by Suz email@example.com
Disclaimer - yadda yadda. Belong to Paramount.
The drape falls back to cover the entrance to the large tent as I release it, the material swishing noisily. Actually, this isn't exactly what you'd call your regular tent. It's at least ten feet high and the apparently solid structure is covered in a purple cloth.
In the middle of the 'tent', four women sit in a semi-circle. I can't see their faces; all of them are wearing hoods and are faced away from me. I try not to look apprehensive as I approach them, the sweet smell of something permeating its way through the air. The truth is my competitive streak has come to the fore. It's something that's natural to all women. All women from Earth, anyway. Constantly competing, rallying against each other.
It starts in puberty, the clash of hormones causing you to get jealous of the most petty things. Someone has nicer hair than you do. Someone has nicer breasts.
I'm glad to say that as I grew up I gained more confidence and adopted a 'screw you' attitude. Why the hell should I worry what another woman thinks of me? Why should I worry what anyone thinks of me? I call it confidence. He calls it a deathwish.
But I knew the moment I let the drape fall, I knew these women were different. Their low murmurs reach my ears but I can't quite hear what they're discussing. They bother me. I don't know why. It's as though I have to prove that I'm better than them, that I'm strong, independent.
Of course I can't show that to them. No, I can't do anything other than proceed with protocol because Starfleet training clearly dictates that you can't turn away from someone whose help you need just because you don't like them. Life could never be that easy. I would have turned away from so many people if it had been.
Straightening my back I walk towards them forcefully with a smile on my face, determined to show that I can stand for myself but in a way that suggests that they might just get their own way.
Their murmurs stop and I almost do the same. Barely catching myself, I continue until I'm standing one foot behind them. I'm still baffled as to why a race that is so technologically advanced would insist that the only people who can trade with me are these women.
Perhaps just a custom. I've always tried to respect customs. Or perhaps they're simply right.
"I'm Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager," I move to one side and indicate Chakotay who is standing just behind me "and this is-"
"We know who he is." they state in unison, and for a moment I almost believe that these four people are one. But their faces are slightly turned towards me; I can see their differing levels of amusement. Each has their own distinct personality.
"Very well," I tell them, then decide now's as good a time as any to begin negotiations.
I don't get the chance.
The second one from the left speaks, almost stoically. "He has to leave."
I frown and look back at Chakotay, who shrugs. "Why?"
"It is our way."
Chakotay's immediately accepting and moves to leave, but not quick enough for me to miss the smile playing across his features. It's as if he knows something I don't. I've always envied that; that he can seem to be at peace almost anywhere. I have to admit it also gets a little irritating.
I turn back to look at them and before I ask anything another one speaks. "We apologise. It should have been explained to you before you entered that only one person at a time is allowed in here."
Still they remain sitting, their backs mostly towards me.
"Can I ask why?"
One of them laughs slightly and the women to her left shooshes her.
"It is what we believe."
They stand then, but keep their heads lowered and the stoic one approaches me, holding out a covering. "You must change."
I take a step back. "There's a difference between respecting someones belief and embracing it."
A different one steps forward, her voice smug. "Words you've spoken before."
How would they know? "Yes."
"Of course," she responds "carefully chosen words. Pre-planned, a perfect answer. Is there nothing you say that isn't predicated or predictable?"
"I should imagine that conversations with you could become very boring."
*Now* I'm starting to get insulted. Grabbing the clothing, I hold it tightly in my hands. "How does a piece of cloth change anything?" Damn but I'm in a confrontational mood.
The smug one speaks again. "How does a word change a sentence?"
My grip relaxes slightly in my confusion. "Sorry?"
"How does a word change a sentence?" she repeats calmly.
I shake my head, annoyed. "It doesn't."
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. The words are insignificant. What's important is the meaning behind them."
Raising my hand, I shake the clothing at her. "And these...these have an important meaning behind them?"
She's smiling, I know she is. "No." And before I can utter my confusion once more she speaks again, firmer. "You need to change."
And then it hits me.
I whisper the words rather hesitantly. "You're not talking about my clothing, are you?" God, I'm so stupid.
In response they merely lift their heads up and smile. They all have my face.
I yell out something in surprise and stumble back slightly but they lower their heads again.
"What the hell was that?!" I demand, torn between wanting to get out and wanting to figure out just what is going on. I drop the clothing to the floor.
Another different, quieter voice speaks up. "A reflection. We are four. You are four."
"I don't underst-."
"Yes you do," the smug one informs me "you understand all too well. You just don't want to."
I should be leaving. It's obviously a prank someone's pulling. I'm not going to be able to trade for anything here, won't be able to gain any supplies.
A playful voice speaks. "He is two."
That grabs my attention. "He is two?"
"Who he is when he's with you, who he is when he is not."
"And how am I four?"
The quiet one. "You'll discover that yourself. He will face himself in his own ways."
This is too...I can't... "Why do I need to change?"
The smug voice answers my question. "You've spent too much time as only one of us."
They say nothing.
"She isn't ready." Quiet.
"I do not know if she ever will be." Stoic.
"Hell, she doesn't want to be." Smug.
"It's sad. What a waste..." Playful.
I don't like this. I don't like this at all. I haven't done anything wrong.
"Yes you have. You've become too much of an individual."
How can you become too much of a-
"Individuality has its limits."
"Will you stop turning my own words on me?!"
I see my smile reflected four times again. It's damn eiree.
Quiet one speaks sadly. "Only if you stop turning on yourself."
"Go," the smug one orders "leave. There will be no trade. You aren't worthy. Your friend, however...who knows? Maybe he had a better time meeting himself than you did."
I feel dizzy.
I have a headache.
And though some part of me wants to stay, wants to challenge, I'm compelled to obey their...*my*...wishes. I stumble out through the drape and into the bright sunlight.
My head clears almost immediately and I wince against the strength of the sun.
Turning, I discover that the 'tent' is nowhere to be seen. In fact, there are no artificial constructions anywhere.
My com badge beeps. "Chakotay to Janeway."
"Go ahead," I mumble.
"I've managed to get the supplies you wanted. Are you ready to beam back up?"
From where? Where is he?
"Yes." I answer anyway.
A few seconds later a transporter beam captures me, and I'm sure that the last memory I take with me is the sweet smell that filled the tent.
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Suz's Voyager Fanfic