Title: Turn of Events
Series: VOY Rating:
Code: P/T, J, C
Date: 12th January 2000

Summary: We saw Janeway lose her cool in several episodes in Season 5. How will the crew react when she goes completely overboard?

Explanation: This story takes place almost immediately following Equinox. Being an AU story, the author is assuming that certain events from Season Five didn't take place--namely the following episodes: Bride of Chaotica; Gravity; Think Tank; 11:59, and Relativity; and as such, the time line between the beginning and end of Season Five has been compressed.

Special thanks to TrekGirl "Annie" for being my storyline sounding board and muse, I couldn't have done it without her; and big thanks, hugs and kisses to my husband Fred for contributing significantly to the storyline. And last, but not least, thanks to the PTFs very own doctor, JanF, for providing valuable medical information. Also, I can't forget my beloved beta readers: Phyllis S.; Annie M.; Ronda S.; and Marianne L.

by PJ in NH

Early in the morning in the cool of the cabin's circulated air, Tom pulled B'Elanna close to him under the sheets. He could still feel the heat of her flesh from their lovemaking against his skin as they spooned together. The passion that they created always amazed him. The way he felt about her filled his heart with joy and awe. So much so that at times like this it almost made him cry.

Pressing her body back against him, B'Elanna sighed contentedly. He smiled at her reaction and at the now familiar sound. A sound that he had grown to love, a sound that said so much yet nary a word was uttered.

The feel of Tom's arms around her made B'Elanna feel safe and she cherished it. She loved the feel of his chest hairs tickling her back, and of his body molding itself so naturally to her own. Natural...yes, B'Elanna thought, what she and Tom shared together felt natural. It felt like each had been created for the other-- not that their relationship was without its detours and bumps-- but it worked for them. Her mother, B'Elanna thought, would laugh at that.

The deep rumblings of her mother Miral's voice filtered down through the years. B'Elanna Torres could still recall the familiar lecture she had been forced to endure almost ever since her father had left. A Klingon woman, she had been told, didn't need to be dependent upon a man to make her feel safe--all that was required was a bat'leth and a d'k tahg. A man, her mother insisted, provided a possible mate and a fighting companion, if a woman was lucky, but he wasn't necessary for a woman to feel protected.

While B'Elanna proudly admitted that she was fully independent and capable of defending herself, she knew she wouldn't trade that for the security she felt when Tom held her in his arms. And she certainly wouldn't trade the feeling of happiness that he had brought her since they had been together. Her mother had also warned that mating outside of your species was asking for trouble. B'Elanna smiled in the darkness. Just how many half- Klingons/half-Humans were there for her to mate with anyway? And even if there were, would it matter? It was no wonder that her parents' marriage didn't last. Her mother just didn't understand.

"Penny for your thoughts?" he interrupted.


"B'Elanna, you are a million light-years away." Tom chuckled and nuzzled the nape of her neck. As predicted, his half-Klingon warrior woman giggled like a schoolgirl upon feeling the stubble of his beard tickle her flesh.

"Stop that!" she admonished lightly.

He nuzzled her neck again, this time adding a lick or two along the edge of her ear.

"Tommmmm!" Damn, he could be so distracting...deliciously distracting.

"Admit it, you like it when I do this," he said and he nibbled her neck again.

A growl escaped B'Elanna's throat. "You know I do, but right now, just you holding me is enough. Can you understand?"

"Of course. You know I love to hold you. I just hate having to leave..."

B'Elanna tensed. All that she had thought before came crashing down. She admitted she loved this man, didn't want to be apart from him, so why did she hesitate to accept his offer of cohabitation? Was she afraid that her mother was right all along? No. She knew that Tom was the man for her. Then why? Did she put him off because she didn't want to lose her independence? Maybe, she admitted. Maybe she was reluctant to move in with him, just in case something happened and they had to split. Then, in the long run, she'd have to admit that perhaps her mother had given her good advice; and she'd hate that. In the long run, B'Elanna relented, perhaps she was a coward. She drew in a deep breath and slowly exhaled before she replied.

"We've talked about that before, Tom. Right now I feel..."

"Feel it is better for us to maintain separate cabins. I know, B'Elanna, and I promised I wouldn't nag you, but..."

"But that's it, Tom. If we have to talk, can't it be about something else?"

It was the pilot's turn to sigh and he tightened his hold on the chief engineer while at the same time kissing her on her bare shoulder. Her skin felt deliciously silky smooth on his lips. Why did he keep on asking when her answer was always invariably the same. And what would he do if she said yes? How would he feel? Relieved, ecstatic, claustrophobic? Yes, yes, and he had to admit it . . . eventually possibly yes.

His sisters used to kid him that he'd never settle down with someone because of his claustrophobia to not only small places, but to committed relationships. Every time he started to feel strongly about a girl, there was something inside him that caused him to call a halt to the affair. His sisters picked up on that and teased him about it relentlessly. While a part of him craved to advance to a more serious level of a relationship with B'Elanna, he could still hear his sisters taunting him. He mentally shook that memory away.

"Sure. Another topic. Ummm, let's see. I understand that Seven was assigned to assist you in Engineering today. I also understand that she barely survived the experience. Do you want to tell me about it?"

B'Elanna took a deep breath before she began. It was a change in subject, but not a preferred change in her view, but it was better than rehashing old ground. "Well you know of the problems we've been having with the warp core?"

"Yep, you are in need of a mineral to repair the core since our encounter with Ransom's aliens." Due to lack of a proper name for those strange but, aliens, the name 'Ransom's aliens' had come to be what they were known as on Voyager.

"Well, Seven came down as the Captain ordered her to...and I really tried to get along with her this time, Tom. I will admit now that there are times when she does have some good ideas, but this time she...she..."

Tom could feel B'Elanna's shoulder muscles tense. "Go on, B'Elanna," her urged.

"Well...ah...we *talked* about the problem. I actually *listened* to what she had to say. Finally, we reached a consensus on how to tackle the situation. Then...then...then she started issuing *my* people orders! I'm the chief engineer, not her, Tom. I wasn't going to stand for it. I was right in the middle of telling her where she could put her Borg implants, when Janeway called me to her Ready Room. When I finally returned to Engineering, you could see that Miss Borgette had really endeared herself to my engineers. From the way they all looked, if I had scanned them with a tricorder I'm sure it would have recorded an increase in temperature and pressure in Engineering--and Joe Carey was the worst. He was red-faced and looked...almost Klingon. I thought he was going to break the Borg's nose himself!"

"But you beat him to it," Tom concluded.

"Almost. I was this close," she held her index finger and thumb about five centimeters apart, "to actually smashing her face." Her hand dropped back to the bed. "Then the Doctor asked her to report to Sickbay. She was damn lucky it was time for her weekly maintenance."

