TRIPLE TROUBLE - SEQUEL TO TACNA'S TURN by PJ in NH
Summary: Sequel to Tacna's Turn. Tom is accused and convicted of treason thanks to three crewmates. In an alien prison, he befriends a little girl. Note: Angst alert, keep a hankie handy.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Voyager and its characters. I've only borrowed the characters to satisfy my own creative urges. Archiving is okay, just e-mail me. Please keep disclaimer and my name attached.
RECOGNITION OF APPRECIATION: A very special thanks goes out to my beta readers: Phyllis J. Sutherland and Marleena Mooneyham.
Triple Trouble - Sequel to Tacna's Turn 10/98 (P/T) Rated R
"It's got to be here somewhere," B'Elanna grumbled crawling along the Jeffries tube, her dark hair falling down in front of her face. The seemingly endless tube lay before her as if mocking her efforts. "I'm so stupid! How could I have lost it? If he ever finds out..."
About two hours ago, B'Elanna had returned to her office in Engineering to review maintenance reports. For twelve hours, Voyager had been dealing with temperatures and humidities reminiscent of a tropical rain forest. So the half-Klingon had spent the entire day supervising a major system-wide sensor recalibration which was the last stage in bringing the environmental controls back up to 100% efficiency.
The Chief Engineer had been sitting in her office reading the current reports, still clad in her grey, sweat-stained tank top. Her thoughts turned to a certain blue-eyed pilot and remembered waking up beside him that morning in her quarters. She loved the way he held her close to him and the feel of his flesh against her own. B'Elanna smiled and her hand trailed up to her neck to finger the beautiful necklace that Tom had given her in the country fair program. But her fingers only encountered her bare skin, the chain was missing. Quickly she got up and danced around the desk, pulling the top away from her body, hoping that the chain would fall from somewhere inside the material. But of course, nothing on Voyager was ever that easy. And now B'Elanna was crawling through the bowels of the ship trying frantically to locate the necklace while at the same time trying to remember all the different Jeffries tubes and maintenance consoles she had been in that morning.
The half-Klingon had come to one conclusion though. There was no way she was going to let Tom Paris know that she had lost it. It wasn't like she had left the ship, it had to be somewhere after all, she mused. Voyager had what seemed like a multitude of rooms and kilometers of Jeffries tubes, so, she figured, it should only take her half her adult life if she looked everywhere.
B'Elanna's commbadge beeped. "'Lanna, we still on for the Resort tonight?" Tom asked.
She blew the hair away from her grease-smeared face in frustration. <Oh damn that's right, she thought <If I turn him down after I've been talking to him about going there for two days, he'll wonder what's up. I'll have to think of something. Maybe I can . . ."
"B'Elanna? You still there?"
"Ah--yes. Can you pick me up in--oh--twenty minutes?"
"I'll be there, love."
B'Elanna scrambled out of the Jeffries tube and headed quickly to her cabin. Talking to herself the entire way, she received many curious looks from her fellow crewmates.
"I know, I'll tell him that I'm having it cleaned? No, that's stupid, I haven't had it long enough for it to be dirty." B'Elanna stormed blindly out of the turbolift almost knocking over an ensign. "Maybe I could say that someone wanted to borrow it? Nope, then he'd just ask who and ask why I would let someone borrow it to begin with." She strode down the hall to her cabin ignoring a wave from Harry Kim. Pausing in front of her door to her cabin she exclaimed. "Damn! I know, I'll tell him that I didn't want to lose it if we went swimming so I put it in a safe place. Well that's kind of true," she rationalized. "I didn't want to lose it."
That decided, B'Elanna entered her cabin, quickly sonic showered, and changed into a new bathing suit that she had replicated the night before. She had been saving replicator rations for a month until she could afford the new swimsuit. It was a one-piece suit in lovely a shimmery bronze color with a gold colored trim. To say it was a one- piece was a mere technicality as there was a large area in the front mid-section that was cut out and the neck line dipped very low to reveal enough cleavage to make a Vulcan blush. All in all, it showed off B'Elanna's trim, petite figure in all its glory. She grabbed her towel and put on a cover up, to make sure that Tom wouldn't see the suit until they were at the Resort. She was curious as to what his reaction would be with other people around.
Tom had greeted her at the door with a bouquet of yellow roses from hydroponics, which she felt that she didn't deserve. She still could not get over how thoughtful and caring this man was, or how lucky she was that they had found each other.
Before Tom could ask about the necklace, she told him that she didn't want to lose the chain while swimming. He simply nodded his head, kissed her, and they left he cabin.
B'Elanna and Tom walked into the Resort arm in arm and were obviously very happy. Other people though that saw the couple, were not so pleased to see them. Back at a side table near the bar, three friends sat drinking synthenol. Polen Carag, a Bajoran who worked in Maintenance; engineer Richard Nensen; and Lars Henniken who worked along side Harry Kim in communications had all noticed Voyager's latest love match when they made their entrance. Each of the three during the last year had tried to get Voyager's beautiful Chief Engineer to go on a date and she had turned down all three.
"What is it she sees in him?" Carag asked the other two while Tom and B'Elanna strolled down by the water, stopping to spread out their towels on the golden sand.
"Blond, blue-eyes, pilot," Lars said ticking off each attribute on his fingers.
"And," Rich chimed in, "if he were back home he'd be very wealthy." The engineer downed the rest of the amber liquid in his glass and slammed the mug back down on the table.
"Let's face it, gentlemen, none of us are ever going to have Torres, not while Paris is still around."
"Don't look now Lars, but the pilot's blue eyes just got bigger," Rich said looking at the couple as B'Elanna finally took off her coverup to reveal her new suit, which in turn revealed quite a bit of her.
"Lieutenant, you look absolutely stunning," Tom said after he found his voice. The sight of B'Elanna in her new suit had left the normally talkative pilot momentarily speechless.
"What this old thing?" she replied flippantly turning around so he could see the suit from every seductive angle.
"What *old* thing, B'Elanna Torres? That is brand new and you look absolutely gorgeous in it."
"Are you just going to talk, or are you going to show me how you really feel about it?" she purred, bringing her hands up to his chest to play with his chest hair.
Not needing to be prompted again, Tom pulled B'Elanna toward him and wrapped his arms around her lithe body. He passionately kissed her, their tongues explored each others mouth and for a moment they were the only people that existed on the holodeck. Finally, they broke breathlessly away from each other.
"Would you like me to show you how much I like it again, Ms. Torres?" Tom quipped.
B'Elanna smiled broadly and licked her lips. "Yes, Tom. In your cabin later." With the necklace still missing she couldn't risk him coming back to her cabin. Laughing, she turned on her heels and walked toward the water. She stopped momentarily and turned around. "By the way, Lieutenant. Do you like breakfast in bed?"
Tom took two steps toward her but before he could reach her, B'Elanna was running toward the water. Picking up the chase, laughing all the way, Tom followed. He finally caught her, waist deep in the lagoon. Grabbing her from behind, he embraced here and his hands explored the cut-out opening on the front of the suit. "Have I ever told you, I love you, B'Elanna Torres?" He kissed and nibbled his way from her shoulder, up her neck, to her delicate earlobe.
B'Elanna moaned in delight as the warm waves of the lagoon broke against their bodies. "Once or twice, flyboy."
"Only once or twice? I guess I've been neglecting you, but I promise I won't tonight. Especially with the offer of breakfast in bed. Tell me can I have . . ." he asked and whispered his idea of the perfect breakfast in her ear.
B'Elanna's eyes widened with his suggestion and then narrowed. The thought of his version of breakfast excited her. "Only if you are very, very good tonight," she growled. <I guess this swimsuit was well worth all those replicator rations.
"Have either one of you ever seen anything more beautiful?" Lars asked sarcastically, upper lip curled in a grimace. "It's sickening."
"Nope never have, and she's all his," Carag grumbled, taking a long draw on the ale in his glass. Putting the glass down, he wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. "How she can be attracted to that good-for-nothing murderer and traitor is beyond me. I thought Klingons were suppose to value honor above all else."
"And on top of all that, now Paris is Chief Pilot, on the Senior Staff no less, and cementing his position by going with the Chief Engineer. It's real tidy."
"You said it, Carag. I was there on Caldik Prime when he had his *accident*, and he should be behind bars not on the bridge," Rich spat and ordered another round of real beer this time for him and his friends. "And it's an injustice that Chet Tacna's rotting away in the brig."
"As far as I can see it, Chet's only crime was his way of going about it," Lars added. "Not enough thought, all flash but not enough planning. If someone wanted to get rid of blue-eyes they'd have to do something that would stick. That wouldn't be questioned, not even by the Captain. Now if I wanted to get rid of Paris . . . ." The other two listened intently, eager to hear what the communications had to say.
It was 0213, B'Elanna continued to crawl through JT36 with a flashlight strapped to her wrist. She intently looked all around trying to pick up a reflection of light from the necklace, but she saw nothing of the kind. Over the past few days, she had been able to keep her secret to herself, searching for it in the wee hours of the morning. During the day, she wore her uniform, of course, when she was on duty so the necklace wouldn't have shown anyway; and off duty she made sure to were something at her neckline that would also cover her bare throat. But in a couple of days, she and Tom were both scheduled for a day off. If she hadn't found the necklace by then, it would take some real ingenuity not to be found out. Tom had a lovely habit of nibbling her neck that sent hot chills down her spine. He'd surely noticed if the necklace was missing while doing that.
Reaching the end of the JT, she opened the hatch and stepped out onto Deck Two. Her stomach growled and with the mess hall right around the corner, she decided to see what Neelix had laid out for the gamma shift.
She stepped into the darkened dining area and the motion sensors automatically illuminated the room. Over on the sideboard, the Talaxian chef/morale officer had laid out sandwiches and fruit. Grabbing the Delta Quadrant version of an apple, B'Elanna took a large bite. The juice from the fruit escaped her mouth and started to dribble down her chin before she located a napkin to capture the sweet liquid.
She sat down to finish it, trying to recall for what must have been the hundredth time, where she had been that day she lost the necklace. Suddenly an idea struck and, swallowing the last of the 'apple,' the half-Klingon dropped to her knees and started looking around the floor. After all, she mused, she had breakfast and lunch that day, so maybe it had been here the whole time.
After half an hour, B'Elanna still hadn't found what she was looking for but she had come to the conclusion that the gamma shift crewmembers were a bunch of slobs. Bits and pieces of food were scattered all over the floor. It looked like they had participated in some type of food fight.
