Title:  Past Resurfacing (16/?)
Author:  CatHeights
Pairing: VOY (P/T, J, C, K)
Rating:  R, disturbing imagery

Feedback: CatHeights@yahoo.com
Archive:  ATPS, Paris Nights, TPD.  Anywhere else, please ask first. 

Spoiler Warning: Thirty Days 

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to Star Trek Voyager, its characters, and the Voyager episodes referred to in this story.  The story idea is mine, but I am doing this just for fun, no money to be made.

Part 16

Seeing those eyes, so close to BíElanna, Tom felt his blood freeze. He started to rise, not sure what he would do, but Harry restrained him.  He sat back down, tense against Harryís grasp.  The eyes moved away from BíElanna, and he saw her own eyes narrow as she saw the yellow orbs for herself.

The eyes moved behind the chairs at the table, slowly, as if someone was walking very deliberately, taking in everything.  When they reached the corner of the table, right next to the Captain, they stopped, and Tom felt the yellow eyes drill into his own.  The tingling sensation was so strong that he felt like his skin was crawling.  Without a doubt, he knew that this was what he had sensed on the planet.  As he watched, he swore he saw a hood start to appear.  It was pale yellow, much lighter than the eyes that glowed almost golden.   The hood faded though, leaving behind the eyes floating way too close to the Captain for his comfort.  Tuvok and Chakotay must have felt the same way, as Tom saw them both slowly edging forward.

Kathryn gave a slight shake of her head, meeting Chakotay's eyes.  He stopped and indicated for Tuvok to do the same.  "I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager," she said calmly.

 Again the chuckle sounded, but this time she heard clearly, "I know."   It was a deep voice, sounding a bit hollow.  She couldn't figure out why, as the briefing room did not produce an echo.   "And you are?" she asked.

Nothing but that laughter answered her query.  She saw a face, pale cream in color appear, but the only features she could make out were the glowing eyes.  It faded slowly, and she found herself reminded of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, except instead of a wide, eerie smile, floating tauntingly, there were those gold cat-like eyes.

"What is it you want?"  Kathryn asked, her voice cold.  Her question was met with silence, but she felt as if she could just feel this thing smiling.

As they watched, the creature faded in and out, each time a little more of it appearing.   At last, the creature seemed to gain some solidity.  Gazing at it, Kathryn at first thought it was wearing some type of hooded, pale yellow cloak, but then she realized that it was part of the creature.  Layers of pale, smooth, silken skin draped down from its face, stopping just short of the floor.  The creature's head contained no nose, mouth or ears.  Those bright yellow eyes were the only features marking its face.  While it had no feet, seeming to just hover right above the floor, it did have silken, yellow hands, with extremely long curling fingers.

The creatureís head turned slowly, and itís folds of skin made whispering sounds as it moved.  Itís gaze fell on Chakotay.  "SIT."

Kathryn nodded, and both Chakotay and Tuvok took their chairs again.  "You seem to know me, but I donít think weíve been introduced," she said sarcastically to the creature.

It slowly turned to look at her.  "No we havenít, and itís not necessary.  I know you, and I have interests here, Kathryn."   The creatureís gaze slid sideways.  "Hello, Tom.  Iíve been learning a lot about you.  Itís fascinating to finally make a study of you in person."

Tom could feel the dread pooling in his stomach, but he mastered it quickly.  Now was not the time to show any weakness.  His face calm, he gazed disinterestedly back at the alien.  "Perhaps if you shared something of yourself, I might find you just as fascinating a study."

He saw Chakotay give him a warning look from across the table and knew the Commander was telling him not to aggravate the creature. Well to hell with that.  He knew this thing had been going through his mind somehow, making itself privy to events he hadnít even shared with his closest friend or the woman he loved.  He could feel anger at the violation taking over fear, and he welcomed the strength of that emotion.  He didnít appreciate being somethingís science project.

Laughter rang out, and Tom could feel the creatureís amusement reflected in his mind.  Infuriated, he clenched his jaw.  He knew the alien had established some sort of mental link.  Feelings and discussion were all taking place in his mind, and this forced telepathy repulsed him.  How long had it been going through all their minds, and why torture people with painful memories?  He thought of Tabor and the awful scene that had appeared in the mess hall, and he had to force himself to calm down.  Making sure he seemed completely indifferent, he looked at the creature once again.

"Share something about myself," it said.  "I can do that.  For you Tom, Iíll do that.  Itís the least I can do for all the enjoyment youíve given and are about to give me."

