A Good Pilot is Hard to Find

Disclaimer: Voyager and all its characters do not belong to me.

A Good Pilot Is Hard To Find

Chapter 5

Lodiakia loomed large in Voyagers viewscreen.

Were being hailed.

On Screen, said Janeway.

Guntaks image replaced that of Lodakia.

We always open the festivities with a feast. We wish to invite you and your crew to join us.

Thank you. We would be honored.

Excellent. It begins in one hour. We will see you then.

The Solaphim entered Lodakias atmosphere and Voyager entered orbit. An hour later the first shift of crewmembers began beaming to the surface. Janeway, Chakotay, B'Elanna, and Seven beamed down first. They beamed down in the middle of a beautiful garden. Janeway shaded her eyes against the sun and looked around.

Its beautiful. What do you think, Seven?

It isÉattractive, but I fail to see the point.

Why does everything have to have a point? asked B'Elanna. Cant you ever accept that some things just are?

The point is it makes you feel good, answered Janeway.

How does a flower make you feel good?

They were interrupted by the arrival of Guntak.

Its good to finally see you in person, captain.

It is good to meet you as well. This is my first officer, Chakotay, my chief engineer, B'Elanna, and Seven of Nine.

Seven of Nine. Thats a rather unusual name. And what is that above your eye?

I was once Borg.

What is Borg?

Youve never heard of the Borg? asked B'Elanna. Consider yourself lucky.

The Borg are a race of cyborgs that seek perfection by assimilating other races into their own.

Thats a very diplomatic way to put it, said B'Elanna.

How would you state it?

The Borg wipe out a race to add its distinctiveness to its own, but in doing so it is no longer a distinctive trait as it is lost among so many others. They take away peoples lives in order to be more perfect.

The Borg do not wipe out races. They assimilate them and you can not be more perfect. They are trying to attain perfection. My answer was shorter and more accurate.

B'Elanna growled and started to answer, but Janeway interrupted. I think he understands now.

Yes, I understand. Im sure I am glad that we have not encountered them. I wouldnt doubt that they should like to meet us, however.

Your technology is most impressive. They would not care to meet you, but they would be quite interested in assimilating you.

He didnt literally mean the Borg would want to meet them, Seven, said B'Elanna.

If you are ready, Im sure they are ready to server dinner now. Where is the rest of your crew? said Guntak.

They are most likely wandering the garden, answered Janeway.

I will send some of my men to round them up. If you will follow me, I will show you to the banquet hall.

They followed Guntak across the gardens to a large white building with many columns and stained glass windows. A banner hung over the front door said, Welcome Voyager. Inside were several long tables adorned with colorful tablecloths and flower baskets. What appeared to be the head table was raised slightly and had a fancier tablecloth. It was to this table that Guntak led them. Once everyone had arrived, servers began filing in with trays of delicious looking food. Janeway noticed that there were still two empty seats at their table and asked Guntak about it.

They are for your crewmembers that went to Daka, in case I was wrong about the Dakians and they do show up.

Janeway gazed at the two empty seats for a moment. I hope that you are wrong. Do you really think they should show up in time for the banquet?

If they do not take too long there, and if they can make it back through the minefield.

If they made it through to get there, shouldnt it be easy to get back?

Not necessarily.

Tom and Harry exited the shuttle onto the dark and dingy planet. They followed Lunai into a large building that looked like a warehouse. Inside there were several long tables at which many people sat. It looked as though the whole colony had to be there. One table at the far end of the room was covered with a nice tablecloth and had three empty seats.

We have prepared a banquet for you, said Lunai.

No, thanks. Were not really hungry. If you dont mind wed like to go ahead and make the trade. After all the Lodaikians are expecting us, said Tom.

We have gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare this feast for you. Once we have eaten we can continue with the trade.

Tom inwardly sighed. His patience with them was running thin, but he had to be polite. Very well. Thank you for the invitation.

Lunai smiled and lead them to the head table. Everyone in the hall watched as they walked across the room.

There sure are a lot of people here to see us, remarked Harry.