Just before she was ready to admit defeat though she spotted something shiny underneath the serving counter. She crawled over and laying on her stomach reached her slender arm under the counter until finally her fingers encountered the object. Smiling, feeling victory, she pulled it out only to discover that it was part of one of Naomi Wildman's toys that Neelix had given her. Her face fell.
"quH petaQ!" she roared.
"Hey watch what you're calling me, Maquis, I might resent it."
B'Elanna swung her head around and found that she was nose-to-nose with Harry Kim still dressed in his pajamas. "What do *you* want, Starfleet?" she asked indignantly.
"Nothing, nothing at all," he replied with a yawn. "What are you looking for this early in the morning? Maybe I can help?"
"Who said that I was looking for something?" B'Elanna growled.
"Well if you haven't been looking for something, you've spent the last ten minutes crawling around the floor for nothing," he observed as he helped her up off the floor. "So spill it, B'Elanna, what have you lost?"
"I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I told you I was performing an inspection on the cleanliness of the dining area?
Kim crossed his arms in front of his chest to show that he was not leaving until he got his answer. Whether he was foolish or brave he couldn't decide. "Hardly. B'Elanna, tell me. Maybe I can help."
Admitting defeat she relented. "All right I'll tell you, but you have to swear that it stays between the two of us. Do you understand?" Harry nodded. "I lost the necklace that Tom gave me," she blurted.
"You lost it? Where?"
B'Elanna pushed him roughly aside and stomped into the kitchen area hoping that Neelix had spotted it and put in up on one of the kitchen counters. "If I knew *where* I lost it, then it wouldn't be *lost* would it!" she spat.
"Well then, when did you lose it?" he asked and joined her in her search.
"Three days ago."
"Well have you reviewed your activities on that day."
"I have and unfortunately that was the day of the heat wave and I was running the system-wide recalibration." B'Elanna knelt down and peered under the edge of the cabinet. "I was all over the ship that day. I can't even begin to tell you how many Jeffries tubes I was in, not to mention how many maintenance cabinets or cabins. If Tom ever finds out I was this careless with his gift . . . well let's just say that he's not going to find out."
"How about replicating another necklace," Harry suggested.
"You've got to be kidding, that would be highly dishonest besides . . . I don't have enough replicator credits," she admitted.
"So you did think about replicating one?"
"Well only as a last resort, but platinum and yellow gold don't come cheap. Tom had to have saved for months for that chain."
"Or played a lot of pool and won," Harry added.
"True. You know he had me believing that it was made of silver and gold, but I just knew better. When I tested it, right after he gave it to me, I found out just how many credits he would have had to save to afford it."
Harry let out a low whistle, trying to imagine how long his buddy would have had to save and how many of Neelix's meals he would have had to consume to save for the gift. <He really must love her. "Wow!"
"Yeah, wow! And now I've gone and lost it. I've been so careful wearing it, Harry," she said in as close of a whine as the half- Klingon ever came.
"I know you have, B'Elanna," Harry agreed, he knew very well that she was very fond of that necklace. "How about running a scan for its mineral composition?"
"I thought of that and already done that, but the components of the commbadges are so similar that it is useless. So unless you come up with any other ideas, I'm afraid we will just have to keep looking."
Alpha shift came on duty, the next morning, and relieved their gamma shift counterparts. Harry relieved Lars Henniken, who upon leaving the bridge almost collided with Tom Paris coming off the turbolift. Tom reached out to steady himself against the tall, fair-haired Swede. Henniken's only reaction was to sneer and storm past the Chief Pilot on his way to the turbolift.
Tom shook his head at Lars' behavior and smiled to Harry.
"Don't forget, mess hall, two days at 1800 sharp," he reminded his friend.
"Wouldn't forget it for the world," Kim replied with a grin.
Tom nodded and then went to relieve the ensign who sat at the helm. He sat down, reviewed the activity since his last shift, took note of the course coordinates, and started to perform the routine morning diagnostic.
The Captain and Chakotay entered the bridge from Janeway's ready room and took their customary seats. "Looks like a quiet morning," the Captain quipped to her First Officer.
"Hopefully," he replied. "You all set for the get-together in the mess on Wednesday?"
"I still need to take care of a couple of things, but I wouldn't miss it for the world. Though I don't know if I'd want to be in Mr. Paris' shoes that night," she said softly not wanting her Chief Pilot to overhear.
Chakotay nodded in agreement and laughed.
The morning did proceed quietly until just before the alpha shift were to be relieved for lunch.
"Captain, there is a broad-span message coming in from a message buoy about four light-years from our present location," Harry informed.
"Proceed," Janeway ordered.
Harry nodded and channeled the message to the main view screen. A strange alien appeared. He had vivid blue eyes and his skin color was almost a pale yellow. Instead of hair on his head, shiny fish-like scales covered his scalp. His blue eyes peered out from underneath thin slits, and he was dressed in a nondescript grey tunic.
"Warning. You have entered the Lynic/Croydos war zone, proceed at your own risk. If you enter into the war zone, it will be assumed that you enter as a neutral party and that any assistance you provide to either side will be considered guilty of a war crime--punishable by imprisonment or death. The Lynicans have warned you. - - - "Warning. You have entered . . ."
And the message repeated.
"How long would it take for us to avoid this area of space?" Janeway asked her security officer.
"According to the interstellar map that the message also transmitted approximately five months, three days, and three point five hours," Tuvok stated.
Janeway took a deep breath. "Mr. Paris, plot us a course through this war zone that will minimize contact with either the Lynicans or the Croydosians," she ordered. "I'm not going to add another five months to our journey. As long as we stay out of their hair--or scales as the case may be--then we should be all right."
Tuvok nodded his concurrence. "Very logical," he replied.
Voyager flew a path that, while not that direct, seemed to allow them the opportunity to avoid any confrontations of either race. The second day into the war zone, a strange space ship hailed them.
"Captain," Tom spoke up from the helm," there is what I assume to be either a Lynican or Croydosian warship approaching from our port side, I can't provide you any more specific information."
"Alien ship, this is Zotan of the Croydos fleet, please state your intentions."
"On screen, Mr. Henniken," Janeway ordered while still seated in her Captain's chair.
An alien, looking much different than the Lynican they had seen depicted by the warning buoy, appeared on the view screen. Whereas the Lynican was dressed rather plainly, the Croydosian that was pictured before them was quite different. He was dressed in heavily gold and silver embroidered flowing robes with a heavy pendant bearing a large red stone around his neck. The Croydosian also possessed an almost human appearance except for the vivid purple head of hair that looked like it was caught in a permanent wind storm.
"Mr. Zotan, I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the U.S.S. Federation starship Voyager. We are just passing through on our way home. We are a neutral vessel, we have no hostile intent."
"Your home must be very far from here, I have never seen a ship like yours before. Truly magnificent."
"Thank you," Janeway smiled proudly, "and yes, we are a long way from home."
"Just remember to stay out of out conflict and you'll have no problem."
"Thank you Mr. Zotan, Voyager out."
Tom turned around. "Wow, did you see that bauble around his neck looks like he could afford just about whatever he'd like," Tom said.
"Maybe so, B'Elanna responded from her post at bridge engineering station, "but their ship certainly isn't much to look at."
"No, not much of a vessel. Voyager and her technology is certainly no match for it, our ship is much more powerful. With no effort at all, we could leave that ship in the dust," Tom observed looking at the beautiful engineer who happened to be on the bridge that day. "Personally, despite all their obvious wealth, it looks like their engineer could use a little of your help, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna smiled. "Thanks, but I'll stay on Voyager."
"You can't tell me that you wouldn't be interested in beaming over and seeing what that ship's engines look like?" Tom asked.
"Well maybe, but I think I'll survive."
Tom laughed as did the Captain and First Officer, they knew how much B'Elanna liked to learn about alien technology, even if it was vastly inferior to the Federation's.
From the communications station, Lars smiled slightly. He had a lot to talk to his friends about after the shift was over with.
At the end of alpha shift, Paris relinquished the helm to Ensign Baytart and joined Henniken in the turbolift.
"That was some gem around the Croydosian's neck, Paris," Lars commented dryly.
Paris was a bit surprised that the Swede was talking to him as he usually maintained an icy silence. "Ah . . . yes it was. I'm sure it would be worth quite a few pieces of latinum back home."
"But nothing that *your* family couldn't afford," Lars tossed over his shoulder as he left the turbolift.
<Even in the Delta Quadrant, people just can't leave my past behind," Paris thought as he headed to his cabin.
Lars comment having been forgotten, Tom cleaned himself up a bit in his quarters, grabbed a package that had been carefully wrapped in blue paper and white bows that was sitting on his table, and hurried down the hall whistling all the way. The pilot was counting on the fact that B'Elanna was always late, and if that didn't prove to be the case today, Sue Nicoletti was going to make sure that she was. To make sure she was late, Sue had sent a message to the bridge requesting the Chief's presence in engineering just before Alpha shift had been relieved for the day.
The pilot strode into the mess hall and noting that everything seemed to be in order, sought out the chef. Neelix was just putting the finishing touches on B'Elanna's favorite, a chocolate raspberry tart, when Tom found him and Harry.
"It looks great Neelix," the tall man beamed.
"It is," Harry said licking his lips.
On queue, the pilot stuck his finger in the chocolate coating for a taste.
With a cry of pain, Tom pulled his hand quickly away from the cake. "What was that for?" the pilot asked rubbing the back of his hand. Neelix had just slapped his fingers with his ever-ready spoon.
"Everybody out. Out! That's for later."
Still rubbing the back of his hand, the pilot laughed and left for the dining room with Harry, it was 1550.
Tom's commbadge beeped. "Tom, Nicoletti here, I couldn't keep her busy any longer, she's on her way."
"Thanks, Sue. I appreciate it. We'll save you a piece of cake."
"Everyone," Tom said loudly. "She's on her way, so if everyone will . . Oh, Captain, Commander, I'm glad you made it, he said when the two senior officer, packages in hand, came through the mess hall doors. "As I was saying she's almost here. If everyone will take their place?"
All the people in the mess quickly found something to kneel down behind to hide.
"I hope B'Elanna likes surprises," Janeway whispered to her First Officer. "For heaven help Tom if she doesn't." Chakotay chuckled in agreement.
"Computer, lights out," Tom said softly and the illumination in the mess hall dropped to zero.
Listening intently, the sound of B'Elanna's shoes against the deck could be heard and they were getting louder all the time until finally they stopped all of a sudden just before she was about to enter the mess hall.
B'Elanna noted the darkness and it puzzled her. Normally the mess hall was always full of activity at this time of night. "What the? . . . Computer, lights," she ordered.
The computer immediately responded and the lights came on and at the same instant, the thirty people in the mess hall yelled, "Surprise!"
