Life With a Paris: The Customer You Are Trying To Reach...
Delta stretched and yawned, flicking his ears lazily as he peered out at the night sky. He, Tom, Chakotay, Harry and Neelix were on another away mission, this one lasting three days and two nights, in search of food and provisions. Thankfully for the away team this planet was uninhabited by intelligent life, so they were free to sleep without guard.
Delta climbed to his feet, and patrolled slowly around the makeshift camp in which the team was sleeping. It was hard to believe that he was nearly six months old now, his oversized paws and dangling ears were now beginning to match his body as he grew long and lithe. He felt the power course through him as he walked, feeling all of nature stop and admire him, or so he thought. Delta was the dog of his daddy... beautiful, cocky, a troublemaker and he loved it. He sighed contentedly as he reapproached the camp; his life couldn't be any better.
Every so often, as the team slept, one of the badges on their uniforms would beep quietly. It wasn't like when someone wanted to talk to them, but more of an unobtrusive sound. Delta wasn't sure what it was for, but when his own comm badge did the same, he decided it was time to find out.
Determined scratches at his collar loosened the clasp, and within minutes Delta had his collar between his teeth, chewing at the comm badge as it beeped and shrieked annoyingly. Finally with a tug and crunch, the badge went silent, and Delta ground his teeth against it thoughtfully. When all sound had ceased from the little piece of metal, Delta stared down at it, an expression of frustration crossing his puppy face. He wasn't through figuring out what made that thing work; it was time to find another to test.
Walking silently up to his daddy, Delta reached down with gentle teeth and pulled Tom's comm badge off his chest and quickly walked away with it. Another shriek and dying beep wailed from the comm badge, and once again the metal grew silent.
Delta frowned deeply, wishing the devices were built to withstand more pressure than the small amount he was exuding. With a much tortured sigh, he got up and approached Neelix, removing the Talaxian's badge silently, before dropping it back where his experiments were being explored. This time, however, he learned his lesson and went back to remove Harry's and Chakotay's badges before beginning his exploration yet again.
When all five comm badges had been sufficiently destroyed, Delta picked them up and silently buried them in a rapidly dug hole by a river. He was on his way back into the camp by the time the first of the men awoke. It was a full five minutes longer before they realized their badges were missing, and another full five minutes before Tom silently realized exactly who the culprit had been. His eyes narrowed to slits as he glared at Delta, the dog having the good grace
to glance down at the floor with guilt. Still, Tom remained silent and
innocent as the others examined the area for evidence of an alien presence. Thankfully, even in the 24th Century, evidence prevailed in a trial, and even though Delta was quite sure the wooden warrior figured out for himself that Delta had stolen the badges, nothing was said, and the team sat down to figure out exactly how they were going to go about getting back in contact with Voyager.
With no comm badges, no shuttle for communications, and no way off the planet, the team couldn't shake the feeling that until the Captain sent down a rescue team, this planet was home.
"What do you mean you've lost contact with the away team?" Janeway's face paled as she realized most of her senior staff was down on that planet. "There's no one down on the planet for them to have run into! They can't have just disappeared."
"That is not precisely what I was saying, Captain. The electro-magnetic storms in the atmosphere are making it difficult to pin down any lifeforms, much less the life signs of the away team. The storms could also be the cause for the lack of communications, however, I find the possibility of this to be minimal."
"Tuvok, it's not like you to speculate."
"Unfortunately, Captain, logic indicates that lost communications with the away team should not be a factor, therefore logic is unable to determine a cause."
"Then we're going to have to do one better than logic, aren't we, Tuvok?"
While Tuvok gathered together a team to work on communications, determining if the malfunction was a shipboard or comm badge problem, Janeway continued to try the teams signals. Finally, she slammed her hand down against the armrest of her chair and sighed in frustration.
"I swear, Tuvok, this is more frustrating than back in the 20th century when they were using cell phones. I feel like every time I try one of them, the computer is going to respond with, "The cellular customer you are trying to reach is currently unavailable, please try your call again later." It's frustrating!"
Tuvok lifted an eyebrow, surprised at the refference to the time they had visited Earth in times past. Still, he remained stoically quiet as she vented before she finally sagged in her chair and stared at the view screen.
"I didn't want to do this until we were sure that there was no threat, but we can't just leave them down their out of contact too much longer. They were due to be back aboard in an hour, and if they're in danger, we have to do something. Tuvok, assemble a team and go down after them. Keep an open link at all times, I want to know what's going down."
"Captain, the electro-magnetic storm interference..."
"If you have your comm badges on will we be able to remain in contact?"
"The chances against lost contact are minimal."
"And we'll be able to beam you out?"
"Our communicators should be able to negate the interference from the storms."
"Then meet your team in the transporter room, Tuvok. We have people down there that we're not going to leave stranded any longer than we have to."
Hidden away from the others, Tom reattached Delta's collar and prayed silently that the crew didn't notice that he'd not been wearing it earlier. Though it took less time to realize that Delta was the thief than it did to notice his collar, Tom decided not to push his luck any further than necessary. If they could just get away with this one, chalking it up to yet another Delta Quadrant mystery, the puppy would be saved the wrath of Chakotay.
Tom scuffed his foot over the quite obviously recently dug hole, minimizing the noticeability of the buried communicators. He stood there and looked innocent as Chakotay approached; Delta quivered, his nervousness plainly showing.
Chakotay looked from dog to owner back to dog. He sighed and shook his head, the speech he'd prepared about responsibility and other such babble rising to his lips, just as Harry called out from the camp not twenty meters away.
Tom cast his eyes skyward, thanking God for Harry's enthusiasm in whatever he may have seen, and wasted no time in calling Delta to heel, taking off back towards the camp.
Tom had never been so happy in his life to see the tall Vulcan security chief, and almost had to restrain himself from pounding on Tuvok's back with his own recently brought back to life enthusiasm. Whatever Delta was or was not, he definitely brought out the inner child in every person he touched. Tom looked back over his shoulder at Chakotay. Well, almost everyone's inner child. As far as Tom could tell, the Commander had never been a child.. sometimes Tom wasn't sure if he was even human. The pilot shrugged. He was just glad to be
going back to Voyager where this entire mess could be forgotten and Delta could return to stalking coffee beans rather than comm badges.
Tom didn't miss Chakotay's look of malice as the transporter took hold of them, but at least once they left the planet's orbit and continued on their way home, there would be no evidence that Delta was doing anything more than sleeping when whatever happened had happened.
It wasn't until hours later, as Tom laid down in his bed, Delta curled up
beside him, he felt that cool piece of metal resting against his leg. He
didn't need to look down to see what it was, nor did he bother, he just looked over at Delta, sleeping peacefully, and shook his head.
His father would say that Tom was getting what he deserved.
Tom hoped that, one day, Delta would father puppies, and the dog would finally understand the depths of Tom's patience as he forced himself to ignore the chewed up communicator, turn to his side, and fall asleep.