I'll-well, I don't know what I'll do but they won't like it."
Another short energy burst and they were moving forward again.
"You really don't trust him very much do you?"
"I trust him about as far as I can throw him."
"Why would you want to throw him?"
"I can think of plenty of reasons, but I only meant that I don't trust him."
"Why would he lie about his willingness to trade?"
"To lure us there and make us do what they can't do? I don't know. Of course if that were true, that would make B'Elanna right. For now I'm just going to assume that they do have what we need and they really do just want to trade with us."
For another two hours they wound their way through the minefield. Harry fired another energy burst and Tom, after looking, grinned.
"I think I see the end!"
He flew around the cloaked mines a little faster than he had been going for the past several hours.
"I'm excited too, but do you think we could slow down? We don't want to explode just before we make it out," said Harry.
Tom sighed and slowed down marginally. After a few more turns he stopped and allowed Harry to fire another burst.
"Yes! We're out. We made it."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank Goodness."
"See I told you I could do it."
Tom flew forward again and a moment later a planet came into view. A ship was flying towards them.
"We're being hailed," said Harry.
Lunai appeared on the viewscreen. "Congratulations! Welcome to Daka."
"You are real this time, right?" asked Tom.
"Of course. Come, let's get on with the trade, shall we?"
"I'd like that very much."