"Some weekly maintenance," he quipped. "Our EMH probably wanted to practice another 'old chestnut' with his prot‚g‚. This week I believe they are working on 'What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor."

"Anything to do with you and Harry's escapade on that space station?"

"Ahhh, probably. You know the Doc, he likes to give me a hard time."

"And you don't like to do the same to him?" she asked.

"Well...he is an easy target," Tom said trying in vain to defend himself.

"We all seem to be easy targets lately," B'Elanna grumbled.

"The Captain." It wasn't a question, everyone knew who was aiming the barbs and worse at the crew as of late.

"She knows I've tried everything to get full warp capability out of my engines, save for getting out and pulling the damn ship along myself, and still she wants results--the sooner the better. I am limited to what I can do until we find some caesium copper to augment the core lining. Until then, the best I can coax out of the engines is 6.5--at least right now--and she knows I can't do any better until we find that mineral!"

"I know, B'Elanna. You have performed miracles before, but even you are restricted to the resources available to you. The Captain is being unrealistic, perhaps with time..."

"Time, Tom? She's been this way since before she allowed Doc to activate that Cardassian butcher," B'Elanna ground out.


B'Elanna turned her head around to face him. "Oh don't worry, I've calmed down about that. I am very grateful to still be here on the ship and especially with you, but I'm just saying that it's been oh, probably almost two months since she's been ...*normal*. She demoted you, which was bad enough, but to put you in solitary for thirty days was uncalled for! Any other time someone was punished on Voyager, they were confined to their cabin. And Harry, she jumped down his throat for falling in love with an alien. That doesn't even cover what happened with Ransom and the Equinox."

"I heard she almost murdered Lessing when she interrogated him."

"You too? Some people think that was a rumor."

"I don't think so, I happened to overhear Chakotay talking with Tuvok late at night in the mess hall. They thought they had the place to themselves. They didn't know that I was helping Neelix clean up the rear kitchen area," he explained.

"You lost a bet," B'Elanna concluded her lips turned up already knowing the answer.

"Well you see, um...I kinda...um...yeah, I lost a bet."

B'Elanna grinned. "Thought so. Continue."

"Well the Commander was explaining to Tuvok what had happened to Noah Lessing. Chakotay believed if he hadn't intervened, the aliens would have killed Noah."

"Yeah, that's basically what I heard. I overheard Marla and Noah were talking in Engineering a few days ago. I'm worried, Tom. Something's wrong with the Captain. She's changed."

"Tell that to Naomi," Tom offered. "She came up to say good morning to the Captain at breakfast last week, and the Captain snapped at her. You should have seen the look on that kid's face, she was flabbergasted. Luckily, Neelix was nearby and brought her into the kitchen to help him. Now, I've seen Janeway when she hadn't had a decent cup of coffee in weeks, but she's never ever snapped at Naomi Wildman."

"I know. I don't mind telling you, Tom, I'm concerned. I worry how her attitude will affect both Voyager and the crew. People are not happy."

"'Not happy' is an understatement. I haven't seen such stress on board since the Maquis joined the crew. There's been talk, I've heard whispers and innuendo all over the ship. They are saying that if Janeway doesn't stop acting like a despot, then something has to be done."

B'Elanna turned her head towards the pilot. "Mutiny?" B'Elanna questioned, her voice barely audible.

"Well at the very least they think she should be relieved of duty--let Chakotay run the ship for a change."



"Hold me tighter."

* * * * * * *

Entering the conference room a few days later, Janeway surveyed her senior officers. As usual, Tom sat near B'Elanna, Harry couldn't keep his eyes off Seven of Nine, Tuvok waited patiently for the meeting to begin, and Chakotay focused his attention on her. Before she sat down to begin the meeting she walked over to the replicator.

"Coffee," she ordered crisply, "one sugar."

The replicator hummed briefly before creating a perfect cup of Columbian brew. Taking the mug of coffee between her hands, Janeway walked purposefully to the head of the table where she sat down in her chair.

"I don't have to tell you why we are here today," Janeway took a cautious sip from the cup and placed it back down on the table. "We have to find more caesium copper, and we have to do so immediately. Suggestions, anyone?"

Harry nervously cleared his throat before replying. "I've been working with Seven of Nine and Lt. Torres on this matter, Captain. We've run extensive scans of the area, and have yet to locate any reserves of the mineral. It's the group's recommendation that..."

Janeway slammed her fist down on the table causing her coffee to spill down the sides of the mug and pool beneath it. "That's unacceptable! This ship has *got* to be returned to peak performance immediately!" Everyone, save for the Vulcan looked uneasy, it appeared that they had awakened a slumbering dragon.

"Why?" Tuvok questioned. "Granted optimum efficiency is something we all strive for, but this area of space is relatively safe."

The Captain's steely gray eyes narrowed as she scrutinized her Chief Tactical Officer. "I don't need *you* to tell me what needs to be done on this ship, Mr. Tuvok! I am the captain!" Her words fell icily on the Senior Staff's ears. "If you don't watch yourself, you'll find yourself demoted and thrown into the brig."

Tuvok's right eyebrow extended to its full height expressing the Vulcan's astonishment at the Captain's words. Janeway steamed.

"I will not accept that nothing can be done!" Her fist hit the table again causing it to reverberate and more coffee to spill. "I want everyone working on this problem, around the clock if need be. Bring in other engineers and technicians to assist you. That mineral has got to be available somewhere!" Her gray eyes appraised each of the senior staff coldly. "I will not accept no for an answer. This ship has got to be up to maximum warp capability as soon as possible. Do I make myself clear?!"

The members of the staff nodded but couldn't bring themselves to look their captain in the eye.

"Dismissed," Janeway ground out, her eyes devoid of warmth.

Silently they all filed out of the room and headed back to their stations.

** * * * * * *

"You ready to leave yet?" Tom asked the half-Klingon later that same evening. After he had been relieved from the helm, he had immediately gone in search of B'Elanna. He had found her on the upper level in Engineering reviewing a large stack of data padds. B'Elanna opened her mouth to respond to his question, but found that a yawn had sneaked out instead. Paris chuckled, she always looked so cute when she yawned, though he'd never tell her that. It was as close to an expression of weakness as she ever got. Klingons, even half-Klingons, didn't like to be told that they looked cute, let alone weak. "Come on, sleepyhead, it's time for both of us to go to bed."

B'Elanna shook her dark head slightly. "But Janeway..."

"Janeway can't expect us to stay up *all* night long. Besides," he paused and yawned himself, both in sympathy and because he was also very tired. "When Chakotay told me it was time to leave the bridge, he also told me to come down and relieve you from duty. I, for one, am not going to argue with him. Are you?"

B'Elanna took one look at the data padd in her hand briefly contemplated the dismal contents. No matter how much she examined the readout, the answers were always the same--caesium copper wasn't available within Voyager's scanning range. With a shrug, she tossed the offending padd on the table. "Let's go. I can't keep my eyes open anyway. My cabin?"