BíElanna glared at the creature.  If that thing hurts Tom, she thought, IíllÖ.  She didnít know what she would do and that made her even angrier.  What was this thing?  It had to have a weakness.

Her mind quickly went through everything she knew in relation to this alien.  She had noticed how the creature faded in out.  Was that just the result of whatever transportation process it had used?  Or was if from a different dimension, and it had to use significant energy to appear on Voyager?  Systems with no problems ceasing to function, asteroids appearing and disappearing, a planet showing up that never appeared on sensors.   Were all these things this creatureís doing?  She thought that most likely in some manner it was.  So was it working alone, a singular being with extraordinary abilities, or were there more working together?  Then there was the recent episode with some of the crew having disturbing visions.  That showed evidence of some sort of mental ability.  Her eyes narrowed.  The damn thing had no mouth.  Kahless, how was she hearing it unless it was in her head?   She shivered in distaste.

Her angry eyes met Tomís.  She wished Tom had told her what had happened on the planet. It might give her another clue in figuring out this alienís weakness.  She guessed Tom had seen things it wanted him to see.  Worry filled her, but Tomís gaze reflected the same anger at the creature that she felt.  He wasnít upset; he was mad.   Good.  This uninvited guest is going to be leaving real soon, she thought.  They would outsmart it.

"Where shall I begin?" the creature mused, as it moved to stand behind Chakotay and BíElanna, so that it was directly across from Tom.  "Iím sure you saw all the ships outside.  Iíve known many of their crews, very intimately."  Again the creature chuckled, and BíElanna took a deep breath to keep from turning around and trying to tear those yellow eyes out.

Immune to the animosity in the room, the alien continued, "As well as I knew them though, I never came to see them in person.  You should be honored.  They died without any explanation.  I never visited a single one of those ships."

"Are you saying youíre responsible for the deaths of the crews of those ships?" Kathryn demanded.

The creatureís gaze swiveled to her, and she felt its annoyance hit her as if it were a physical wave. It was strong enough that it forced her back into her chair.   She had felt its emotion.  The hollowness of the voice made sense now. There was no echo.  It sounded differently because she was hearing it in her mind.

"Kathryn Janeway do you consider yourself a stupid woman?" it demanded.

"No," she said, her chin pushed forward firmly.

"Well than donít ask stupid questions," the creature snapped, and then returned its gaze to Tom.

It took all her restraint not to snap back at the creature. It wouldnít help if she lost her temper.   She wondered why it seemed to have this fascination with Tom.  What did the thing want?  Kathryn looked around the room trying to ascertain if any of the others had realized that the creature was communicating with them through some sort of telepathy.   She turned to look at Chakotay, and he tapped one finger on the side of his head.  Yes, he realized it.  Moving her gaze in the other direction, she found Tuvok staring at the creature with as curious a look as a Vulcan could have.  He realized it too.  She wondered if he could tell if the creature was simply broadcasting to them or also reading their minds.

Her gaze slid around the table trying to gage the emotions of the rest of her senior staff.  Tom looked angry, and she would bet he too recognized that the alien was telepathic.   She wasnít sure about BíElanna.  The engineer looked just as furious as Tom, but was she mad because of the attack on him or because she recognized something was messing with her mind.   Kathryn saw that Harry was leaning closer to Tom, his face serious and cautious.  She wasnít sure if Harry had figured it out either.  If he hadnít yet, she was sure he would.  Seven was calm and composed as always; Kathryn couldnít read anything on her face.  Neelix looked worried, but not panicked.   No, she didnít think he had come to the conclusion that the alien was telepathic.

Lastly, her eyes rested on the Doctor.   She was surprised to see that he looked angry as well.   Actually it made sense, this creature had caused the ailments of those he had treated today.  A thought hit her. Being a hologram could the Doctor hear the alien?  By his expression, it looked like he could.  But how?  Probably the same way our sensors can see asteroids where there are none, and tell us our warp drive is functioning when itís not, she thought.  Kathryn never underestimated any opponent, and she definitely wouldnít do so with this one.

"As I was explaining," the creature said.  "Iíve never visited any of the ships, despite how much Iíd learned about their occupants. About the things they feared most.  So, you should feel honored, Tom.  Because of you, I decided to come to this ship, rather than just watch as things played out."

Tom folded his hands across his chest and said nothing.  The look on his face indicated that honored was not something he felt at the moment.  Chakotay gave him a glance, and satisfied that Tom was going to remain quiet, decided to address the creature.  "May I ask a question?"