Back in Lars' cabin, Rich and Carag joined him. "I've got it all figured out," Lars told his friends. "By manipulating the conversation on the bridge today, I can make a recording that will convince the Captain that our pilot is still a traitor, who would sell information to anyone for the right price."
"You're sure you can do it?" Carag asked skeptically.
"No problem at all, even Harry Kim won't be able to detect the spliced message after I'm done with it. I just need a little bit of help from you two to pull it off."
"Just tell us what you need," Rich said. Carag nodded.
"Well, I believe that Paris is working the beta shift tomorrow night and we happen to be all working the gamma shift, so this is what we'll do. . ."
B'Elanna stood with her mouth agape. "Surprise?" she whispered. She was startled at all the people standing before her applauding.
Tom came up to her side and gave the bewildered half-Klingon a hug.
"What's this all about, Tom?"
"It's a party just for you," he told her. "Didn't you even remember that today's your birthday?"
"But Klingon's don't celebrate birthdays," she argued blushing a bit, she hated to be the center of attention.
"Then consider this your half-human birthday. Come on and sit down B'Elanna," Tom steered her toward the chair of honor. The engineer sat down and looked around, a lot of people were here -- even the Captain and Chakotay. All were wishing her a very happy birthday. It was a bit overwhelming she decided. No one had ever cared enough to throw her a party before. She smiled slightly and blushed again.
"Tom?" she whispered and pulled at his sleeve.
The pilot knelt down beside her so she could speak to him privately.
"You deserve it."
"You don't understand, I've never--never had a birthday party before," she explained her voice choked with emotion and a lone tear escaped and rolled down her bronze cheek.
"Never? Not once?" he asked and wiped the tear away with his thumb.
B'Elanna shook her head. "Well perhaps when my father was around, but I don't remember. This means so much, thank you."
"You're not mad?"
"Mad? No. At one time, what seems like a very long time ago now, I might have been, but not anymore," she reassured him and kissed him lightly on his cheek.
"So what do you want to do first, cake or presents?"
B'Elanna smiled and scrunched up her nose.
"Presents, it is," Tom declared.
B'Elanna unwrapped what seemed like a mountain of assorted gifts. She received a number of replicator credits, bath oils, and perfumes. Chakotay's package contained a carved worry stone which, when she was told what it was, made her laugh. The present that Janeway brought was a lovely comb and brush set that B'Elanna knew Tom would used when he combed her hair.
Lastly, Tom's gift was opened. B'Elanna carefully untied the white bows and unwrapped the blue paper. Inside, she found a silver box that was a little larger than the span of her hand, engraved into the silver were flowers and leaves, it was simply exquisite. The engineer looked up to the pilot and smiled.
"Open it, B'Elanna," Tom suggested.
Gripping the box in both hands, she opened it to reveal a black velvet lined interior with a card inside which read: "May my love for you be reflected in the jewelry what will fill this box over the years. Love, T."
<Oh Kahless, she thought, <a jewelry box and I can't find the necklace to put in it.
B'Elanna was speechless for a moment before she replied. "It's beautiful, Tom. Thank you," she said with a smile on her face. <I've *got* to find that necklace, now more than ever.
Tom bent down and kissed his love. He was prevented from continuing the embrace when Neelix brought out his magnificent creation from the kitchen and placed it on the now bare table in front of the Chief Engineer. The chocolate cake was now adorned with rosettes and candles. Two ensigns passed around trays containing synthenol champagne.
Once everyone had a glass, someone in the back chanted, "Speech!! Speech!!" which was soon joined by all the guests.
Tom raised his glass, "To the most wonderful, vivacious woman I know. May she have the happiest of birthdays." He took a sip and everyone happily joined him.
B'Elanna stood up from where she had sat and raised her own glass "I'd like to say a couple of words," she said. She then brought the glass down in front of her and held with both her hands. "When we where first thrown into the Delta Quadrant it felt like I was lost. But now looking back I see that I was wrong. I'm no longer lost, I found more here in the Delta Quadrant than I ever could have back home. I found a new family here and I've made new friends," she said looking around the room. Many of those that met her eye nodded in understanding. "and I have found a wonderful man, whom I love." B'Elanna looked into the blue eyes of the man who stood by her side and tipped her head up and was rewarded with a kiss. "I love you Tom Paris," she whispered.
Tom worked the next day on beta shift, and during that shift as planned, Lars and his friends set their sinister plan in motion.
Tom slept that night dreaming of his B'Elanna and their plans for the following day when they both had the day off. While he was sleeping, the plan was initiated.
The next morning Harry reported to the bridge and relieved an even younger ensign from the comm station. As per routine, Kim reviewed all activity that had taken place from the last time he was at his station and performed the morning diagnostic. Everything was going fine until he noticed a message that had been sent from the ship to the Croydosians during the early morning. When he saw the location of the message, Harry swallowed hard, his face paled. To discount any fowl play, he reviewed the message several times but found no abnormalities with the message, even the voice print checked out. <Doing your duty, Harry concluded, <is not an easy thing.
The Captain who had been sitting in her chair casually talking to her First Officer looked up at the ensign. "Yes, Mr. Kim?"
"Could I speak with you in your ready room, Captain?"
Janeway looked quizzically at Chakotay and back to Kim. "Of course. Commander, you have the bridge."
Kim followed Janeway into her ready room. "Please take a seat Mr. Kim."
"Thank you," Harry replied clearly nervous.
"Harry, it looks like you lost your best friend," the Captain remarked. "What's wrong?"
Harry, to maintain his composure, slipped into his full Starfleet cadet mode. "Captain, I performed a diagnostic of the communication system this morning and found an unsanctioned message that was sent from Voyager to the Croydosians."
"That's serious, ensign. Can you play the message for me?"
"Yes, ma'am," Harry replied grimly and punched the codes into the table-top computer. "This--this is it."
"Croydosian vessel, have personal information on Voyager technology that could help your war effort, and it looks like you can afford it. Interested?"
Even though she recognized the voice she asked. "Where did this message originate from, Mr. Kim."
"It was sent at 0305 this morning from Lt. Paris' quarters," he replied sadly.
Janeway sighed and nodded her head. There were times like this that she hated her job.
Tom woke late, called B'Elanna and met her in the mess hall for a late breakfast. They had just sat down with their coffee and their meal when Janeway, Tuvok, and two ensigns from security entered the dining area and approached the lieutenants' table. In the rear of the room, Henniken, Nensen, and Polen watched with great interest.
"Mr. Paris," Tuvok said to the blue-eyed pilot. "It is my duty to inform you that you are being arrested for charges of treason. You will come with me."
"What are you talking about?" Tom asked. "What is this? Some sort of joke?"
"There is no mistake about it, Mr. Paris," Janeway explained stepping forward. "We came across a message that was sent from your cabin early this morning to the Croydosians. The voice print matches yours precisely. Tuvok, take him to the brig."
A bewildered Tom Paris looked at Janeway and then to B'Elanna. "Captain, I don't know what to say, but I didn't send any message."
"Well, you can tell your side of the story at the trial," she said grimly and stormed out of the mess hall. Tom was led from the room by the security guards leaving an irate B'Elanna behind.
Janeway brooded in her ready room sipping her now cold coffee with her First Officer.
"Chakotay, I just don't understand it. He had everything going for him. He was back at the helm and he had B'Elanna. Why would he throw it all away."
"I wish I knew, Kathryn. I don't understand it myself, I too thought he had changed."
"So what do I do now, I have to have a trial, and if he is found guilty--or should I say when he is found guilty--what do I do with him? I can't just confine him to his quarters, not for treason. The only option available to me is to imprison him in the brig for the next twenty-five years."
"Captain, incoming message from the Lynicans," Harry announced blandly.
The Captain and the Commander immediately got to their feet and headed toward the bridge.
"Put the message through, Mr. Kim," Janeway ordered as she sat down in her chair.
"Alien vessel, this is the Lynican vessel, the Emos, please come in."
"Emos, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. What can we do for you?"
A man looking much like the Lycian who they had seen on the message buoy greeted her. "Captain, my name is Dur Kalat, It is my duty to inform you that we intercepted a message sent from someone on your ship to Croydos. From the contents of the message, that member of your crew is guilty of war crimes against Lynic."
Janeway sighed, she had hoped that she could deal with Paris herself and not involve any of the aliens.
"I am aware of that message, and we are taking measures on this ship to see that the guilty party is punished appropriately."
"Then once that person is found guilty, you'll release that person to us?" the Kalat questioned.
"According to our laws, by attempting to abet the other side, a war crime has been committed. This is punishable by the laws of the aggrieved side. In order words, we have come to take this person back with us to serve their sentence."
"Which would be what?"
"Ten years hard labor in one of our mines on the colony world of Lynic IV. Which is fortunate, for if the message had gotten through to Croydos, the sentence would be twenty years," the alien replied.
"Dur Kalat, I respect your position but I need time though to confer with my senior staff. Can I contact you in say, two of our hours?"
Dur Kalat nodded, his scales on his head shimmered under the lights on his bridge. "That would be acceptable, but no longer if you want to leave this region of space without conflict. For let me warn you, Captain, though my ship is much smaller than your Voyager, fifty Lynican ships could inflect serious damage to your vessel."
Janeway discussed the situation with Tuvok and Chakotay in her ready room. Just before the agreed upon time, a grim faced Captain emerged with her First Officer and Chief of Security following.
"Mr. Kim, hail Kalat."
"Aye, Captain," Harry responded. Soon Kalat's face was back on their view screen.
"Captain Janeway, you were true to your word," complimented the alien captain. "You have come to a decision?"
"Yes, I have. I have spoken with my senior officers and we have agreed to turn the guilty person over to you." A collective gasp could be heard from the other crew members on the bridge. "That is, if we can determine his guilt."
"But Captain Janeway, I'm warning . . ."
"I heard your warning, sir," Janeway said holding up her hand. "But please I ask that you be patient just a little bit longer. It is not my attention to ignore your justice. According to our own laws though, we need to conduct a trial here on the ship. You, of course, will be welcome to attend."
Dur Kalat relaxed a bit, he did like this alien captain. She seemed to be an honest sort and very direct. "Very well, when do you plan on conducting this trial?"
"Tomorrow morning. We'll contact you in time for you to be beamed over to our ship. Of course, you are welcome to bring a couple members of your own staff with you."
"You are very kind," Kalat replied. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Janeway merely nodded and ended the transmission.
"Mr. Paris," Tuvok intoned standing in front of the pilot who stood at attention. "It is the decision of this panel that you are guilty of attempted treason."