A smiling Tom held out his hand to her and she took it willingly. He let himself be led down to the main level where the gamma shift was working. Spotting Joe Carey, B'Elanna bid him goodnight and told him to keep working on the problem and that she would relieve him in the morning.

"I didn't even realize just how tired I was until you came in, Tom." She yawned again, not even bothering to cover her mouth.

The pilot put his arm across her shoulders and pulled her closer him. B'Elanna snuggled comfortably into his shoulder. She savored the scent of her mate. A purr of contentment escaped her throat. It did not go unnoticed by the pilot. Turning the corner, Tom reached down and tilted her head up so he could kiss her. Not needing any further encouragement, B'Elanna turned toward him and pulled his head down to her. Her tongue penetrated his willing mouth and she relished the taste of her lover. Tired though he was, Tom suddenly felt revived. She had a way of doing that to him, this vixen of a woman, he thought, and he loved every moment of it.

"I thought you were exhausted?" Tom whispered in her ear when she finally came up to breathe.

B'Elanna growled. He could feel the excitement that the sound induced, travel from his head down to his toes and back again until it finally wrapped itself around his chest and tugged at his heart strings. Needing no further encouragement, thankful that it was very early in the morning and the corridors were deserted, Tom cradled her face between his hands and backed her up against the wall. It produced another growl from B'Elanna, this one found a resting place somewhere south of his heart, but dear to them both.

* * * * * *

"...then I want Security to double and triple check every security protocol on this ship after you supervise the weapons recalibration."

"Certainly, Captain," Tuvok replied keeping pace with Janeway as she strode powerfully through Voyager's corridors. His hands clasped behind his back.

"Estimation on time of completion, Mr. Tuvok?"

"Starting tomorrow morning at the beginning of alpha shift, assuming a full shift complement, I would say 37.5 hours."

"Insufficient, I want this done by..." Janeway came to a full stop. Tuvok was two steps past her before he stopped as well and turned to face her.

"Captain? Is something wrong?"

* * * * * *

"Oh, Tom...I love it when you...ah...oh yes...don't stop." B'Elanna encouraged her mate. She was delirious with joy and rapture, her exhaustion momentarily forgotten.

"We should stop, B'Elanna," Tom purred in her delicate ear. How could a Klingon's or even a half-Klingon's ears be so tiny and so delicious to lick and nibble? Who cares? He sure as hell didn't.


"What if someone comes by?" he breathed. His tongue traced the outline of her ear that he already knew by heart. The pilot was also well aware that it made his mate hot.

"Let them," she gasped.

Encouraged, the pilot continued to nibble on her earlobe while his arms encircled her lithe body and pulled her toward him. At times like this, it felt that they just couldn't be close enough. Times where if he could melt into her body he would, just to feel more a part of her if it was at all possible. Times where...


<Damn! Tom regretfully pulled away from B'Elanna's hot body. A glisten of perspiration clung to his forehead and cheeks, testament to his passion for the Chief Engineer. Further testament was hidden beneath his clothing, and would hopefully go unnoticed.

"Ah, Ca-Captain, Tuvok, I c-can explain," Tom stammered, a guilty smile lit his face. Of all people to catch him and B'Elanna necking in Voyager's corridors it had to be Janeway and Tuvok-- and in particular Janeway.

A hand lashed out so fast, Tom could have sworn that it was almost his imagination if it hadn't been for the pain that coursed down his back. B'Elanna stared slack jawed at what was happening. Captain Janeway had just body slammed her chief pilot up against the wall of the corridor.

"Explain yourselves," Janeway ground out, teeth clenched, still clutching Paris's uniform collar with one hand while glaring at the half-Klingon. "Why are you two groping each other in a public corridor? Why aren't you both at work trying to solve this warp core problem?"

"Captain, I...we...um..." Tom didn't know what do say, he was still in shock, and in pain.

B'Elanna stepped in. "We were heading back to...um...my cabin. Chakotay relieved us from duty."

"Do I have to remind you that Chakotay is *not* the captain?" Janeway's gray eyes flashed with anger. "Has the problem been solved yet?"

"No, Captain. I have a double crew working on the problem, but we haven't made any progress. There just is no way for us to resolve the..."

Janeway roughly pushed her bewildered pilot away from her, again slamming him against the wall before she released him. She approached B'Elanna. "I don't want to hear that there is 'no way,' Lt. Torres," she snapped spraying the engineer with spittle.

B'Elanna boldly glared at her superior officer not even bothering to wipe the moisture from her face. "We've done all we can do tonight, Captain. Tom and I are going to get some sleep then..."

"Sleep? It didn't look like *sleep* to me, it looked like he," Janeway pointed at Paris, "was trying to jump your bones, and you weren't stopping him. In fact, you were encouraging him!"

"Captain," Tom began having found his voice. "We didn't intend to um...do what you saw...in the corridors...but..."

"There are no *buts*...I'm on my way to Astrometrics to check on Seven's progress. I expect you to..."


Janeway turned at the sound of her name. She saw Chakotay approach her with a small grin on his face that emphasized his deep dimple.

"Captain, I understand that Seven of Nine is waiting for you in Astrometrics. Why don't you let me take care of this problem?" the First Officer offered graciously.

"I was just--"

"Please let me handle it, I believe I have a suitable form of punishment in mind, Captain."

Janeway looked at her Chief of Security and then back to Chakotay. "Has Seven found anything?"

"I'm not sure, but she is looking for you. Perhaps it's a good sign?"

With eyes narrowed, the Captain carefully appraised the lovebirds for a moment before replying. "Very well, you take care of their lack of discretion. If you need me, I'll be in Astrometrics. Later we will talk about you relieving them of duty. Tuvok, you have your orders, carry them out."

"Aye, Captain," the Vulcan replied.

Janeway nodded sharply satisfied that two problems were being taken care of. Pivoting on her heel, she left the four officers behind.

When they were well down the corridor, heading in the opposite direction from the Captain and out her of earshot, Tom spoke up. "Commander, really we're sorry and...tired. I know it's no excuse, but we haven't been with each other in days... it... um... well... Gee, Commander, you must know how it is."

The First Officer who was now standing between Tom and B'Elanna clasped them both on their shoulders. "I'm sorry that this had to happen. On one hand, the Captain is correct, you two have been warned about Public Displays of Affection. On the other, the corridors are nearly deserted and she, and this stays between us four, overreacted."

"Well I wish I could say that I was surprised at what happened," Tom added.

"During the last few months, she's been more uptight than a Tilekian badger," B'Elanna remarked. "You can't say anything to her lately without her biting your head off."

"Indeed," Tuvok replied. The other three looked at the Vulcan somewhat surprised that he had concurred with the Chief Engineer. "Ms. Torres is correct, the Captain has been acting very stressed recently."

