Author Revenged
A Stephen B. Ratliff challenge

Darrel W. Beach

Nov. 1997
HTMLized July, 1999

The following presentation is rated PG for malevolent use of leola root.

     "Write a story where one of the main Star Trek characters you've written about visits you in real life to avenge the tortures you've subjected them to, eh?" I clicked the right mouse button and closed my Usenet news reader. Stephen's challenge definitely piqued my interest. True enough, I hadn't written very many stories yet - still mired up to my elbows in one, in fact - but the nature of the challenge was enticing, and quite within my realm of creativity.
     I opened my copy of Microsoft Word and started a new document. "This ought to be interesting," I commented to myself. "I know just who to use."
     Tom Paris. Yes, most definitely Tom. For a moment I considered writing Harry Kim into the fray, having put him into a few difficult spots already, but decided against it. I still had a number of story ideas not yet put to paper, and Tom was a popular focus of many of them. I figured Tom deserved to experience this moment by himself. Besides, I had no desire to further write myself into a disadvantage. I bruise easily.
     While jotting down a few notes to set the base of the story line, someone knocked on the door to my apartment. I jumped, not expecting a visit from anyone. I wondered how anyone calling on me could have entered the building without my permission in the first place, but as I got up and walked into the hallway it occurred to me that someone else must have invited them in, and the guest was taking the opportunity to visit the other residents. In short, some idiot had allowed a solicitor into the building. I was not happy.
     There was no point ignoring the solicitor either, as much as I would have preferred to. My stereo was loud enough for anyone standing outside the door to hear. I opened the door.
     I can't really convey how I felt when I saw who stood before me. Shock might be close. It could have been a coincidence, my perception already primed by the writing task engaging me, but the man bore a strong resemblance to Robert Duncan McNeill, even though he looked to be about forty. "Uh...can you?" I managed to spit out.
     "Mr. Beach, unit number 60-404?" he asked, reading a slip of paper drawn from his leather jacket.
     It was uncanny. Not only did he look like Mr. McNeill, he also sounded like him. Perhaps my mind was playing a trick on me, that he didn't sound like him at all, I just believed he did. "Yes, what do it you want?"
     The man smirked, an enigmatic gesture in my estimation. "Maintenance. I'm here to fix that lock."
     Well, that might account for how he got into the building. Obviously he was making rounds in the entire building. Paris' doppleganger or not, his appearance no longer interested me. I'd been waiting over three weeks for someone to replace the broken lock on my patio door. "Geez, it's about time you showed up," I remarked impassively.
     Only after I ushered him in did I realize something was amiss -- the repairman wasn't sporting a tool box or utility belt. I pulled the door back ajar and stiffened. "Wait a were supposed to call first before coming. Who -" My interrogation came to an abrupt halt when what I could only surmise as a concrete cinder block struck me in the back. Fortunately the door was there to break my fall forward or I would have sustained serious trauma. As my consciousness faded into a black void, I could just barely make out through the hum in my ears the repairman say "Computer, activate transporter. Two to beam up."

     The first thing I recalled upon waking up was the mind-numbing pain pounding in my head. I might have deduced experiencing the worst hangover in my life, only I didn't drink. I was at a loss, uncertain of where I was or why my head felt like it would split open any second.
     "So, you're finally awake," a vaguely familiar voice remarked. I looked up to find the source and immediately regretted it. "Don't worry, the effects of the stun should wear off momentarily."
     Stun? My senses gradually returned to normal, while the pieces of this puzzling exchange coalesced into an inconceivable solution. My migraine regressed to a dull ache, giving me the opportunity to finally open my eyes and inspect my surroundings. I found myself in a small compartment, the walls and flooring constructed of a grey metal panelling. The architecture seemed eerily familiar, although I'd never been in such a place before. I turned around and froze, gasping with utter surprise. In front of me appeared a huge, spectacular view of the stars and a lone figure sitting, his back facing me. The figure swivelled in his seat. I recognized the repairman, who now wore a black jump-suit with a wine-colored collar. When I spotted the pin fastened to his breast a feeling of foreboding and disbelief gripped me. "I...I don't believe this. You...couldn't be...."
     "Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris? You got it." He grinned, looking like the proverbial cat who caught the canary.
     I massaged my left arm, the pins-and-needles sensation still present in my limbs. "No, this isn't possible. You can't be real," I muttered in protest. "You're just a character in a television program. This must be a dream or something, a hallucination of some kind."
     Paris casually eased himself out of his chair and walked up to me. "Is that so?" He suddenly and unexpectedly reached out, grabbed my left nipple and wrenched it. "Tell me, does this feel like a dream to you?"
     I yelled out, more from shock than pain. The manoeuvre reminded me of my cousin Dwayne, who had a habit of tormenting me with it when I was younger. As reckless as Tom Paris had been characterized, I never thought of him as resorting to bullying tactics. He really is a jerk. I slapped myself free of his grip. "F*! All right, already! So it's not a dream. What are you even doing here, anyway?"
     "Why, I came for you, of course," he condescended. "I'm taking you to Voyager, to thank you for the years of hell you've put me through."
     "What? What the hell are you talking about? Years? I may have been writing Trek fan fiction for two years now, but I doubt I've written through the first year and half of your timeline."
     "Ah, but you have," he countered. "You just haven't written them yet. I guess you could say that my present is from your future, or more precisely your future writing."
     "Oh, great, temporal mechanics." I took the co-pilot's seat and sat down. "You know, if you ask me, you guys really overuse that plot device. 'Effect can precede cause' -- what a load of garbage."
     Tom sniffed. "You're one to talk. Thanks to you, we almost got caught in a causality loop with another Voyager 15 years in our future."
     My eyes were as big as saucers. "Really? Wow, that would make an interesting story. Thanks for the idea. Never would have thought of that one myself."
     The pilot scowled at me. "I wouldn't count on writing that one if I were you. When I'm finished with you, writing Trek fan fiction will be last thing you'll ever want to do. In fact, I'm counting on it."
     I swallowed nervously. The resoluteness of his statement sent a chill down my spine. Whatever he had planned for me, I wasn't looking forward to it.
     The shuttle slowly arced around the moon, and moments later the sleek form of Voyager appeared. A breath-taking scene to be sure, but even so I worried. "Hey, doesn't this violate the Prime Directive or something? I'm surprised Captain Janeway even allowed you off the ship."
     "Actually, the captain worked this whole thing out to begin with," Paris answered. "If we brutalize enough of you fan fiction writers, eventually we'll wind up with a much more pleasant timeline. Hell, we might have even made it home a long time ago! Now, are you going to cooperate, or am I going to have to get rough again?"
     My spirits sunk dramatically. I offered no resistance as Tom approached the shuttle bay doors.