"Noooo!!!! Noooo!!!!" B'Elanna stood up and screamed from the back of the room. Harry pulled her back to her seat and she sobbed openly upon his shoulder while he patted her back.
Tom stood tall and proud, and his gaze never left the Vulcan's. Surely, Tom thought, this had to be some type of nightmare. He had never sent a message like that, he never would send a message like that. Yet when they played the transmission, he himself had to agree that it sounded like him. When Harry testified, the somber ensign was forced to admit that according to his review of the audio files, that the message matched his friend's voice pattern exactly.
But the worst thing of all for Tom was to see a strangely quiet B'Elanna sitting in the back of the room in a daze during everyone's testimony. Then the time came for Tom to testify. The pilot swore his innocence and looked at his love trying desperately to send a silent message to her that he was guiltless of the charge. Their eyes locked for a moment, deep brown eyes seeking the sky blue eyes of the man on the stand. She knew at that moment, what she had expected all along, Tom was telling the truth.
Janeway approached her former Chief Pilot after Tuvok proclaim the judgement, her face betraying no emotion as she had been trained in Starfleet. She reached up to Paris' collar and removed his rank and detached his commbadge from his uniform. "Tuvok, please return Mr. Paris to the brig, while I take care of some business with Dur Kalat."
Tom sat on the edge of his bunk in the brig and across from him in another cell, Chet Tacna gloated.
"So, Paris, you don't look so happy," he taunted. "What's the matter, you have to go to bed early without any cookies?" Chet laughed at the scowl that formed on Paris' face.
"No, Chet," the guard said, gladly relating Tom's miseries to the other prisoner. "Our *Mr.* Paris here has been found guilty of attempted treason and has been sentenced to ten years hard labor on an alien planet."
"Ten years?" Chet questioned. "Is that all?"
The guard nodded.
"Hmmmm. Ten years doesn't sound too bad when you're faced with life imprisonment." Chet thought for a while and came to a quick decision. "Smansek," he said calling to the guard. "Can you tell Tuvok that I'd like to speak with him?"
"So you're telling me that Chet Tacna wants the option to serve time in an alien prison rather than staying on Voyager?" she asked her Chief of Security.
"That's what he told me, Captain." Tuvok walked around the table in the Captain's ready room to join Janeway near the windows. "He was adamant. I don't have to tell you that with him off Voyager it solves a couple of problems. We don't have a permanent prisoner on board and with Tacna gone it eliminates any remote chance of him using his mental powers against anyone again on the ship."
Janeway nodded. "So it is your opinion that if the Lynicans will have him to let him go?"
"It is only logical. It is what he wants and it benefits Voyager."
"Very well then, if the Lynicans want him, he's theirs. Please talk to Kalat and see if it's possible."
After his meeting with Dur Kalat, Tuvok received permission to let Tacna accompany Paris to the prison. And after that, the unlikely pair paid a trip to Sickbay and were implanted with the part of the commbadge that contained the universal translator behind their ears. Paris and Tacna, manacled, now stood, accompanied by a security contingent, just inside the transporter room.
They were just about to step up on the transporters platform, when a bedraggled B'Elanna Torres burst into the room. Two of the security guards quickly grabbed her by her arms. "Captain, please let me speak to Tom before he leaves. Please." B'Elanna pleaded.
A grim faced Captain nodded and replied. "Let her go."
B'Elanna pulled her arms away from the men who had held her.
"Five minutes, B'Elanna. The Lynicans are waiting," Janeway explained.
"That's all the time I need." B'Elanna walked over to Tom and pulled him over to the side of the room.
"B'Elanna, I wish you wouldn't have come. I don't want you to see me like this," Tom told her holding up his wrists to show her the manacles.
B'Elanna reached up and caressed Paris' cheek with the palm of her hand. She didn't care who was looking, she had come to see Tom and no matter how large the audience it wasn't going to stop her. "I would have come sooner Tom, but I was going over that message. I wanted to prove your innocence before you were beamed off the ship," the half- Klingon explained. "I know you're innocent."
"Then you and I are the only ones," he replied sadly.
"It looks like whoever did it knew what they were doing," he replied sadly.
"Trust me, I'll prove that your not guilty. It's just going to take me longer than I had hoped it would."
Tom shook his head. "I don't know if anyone can do that, 'Lanna. Whoever framed me did a good job--they seemed to have thought of everything."
"Ssssh. Trust me. I'll be back for you. You're my love. Kiss me, Tom, before you leave?"
Tom bent his head and tasted her sweet lips for what might be the last time. B'Elanna kissed him back with a passion that even surprised the pilot. Her tongue sought out his own, until finally she broke away and kissed him up along his jaw line until she reached his ear.
"Do you love me?" B'Elanna asked her lips and warm breath tickling his ear.
"Of course I love you. I'll never stop loving you. I'll carry you in my heart forever. No one could ever take your place."
"I love you too, Tom. Forever." She kissed him on his ear. "Trust me, Tom, I've been waiting a long time to do this." With a quick, decisive movement, she bit him on his cheek.
The people in the transporter room were startled by B'Elanna's actions, but none more so that the one who was bit.
B'Elanna turned her eyes towards the familiar blue eyes of her lover. She lovingly and tenderly stroked his cheek that she had just bitten wiping away the blood. "I've marked you Tom. You're mine forever. Nothing, not even death will keep us apart. You're my tIqwIj, my beloved."
"It's time to go," Tuvok reluctantly announced. Even the Vulcan was loathe to part the two lovers. The guards came forward and grabbed Tom and escorted him to the transporter pad.
"Trust me, Tom, I'll find you innocent. We'll be back."
Tom nodded and just before the transporter beam enveloped him he said. "I love you, 'Lanna. Forever."
Paris and Tacna were beamed to the alien ship and placed in their brig. After a few days, the ship had reached it's destination--Lycian IV. The pair were shuttled down to the planet and processed, before being shown to the prison itself.
To call it a prison would bring up images of orderly rows of cells in a stark building, but what greeted the former crewmembers of Voyager was nothing more than a deep, dirty hole in the ground, only accessible by two steep well-guarded stairways to the main level. The guards brought Paris and Tacna down one of the stairways and to their assigned bunks. The other prisoners, never having seen humans before, were very curious about the new residents. The other prisoners were mostly men, but there were a few women who occupied the prison as well, almost all of them where Croydosians.
"Welcome to the prison of Lynic IV," the guard stated grandiosely. "There is no escape from here. Here you will work and live, and if you are fortunate and survive you will be released at the end of your sentence." The other guards laughed. The one that had been speaking merely smiled at the apparent inside joke. "If you disobey, you will be punished. You and you," he said pointing at two of the guards, "demonstrate."
The other guards who hadn't been selected grabbed the new prisoners by their arms and held them firm. The two selected guards grabbed what looked to be a rod or pole that had been secured to their waists. Pushing a glowing button in the middle of the rod, both of the ends extended. They raised the rods over their heads and brought them down across Paris' and Tacna's backs.
If the sensation of the force of the blow wasn't enough, as soon as contact was made, an electric-type charge surged through Tom and Chet's bodies. The pair screamed in pain and their knees buckled. If it wasn't for the guards holding them they would have collapsed to the ground.
"As you can see the correction rods are quite affective," the guard boasted.
The laughing guards threw Tom and Chet to the ground and went back to their duties.
The following day, a loud alarm woke the prisoners. Each of whom received a block of food to eat and a container of water. Then they were brought to the area of the mine that they were assigned to work for the day. The first day Chet and Tom worked apart each assigned to a different area of the mine. It was hard work, carrying the heavy ore from where a machine removed it from the walls to large containers. At their break time in the middle of the day, Tom sat down wearily next to some of the other prisoners. The pilot's face and hands where dirty, sweat ran in rivulets from his forehead through the dirt on his face to land on the clothes that were already drenched with perspiration.
"First day, huh?" an old man with light purple hair interspersed with white asked.
"Yep," Tom replied, taking a large swig of water from his container. "My name's Tom Paris, what's yours?"
"It's good to meet you Tom Paris. My name is Hayten, but everyone calls me just 'old man.' You see I've been here the longest. I've been here eight years."
Tom almost stopped breathing, "Only eight years? My sentence is for ten."
"Well you're strong, you might make it," Hayten didn't have the heart to tell the newcomer that in eight years he'd never saw anyone leave the prison. "Just watch out for the fumes."
"Fumes?" Tom choked.
"Yep, if you see any yellow fumes coming from the ore, try not to breathe them in. They'll make you sick, in fact they can be quite deadly. We call it the 'yellow death.' It doesn't bother the Lynicans, just everybody else it seems."
"So is that why I'm feeling strange?"
"What are your symptoms?"
"I feel like I've got a fever and my stomach is upset."
"Could be, but usually the symptoms don't show up for a couple of weeks, but with you being a . . ."
"Human." Tom supplied.
". . . being a human it might affect you sooner than Croydosians."
"Thanks for the advice. I'll try to avoid those fumes."
"Good. Here come the guards," the old man slapped him lightly on the shoulder. "It's back to work my friend."
That evening when they had been returned to the 'hole' and had been given a meager meal, Tom related his conversation with Hayten to Tacna.
"Why are you bothering to tell me?" Tacna snapped.
"I just thought that you should know," Tom replied. "Look I know that you don't like me and I don't like you either after what you pulled, but . . ."
"Just leave me alone, Paris. The less I have to do with you while I'm here, the better off I'll be." Tacna then turned his back on his former crewmate and finished his meal.
Tom was about to get up to find Hayten to talk to when he noticed a pair of innocent green eyes looking at him from behind one of the bunks. They looked like they belonged to a child. He smiled at the green eyes and left to go find the old man.
Tom soon found the old man leaning up beside the wall of the hole, still clutching his container of water.
"I told the other human, what you told me about the fumes. Thanks," Tom said. <For what good it did.
The old man nodded.
"Tell me, Hayten, how come you're here in this place?"
The old man took a swig of the water. He described how the Lynicans stormed into his village and abducted most of the residents.
"Including the children?" Tom asked. As if on cue, the pair of green eyes peered out from behind a large rock in the human's direction. Tom caught the movement in the corner of his eye and turned and winked at the green eyes. Green eyes ducked down so they wouldn't be seen. "Like that one?" Tom asked nodding in the direction of the large rock.
"Oh, that's Tiri," the old man explained with a laugh. "She was captured along with the rest of us. Fortunately, the other children where able to escape, but Tiri was always too curious for her own good. We all try and watch out for her." Hearing her name, the little girl peered out again from behind the rock. "Tiri, come here and sit with me."
The little girl shook her head.