"She's been acting this way since before B'Elanna was attacked by that alien parasite," Tom noted. "If something isn't done soon then the crew..." Tom stopped suddenly realizing that his mouth was running away from him, and in particular that it was running away while he was in the presence of two senior officers.

Chakotay was startled at what Tom Paris was implying. "What exactly do you mean by that, Paris?"

Tom shook his head. "Look I'm sorry, ignore what I said, I was just..."

"Excuse me, officers, but we're late for our duty shifts," Megan Delaney called out approaching the four interrupting the conversation. She was pulling her sister Jenny along after her; the group of four split in two to let the twins pass.

"Perhaps we should continue this discussion in my quarters," Chakotay suggested. The other officers hesitated only briefly before they all nodded and followed the First Officer towards his cabin.

* * * * * * *

"What's the matter, Mr. Paris?" Chakotay asked seeing the pilot survey the room upon entering. "Are you looking for a teepee?"

Tom laughed nervously and ran his fingers through his hair. "No, Commander. It's just that it's been a long time since I've been in your cabin. I was just looking around. It looks homey and comfortable."

Chakotay chuckled. "What did you expect a fire ring with mats on the floor?"

"Actually, I'm not sure what I expected," Tom admitted truthfully.

"Well have a seat. Can I get you anything to drink?" he gestured to the three of them, "Coffee, tea? B'Elanna, how about a Bajoran chebel tea?"

"Mmmmm, sounds good, double sweet, please."

"Okay. Tom, would you like some too?"

"Chebel tea? No offense, Chakotay, but I just can't stomach that stuff?"


Tom laughed lightly. "Funny isn't it, I could drink any rot-gut booze they put in front of me, but chebel tea? Eeeeuuww!" B'Elanna and Chakotay smiled at his reaction. Tuvok was...well Tuvok, other than the typical raised eyebrow you'd never have known he had heard the pilot's response.

"How about some coffee or juice then, or perhaps something else?"

"Coffee may keep me awake, how about some fruit juice."

"Orange, Risan melon?"

"Surprise me. In fact, here," Tom walked over to the replicator, "put it on my account. He tapped his account code into the replicator's keypad. "I had a good week in Sandrine's a while back and have a few extra ration chips--my treat."

Chakotay nodded. "Tuvok? Tea?"

"That will be sufficient. Thank you."

After the teas and juices were replicated, the four sat down in Chakotay's living room, sipping on their beverages. Tom sat next to B'Elanna on the First Officer's sofa. He took one long sip of his juice before he placed the glass down on the table between where he and B'Elanna were and where Chakotay and Tuvok sat in two chairs opposite them. He looked hesitantly toward the two senior officers and then turned and smiled slightly at B'Elanna. The half-Klingon nodded and patted the pilot's knee answering his unspoken question.

The silent communication between the pair did not go unnoticed by Chakotay.

"It looks like you have something to say, Tom," Chakotay commented. "So let's have it."

"Um...well...you see...ah . . . " Tom pulled his fingers through his hair. "Hey, can this be considered off the record?" He looked uncomfortably at Chakotay and then back at Tuvok--both nodded.

"Thanks. Well it's like this...it's the Captain. She has been...um...well...bitchy lately."

Chakotay smirked at Tom's description. "Well, Tom, I'm not sure that I would describe it as bitchy..."

"Actually, Commander," Tuvok piped up, "according to the most recent unabridged dictionary of Federation Standard, 'bitchy' describes the Captain's attitude very accurately."

"I was going to say, Janeway has all the symptoms of a Klingon woman in the throes of sexual dissatisfaction, but bitchy works," B'Elanna concurred with a shrug.

Chakotay rose from his chair and with hands on his hips paced back and forth behind where Tuvok was seated. Every once in a while he'd look over at the group, but then continue his pacing. After the fifth lap the first officer stopped and faced B'Elanna and Tom. They could see that he was carefully selecting what words to say. "I, too, think that there is something troubling the Captain. She has been irrational as of late, and quick to anger."

"Quick to anger would be one thing, Chakotay, but the Captain's been like a simmering volcano, you never know when she's going to erupt. Now I admit, B'Elanna and I," Tom placed his arm around his mate, "did start to get a bit carried away just a little while ago. The Captain had every right to speak to us, but I've never seen her get so mad before."

"And that's not all of it," B'Elanna interjected. "She's been yelling at everyone. Telling her that certain scientific absolutes cannot be compromised hasn't changed a thing. She's always down in Engineering asking for the impossible. But she hasn't stopped with Engineering. A couple of weeks ago, I saw her snap at Naomi Wildman when she showed the Captain a picture she had drawn. Naomi ran away in tears and the Captain seem bothered at all."

"Everyone is talking about her," Tom added. "I've heard speculations that range from space sickness to menopause. But everyone has come to the same conclusions. This can't last forever."

"Do you understand what you are saying, Ensign?" Tuvok questioned.

The pilot nodded slowly. "Something has to be done, Commander," Tom added. "I'm afraid that if the Captain's attitude doesn't change shortly, Voyager could be faced with real problems."

"Are you suggesting that the crew would mutiny?"

"I don't know, Chakotay. Four weeks ago I wouldn't have given a second thought about it, but now I can't be so sure. Everyone is talking about Janeway's unstable mental state."

An uneasy silence fell over the four. Finally, the First Officer returned to his seat and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped in front of him. His thoughts seemingly focused on the deck at his feet. Several minutes passed, during which Tom and B'Elanna looked uneasily at each other, silently communicating their concern at what had been said in this room. Eventually Chakotay tilted his head up and looked first at Tuvok who barely nodded and then to the Ensign and Lieutenant.

"You two should adjourn for the night. You both have been working long, hard shifts; let me and Tuvok discuss this matter. You can be assured that what was said here will stay between the four of us."

Tom and B'Elanna rose from their seats.

"I believe you have forgotten something, Commander," Tuvok said.

Chakotay's paused and looked quizzically at the Vulcan.

"You forgot to punish Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Paris as you promised the Captain. I don't need to remind you that Captain Janeway may be experiencing problems, but she is still the Captain."

The First Officer nodded and turned to contemplate the pair before him. "He's right you know. I told the Captain that I had a suitable punishment in mind, and I do. You two can consider yourselves confined to quarters when you aren't on duty."

"Chakotay?" Tom and B'Elanna responded in unison.

"You heard me. You two are confined to quarters if you aren't on duty. You are confined to either Deck 9 Section 12a or Deck 4 section 3c. It's your pick."

Tom and B'Elanna smiled at the Commander and then at themselves.

"Of course, Commander, anything you say," Tom piped up, a smile on his face.

"Come on, Tom, you can pick up your stuff and come to my cabin," B'Elanna suggested pulling Tom along after her and out into the corridor.

