Picard was relaxing in his quarters, enjoying a favorite book and a cup of tea when the doorchime sounded. Surprised, he looked up. "Come!"
The door opened to admit a small child. Picard surged to his feet in horror, spilling his tea in the process. Stifling an oath as the hot liquid seared his hand, he went over to the little girl. "Er, what's your name?" he asked with his best attempt at a pleasant smile. "Are you lost?" Simultaneously, he tried frantically to recall which member of the crew might have a green-skinned, green-haired child. "What's your mother's name? Or your father's?"
The child remained unhelpfully mute, but a mischievous smile turned up the corners of her mouth and she fluttered one long-lashed eyelid at him in a wink. Recognition and shock washed over Picard in a wave. "Bennet! You must be related to Bennet!"
Right on cue, the man bounced around the doorframe. "I see you've met my daughter, Picard. Now let me introduce her mother. Ilea, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard, my lawyer, jailer, counselor, rescuer, nemesis, and, I do believe, friend."
Ilea smiled, turning the full warmth of her personality on the captain. "I am delighted to meet you."
"And I you, madame. But -- I had understood you were--"
"Sit down, Picard. Have I got a story for you!"
As soon as he had heard Bennet's story and Ilea's tape, Picard called Arconia. "Your Honor." He wasted no time as the judge's sleepy face appeared on the screen. "If you will grant me an immediate hearing, I can close this case in ten minutes."
The sleep vanished from the man's eyes. "Done! But I'll need to locate the plaintiff."
"My officers will provide you with his coordinates."
"Then I'll see you in five minutes."
The judge was still in his pajamas, but he banged his gavel with complete authority. Picard, Bennet, Riker, LaForge, Wes, Gomez, Ilea and her daughter stood before him. "Where's the --"
Brock's unsteady entry interrupted the judge's question. The merchant wobbled over to the bench, too drunk to notice much. "I demand an explanashun," he slurred angrily. "Whass going on?"
"I have the evidence I need," Picard replied silkily, "to prove you guilty of perjury."
"Hah?" Brock tried to focus on Picard. "Whaddya mean?"
Picard handed the recording chip to the judge. "Would you play that, your Honor?"
The judge obliged, and as the recording wound on, Brock desperately tried to sober up. "I can explain," he gulped as the chip ended. "It's a forgery. That wasn't me."
"If the court does not have access to a voiceprint analyzer, I would be happy to offer the Enterprise's," Picard cut in.
"That won't be necessary," the judge said. Leaning forward, he smiled down at Ilea. "And who is this?"
For the first time, Brock noticed Ilea's presence, and his orange skin turned a sickly yellow. His eyes darted from her to Bennet and back again. "I -- I -- "
"This is the young woman whom Brock claimed was the intended target of Mr. Bennet's slaving ring. He also claimed she was dead."
"I can explain," Brock whimpered, edging towards the door.
"I doubt that!" the judge snapped at him. "Young lady, were you ever in any danger from Mr. Bennet?"
"Only in danger of losing him, your Honor, due to the actions of Brock."
The judge glowered at the cringing merchant. "All charges against Mr. Bennet are dismissed, and I will personally contact the Orion authorities to have the record there wiped clean. As for you, Trader Brock -- "
"Oh, please don't charge him, your Honor!" Ilea pleaded.
"What?" The judge and the Enterprise personnel turned to her in surprise. Only Bennet understood, and he wore a wolfish grin.
"Yes, your Honor," he agreed. "This was all a misunderstanding. Please don't charge him."
Brock stared at the couple with terror in his eyes. "You can't! I've got powerful friends -- "
Ilea looked at him, and he broke off in mid-sentence.
The judge was mystified, but shrugged agreeably. "All right, if that's the way you want it. Court adjourned."
Brock fled instantly. Seconds later, they could hear the hum of his transporter.
"Why didn't you have the judge charge him?" Wes asked blankly.
"We'll take care of him ourselves," Bennet said lazily, "and we don't want anything to get in our way. Right, honey?"
Ilea nodded grimly. "He has much to answer for."
"He'll sober up soon," Riker warned, "and he'll be waiting."
"Waiting, yes; ready, no," Bennet agreed calmly. "This time, it's our turn."
Picard steered the conversation to a less bloodthirsty topic. "What will you do now? You've still no ship."
"The Gadfly?" Ilea asked in surprise.
"I'll tell you later," Bennet promised uneasily.
"Starfleet could use an engineer like you," LaForge offered, not seeing Picard's stricken expression.
"Too dangerous," Ilea objected flatly.
"Dangerous?" Wes repeated in astonishment. "After the stuff Jake -- "
He broke off abruptly as Gomez's elbow caught him in the ribs. "What's your daughter's name?" she asked, filling in the sudden silence.
"Yasmeen," Ilea smiled. Bennet gazed fondly down at the little girl. She was clearly his child, not just because of the grin and wink, but because, unlike the majority of her peers who were timid in new situations, she was completely at ease among the many unfamiliar faces and eagerly awaited the next exciting outburst.
"A beauty just like her mother. She'll be a heartbreaker," Bennet mused. "I think she'd better have lots of brothers."
Ilea smiled. "That can be arranged."
"The myths concerning green-skinned Orion women are very popular throughout the galaxy," Riker grinned. "Yasmeen will never lack for attention."
"Myths?" Ilea echoed archly.
"Well, you know, that Orion women are irresistible." Riker suddenly realized that he wasn't being overly gallant. "I mean, that's somewhat of an exaggeration. After all, the men in this room, while I'm sure we all find you attractive aren't, uh..."
As Riker searched for a delicate way to phrase his remark, Ilea glanced at her husband. With a shrug and a knowing smile, he acquiesced. Ilea took a deep breath and... changed. There was no obvious alteration in her appearance, but something about her subtly shifted, and suddenly every Human male in the room felt as though the temperature had shot up twenty degrees. Their eyes were riveted to the green form as she slowly walked over to Riker.
"Myths?" she repeated, running her fingers through his hair. Even her voice seemed different: lower, huskier, more sultry. And then, just as suddenly, it was gone, and she was just another woman. Beautiful, yes, but no longer hypnotic. The men, except Bennet, hastily collected themselves, while Ilea, laughing softly, strolled over to Sonja.
"How do you do that?" Sonja whispered enviously.
"It's a metabolic adjustment," Ilea smiled. "We develop it at puberty. It can come in handy at times."
Ilea grew more serious. "Don't envy it too much, Sonja. It caused women like me to be enslaved for centuries. It has a high price. Besides, when you have found your true love, such tricks are unworthy."
"Why wasn't Jake affected?" Sonja asked. "Everyone else -- even the captain! -- couldn't take his eyes off you. Except Data, of course."
"Jake knows my heart is his, as his is mine. With that knowledge, the power fades."
"What will you be doing?" Picard tried to return to a safer topic.
Bennet shrugged. "I don't know. I'll do some engineering around here for a while. From the state of their jail alone, I can tell that the Arconians could use some outside expertise. That'll pay for a new ship -- I don't work cheap, but I'm worth it -- and then maybe I'll see what Narf's up to."
"That old outlaw?" Ilea demanded. "Do you intend to bring your family along on raids into Romulan space?"
"Yes!" Yasmeen yelled. "Me!"
"My God, it's genetic," Riker said disbelievingly.
"Well, m'sadi, we'll find something," Bennet promised. "There are suddenly 117 systems I can once again enter. And have I found some great party spots!"
Picard felt a pang of guilt as he contemplated his part in turning this man loose on the galaxy. After Jake Bennet and his family were through with it, the universe would never be the same!