"He won't bite little one. Come here and sit with me."
Cautiously, the green-eyed girl came out from behind the rock and crept up to the old man and sat on his right side away from the human.
The old man ruffled the purple hair on the child's head. "This is Tiri, Tom Paris," he explained. It seemed like the Croydosians never said just 'Tom' it was always 'Tom Paris.'
To Tom, she looked somewhere between six and seven in human years. She was very thin and was dressed in a yellow stained dress.
"Tiri, say hello to Tom Paris."
The little girl tucked herself under the old man's arm for protection and shook her head never taking her eyes off the human.
"What's wrong, Tiri?" Hayten asked.
Tiri looked up at the old man and said just one word. "Eyes."
"Eyes? . . . Oh, eyes." He turned his attention to Tom. "Tiri is afraid of you because of your eyes," he explained.
The Lynicans have blue eyes," he said simply.
"Oh, well I'm not a Lynican, Tiri--look," the human said ruffling his fair hair. "no scales."
The little girl couldn't help herself and grinned.
Tom frowned at Tiri. "I'm not used to this type of reaction, Tiri. Usually the ladies love a man with blue eyes where I come from. In fact there's one lady. . ." he took a deep breath, paused, fingered the crescent shaped bite mark, and shut his eyes as tears began to fall. B'Elanna loved his blue eyes, he remembered, she said that she could never get tired of looking at them. <Gods, I miss her.
He was startled when a small hand touched his wet face. He opened his eyes. Little Tiri stood before him her face solemnly reflecting his pain. Her sad face made the pilot smile a little.
"Sad?" Tiri asked.
Tiri tilted her head waiting for the explanation.
"Yes, Tiri, I'm sad. I love a lady that I may never see again. She always said that she loved looking at my eyes."
"I know how you feel, I'm sad too. I'll never see my Mommy or Daddy again. They're dead," the little girl explained in a small, sad voice.
Hayten, looked lovingly at the girl and pulled her into his arms for a comforting hug. "Tiri, isn't it time for you to go to bed?"
Tiri nodded her head, bade both men goodnight, and left.
"Lovely little girl, Hayten. It's too bad she's in here."
"We've asked the guards to send her back to Croydos but they won't, so she spends the day here in the hole. She does her best to help the injured and keep out of the way of the guards. They hate children."
The Captain sat in her ready room, the senior staff surrounded her, ready for the morning briefing. One thing was missing--B'Elanna.
Finally, ten minutes late for the meeting, B'Elanna came into the room. All eyes focused on her. She looked around and then noticed that she was late.
"Sorry, Captain," she said and found her seat next to Harry and sat down.
"B'Elanna, this is becoming a habit as of late. I would appreciate it--in fact we all would--if you could show up to these meetings on time," the Captain replied icily. Janeway hated meetings as much as anyone and like to get them out of the way in the morning.
"I'm sorry Captain, it's just that I was up late last night <and early this morning."
Janeway then noticed that B'Elanna wasn't looking her usual healthy self. Her cheeks were sunken somewhat and her face appeared pale. "Are you *still* investigating Paris' transmission to Croydos?"
The Chief Engineer looked at her without flinching, her mother would have been proud. "Yes, Captain. And I'll continue to investigate that sham of a message until I find out the truth," she answered boldly.
"B'Elanna. . ." she warned.
"Captain, I *know* Tom's innocent." Harry nodded his head expressing his belief that his friend wasn't guilty. "He couldn't and wouldn't have done that. He valued his life onboard Voyager. He told me many times that he had come to think of Voyager as his home and all of you as his family. He wouldn't jeopardize that, Captain. Not for anything. And besides. . ."
"And besides what?" Janeway questioned.
"Well--ah--it's a Klingon thing Captain."
"My mother told me once that a Klingon can always tell if her mate is lying. I never believed her until now. But now I know. Tom wasn't lying. I'd stake my life on that."
The Captain rose to her feet and began to pace the ready room, one hand on her hip and the fingertips of her other hand on her chin, obviously in deep thought. "B'Elanna, what is the status of the warp core and Engineering?"
The Chief Engineer was surprised at the change in topic. "Um, the warp core is operating at peak efficiency and Engineering is running flawlessly."
Janeway turned to face her. "Then there is no apparent necessity for you to report to Engineering until further notice?"
<Oh Kahless, what have I done now? The blasted Klingon temper always did get me into trouble.
"No, Captain. With the current status of the ship, I'm sure Joe Carey could handle things with no problem."
"Then I see no need for you to be in Engineering when you should really be concentrating on stellar communications. Do you?"
B'Elanna, smiled at the implication. "No, Captain, not at all."
"In fact, I'm sure Mr. Hansen could handle things at the opps station for a while. Don't you Mr. Kim?"
"Yes, Captain," Harry replied promptly.
"Well then I guess you two have a lot to accomplish. Commander please bring ship's speed down to impulse until further notice. If any of the Lynicans or Croydosians question the drop of speed, be creative, make up something. Also this is to be kept confidential only the people in this room will know what B'Elanna and Harry are doing."
The rest of the people presented nodded in understanding.
"As far as anyone knows...they will be working on . . ."
"Improvements to the interstellar communications grid?" Chakotay suggested.
Janeway smiled at her First Officer. "Very good. Dismissed."
The next several days, Tom worked the mines, trying to avoid the fumes, though he was not always successful. Some days he even worked along side Tacna, but that was worse than working with the aliens. Tacna never spoke to him, just glared.
At night, Tiri would seek Tom out, crawl up on his lap, and he would tell her stories. Hayten had also taken to listening to the tales. Tom told of earth and how beautiful it was from space. How at a distance it looked like a blue star and up closer you could see its blue water and green land masses. He explained how different the land looked on the planet itself with its deserts and jungles to its cold arctic areas to tropical climates.
Tiri asked about his life back on earth, and he told her, making sure only to tell her the positive things that had happened in his life. He told of all the races that lived there in harmony and how no one suffered from hunger. The little girl asked about his parents and Tom told her of his father and that he was an important man back home. And he even told her how his own mother had died when he was not much older than her. To Tiri it made Tom sound like a romantic prince from a fairy tale. She enjoyed hearing the human's stories every night. It was the one thing that she looked forward to all day.
B'Elanna grumbled and Harry sighed. They examined the message for the two hundred and thirty-second time since they had started and were still no closer to proving Tom innocent. Both knew that if they didn't come up with an answer soon, it would be too late.
Janeway walked past the security station, nodded to Tuvok, and walked around the railing and finally sat down in her command chair next to the First Officer. She hated traveling at impulse, it always made her feel that she was going nowhere.
"Morning, Captain." Chakotay greeted the Captain. "Any progress in Stellar Communications?" he added quietly so he wouldn't be overheard.
"I haven't heard, I haven't even seen B'Elanna or Harry. Have you?" she whispered.
Chakotay pondered the question. "You know, now that I think of it, I don't recall seeing either B'Elanna or Harry since they were assigned to Stellar Communications."
"Please see that the Doctor checks on them, Chakotay. I don't want them working themselves so hard that they become ill."
The Doctor opened the door to Stellar Communications and immediately wished that he hadn't. B'Elanna was pacing and swearing in Klingon and Harry sat before the computer screen with his head in his hands.
"Hello!" the EMH called out cheerfully.
B'Elanna growled at the greeting and Harry just sighed.
"Well hello to you too," the Doctor replied sarcastically. "The Captain asked me to come down and check on you, and I can see why." He began to wave his medical wand over the pair. He started to Harry and then scanned B'Elanna. "Uh huh. . .uh huh . . . ummmm."
B'Elanna pivoted to face him. "What do you mean 'uh huh'?" she asked belligerently.
The EMH ignored her. "When is the last time either one of your ate or slept?" he asked.
B'Elanna quickly avoided the EMH's eyes and resumed her pacing. "Ah . . . I."
Harry looked up at the EMH guiltily. "Well, maybe . . .um . ."
"That's what I thought. You two haven't. Now I'm going to relieve you from duty and order you to go to your cabins and get some rest *and* some food," he said quite satisfied with the solution.
"No, Doctor, you can't!" both B'Elanna and Harry replied in unison.
B'Elanna looked at Harry and crossed her arms in defiance in front of her chest. "I said that we are not going to go back to our cabins. If you want to, you can give us a stimulant so we can stay awake and we'll even eat, but we are NOT leaving Stellar Communications."
"I know you are trying to exonerate Mr. Paris. The Captain told me, but. . ."
"But nothing, Doctor."
The Doctor grumbled and resigned himself that they weren't going to follow his sage advice. He put away the medical diagnostic wand. "At least tell me, have you made any progress?"
B'Elanna sighed, sat down next to Harry, and pivoted the computer screen to the Doctor's direction. The screen displayed a colorful graphic representation of the suspect recording.
"No progress at all. The message seems to be genuine. If a message were faked, then normally we would see some type of discrepancy between the words. Like here, here, and maybe here," she pointed at a couple of areas on the screen. "But there's nothing." She threw her hands up in defeat and leaned back in her chair. It was looking more and more like she'd never see Tom Paris again.
"I beg to differ, Lieutenant," the EMH replied seriously. "There is a slight fluctuation between some of the words. Like after the word 'personal.'
"Where?" Harry said suddenly sitting up straighter in his chair. "We didn't see anything."
"Well, they are right here and here," the EMH reiterated pointing at the areas on the screen.
Harry and B'Elanna looked at the Doctor in disbelief. They still didn't see a thing.
"Computer, increase the modulating frequency of the test parameters to 0.35 megatrems," the Doctor ordered.
The screen flickered, and there before them the computer displayed the proof that they had been looking for and had tried for days to uncover--several areas where there were indeed disruptions in the flow of words.
"Doctor, you're a genius!!! Thank you!!" B'Elanna squealed. She hugged the surprised EMH and soudnly kissed him on the cheek.
"Your welcome," the EMH replied blushing fluorescently as only a hologram could.
"Come on Harry, let's go tell the Captain."
B'Elanna and Harry transferred the information to the Ready Room computer and left Stellar Communications, smiling for the first time in days.
The guards moved Tom and Tacna into another section of the mine that the prisoners referred to as the Death Chamber, a few days later. Even the guards were aware of the reason behind the title for this area of the mine, and limited the amount of time the prisoners worked there before they transferred them back to one of the less dangerous areas.
When Tom entered the Chamber that day for the first time, he could see how it came by the name. The yellow fumes from the ore just couldn't be avoided, they hung thickly in the stale air. With every breath, you couldn't help but inhale the noxious odor of the gas.