"Your cabin? What about my cab..." The pilot's words were cut off by the closing of the door to Chakotay's quarters.

The First Officer chuckled at hearing the pair argue. "If they ever stop bickering, Tuvok, we had better start worrying."

"I believe you are correct, Commander. However, that does not solve our present dilemma."

"Well, Tom and B'Elanna are correct, crew tension is very high. I've felt it myself. There just has to be something we can do." Chakotay paused for a moment and thought, analyzing the situation carefully before he spoke. "I wonder when was the last time the Captain has reported for a physical?" he queried the Vulcan.

"Without checking the ship's records, I would have to say that it has been some time. Perhaps as much as five to six months."

"We need to get her in to see the Doctor. Maybe he can shed some light on the Captain's change in mood. At the best, he can treat her if he does find something is amiss...at the worst..." Chakotay paused and thought but for a moment. "At the worst, he has the authority to relieve her from duty."

* * * * * * *

"Is this okay?" Tom asked motioning to the table in the mess hall that was in the far corner of the room.

B'Elanna surveyed the rest of the room and saw that everyone else was congregating on the other side, out of earshot from the table Tom had found.

"Yeah, it looks good."

Tom placed the tray carrying both of their meals on the table. Then, the gentleman that he was, he pulled out a chair for B'Elanna. With a flamboyant sweep of his arm he bid her to sit.

"You spoil me you know, Mr. Paris."

"Yeah, I know." He grinned. "You want me to stop?"

"I didn't say that."

Smiling he helped push in her chair before he too sat down beside her.

"Another day with our nose to the grindstone," Tom quipped. B'Elanna humorlessly chuckled as she speared something green with her fork.

"I just hope, Her Bitchiness stays out of Engineering today," B'Elanna said, her voice low.

"Well," Tom began, "I wouldn't count on it. It seems like you can't get away from her these days. Just when you think you're safe..."

"Who's safe?"

Tom and B'Elanna turned to see not only Harry Kim but also Seven of Nine had approached their table.


"Ensign Kim asked both of you who was safe in reference to your statement," Seven replied as she and Harry sat down at the table with Tom and B'Elanna.

"Oh, well you know," Tom hedged, "anybody and everybody."

"Tom?" Harry warned in that, tell-me-the-truth-if-I'm-your-friend kind of voice.

The pilot raked his fingers through his hair. "Harry, we were just talking, you know about who's with who, the latest menu," Tom pushed a purple thing next to a yellow thing on his plate, "the weather...you know."

"Jenny Delaney is with Lt. Chapman, Ursula Hendricks is seeing both Crewman Dalby and Lt. Peters, though both are unaware; the latest menu is as colorful as the menu before and probably tastes just as bad, and the weather," Seven's ocular implant rose to new heights, "is irrelevant."

The other three at the table stared at the ex-Borg their mouths agape.

"Is something wrong?" Seven asked noticing their facial impressions.

"That's amazing," B'Elanna finally said breaking the silence.

"Amazing that Dalby and Peters don't know about each other?"

"No, Harry, that she was able to say all that in one breath."

"Let me guess," Harry said spreading his napkin on his lap. "You're talking about the Captain."

Tom looked up at his friend. "Yeah, are we that obvious?"

"No, Ensign Paris, the odds are 1.24576 to 1 that you are talking about Captain Janeway. Everyone on the ship is talking about her."

"Thanks, Seven. So if that's the case, what's your beef?"


"He means, what is your complaint about the Captain?" B'Elanna explained. "It seems like everyone has one of late."

"My complaint?"

Paris leaned forward a bit in his seat so what he had to say couldn't be overheard by anyone else in the mess hall. "Come on, Seven. She's been snapping at everyone. Are you telling me you've been exempt?"

The ex-Borg pouted a bit before replying. "No. Last night Captain Janeway came down to Astrometrics. When I informed her that I had not made any progress, she stared at me."

The Chief Engineer laughed. "Just stared at you, Seven? Is that all?" B'Elanna asked, wishing the Captain had only stared at her and Tom last night.

"She stared at me before she picked up a tricorder and threw it across Astrometrics. Then she left."

"That's more like it," Tom quipped. "For a minute there you had me worried."

"Worried?" Harry asked.

Tom picked up something purple from his plate and held it up to examine it, much like a scientist might pick up an insect. "Yeah, worried. I thought for a moment that Janeway was treating Seven different than the rest of us."

"Lower your voice, Tom. Someone might hear you," Harry warned.

The pilot nodded and lowered his voice before he spoke again. "Do you really think, Harry," he motioned with his fork toward the other diners, "that everyone is not having or had a similar conversation today? Look around you," he beckoned. "Do you hear any loud voices? See any smiles? This is not the mess hall that it once was, where the only thing we had to complain about was the food. Something is very wrong on Voyager, and it all stems from Kathryn Janeway."

"Tom!" Harry gasped.

"Think about it, Harry." B'Elanna turned toward her friend. "The Captain is the cause of everyone looking so pensive and melancholy. She has everyone walking on egg shells--afraid to speak their mind, afraid of telling the Captain anything but what she wants to hear. And Tom's right, it isn't the same on Voyager anymore," B'Elanna added. "I felt less tension on board when the Maquis first joined the crew. Something has to give."

"B'Elanna, are you saying what I think you're saying?" Harry asked his voice even lower than it was before.

The half-Klingon looked point blank at the young man, her gaze didn't falter. "I'm not sure, Harry. I can't believe I even feel this way sometimes. I can't believe the crew is acting the way they are. Things aren't getting better on the ship, they are getting worse."

Tom observed the ex-Borg's reaction to B'Elanna's words. "What do you have to say, Seven? How do you feel about what has been happening on Voyager and with the Captain?"

Seven, who had been chewing on a slice of bread, swallowed slowly and what appeared to be painfully before replying. "What Lt. Torres says is true. The situation is getting worse on Voyager. I have calculated that if Voyager is to successfully reach the Alpha Quadrant, it cannot do so under the current command. Captain Janeway has become unstable, she allows her emotions rule her actions. The conclusion is obvious; Voyager needs a new captain."

"I don't like how this conversation is progressing," Harry said softly but with passion. Suddenly having lost whatever appetite he had, he threw his napkin onto his food tray. "It sounds like we are discussing a possible mutiny."

"At the minimum, Harry, if this ship is ever to complete its journey Janeway needs to be removed from command, either temporarily, until we find out the reason why she has been acting out of character--or possibly...permanently," Tom concluded grimly. He noted the look of discomfort on his friend's face. "I don't like it any more than you do, but we certainly can't continue on like this."

* * * * * *

Later that evening the EMH stood just inside the Commander's quarters at attention. It wasn't every day that the Doctor's presence was requested by Voyager's First Officer.

"You wanted to see me, Commander?"

