Rogue Planet

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A Private Little Hunt

Quantum goes to The Rocks Of Gaseous Purges to find his Blue Banshee again. He calls out a few times, and finally she appears to catch him by the elbow as he stumbles and almost falls. Good thing she was there; he might have skinned his knee. Quantum dithers about her being real flesh and blood and not just a hallucination. "You're real," he tells her. She shows off her alienimity by repeating, "Real...yes," as all aliens must do to demonstrate that English is not their first language. They establish that she's not human and that she is only one of many in a race of shape-shifters on Dakala. "We can become whatever you see -- a tree, an animal, water, whatever you see, " Blue Banshee says. So, she's both Zan and Jayna? Quantum doofs that he sees a beautiful woman in front of him. "Because you want to see a beautiful woman," Blue Banshee tells him. Quantum wants to know how she knows what he wants. Apparently, she can get into his head and sift through the clutter there. Can she get into the writers' heads and shape-shift into a good storyline? Quantum wants to know why he feels he knows her, and she tells him it's because he does know her. Of course, she doesn't explain why. He wants to know why she chose him for her hauntings; naturally, her reply has to be obnoxiously enigmatic: "You're different," Blue Banshee tells him, and runs off at the mouth about how he's "different" from the hunters or, as she puts it, "those only ones who have ever come here before you." You know what really gets up my nose? Aliens who always feel obliged to speak in metaphor, simile, or other literary devices. Can't she just say "those that want to kill my kind?" or, if she's such a mind-reading whiz kid, "the Eskas"? Nooo, it's always gotta be "those that your forefathers oft dreamed of but knew not what they thought when they put forth the curse'd idea ere long." I mean, it's like they live in a perpetual state of Spenserian stanza. Blue Banshee informs Quantum that the Eska come to the dark planet to hunt her kind specifically, because they prize them "above all else." Quantum pulls Furrowed Brow No. 4 off the shelf and slaps it on, showing us that he's in A Moral Muddle.

Quantum lugs his Moral Muddle back to the campfire where he intends to roast it and spread it all over the Eskas. The wounded Eska, now repaired by Phlox, has rejoined them, and everyone drinks to his health and the hunt. Quantum gets Holtz-Damrus to admit that there's more that draws them to the planet than wild pigs and wolves. "Imagine hunting something that can get inside your mind -- sense your thoughts," Holtz-Damrus rasps. Quantum gets into his natural state and plays dumb with the Eskas -- much as he attempted to do with B'Stiller in "Fusion" -- in order to draw information out of them so he can pounce on them like a clumsy, and somewhat senile, cat of my personal acquaintance. "Wraiths," Previously Wounded Eska says by way of enlightenment. "You mean ghosts?" Trip asks. "They might as well be," the other Eska says. Quantum continues with his dumb-playing. He's finally found something he's good at. Holtz-Damrus tells Quantum, "You saw one yourself. She was undoubtedly a Wraith who wandered too close to camp." Quantum says that Blue Banshee looked human. The Eskas laugh. Again. "You don't even know if it was a she," Previously Wounded Eska tells him. The Other Eskas tells Quantum that the Wraiths are shape-shifters and can appear to be anything, even someone they might know: "That's the way they trick you." "They sound like intelligent, sentient beings," T'Pol comments. Holtz-Damrus scoffs at this: "Not the way you or I would measure intelligence. It's an instinctual response." The Other Eska tells the humans, "That's why we were tracking you the day you arrived -- we thought they'd taken your form." For those of us who didn't see Wesley's pre-pubescent pawings in "The Dauphin," Iman's little stint in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and the Salt-Sucker in "The Man Trap," Previously Wounded Eska further elucidates what shape-shifting means: "They assume the exact characteristics of whatever they become. They turn into a rock, all you see is a rock. Even on scanners." Holtz-Damrus gets his brood on by saying that before they knew how to recognize these Wraiths, the Wraiths killed more of them than the Eskas did of the Wraiths. He stares deep into the flames of his angsty fire: "My father came here with eight other hunters. They drove a group of Wraiths into a blind canyon. My father was sure that they had cut them off. But when they moved in, the Wraiths were waiting. They'd read the hunters' minds. The knew their plan. My father made it out but only two of his friends survived." There's an uncomfortable moment where no one knows quite what to say. "So, your father's alive and well in some Eskan Florida condo and you have absolutely no vengeance scheme -- um, why the voice, Holtz?" Mathra shouts. Luckily, for the sake of the conversation, Quantum finds something to say: "How do you catch them?" The Other Eska tells Quantum that the young ones "tend to panic when they're cornered." "When they're afraid, they emit a chemical signature. Our scanners have been modified to detect it. It gives us an advantage," Holtz-Damrus tells them.

Enterprise Situation Room. Quantum waxes ethical about the Eska-Wraith imbalance of power; T'Pol agrees, but doesn't know what they can do about it. "They're well armed and they know the terrain, I wouldn't want to take their weapons from them," Reed opines. T'Pol doesn't think they have the right to take the Eska's weapons away. Trip steps in with, "What right do they have to come to this planet and shoot the locals?" I sure wish people would come to my town and shoot the locals. Particularly the ones in the Yard. Quantum and T'Pol argue about whether or not they should interfere with a generation-long tradition of hunting a sentient species. Suddenly, Quantum has a brainwave on how they can level the playing field, and he turns to Phlox for assistance. "Captain?" Phlox asks. "The hunters said the shape-shifters emit a chemical signature when they're afraid, that's what gives them away. You have a sample of their cells," Quantum says. Phlox admits that he's been analyzing their mutative processes. "Can you find a way to mask that chemical? That would shield them from the hunters' scans," Quantum suggests. Phlox says he'll fire up Bunsen Honeydew and start playing with Beaker.

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