The first day after working there, he and Chet came back to the 'hole' pale and shaky. Both where sick to their stomachs, they couldn't even keep down the food that had been given to them. Hayten and Tiri looked after the two when they returned to the 'hole.' Neither had ever seen the gas affect anyone else as strongly or as quickly as it did the humans.
Tiri hovered near Tom all night, wiping his brow, holding the pail for him to vomit in, and later telling him to sleep with whispered promises that he would feel better in the morning. It was a lot for a little girl to do. For the first night in a week, there were no stories--no tales of the distant planet of the blue water that she had grown to love.
Feeling somewhat better the next morning the humans were again led from the 'hole' and back to the accursed Chamber. Being sick the night before made working the next day very difficult for the humans. It was hard to keep up with the pace that the guards demanded. Several times the correction rod had found its mark on their backs. So by the time the pair was returned back to the 'hole' that evening, not only were they pale and sick from the fumes, they had sores and lacerations along their backs that needed to be treated as well.
Tiri carefully attended her friend and Tom was grateful for her help. She told him that they wouldn't be in the Death Chamber much longer before the guards would move them to another area. For that he was grateful, and hoped that he could last that long.
As Tiri cleaned his wounds, he rewarded her with tales of the animals of earth, of the giraffe with its ridiculously long neck to the elephant with its equally ridiculously long nose. The little girl laughed trying to imagine the animals while she wrapped his back in her supply of bandages. She would dream of these animals during the night and wish that she lived on this earth.
It was Tiri's laughter that he thought of that night as he himself drifted off to sleep. Soon though, in his dreams, Tiri's laughter changed, deepened, and became more familiar. He could see B'Elanna before him laughing at one of his jokes. He loved it when she laughed. Her brown eyes had glimmered with delight and reflected the happiness that she had not known for a long time.
Neelix sat as straight and tall as he could on a chair in the Captain's cabin. The Captain paced back and forth in front of him, every once in a while pausing, before again resuming her pacing.
No one, not even Mr. Vulcan, made him feel like he was still a spotless boy like the Captain did. All she had to do was to look at him in that commanding way she did and he felt he was back on Talaxia, a little boy caught doing something he shouldn't.
<So what did I do now? I know, maybe it was the spreta quiche I made last week, seven people had to go to the infirmary to be treated for gastrointestinal complications. Or maybe, it was the time yesterday that I hugged Mr. Vulcan.
Finally the Captain stopped pacing and took a seat across from her Morale Officer.
"Mr. Neelix, I have something I need to ask you to do that is of the utmost importance."
The nerves that the Talaxian was feeling were now replaced with a flustered feeling of importance.
"Anything I can do you for you, Captain. All you have to do is ask. You can count on me."
Janeway smiled. "I was hoping you'd say that. Now I know that you are aware of the circumstances that led to Mr. Paris being accused of treason and removed from this ship."
"Yes, Captain--an unfortunate thing."
"New information has come to light that establishes Mr. Paris' innocence." Neelix's eyes lit with joy. "But the only problem is, is that we don't know who the guilty person or persons might be. This is where you come in."
"I'm listening, Captain," Neelix promised, leaning forward in the chair to make sure that he caught every word.
"Lt. Torres and Ensign Kim have been investigating the message that was sent from Mr. Paris' cabin to the Croydosians. They have uncovered evidence that proves Mr. Paris' innocence."
"Oh, Captain! This is wonderful news!" Neelix exclaimed.
"Yes, Neelix it is, except for the fact that if Mr. Paris didn't send the message, someone else did with the vicious intent to incriminate the Lieutenant. So, we have to find out who that person or persons are. This is were you come in."
"I'm at you service!"
"What we would like you to do is just let the word be known during the next meal that you found out that B'Elanna and Harry aren't working on improvements to the interstellar communications grid, but are in fact examining the message that was sent from Voyager to the Croydosians. Tell them that you found out that by the end of the day they should know who really sent the message to the aliens. Do you think you could do that?"
"Of course, Captain. It would be an honor. Now let's see, I'll make sure to tell Chell, he never can keep a secret, and then there's . . . ."
"That's the idea, Mr. Neelix. Spread the word to people you know who will talk, but be subtle. I can't stress that enough." <Gods, I can't believe that I am asking Neelix to be subtle. "No one can suspect that we are out to set a trap. I knew I could count on you."
"Always at your service, Captain!"
"But Doctor, Harry and I would have taken a break eventually," B'Elanna growled, making sure that she could be heard, as she and Harry were pushed into the mess hall by the EMH.
"You two have hardly had a bite to eat in two days, and I don't even want to know when it was the last time you slept," the Doctor chided the pair.
Harry looked at the people in the dining area that were paying attention to them, which were in fact everyone there, and then back to the Doctor. "If we eat a meal and then catch a little sleep, then can we go back to what we were doing?"
"We'll see, we'll see." <Forget opera, I think I'll try my hand at acting next, the Doctor mused.
Harry and B'Elanna each got a meal from Neelix, who smiled broadly at them. Found a table in the middle of the dining area and sat down with the EMH, still grumbling at their predicament.
Harry whispered to B'Elanna, but not so low that he couldn't be heard by a nearby table. "B'Elanna, I tell you, just one more tweak and I'll know who it is. If we could just get rid of our *chaperone* then I'm sure that we'd ..."
"Sssssh!! Do you want everyone to know?" B'Elanna snarled as quietly, but not too quietly, and went back to nibbling at her meal half- heartedly like they had planned. They had to stretch out their meal and then reluctantly go back to their cabins to rest so Tuvok and Chakotay could *hopefully* catch the culprit or culprits.
Tuvok sat with the First Officer in the Jeffries tube that exited in Stellar Communications and they waited. Thirty minutes went by and then an hour. Still they waited.
"Do you think they'll take the bait?" the Indian asked the Chief of Security.
"It is only logical that as long as they heard the 'gossip' that was spread that . . ."
The sound of metal on metal could be heard as well as muffled voices. Tuvok and Chakotay looked at each other, both ready to act.
They could hear the sound of the door locking mechanism being tampered with and the sound of footsteps entering the room.
"Hurry, Lars," Rich said quietly. "Get that information out of the computer and . . . ."
"Stop. Hold your positions!" Tuvok yelled opening the hatch to the Jeffries tube. Lars, Rich, and Carag reacted quickly and fled the room and sped down the corridor.
"Computer lock onto Henniken, Nensen, and Polen's commbadges and beam them directly to the brig," Chakotay yelled as they followed the trio out the door and down the hall.
"Brig to Commander Tuvok."
Tuvok slapped his commbadge as he ran. "Tuvok here."
"Sir, three commbadges beamed into the brig, but that was all."
"They obviously planned the whole thing," Chakotay observed as they turned the corridor and found that the turbolift was already moving.
"Computer, terminate progress of turbolift 13C and return it to Deck Five," Tuvok ordered.
<<Acknowledged the female voice of the computer stated.
Almost immediately the turbolift doors opened but there was no one inside. Entering the lift, they ordered the lift to take them as its previous stop. In a moment the doors opened on Deck Eleven.
"They must be heading to the shuttlebay," Chakotay exclaimed.
Tuvok nodded. "Computer, place a security lock-down on all shuttlebays."
<<Unable to comply. The security measures have been bypassed.
"Damn, let's hurry, Tuvok, perhaps we can still catch them."
Just as they entered Shuttlebay One, the familiar sound of the vacuum protection grid activated and the Lindbergh launched into space carrying with it Henniken, Nensen, and Polen.
"Captain, they got away," Tuvok informed Janeway.
Janeway nodded, the ball was now in her court. "Harry, can you get a tractor beam on them?"
"I'll try, Captain," Harry's nimble fingers played across his screen, but was not successful. "Someone has disabled the all tractor beams," he informed her. "Probably Rich Nensen, he works in Engineering."
"And the weapons?"
Harry checked his console again. "Also off-line, Captain."
"B'Elanna?" the Captain hailed.
"Aye, Captain," her Chief of Engineering answered.
"We need to bring the tractor beams and weapons array on line immediately."
"I'm already working on it, but it looks like whoever did this really knew that they were doing. It'll take hours to bring them back up and running."
"Options?" the Captain asked just as her First Officer and her Chief of Security entered the bridge.
"Captain, there is a Lynican vessel approaching, it is hailing the shuttle," Harry piped up.
"Lynican vessel, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway."
"Captain Janeway, I see we meet again," Dur Kalat quipped. "Why have you launched a vessel?"
"I gave no permission to launch a vessel," the people on board that shuttle are the ones who are actually responsible for the message that was sent from Voyager to Croydos and not Tom Paris. We were . . ."
The communication line between the two ships went dead. From the viewscreen the bridge could see the Lynican ship close on the small shuttle.
"I'm patching through their audio signal, Captain." Harry informed. Janeway nodded.
"Alien vessel, surrender, or you will face dire consequences," Dur Kalat warned the trio on the shuttle.
Tuvok looked up briefly from his instrument panel. "Captain, the Lindbergh is powering up their weapons. I believe that they intend to fire upon the Lynican vessel."
"Open up a frequency to the Lindbergh, Harry."
"Lindbergh, this is Captain Janeway. Power down your weapons immediately. . ."
"Not on your life!" Lars spat back, and severed communications.
The Lindbergh fired its phasers at the Lynican vessel and immediately the alien ship answered back with a powerful volley of energy projectiles.
A blinding flash lit the viewscreen and after the brightness faded all that could be seen of what was the Lindbergh were tiny pieces of debris.
"Life signs?" Janeway queried solemnly.
Harry spoke. "None."
The prison alarm awoke Tom the next morning. He groaned and gingerly got up off the pallet he had slept on fitfully during the night. He ate his meager breakfast, hoping that it would stay down, and joined Tacna along with a group of men who were scheduled to work the Chamber again. All were soon taken by the guards to their work assignments.
"It's all your fault you know!" Tacna spat as they trudged along toward the Chamber.
"How do you figure that?" Tom snapped back.
"If you hadn't sent the Croydosians that message, then none of this would be happening," he hissed.
"I didn't send a message to anyone, I was framed," Tom snarled. "And besides it was your idea to leave the brig."
The guard pushed Tacna ahead of Tom. Entering the Chamber, Tacna was assigned an area on the far side of the entrance where the ceiling was low. Tom being taller than Chet was assigned an area where his height would be an advantage.
Just before their mid-day meal break, the trembling began. Bits and pieces from the caverns walls and ceiling came tumbling down. Growing up in the San Francisco area, Tom knew in an instant what it meant-- earthquake!