Chakotay motioned toward his dining area and beckoned the physician to have a seat. Chakotay joined him, seating himself on the other side of the table. "Voyager appears to be experiencing a problem," he began carefully.

"A problem? Certainly, Lt. Torres and her staff..."

"It has nothing to do with Voyager's mechanical systems, it involves...the Captain," Chakotay interrupted.

The Doctor's eyes widened slightly. "Oh."

"Just 'oh'?" He had expected the Doctor to act more alarmed.

"It comes as no surprise, Commander. I've observed problems with Captain Janeway for some time now. She's irritable and very easy to anger."


"And what?"

"What is your prognosis of the Captain? What did your examination determine?"


"Nothing?" Chakotay could hardly believe what he was hearing. "Are you saying that nothing is wrong with her?"

"I determined nothing because I have yet to perform an examination. I have scheduled physicals for her six times in the last two months. Each time she has an excuse why she can't make the appointment."

Chakotay leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. "I don't suppose that she had other commitments?"

"All six times? I think she's probably avoiding her physical, just like most of the crew." The EMH's eyes narrowed and focused on his host. "In fact, when was the last time you had yours? Seems to me that you are overdue for your examination."

"Yeah, um...well...that's not the point, Doctor. The point is that we need to have the Captain examined."

"Agreed. But to do that, I need to get the Captain to come to me. In order to perform a detailed examination, there are certain instruments that I need to use that cannot be removed from the Sickbay."

"You want me to coerce her into coming?"

"If that is what it will take. Do you think you can do it?"

Chakotay thought for a moment. "I have to do it, for the good of the ship."

"The ship? There seems to be more involved than just performing a physical on an unwilling officer."

Chakotay examined the physician for sometime before he spoke again.

"Doctor, what I'm about to tell you is to be kept in the strictest of confidences. The well-being of Voyager and her crew are at stake. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Commander. My protocols were designed to guarantee discretion. What you tell me stays between us, unless I determine it's not beneficial to the ship or its complement."

Chakotay contemplated the EMH briefly before he continued. Due to the doctor's programming he knew the physician was telling the truth, but he still felt it necessary to form his own opinions. "We are all very worried about Captain Janeway. She's been acting irrationally as of late. We believe that it has come to a point in time where she may not be capable of commanding Voyager."

"I understand. I myself, though I have not been able to medically examine her, have questioned some of her actions lately."

"Good. Then you know that under Order 105, Section C: The chief medical officer has the authority to relieve a commander of duty if he or she is deemed mentally or physically unfit. To do so requires you to perform a physical examination."

"So you want me to relieve her of duty?"

"Want? No. Need? Maybe. What we are contemplating is not a pleasant undertaking, Doctor. I greatly respect the Captain. If your examination comes up with nothing substantial, then we may be forced to resort to General Order 28."

"That being the concurrence of the ship's first officer, chief medical officer (namely me), counselor (which Voyager doesn't possess), and one junior officer of command station (say Ensign Paris or Ensign Kim). That being the case, you'd require my services either way."

Chakotay nodded solemnly.

The Doctor's lips formed a fine line while he pondered the situation. "You can count on me, Commander. If the Captain's physical examination proves inconclusive, and if you decide that the Captain is not fit to remain in charge, I'll back you."

"Thank you. But first let's see if you can conduct a physical examination of her."

"I'll be prepared."

"I know you will be. Just do what you must to check her out. She has to be examined. This may be the most important job you've ever done."

The EMH nodded solemnly. "Understood, Commander."

* * * * * * *

Early the next morning, Janeway awoke on her sofa still clad in her uniform. She rubbed the sleepiness from her face and tucked a lock of auburn hair behind her left ear. She yawned twice as she padded over to her replicator and ordered a large mug of coffee. Clutching the warm mug between her hands she sat down in front of her desk communicator and accessed her messages. There were two messages from engineering informing her of the current status of the warp engines. The Captain grimaced at the lack of progress indicated, took a long draw on the java, and proceeded through the rest of the messages. Somewhere near the bottom of the list she finally came across one from the EMH. Reading the note, Kathryn Janeway smiled slyly, and drained the contents in her mug.

Ten minutes later a neatly dressed, hair perfectly combed, and with a smile she hadn't sported lately, Captain Janeway entered Sickbay.

"Good morning, Captain. I see you got my message," the EMH greeted her.

She nodded. "Yes, it somewhat surprised me. With all the people working on the warp core problem, I didn't expect you to be the one to find the solution. I should have known by now not to underestimate your skill and ingenuity, Doctor."

The EMH picked up the medical tricorder from where it lay on the table beside him and approached her. He began to circle her, scanning her as he went. He stopped when he was in position between her and the door to sickbay.

Janeway grinned. "What's this about, Doctor? What does scanning me with your tricorder have to do with finding a sufficient supply of caesium copper to repair the warp core?"

The Doctor tilted his balding head up and looked at the Captain. "I haven't seen you in Sickbay in quite sometime, Captain. I've been worried about you as of late. You haven't been taking care of yourself. You don't seem to get enough sleep or enough to eat. I've told you before that you have to look after yourself, as well as you look after Voyager, if you want to get us home to the Alpha Quadrant."

She laughed lightly. "I'm feeling fine, Doctor. Now let's get to the point of this meeting. Tell me what you found."

The EMH nodded. He did indeed want to get to the point of the meeting. He walked toward her and she, like he had planned, backed up to preserve her personal space. Just two more steps backwards and she would be perfectly lined up to the medical diagnostic examination device (MDED)(1) --a device that was too large to be portable but provided a much more detailed analysis of a patient's condition than the medical tricorder could.

"Certainly, Captain." When she was finally in position, the physician then elaborated on an extremely detailed fictional explanation of how caesium copper could be extracted from a waste product from the warp core nacelles and combined with a variety of medical compounds. While he was in the middle of his explanation, he casually tapped out a series of commands on the MDED control panel.

Janeway listened to him speak. With each new sentence, she became more exasperated. What he was telling her was making no sense at all.

"Doctor, I know you mean well, but there is absolutely no way that what you are telling me can be accomplished. In order to make enough caesium copper to be useful..."

The EMH tapped a few more keys and his eyes widened at what the readout displayed.

Janeway stepped forward. "What are you doing?"

The diagnostic wasn't complete yet. The EMH knew he had to stall for as long as possible if he wanted a complete analysis. "Nothing, Captain. I'm just killing the two proverbial birds with one stone. I'm performing a medical exam while I discuss this solution with you. It's just a demonstration of my multitasking capabilities."

"What medical exam?" Her voice was cold and hard. "Are you examining me without my permission?!"

"It is within my rights as the Chief Medical Officer to examine any member of the crew. I don't need to obtain permission, even from the ship's captain. What I have found is very interesting. Through further detailed analysis it might offer an explanation of your behavior as..."

