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[2008: MAR-APR] *WINNER* Each to Their Own


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Bars and bricks of gold-pressed latinum were floating around the room. Joro was doing his best to grab them but they span faster and faster, turning into a whirlwind of gold with the Ferengi at the centre, threatening to crush him under their weight. Suddenly, out of the swirl, a face loomed coated in brown fur and set with a pair of piercing amber eyes.

“Joro? Joro? Are you awake yet?”

Reality began to intrude on Joro’s dream and the familiar lines of his quarters reasserted themselves, as did the tall figure of the Caitian, Mex’min, who was shaking him awake.

“Yes! Yes, I’m awake, Mex. Now what is it?”

“You told me to wake you up if anything happened. Well, the sensors are picking something up again. Dead ahead of us.”

Joro stopped yawning and stared at Mex.

“The Golden Path?”

Mex nodded. “Looks like it.”

Joro grinned, greed twinkling in his eyes. “Well, then, let’s go take a look.”

Joro stepped onto the cramped bridge, followed by Mex. The stars streaking past the canopy gave an odd light to the dark room but Joro's attention was fixed on the computer display in front of the pilots chair. There was a faint blip, at the very edge of the little ship's sensor range. He turned to the Caitian.

"How long until we catch up with them?"

Mex'min shrugged. "If we carry on at this speed then about 10 or 12 hours."

Joro looked at the sensor readings again. "They've slowed down. Are you sure they don't know we're here?"

"I've told you before, I've made this ship hard to spot. They're not going to see us until we're right on top of them."

Mex squeezed past the Ferengi and slid his bulk into the pilots chair. Joro shook his head as he moved out of the way. "Y'know, I'd always thought of you Caitians as big and brave types, but you're almost like a Ferengi - sneaky and cowardly." He grinned, displaying his full set of crooked teeth.

>Now, now. There's no need to be insulting, Joro<

Joro growled in annoyance as the urbane voice echoed through his head. Angrily, he turned to Mex.

"Does he have to do that?"

"Leave him alone, it's not his fault it's the only way he can communicate at the moment."

"Yes, but I'm not used to it." Joro tapped his lumpy skull for emphasis. "Four-lobed brain, y'see? I shouldn't even be able to hear him. Ferengi wouldn't be much good at business if every telepath who came along could read our minds, would they?"

>Oh relax, Joro. I can't read your mind<

Joro raised his voice. "In that case you're hearing must be really good, considering you're in a different room an' all."

>Well, now that you come to mention it....<

"Oh, just shut up! I don't know why we had to bring you along, anyway."

>We all have a stake in this, Joro. Even Mex. Besides, you know the artefact I seek is on the Golden Path.<

Joro sighed. The telepath was right. He looked towards the back of the ship where in a small room just above the engines lay the body of Re'jor, the Vulcan/Betazoid hybrid. Mex had carefully placed it there when they'd set off on their pursuit. Re'jor was a vegetable, a result of an unfortunate encounter with an alien artefact from the gamma quadrant, an artefact that was now sitting in the cargo hold of the Golden Path. Despite the fact that the energy pulse from the device seemed to have stolen Re'jor's mind, the hybrid had developed uncanny telepathic powers and now his disembodied voice seemed to float around the little ship, cut off from his body until they could catch up with their distant target.

Joro shivered a little. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to be reduced to something so insignificant. All in all, it was a very unpleasant business.

"Well, the sooner we get your mind back the sooner I can be rid of you."

>You really are heartless, aren't you, Joro? I truly don't think you care about anything other than latinum.<

"I prefer the term 'callous' myself. Anyway, what else is there to care about?"

>Plenty of things. Science maybe, or literature? or people? I care about them, so does Mex'min.<

Joro snorted as the Caitian pilot turned in his seat to look at him. "Mex? That coward? Don't make me laugh! He's like me, only cares about himself."

>Not so. Do you know why he agreed to be your pilot for this little expedition?<

"I know he backed down from that fight with those Cardassians back on the station. And I know he lost us a lot of time hiding from those Orion ships yesterday."

Joro gave Mex a stern glare as he spoke. Mex ducked his head and turned back to tinkering with the helm display, trying to coax a little bit more power from the engines.