We have not had any visitors in quite some time. Everyone was most anxious to meet you.

Is this everyone in your colony?

Well, almost everyone. Sonai, my sister, is not here.

Why not? asked Tom.

She was not feeling well. Have a seat here.

Tom and Harry sat down in two of the empty seats. Lunai sat down in the third. As he sat down several people came in carrying trays. The food looked hot, but that was about the best that could be said about it. It looked gray and unappetizing. Tom struggled to keep his face neutral as he began eating. Harry was not having quite as much luck. Tom noticed Harry grimacing and elbowed him. Harry managed a small smile as he took his next bite. Lunai seemed not to notice their dislike of the food as he savored each bite.

What do you think of the food? he asked Tom. It is one of our most popular dishes.

It is interesting.

Why, youve nearly finished already. You must really like it. Would you care for seconds?

No, thats all right, said Tom quickly. This was enough. Im too full to eat any more.

Tom tried to sit patiently while Lunai continued to eat, but it was very difficult.

Sit still, Tom, admonished Harry.

Tom sighed and forced his leg to stop bouncing. Lunai seemed to be an exceptionally slow eater.

I feel like Im in a goldfish bowl, he complained softly to Harry.

What do you mean?

I mean the way all these people keep staring at us is starting to make me feel uncomfortable.

Oh. Yeah, it is a bit disconcerting, but they probably just have never seen humans before so they are curious.

I dont know. I get the feeling that there is more to it than that.

Would you care for some dessert? asked Lunai.

No thanks. I think I may burst if I eat another bite.

Really? Is that a trait of your species?

No, Its just an expression. It means that I am full.

I see. That is a very interesting way of putting it. Shall we get on with the trade?

Yes, that would be great.

Lunai led them out of the banquet hall and through a maze of brown hedges. They came to a larger, more run-down building and went inside. The room was filled with barrels and crates of various sizes. Lunai pulled a small padd out of his pocket and glanced at it. Then he walked across the room to a group of large barrels.

Here we are. This is what you came for. He held out a padd, which Harry took. This describes the composition of the material.

Harry looked it over. This is almost exactly the same make-up as dilithium.

Great, Tom turned to Lunai. What did you want to trade it for?

We dont have to decide now. We have an overabundance of it. You can take a small portion in a shuttlecraft and I can join you in a larger craft in which you can take the rest.

I dont know, said Tom.

You can simply program your shuttle to follow the flight path you took to get here.

Harry took Tom aside. Just think of how much help all that dilithium would be.

It just seems a little suspicious thats all.

It is true that that much dilithium wont fit in our shuttle.

Yes, I know. Tom sighed. If we didnt need the dilithium so badly I wouldnt even consider this. The fact remains that we do, so okay.

Great! Harry grinned and went to tell Lunai.

Excellent, said Lunai. He turned to Tom. Why dont you go and program the shuttle while we gather the dilithium and begin transporting it to the shuttle.

Yeah, sure, said Tom resignedly.

Tom trudged off to the shuttle. As Tom left, Lunai pulled out a contract.

I almost forgot. We trust you to deliver your part when we meet up with your ship, but if you could just sign this contract.

Sure, said Harry.

After glancing over it he signed it and handed it over to Lunai.

Great, said Lunai. Now, lets get these barrels to your shuttle.

Soon the shuttle was loaded and Lunai sent Harry ahead while he and Tom finished loading Lunais ship.

There. Thats the last barrel, said Tom. Tom looked around for the first time since they began loading the ship. Wheres Harry?

He already left.

Why didnt he wait for us?

I told him to go ahead.


Because you arent going to be returning to Voyager.

Tom suddenly found himself surrounding by men with guns.

What do you need me for?

We need a good pilot. We dont have any.

Why do you need a good pilot?

I would have thought that was obvious. To get us through the minefield, of course.

I already made it through once. Cant you just download the flight path and follow it out?

No, the mines that are sensing are always changing. The same path will not always be safe.

What about Harry?

If hes lucky, the mines may not have changed yet and he could make it out alive.