"Computer, delete the Emergency Medical Hologram, authorization Kathryn Janeway Omega Nine Five One, reactivation only on my personal voice print security protocol."

The EMH's eyes widened and his lower jaw dropped in astonishment just before he disappeared.

* * * * * * * *

"Status?" Janeway barked immediately after alighting from the turbolift.

"Everything is stable, Captain. We are maintaining warp at 5.9," Harry Kim announced almost hesitantly, awaiting her wrath at the point three drop in speed from the day before.

"What happened to 6.2?" she snapped.

"Well, Captain..."

"Captain," Tuvok interrupted. "I am detecting an alien vessel approaching our position."

Janeway diverted her attention away from a relieved Harry Kim and towards the Chief of Security.

"Scan it."

Tuvok complied. "It is a small ship, approximately the size of our Delta Flyer. Presently it is traveling at warp 5.5. There are two life signs within the vessel. And Captain," The Vulcan looked up and eyed Janeway, "I'm also detecting a supply of caesium copper."

Janeway's eyes widened. "Hail them."

Tuvok nodded and tapped on his console. Janeway took her seat in the center of the bridge beside her First Officer.

"Channel is open, Captain." Tuvok tapped his console again. "Visual is coming through."

On the screen two small purple aliens coalesced. They were chubby individuals, each sporting a stock of dark unruly hair on their heads. Small orifices on the sides on their heads indicated what must be their ears, and tiny black eyes bulged out from their faces. Their noses, seemingly large compared to the rest of their features, twitched nervously.

The Captain smiled warmly. "Greetings, my name is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. I'm pleased to meet you."

The two aliens' noses twitched at a faster tempo and they turned to look at each other before they again turned back to the screen.

The alien on the left spoke. "We-we from Gyrask--big big planet. What-what you want?"

Chakotay smiled softly at the rapid and repetitive manner of the alien's speech.

"Our scans indicate that you possess a significant quantity of caesium copper. We would like to discuss trade," Janeway replied evenly.

"Trade? Trade? No...no trade caesium copper is ours...ours. No trade. Out..get..get out of way." The two aliens shook their heads rapidly back and forth. The next minute the little spacecraft spun around and shot away, back towards where it had come from.

"Mr. Paris, follow them!"

"Aye, Captain."

"I don't have to tell you what will happen if you lose them, do I?"

Tom's only reply was the rapid tattoo his fingers beat out on the helm console.

"Tuvok, let me know when we are within weapons' range," Janeway snapped crisply.

At the Ops Station, where Chakotay was helping Harry Kim, the First Officer looked up. "Captain?"

"I *need* that mineral. After we disable the vessel then we can confiscate the caesium copper."

"But, Captain, it will serve us no good to fire on the vessel," Tuvok stated. "Firing on an alien vessel without first being provoked violates..."

"Are you two questioning my orders?" Janeway challenged.

Chakotay looked over to his right and caught Tuvok's eye. Paris who, as ordered, had been following the smaller ship, looked back at the senior officers. On the screen, the alien vessel was now visible again as Voyager had rapidly closed the distance between them.

Janeway's steely gray eyes flashed with rage. "Tuvok, fire!" she roared.

"I cannot, Captain."

"I gave a direct order!"

Tuvok remained motionless at his station, his dark eyes focused intently on Janeway.

"Computer, transfer operation of tactical to the captain's station, authorization Beta Five," Janeway ground out quickly.


Tuvok looked as surprised as a Vulcan could.

Janeway simply turned and entered the command for the computer to fire a phaser blast at the small ship. An angry orange beam of light promptly struck its target just before Tuvok and Chakotay could reach the captain. The alien ship's defensive shielding protected it from the brunt of the blast but did send it somersaulting through space.

"Captain, stop this!" Chakotay barked. He reached out, grabbing his captain by both shoulders and pulled her away from her console and up out of her chair.

Janeway struggled against his hold on her. Her body twisted against her First Officer. Growling and biting like a Klingon she fought, heedless of the looks of astonishment from the other crewmembers on the bridge. She had almost succeeded in freeing herself when she felt a pair of strong arms encircle her from behind.

"Captain, under Starfleet General Order 28, I'm hereby relieving you of duty," Chakotay informed her. He would have preferred to have the Doctor relieve her on medical grounds, but she had left him no choice.

"You can't do that, I'm the captain of this vessel. She's *my* ship!" Janeway continued to struggle uselessly against her Chief of Security's hold but to no avail. "According to regulations you require the consensus of three senior officers, that being comprised of First Officer, Chief Medical Officer, Counselor, or one junior officer of command station. I challenge you to comply with the regulations," she spat.

"You are correct, Captain. I believe you'll find that not only I, but Tuvok and the EMH will agree that you are not fit to continue command. Harry, contact the Doctor and ask him to come to the bridge."

"Aye, sir," Harry replied.

Despite the fact that he knew this was something that had to be done for the benefit of the ship and the crew, part of him felt like he was betraying Janeway, but he stood firm.

"Commander, I'm receiving no answer to my hail."

Chakotay turned to look at the ops officer. "Computer, location of the ship's EMH."

::::Voyager's EMH has been deactivated.::::

"Reactive him."

::::Unable to comply.::::


::::Activation of the EMH is restricted to voice only authorization of Captain, Kathryn Janeway. ::::

Chakotay looked down at Kathryn Janeway. A sly smile spread across her face. <What's gotten into you, Kathryn? I thought I knew you.

"Regulations require that you have agreement between *three* senior officers, Commander," she reminded him. Seems to me that you are short one." She all but stuck her tongue out at him. When he didn't relent, she began to fight again trying to pull away from Tuvok's strong grasp. She bit and she clawed until finally Tuvok resorted to applying the Vulcan nerve pinch to her neck and she fell limp in his arms.

Chakotay coolly crossed his arms in front of him. "Tuvok, take her to the brig."

* * * * * *

Chakotay sat in his usual position at the conference room table, leaving the captain's chair vacant. It just didn't seem appropriate for him to be sitting there in her place. He was flanked on either side by Tuvok and Harry, and across from him sat Tom Paris. B'Elanna was the last to arrive and slid into the chair beside Tom. Everyone, save for Tuvok, looked as uncomfortable as Chakotay felt.

"B'Elanna, did you hear what happened?"

The Engineer nodded. "Yes, Chakotay. The word spread fast. So it's true, she's in the brig?"

Chakotay nodded.

"Now what?"

"That's why I've called this meeting. We have critical things to discuss. The most important being what's going to happen to the Captain and the Doctor's current situation.

"First, regarding the Captain. Currently, she's being held in the brig. If anyone asks, tell them that we are holding her there for her own protection and until we can determine a prudent course of action. We don't want to hurt Captain Janeway. We want to find a way to help her. In the meantime, I'm assuming command of Voyager, and until further notice, Mr. Tuvok will assume duties as both First Officer and his current position.