Tom crouched next to the wall his arms over his head, trying to protect himself from the falling rubble. When the shaking stopped and the dust cleared from the stale air, many of the prisoners lay injured. Tom himself lay unconscious half-buried beneath a pile of debris.
The Captain turned toward the communication station. "Harry, what is our ETA to Lycian IV?"
"At our present speed, Captain, four days," the happy ensign replied.
Janeway nodded and turned back to face her First Officer. "I'm glad that we were able to convince the Lynican government to return Tom to us."
"They seemed fairly reasonable once you explained the situation. But they might have agreed sooner if they had known the rage of an half- Klingon." Chakotay explained with a grin.
"That sounds rather mild."
"Well, I'd was going to say something else but after all, we are on the bridge."
Janeway laughed. Chakotay thought that it had been a long time since he heard that delightful sound.
Tom was eventually dug out of the rubble and, by the grace of God, only received bruises and abrasions from the rocks that had fallen on him. The guards had brought him back to the 'hole' and the old man and Tiri, tended the human once again.
When he finally awoke it was in the middle of the night, he was stricken by a severe bout of nausea brought on by inhaling the 'yellow death' in the Chamber. Tumbling from the bed in search of the ever present bucket, he woke Tiri who lay beside his bunk on the ground.
"Tom Paris, I'll get the bucket you get back to bed," the little girl threatened.
"Too late," he gasped. His fingers found the edge of the bucket in the dimly lit prison and brought it up underneath his chin. He threw up until nothing came out, then he dry heaved until he collapsed shakily to the ground. Tiri wet a rag and wiped his face.
Tom barely nodded. "Wha--what happened?"
The old man awoke hearing his friends speak and joined them. "You don't remember?" Hayten asked.
"Um, I don't know," Tom thought. He seemed to recall tremors and rocks falling. "Wait a minute. I remember the ground shaking." He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled to try and clear his mind. "I remember thinking that it might be an earthquake."
"It was," Hayten informed him. "There was a terrible quake. You were trapped under some rocks that had fallen from the walls and ceiling of the Chamber."
"I remember. Tacna?" Tom asked.
"He and several other prisoners were caught when the part of the Chamber they were working in collapsed. He's dead."
Tom nodded, remembered the ceiling falling down upon Tacna and the group he was working with. So now he was the only human in this prison of hell.
"You need to sleep, Tom Paris. You inhaled a lot of the yellow death before they pulled you out," Tiri admonished her green eyes, even in the dim light, reflected her worry for her friend. "They will be coming in the morning to take you to work."
And as Tiri had predicted, the guards did come in the morning. Being short handed with so many of the prisoners killed in the quake, they took not only Tom and Hayten, they even took little Tiri to work the mines.
"B'Elanna!" Harry called, her name echoed throughout the labyrinth of Jeffries tubes and maintenance shafts.
The half-Klingon stopped her search momentarily. "Did you find something, Starfleet?"
"No. B'Elanna, look this is hopeless. We're never going to find it."
The engineer snarled. "We have to find it. I can't face Tom without the necklace. He loved me enough to give it to me and then he gave me that jewelry box. Do you know what is in the box? Nothing!!!" she roared "So keep on looking, I'm going down to JT46 and look there."
"But you've looked in that tube twice already." Harry reminded her.
"Then this will be the *third* time. Do you have a problem with that?"
Harry knew when to back down. "Nope, not at all I'll keep looking. <Not that I'm going to find anything, he mused, <but at least I'm in one piece.
The mine was cold and darker then usual when Tom and Hayten returned from their labors that night. And they waited for what seemed like hours before Tiri returned. As soon as the little girl saw her friends, she ran to them and launched herself into Tom's welcoming arms.
"We were worried about you, little one," Tom said as he smoothed back her hair away from her cherubic face. "Hayten and I were afraid that you got lost in the mine."
Tiri didn't respond but just hugged the human tighter. Tom responded and embraced her.
"Ouch!" she cried as Tom tightened his hold.
Tom looked at the old man and then back to the girl. "Ouch, Tiri? Did they hurt you?"
She shook her head yes and tears tumbled down her cheeks.
Tom laid the girl down on his bed and unfastened the back of her dress to reveal angry, red marks on her back. He motioned to Hayten to bring the medical rags.
"I tried...to be...go-good, Tom Paris." Tiri said in between her sobs.
Tom took the rags from the old man and did his best to clean her up. "I know, sweetie," Tom said soothingly. His heart broke to see the results of the guards anger.
"She'll learn to hurry next time," the on-duty guard sneered as he made his rounds and passed by the trio.
Tom threw down the rag and turned to confront him, but Hayten held him back. "Don't, Tom Paris. It will only make it worse for you and her. She can't afford to be hit again, and she'd be crushed if anything happened to you."
"But they hit her, Hayten. Those...beasts hit a little girl...a third of their size," Tom said, his throat tightened trying to keep the angry tears at bay.
"I know but it doesn't pay to fight with them, you only end up dead. Believe me I know, I've seen plenty of my countrymen perish. Take care of Tiri. Tell her a story. You know how she loves your stories of earth. You must have a wonderful imagination to come up with all the things you've told her. She believes all of them you know."
"I've never lied to her, Hayten. All I've told her was the truth." Tom was surprised that after all the stories that the old man had listened to, that he believed them to be fiction.
The old man shook his head in disbelief. "Tom Paris, how can what you told her be true. Animals with extra long necks and noses, a place where people don't want for food, and where so many different races get along. It just isn't possible."
"It is true," Tiri exclaimed vehemently from the bunk behind them. "Tell him it's true, Tom Paris."
"It is true, Tiri. Everything I told you was true. I swear."
Hayten listened to this exchange between the human and the girl, but his eyes never left the man's. Tom could sense the old man's gaze upon him and turned to face his Croydosian friend.
"It's true, Hayten. Everything I said is true. I just wish that both of you could see it. I just wish that someday I'm able to return. Return to Earth, to my family, friends, and most of all to B'Elanna."
The old man nodded. "I believe you, Tom Paris. I can see the truth in your eyes. I'm sorry I ever doubted you. Forgive me."
"There is nothing to forgive. You have been a true friend. But I wish you and Tiri could see Earth, it is beautiful."
"Tom Paris, tell me more," Tiri pleaded almost asleep.
Tom's mind drifted back in time, back to when he was just a young cadet in Starfleet and he had three days off from the Academy. He was seeing a lovely a girl with flaming red hair from the former Canadian Maritimes. "Tiri, have I ever told you about a place on earth called Prince Edward Island?"
Tiri shook her head and her eyes widened slightly. Hayten who had left briefly to bring back their food and water rations distributed their meager meal to his friends and sat down beside the bunk to listen to another story from the young man.
"It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, Tiri. "Actually, it is a simple, quiet place. The ocean that caresses its shore is deceptively warm in the summer months. The land is green and the cows that graze in the pastures are some of the happiest animals I have ever seen. And the people who live there are friendly and welcoming. I wish you could see . . ."
The story continued and soon Tiri fell asleep but the old man remained spellbound listening until the tale was finished.
"Captain, I can hail the Lynicans now," Harry informed Janeway from his station.
She stood proudly, glanced to her right, and faced the viewscreen, she spoke clearly and strongly. "Lycian IV this is Captain Janeway of the U.S.S. Federation Ship, Voyager."
"Captain Janeway this is Lycian IV, how can we be of assistance."
"I have come to pick up one of your prisoners--Lt. Tom Paris."
The person on the viewscreen stuttered. "But...but I have no authorization to release a prisoner." He had never even heard of a prisoner being released.
"Durat Mir is it?" Dur Kalat asked as he stepped out beside Janeway to be seen by the unfortunate officer on Lycian IV.
"I would suggest that you do as this lady asked. We will be beaming down in three cycles to the mine. Please have an escort available to take us to this Tom Paris."
"Yes, sir! Of course, sir!"
Harry severed the communication with a grin.
Janeway turned to her alien counterpart and smiled. "Thank you Dur. I can't tell you how much I and the crew appreciate your assistance."
"It is only fair. Lycian justice can be swift and I'm afraid cruel, but a terrible wrong has been committed that is not your fault or Tom Paris'. We will correct the error."
"I will accompany your landing party to the surface. I must warn you ahead of time that prison of Lynic IV is not pleasant. I didn't want to tell you before because you would have only worried needlessly."
Janeway nodded her head indicated that she understood and tapped her commbadge. "B'Elanna, please join me in Transporter Room Two in at 0800 tomorrow morning. We're going to get Tom."
"Aye, Captain." The half-Klingon replied excitedly from her post in engineering.
"Tuvok, I would appreciate your company and two of your security guards."
Early the next morning the three was herded off again to work but this time fortune smiled and Tom, Hayten, and Tiri were sent to work the same area that day.
They worked hard for a few hours. Tom and Hayten kept a close eye on Tiri, trying to keep her out of sight of the guards. After a small break that morning, Tom shared his food ration with the starving child. He couldn't understand how the guards could expect this a child to keep up the pace that the guards demanded. She hadn't worked long and he could already see that she was starting to tire greatly. After the break, she rose from her sitting position but immediately fell back to the ground from exhaustion.
"Up!!!" the guard with a wart on his nose bellowed.
Tom threw down his armful of ore and rushed to the girl's defense despite Hayten's warnings. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size!" He bellowed and bent down to comfort Tiri, who was shaking from fear on the floor of the mine.
The guard grabbed the pilot by the shoulder and threw him away from the girl, Tom landed heavily against the wall of the mine. He could feel that at least one but probably more of his ribs had been broken when his body impacted with the stone. "You DON'T give me orders, human! And you," he snarled pointing at the girl. "No time for sleeping, get up and get to work NOW!!!"
Tiri pulled herself up on her elbows but she didn't have the strength and collapsed back down to the floor. Hayten tried to go to her but was stopped by another guard.
"Up!!!" the guard roared again. "Up, now!!!!"
She tried again but again fell.
The guard was shaking in anger and drew his correction rod and brought it down hard on the girl's back...once...twice... three times.
Tom clutching his bruised ribs crawled over to Tiri. He screamed for the guard to stop hitting the child.
"STOP THIS, THIS INSTANT!!!"
The surprised guard turned around to see the source of the voice. The prison warden angrily marched towards him along with what looked like five humans.
Tom oblivious of the visitors reached Tiri and pulled her body up onto his lap and held her lovingly in his arms. His only thought was to get to the girl and protect her.
The warden growled at the guard and took the correction rod from him, ordering him to leave the mine and never return.
Janeway, Tuvok, B'Elanna and his security guards watched as Tom, his back to them, comforted the child. B'Elanna swallowed hard. He looked much worse than she had imagined, all of the prisoners looked just terrible, they were all malnourished, sickly, and dirty. She could tell that he never would have survived the ten-year sentence.
