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Bartering

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Some aliens are delightfully easy to get along with, some are impossible to handle, and other are just sort of somewhere in the middle. The Torresians have proven difficult but viable. After a number of preliminary talks done purely through ship-to-ship communication, Tom finally gathers in the transporter room, not with the rest of a landing party, but with a multitude of gifts. Harry helps carry an enormous potted plant from Andorian seeds onto the platform and mutters, “I still don’t get why you’re going.”

“Jealous?” Tom quips, grinning even as Harry rolls his eyes.

“I meant why the captain’s not going. Or even Chakotay or Tuvok.”

Tom could say that the three top senior officers are too valuable to risk on an alien world, but instead, he answers: “It’s because I’m the one she was making eyes at.”

Harry groans. He steps back and gives Tom that look that says seriously, Paris, don’t try it on this one. The Torresian queen was certainly beautiful, but she had the forehead of a Klingon and the predatory grin of a Vulcan in pon farr. Her strength was obvious to everyone on the bridge. Fortunately, Tom doesn’t mind a little danger. He’s quite happy to by the only one Ensign Waters sends down.

He coalesces inside an enormous audience chamber, shaped like a giant crescent with the queen sitting at the head. Her throne is an ornate, golden chair made of twisted vines, raised up a short flight of stairs. Tom picks up one of the containers and marches forward. He hides his mild surprise that there’s no one else in the chamber, but then, this queen didn’t seem like she’d need any external protection. She’s a trim woman, no larger than Tom is, but her sleeveless purple shirt shows off just how much muscle tone there is to her arms, and her skin-tight black pants display the same message on her thighs. Tom tries to keep his eyes on her handsome face. Sweeping brown hair frames it perfectly. If it weren’t for the ridges on her forehead, she’d look almost human.

He stops right before her throne and doesn’t bow, because that’s not their custom. The stairs put them at eye level despite her seated stance, and she doesn’t rise to greet him. Tom purrs through the universal translator, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Majesty.”

Queen B’Elanna squints at him and asks, “Aren’t you the pilot?”

“Lieutenant Paris, at your service.” Then he does bow, just for dramatic effect. When he rises, he holds out the metal container and pops the lid. B’Elanna leans forward and reaches in to extract a PADD, which she immediately starts thumbing through as he talks. “You’ll find our completely library in there, including historical records of the Federation and all the species it encompasses. It also has a wide selection of our arts. Everything from music to stories to, and this one’s my favourite, television, which—”

“You’re trying to bribe me,” B’Elanna bluntly cuts in, eyes flickering up. She looks supremely not amused. “You think if you give me enough trinkets, I’ll share our technology and get you across the quadrant faster.”

Tom opens his mouth to deny it, but then surmises that she’s not a woman to be played. She’s direct with him, and she expects the same. He makes the executive decision to agree, “Yes, that’s the hope.”

B’Elanna snorts. She tosses the PADD back into the container and settles into the curved backrest of her grand throne. “What else have you got, Starfleet?”

“Tom.”

“What’s Tom and why would I want it?”

A grin tugs at the corner of his lips. He tries to keep it down. “That’s my name. Starfleet’s our organization. And you want me because I’m a fascinating individual that can definitely make this worth it for you.”

She lifts a brow. That impudence probably would’ve gotten him court martialed back in the alpha quadrant, but they’ve had to play rogue out in the delta quadrant, and he thinks he gambled right—she doesn’t look totally uninterested anymore. He dares to venture, “If you need more convincing, I’d be happy to tell you more about our culture... perhaps over drinks in our mess hall?” B’Elanna just stares at him. “Or during a nice walk in the holodeck? Or I could even give you a tour—”

“What about Engineering?”

Caught off guard, Tom stumbles, and then hurriedly recovers, “Uh, we have an impressing Engineering section. Our ship runs on di—”

“I know how your ship runs. Can I see it?”

“You want to see our Engineering department?”

“Did I stutter?”

Apparently, sarcasm is a universal trait. It just makes Tom more interested. He stifles his growing grin and shrugs. “Sure. I’d be happy to show you around Engineering. It’s a date.”

Finally, a thin smile quirks at B’Elanna’s lips. She tells him, “Don’t push it, Starfleet.” Then she rises to her feet and tells him, “Beam me up... Tom.”