"Now regarding the EMH. Until B'Elanna and Harry," Chakotay acknowledged the pair with a nod, "can find out a way to bypass the Captain's security lock, Paris, I'm placing you in charge of Sickbay. You are now our acting Chief Medical Officer."

Tom grimaced slightly.

"I wish there was another way, but you are the most qualified. Also, if we have to officially remove the Captain from duty, we need someone to assume the duties of a Chief Medical Officer. You'd take the Doctor's position and I can place Harry in the position of 'junior officer of a command station.' It should just squeak through the regulations if we ever get back to the Alpha Quadrant. I'll leave it up to you, Tom, as to who you'll leave in charge of the helm."

"Aye, sir."

"Now on to--"

::::Commander, twenty alien spaceships approaching.:::: Surprisingly for Seven, who had been left in charge of the bridge, she sounded uneasy. ::::They seem to be of comparable configuration to the one we encountered earlier, except they are larger.::::

In a flash the conference room was cleared and the senior officers streamed out onto the bridge. Chakotay called out for Red Alert and for shields to be raised immediately.

Henderson, who was manning Ops, stepped back so Harry could take control. Tom slipped momentarily back to his position at the helm and Tuvok resumed his post where Seven had been standing. With red lights flashing and the klaxon sounding, the First Officer bypassed the Captain's chair and sat in his own.

"Can you hail them, Mr. Kim?"

Harry shook his head. "They aren't responding, Commander."

"Damn, I want to apologize to them for their ship being fired upon. If I could talk to them, perhaps I could make them understand our predicament." Chakotay shook his head. You couldn't speak to someone if they didn't want to listen. That left only one other option--prepare Voyager for potential attack.

The lights on the bridge darkened and the red alert warning lights flashed.

"Status?!" Chakotay barked.

"I am reading, twenty-four alien vessels now, Commander," Harry Kim replied.

"At their rate of travel they should intercept Voyager in approximately ten minutes," Tom added. "They may be small, but they're quick--quicker than we are right now."

"Paris, evasive maneuvers. Do your best. I don't want to fire on them if we don't have to. Perhaps if we don't, they'll understand we don't want to fight and decide to talk to us instead."

"Aye, sir," Paris replied without hesitation.

"Weapons?" Chakotay asked.

Tuvok tapped out commands at his station. "Scanning. They appear to have a variety of weapons...none as advanced as Voyager's, but in their number they can be formidable."

"Will our shields hold?"

"Unknown, Commander. It would depend on a number of variables-- method of attack, their supply of weapons, and available energy reserves, to name but a few."

"Looks like we're going to find out about the shields, hold on everyone!" Tom called out. He pitched Voyager to starboard as the alien ships neared. Several of them peppered the bigger ship with bursts of a small version of photon torpedoes.

From his position on the floor, where he had landed when Paris had banked the ship away from the alien vessels, Chakotay called out. "Report!"

"Shields are at 94 percent and holding, Commander," Kim informed him. "No reports of any injuries, but there are reports of minor internal damage to the ship."

"They are coming around again," Tuvok informed the bridge crew.

Paris again swerved Voyager in an effort to avoid fire, but being that they were so outnumbered, he couldn't avoid all of the blasts.

"Shields down to 85 percent, Commander. There are reports of damage coming in from decks 5 and 6."


"Mostly minor ones, sir."

"But they won't be if we don't get out of here," Chakotay said mostly to himself. "Tom, can't you get this ship moving any faster?"

"I'm trying, Commander, but--"

::::Torres to Chakotay, come in.::::

"Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"The warp core is at critical, Commander. I'm going to have to drop warp core output by thirty percent."

"Isn't there something else you can do, B'Elanna? We need all the speed we can get right now."

"I don't like it any more than you do, but it's either that or no propulsion at all, Commander."

"Understand. Do your best. Keep me posted, Chakotay out."

"You heard her, Paris. You're going to have to be inventive. Tuvok, be prepared to defend Voyager on my command with a full sweep of phaser fire."

"Aye, sir."

"They're coming about again!" Tom called out. "Hold on!" He pitched the ship to port and then corkscrewed Voyager around and around before finally straightening out the ship and shooting off away from Voyager's attackers. Like persistent little gnats the alien vessels soon overtook Voyager again, firing as they came. The larger ship rocked as each volley impacted her shields.

There was a cessation of alien fire; it seemed for a moment that the battle was over until Voyager was struck on its starboard side by one large blast which caused Voyager to lurch suddenly to starboard.

"What was that?" Chakotay asked.

"It appears that the aliens synchronized their attack into one powerful strike, Commander," Tuvok explained.

"The purple people eaters all fired at once and in one location," Tom simplified.

Tuvok raised one eyebrow. "Essentially. They have also almost depleted their energy reserves."

"Commander, we've sustained heavy damage on decks 4 and 5. There are numerous reports of injuries coming in," Harry informed the First Officer.

<Great! This incident with Kathryn couldn't have happened at a worse time! "Paris, get down to sickbay. Harry, contact Rollins and have him come to the bridge to man the helm," Chakotay called out slipping momentarily into Paris' seat until the other pilot could arrive. "Call Samantha Wildman and Neelix to assist Paris in Sickbay. Dispatch repair crews to Decks 4 and 5 and seal any breaches."

"Aye, sir."

Tom was already in the turbolift by the time Chakotay had finished issuing orders to Harry. When he reached Sickbay, Tom saw that Samantha and Neelix were already there and several crewman were waiting to receive medical assistance. The three quickly evaluated the injuries. The minor cases were left to Neelix's care, while Samantha and Tom handled those more seriously injured.

Meanwhile back on the bridge, Rollins was doing his best to keep Voyager out of the line of any remaining fire. The little alien ships continued to buzz around the larger ship, taking random potshots time and again. Most of the shots were being deflected by what remained of Voyager's shields.

"Commander, some of the aliens are leaving--more are following," Harry Kim reported.

"They must have run out of energy reserves finally," Chakotay concluded. "Rollins, try and move us away from the aliens. When you are a sufficient distance away resume original course. B'Elanna, report."

Over the open comm link, the bridge crew could hear the sounds of the engineering crew working and Carey and B'Elanna barking orders before the Chief Engineer responded. "Sorry about that, Commander, there's a lot to be done down here."

"Understood. What's the status of the ship?"

"Well, frankly, it's a mess, Commander. I've dispatched repair crews all over the ship with concentration on Decks 4 and 5. Vorik's already reported back from Deck 4. It doesn't look good. Rough estimates indicate that twenty-six cabins have been almost totally destroyed."

The First Officer gripped the arms of his chair tightly. <Of all times for the Captain not to be in command. he thought, <it would have to be now. "I'll put Harry in charge of crew relocation, B'Elanna. Keep me posted on your progress."

"Aye, sir."

* * * * * *