As B'Elanna approached, she could hear the girl's feeble voice and Tom's. "To..Tom Paris."
"I'm here Tiri, I'm not...going to...let you go."
Tiri gazed up at the pilot with her beautiful green eyes. "I...I...love...you," she stammered. Tom gently kissed her on the forehead. The green eyes blinked once and then twice, the girl smile ever so slightly, and then the green eyes closed forever.
"No...no....no!!" Tom cried out over and over clutching the now dead girl to his chest. "Don't die, Tiri. Don't leave me!!!!" Tom wept, his heart broke.
A familiar pair of arms encircled him from behind. "Ssssh, Tom. Ssssh."
It felt like B'Elanna, but it couldn't be B'Elanna, he thought. The gas had to be playing tricks on his mind. He continued to sob and buried his head against the small body he held in his arms.
B'Elanna released him and moved to kneel in front of him. She reached down and lifted his head up so he could see her. So he'd know she was real.
"Tom, it's me," she said softly. She looked into the blue eyes dripping with tears that she thought she would never see again. "Tom, it's B'Elanna, it's time to go back to Voyager."
He looked at her in disbelief. "B'Elanna?"
"Yes, Tom. It is me," she lifted his dirty hand and placed it on her face and moved it up to her forehead where he could feel her ridges. "It's B'Elanna, tIqwIj. I told you I'd come back for you."
Hayten pushed his way past the guard. "Tom Paris, I'll take care of Tiri." The old man picked the child up in his arms. Hayten looked down at Tiri. "Don't cry for her, my friend, her soul now walks in peace. She is with her family once again." With great emotion, he looked at the human. "You made her last days very happy. For that I am very grateful, we all are."
Tom, along with B'Elanna, was immediately transported directly to Voyager's sickbay. They placed Tom on one of the biobeds and erected a privacy screen around him. The EMH waved his medical wand and began his diagnostic examination.
B'Elanna held Tom's hand with her own as if she were afraid to let him go and his eyes never left her face.
"While you're doing that, can I clean Tom up?" B'Elanna asked the Doctor.
The EMH looked up from his medical tricorder. "Yes, go ahead, that's a good idea."
Tom's grip on her hand increased.
"I'm coming right back Tom, I'm just going to get you cleaned up." Tom released his grip and B'Elanna retrieved the medical scissors and a wet sponge.
B'Elanna gently cut away his clothing and sponged away the dirt, grime, and leftover caked on blood. All the while, Tom's eyes never left her face. He seemed to be carefully examining her face taking careful note of every feature from her Klingon ridges and her pert nose to the curl of her hair. "I'll try and be gentle," B'Elanna explained as she cleaned his chest. Her heart broke to see how much weight he had lost while away from Voyager.
Tom nodded but he didn't care. He was home and B'Elanna was with him.
The door to Sickbay slid open and Kathryn Janeway and her First Officer entered. The EMH, upon hearing them, finished his examination and joined them on the other side of the screen. He explained to him the extent of the Lieutenant's physical injuries including the malnutrition. The senior officers listened and were saddened by what the Doctor told them. He assured them that with his expert medical care and with time that Tom would recover and soon be back at the helm.
During the next few days, with the help of B'Elanna and the Doctor, Tom started to regain his health. Harry visited, along with Tuvok and Chakotay. Even some crewmembers that he had assumed disliked him stopped by and surprised him by wishing him a speedy recovery.
Then one afternoon a somber Captain Kathryn Janeway stopped by. Tom was sitting up in bed reading from a datapadd that Harry had left him, trying to catch up on all that had happened during his time away from the ship.
"Tom, do you mind if I have a seat?" she asked motioning to the empty chair that was beside his bed.
Paris looked up and was somewhat surprised to see the Captain. "Of course not, Captain, please have a seat."
"How are you feeling, Lieutenant?"
"Better, much better," he held the datapadd up for her to look at. "I'm trying to catch up on all the 'gossip' that happened while I was away. B'Elanna and Harry were very busy." He smiled at the thought that they had worked so hard on his behalf.
"They worked almost three days straight, and barely stopped to sleep or eat. Harry's a fine friend, you couldn't ask for better." Tom nodded in concurrence. "And B'Elanna loves you a great deal, Tom."
"I know, Captain, and I love her too." Tom swallowed hard. "When I was back in that prison and thought that I'd never see her again, I just wanted to die. It would have been easy to, but I couldn't. Tiri needed me."
"You miss her." It was a statement not a question.
Tom brought his hands up and wiped away at the dampness in his eyes. "I miss her very much, I loved that little girl."
"I'm so sorry that she died Tom. I'm also very sorry that I didn't believe your testimony."
Bright blue eyes locked with the pair of gray. "You shouldn't be sorry, Captain. Don't be so hard on yourself. All the evidence pointed to me. Henniken, Nensen, and Polen were very clever-- especially Lars. I'm just grateful that the truth did come out and you were able to come back for me."
Kathryn grasped his right hand in her own. "You are very kind, Tom."
"No, Captain, just honest."
Two very happy people strode along the red sand beach, hand in hand. Each was dressed in denim shorts and wore spotless white t-shirts. B'Elanna wore a red bandana around her neck. They stopped every once in a while to take note of the formations of the red rock cliffs that had been eroded by the wind and the water, and to run through the warm salt water. Finally as the sun began to set, Tom pulled the half- Klingon along with him up a set of worn wooden steps to the top of one of the cliffs. There laid out in the green grass, with a lovely view of the ocean and beach below, was a white tablecloth and a picnic basket. Tom helped her sit down on the cloth and opened the basket. He handed two wine glasses to B'Elanna and took out a bottle of fine champagne, popped the cork and filled the glasses. Placing the bottle back in the basket, he took his glass from B'Elanna and sat down next to her so they both could enjoy the view and each other.
"This is really beautiful, Tom. So this is what you did to keep yourself busy while you were healing in Sickbay."
"Thanks, B'Elanna. I'm glad you like it." Tom stared off into the distance, seemingly at the ocean, but in reality his mind was focused light years away.
"Tom, are you okay? What are you thinking about?"
"I'm that transparent?"
B'Elanna placed her glass down on the ground and took his out of his hands and put it down beside hers. She embraced him, pulling him into her strong arms. "Only because I love you, Tom. So tell me. What are you thinking about?"
B'Elanna tightened her arms around the pilot. "I'm sorry that she died, Tom."
"Me too. Shortly before she died I told her about this place, about a time I visited Prince Edward Island when I was still a cadet. To be honest, 'Lanna, I went there with a girl I was seeing at the time." Tom sighed and kissed B'Elanna on her forehead. "I don't even remember her name other than she had red hair. Anyway, Tiri loved my stories and really seemed to love this place when I described it too her. I wish she were here with us now. I'd love to see her playing in the sand and chasing the waves."
"She's here Tom," B'Elanna said and placed her hand against his chest. "She's in your heart and will be there always."
"Thanks." Tom smiled. "I'm sorry. I meant this to be a happy time for us, not to be so depressing."
"You need to talk about it, Tom. I understand. Besides you are my tIqwIj." She traced her fingertip along the almost invisible crescent scar on his cheek. "I meant it when I bit you, Tom. You're mine forever."
Tom pulled her close to him and kissed her deeply on the lips. Their tongues explored each other's mouths. Tom pulled slightly away from her. "You're mine forever too, B'Elanna." B'Elanna's dark eyes met his blue ones, each silently and sincerely avowing their love, their trust. Tom kissed her forehead, her eyelids, her luscious lips, and quickly and decisively bit her cheek. "Forever, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna though wasn't surprised by the bite, she had known by looking into his eyes what he had intended. Tom kissed her again below the bite and then took a detour, nibbling her ear lobe before working his way down the side of her neck. He untied the bandana and pulled it away from her throat. He nuzzled her neck with a nibble and a kiss.
She groaned with excitement. She loved the way he . . . Her hand flew up to her bare throat. "Tom, I'm . . . I can't . . ."
"Still haven't found the necklace?" he asked innocently and proceeded to kiss her throat again.
B'Elanna pushed him away with her hands. "What? What did you say?"
"I asked if you had found the necklace yet?"
"How did you know. When did you know?"
"I had a pretty good idea you misplaced it when you didn't wear it to the beach that day. You had always worn it there before. That's what gave me the idea of the jewelry box for your birthday. So you'd have some place safe to put it. I'm just surprised that you haven't found it yet."
"Well we tried, we searched everywhere."
"Yeah, Harry and I. We searched all the Jeffries tubes and the mess hall, as well as just about every public and private cabin on the ship."
"And you can't find it?" Tom laughed.
"I'm sorry, Tom. You don't know how sorry. I wanted to find it before you got back."
Tom looked at her trying not to laugh but he couldn't help it and starting laughing all over again.
"Tom Paris, will you tell me what's so funny?" B'Elanna demanded.
"Maybe it would be better if I showed you. Computer save program and display arch."
Tom led B'Elanna out of the holodeck and to the turbolift. Called for her floor, and stopped in front of her cabin. He waited for her to request admittance and followed her inside.
"So what is this about, Tom. I've already searched my cabin at least six times. I didn't find it."
"Then you didn't look in the right place. Did you check the closet?"
"I bet I can find it," Tom boasted.
B'Elanna crossed her arms in front of her chest in a definite pose. "Go ahead, flyboy, find it."
Tom stuck his head in the closet and within five minutes brought out the missing necklace.
"You...you found it?" Tom walked behind her and fastened the chain around her neck. B'Elanna touched it to confirm that it was real. "I don't believe it. How?"
"I saw what you did with it. I watched you put it right where I found it. Piece of cake."
"Which was where?"
Tom looked at her with a well-practice expression of wide-eyed innocence. "What?"
"I SAID WHERE WAS IT!!!!" she growled.
"Oh...well it was in your pocket."
"When you stepped out of the shower that morning--you know that last night I spent in your cabin--you were in a hurry because we um...."
"I get the picture."
"And you placed it in your pocket so you could put it on later."
B'Elanna grim look faded gradually. First her lips drew up a little bit on each end, then lips opened in a smile and her teeth showed, and finally she erupted in a full Klingon laugh. Taking advantage of Tom's position next to her bed, she pushed him roughly down on the bed.
"Tom Paris, I love you. So let me prove it."
"You want to bite me again?"
"Maybe. Maybe I'll bite you on the cheek, on the neck, and maybe I'll bite you . . . " she whispered a few other locations in his ear and he laughed.
"I love you too, B'Elanna. Forever.
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