     "There," he exclaimed, fitting the last restraint on my wrist. "That should keep you from running, not that you have anywhere to run."
     Lt. Paris had shackled me to some type of antigrav trolley. I could have laughed at the absurdity, in some way gaining an understanding how Hannibal Lecter felt in The Silence of the Lambs. I had no idea what he was up to, but clearly he had no intention of beating me physically, at least not one on one. I wouldn't have stood a chance at that anyway -- I doubt many of us fan fiction writers could pose much of a challenge to someone with Tom's level of combat and defensive training. He proceeded to push me out of the shuttle bay and down the corridor.
     "Listen, Tom, you don't really want to do this, do you?" I asked, a rising level of panic and desperation filling me. "Surely, whatever's happened hasn't been that terrible."
     I received a smack in the head for my attempt at conciliation. "Shut up! You have no idea what I've been through! You've messed with my mind on more than one occasion. I had a potentially meaningful relationship with Leena Calloway destroyed because you didn't want to stray too far from the canon trail. I've had other, less meaningful relationships with other female crewmembers soured, and several conflicts with B'Elanna Torres because of you. You've tested my friendship with Harry Kim by making me play pranks on him. And worst of all, you've forced me to endure Neelix's food so many times I've lost count. You could have at least written him better after a while!" His voice rose just as clearly as his agitation had, right up until we entered the turbolift.
     "Now wait a minute," I objected. "It's never been my intention to keep Neelix as a lousy cook."
     "Yeah, right," he replied brusquely. "After that incident with Neelix's walk-out, he's been the one calling the shots in the kitchen. His cooking is as bad as ever, we just can't say anything about it. I hold you accountable for that as well." The turbolift stopped. Tom once again escorted me down the corridor. A couple of turns later, we found our destination: the galley. Something noxious-smelling was stewing on one of the heating elements. I found it quite offensive, even worse than boiling cabbage.
     "You know, I considered beating you to a bloody pulp, but sometimes brutality just isn't a sufficiently effective deterrent. I thought this would be considerably more persuasive." Tom pushed me up to a table occupied by several other officers, most notably Lt. Torres and Lt. Kim. They looked at me with sinister smiles, which did little to comfort me.
     Tom returned with Neelix, carrying between them a large kettle. I easily identified it as the source of the noxious smell and I stiffened, an inkling of my planned retribution finally coming to light. A bead of sweat trickled down my temple. "What...what is that?" I choked out.
     Tom grinned sadistically. "You're lucky, Darrel. It's one of Neelix's specialities: leola root chowder. And you're not leaving until you've eaten every last spoonful of it."
     "NOOOOO!!!" I screamed frantically. I uselessly struggled to free myself of my manacles. "Please, no! I promise, I won't write another fanfic for the rest of my life! I swear to you as a Canadian citizen, just don't make me eat that!"
     "Sorry, I'm afraid I can't accept that," Tom feigned apology. "The only way to be sure you won't pick up where you left off is if even the mere thought of writing fanfic turns your stomach. Can't think of a better way to do that than eating Neelix's leola root chowder. Be, could you lend me a hand, please?" he propositioned Torres, still looking at me. "Our guest is becoming uncooperative."
     My adrenal gland went into overdrive as I watched B'Elanna stand up and walk around the table, leaving my field of vision. I then felt her hands clamp down on my jaws like a pair of vices, forcing my head into a stationary position. Let me tell you, people, you have no appreciation for the true strength of a Klingon, even a half-blood, until you're being held in place by one. I thought for sure she'd break my jaw at any moment with just a little extra pressure. I had no option but comply as she pried open my mouth for Tom. He scooped up a spoonful of the chowder and graciously blew on the steaming hot morsel before thrusting it into my palate. B'Elanna than clamped my mouth closed before I had the opportunity to expel its contents.
     The chowder was - to put it mildly - horrible. Tears of agony welled up in my eyes while the chief engineer encouraged me to chew and swallow the fetid, obscenely edible food. If this stuff didn't kill me I would surely become violently ill. After the third feeding the world around me began to distort, and my consciousness dissolved into nothing.

     "Write a story where one of the main Star Trek characters you've written about visits you in real life to avenge the tortures you've subjected them to, eh?" I clicked the right mouse button and closed my Usenet news reader. Stephen's challenge definitely piqued my interest. True enough, I hadn't written very many stories yet - still mired up to my elbows in one, in fact - but the nature of the challenge was enticing, and quite within my realm of creativity.
     I opened my copy of Microsoft Word and started a new document. Suddenly, inexplicably, I felt sick to my stomach. "Erph...maybe this isn't such a good idea after all."

The End (?)

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