>Would it interest you to know that Mex plans on killing the captain of the Golden Path when we catch up with it?<

"Ha!" Joro laughed. "I know you've lost your mind, Re'jor, but I've never seen Mex lift his hand to swat a fly. He couldn't even bruise my ego, let alone kill someone." The Ferengi paused. “Wait a minute, what do you mean by ‘killing the captain’?”

There was amusement in the hollow voice when it spoke again. >Oh yes. Killing him and taking his ship, Joro.<

Joro’s mouth hung open as he turned to Mex. “But why?! That’s the Golden Path, not some little Bolian ore hauler. The captain’s the most feared pirate in the sector, he’ll rip you to shreds! Why would you even try doing something like that?!”

Mex looked back at him. There was a sadness in his eyes, still, but now it was accompanied by a fierce fire the Ferengi hadn’t seen before. “Why? Because of my father.” A look of regret crossed Mex’s face. “I’ve met the captain once before, back on Cait. My father was involved in some... business. You’re a Ferengi, you know what I mean.” He hesitated, struggling to find the right words. “When things went wrong, the captain came looking for us.

He killed my father while I hid and I’ve never forgiven myself. All my life I’ve been living in the shadow of that event, now’s my chance to do something about it.”

“But... but that wasn’t part of our plan.”

Mex looked at him. “Not our plan, your plan. This is my plan.”

“We were just s’posed to go in, get the latinum and get out. I can’t be held accountable for the guilt you feel for something that happened years ago!”

“Well, things change. I guess we’re not all after the same thing.”

Joro felt things begin to unravel around him. He thought he’d been in control, but now it occurred to him just how big the Caitian pilot was. And those hands with those claws...

A dry chuckle echoed in the air around him. >You see, Joro? How little you know about even those closest to you.<

With an angry hiss Joro barred his teeth - Caitians with a death wish he might not be able to deal with, but comatose telepaths were something else. He ran down the length of the ship, the disembodied voice chasing him, a genuine note of concern audible for the first time.

>Joro? Joro! Now, don’t do anything stupid...<

The body of Re’jor lay exactly where it had been left. Eyes staring blankly at the ceiling, a faint smile stamped on his features, a slight trickle of drool creeping from one corner of his mouth. Joro looked around for a weapon as the voice continued to prattle.

>Joro, I don’t see why you’re getting so upset - we all have something to gain from this, that’s why we’re chasing the Golden Path in the first place! Just because something isn’t going your way. We’re still in this together.<

With a savage yank the Ferengi pulled the pillow out from under Re’jor’s head causing the hybrid’s skull to hit the metal bed with a thump.

>Joro, please be careful. I’m going to need that when I get back.<

“That’s it, I’ve had enough! I’m going to silence you once and for all!”

>I’d rather you didn’t. I’m quite attached to my body.< The voice paused briefly. >Well, not literally at the moment. Besides which, I don’t even know if that would work.<

“What do you mean it wouldn’t work? You’d be dead!”

>True, my body would. But my mind is in that artefact. So I don’t really know what effect smothering me would have.<

A brown hairy arm reached over Joro’s head and gently removed the pillow from his hands. He looked up as Mex smiled down at him apologetically. Feeling defeated, Joro slumped down on the bed next to the telepath.

“Oh why does it have to get so complicated! I only wanted to get the money back.”

>I know, Joro, I know.< The voice was soothing this time. >But things are rarely as simple as they seem. Take yourself as an example - why are you following the Golden Path? What’s your goal?<

He sighed as he hung his head. Mex, seeing that no violence was immediately forthcoming, took the opportunity to slink back to the pilots seat, the pillow still clutched in one hand just to be on the safe side. Joro could almost feel the invisible presence of Re’jor’s consciousness in the room, waiting for his words to fill the empty air.

“It’s my cousin. The captain took all the latinum he had, stole it right form under his nose. He’s got four kids to feed and that pawn shop was all he had.” Joro shook his head sadly. “Never did have much business sense, my cousin. Wouldn’t catch me with children, too expensive!”

>Really, Joro, you do suprise me! And here was me thinking you were only after that latinum for yourself.<

“Well, I get a percentage of course. A finders fee.” His voice took on a defensive tone.

>Of course, of course. But you know, Joro, perhaps you’re not as heartless as I’d first thought.<

He looked at the body and it’s unblinking eyes. “I’ll help you get your mind back, Re'jor, as long as you never, ever repeat what you just said.”

The ghostly voice chuckled again as the little ship powered on through space, it’s three crew intent on following the distant Golden Path.

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