"Of course," the creature replied, sounding pleased at the request.

Chakotay had had a feeling that one would get more information by appealing to the creatureís ego.  Itís prompt response to his polite request, backed up that theory.  "The planet we visited.  Was that the home world of one of the ships outside?"  He turned in his chair, so that he could see the alien.

The long fingers of the creature scraped against its own skin.  Chakotay could feel a sense of delight washing over him, coming from the creature.  "An excellent question," it said.  "The answer is yes and no."  Again, laughter echoed in the minds of those present in the room.

Just as clearly as he could feel the creatureís emotions, Chakotay felt he could feel Tomís glare.  Was he feeling Tomís emotions projected through the creature?  He had to wonder.  The thought of a borg link popped into his mind, and he swallowed the bile that rose in his throat at that thought.  This was nothing like that, he told himself. He wasnít hearing any of the other crewís thoughts, and he doubted he was hearing the creatureís thoughts.  They were hearing only what it chose to broadcast.

"What you saw is very similar to the home world of a race, I think they called themselves Alines. I forget. Itís not important.  Fascinating people though. Anyway, most of what I created for you, I pulled from the memories I had shared of those people.  I altered a few things, though.  Tom, you might have recognized those differences," the alien said.

"I might have," Tom replied, leaning back in his chair, his hands still folded across his chest.

Harry thought his friend looked like he was dealing with a minor annoyance, something unworthy of his time.   After all their years of friendship, it still amazed him how easily Tom could call up that cold, sarcastic personality.  Harry thought he looked like he had the upper hand and was just waiting to lay it down and declare victory.  Maybe he did know something that could send this creature back to from wherever it had come.  After all, Tom had been right that something was toying with him on the planet.  That was the problem with Tom--you could never tell if he was playing things cool because he was up to something or simply putting up a front to cover his concerns.

"If I may," Tuvok began politely.

"Of course.  What do you wish to know?" the alien said graciously, sliding across the floor so that it was facing Tuvok.

"If you created the images that were seen on the planet, does the planet itself exist?"

"Absolutely.  It occupies the same time as you, but not the same space.  I simply allowed you to see beyond your normal limitations."

The planet is in a different dimension, Harry thought, as he watched the creatureís yellow eyes turn his way again.  He knew, though, that it was focusing on Tom, not him.

"At one point in time, it did have elegant buildings like those.  The culture had such a respect for design that they preferred to modernize old buildings in such a way that would not spoil the ageless atmosphere.  I watched as they debated and screamed at one another over each new advancement added to those houses.  Time would pass, and I would return to watch, noticing the growing division.  Then eventually it happened, what I had been waiting for--an act of violence.  At first it was just fighting, and then actually attacks on individuals.  It took years, but eventually they even began bombing some of their precious buildings. Thatís when things became fascinating.  Even those who had never experienced a bombing dreamed about it, and those who had lost someone in a bombing tormented themselves by reliving that loss in their minds.  I learned so much through the years of watching them.  It was sad really when then managed to destroy themselves.  Nothing remains; not even a building, but I remember every dream, every cry, and every scream.  It was a wonderful show that ended too soon for my taste.  So I looked for other shows like it.  I found plenty of interesting things, but nothing that sparked such excitement as that first planet. Until I came upon your ship."

The creature finished and everyone remained silent for a moment, waiting for it to continue.  When that didnít happen, Tuvok said, "Would you mind explaining what it was you found on this ship that caused your excitement?"

Harry had wanted to ask that question himself, but he feared he already knew the answer.  Whatever had interested the creature, it had something to do with Tom and his nightmares.  Everyone at the table knew it, but only Tuvok, or maybe Seven, would ask the question without fearing the answer.  It was illogical to fear the truth.  Illogical or not, Harry wasnít sure he wanted to hear why the creature found Tom fascinating.  Nor did he think it would be the best thing for Tom to hear.  As the alien continued its story, Harry returned his gaze to it.

"I would not mind at all.  Actually I would like to," it replied, those yellow eyes seeming to glow even more.

Tom watched it, feeling a wave of the creatureís pleasure wash over him. He found the sensation revolting.  Go ahead, he thought, tell them that you are getting off on my nightmares.   Only he would have the luck to come across a telepathic creature that took sadistic pleasure in other peopleís nightmares.  Well if it wanted his dreams, it could just take them and go off and enjoy them somewhere else.  He could feel the frustration crushing him, and he fought to keep up his calm, uncaring appearance.  Right now, he could care less about hearing the details of what this creepy, yellow-layered thing found interesting; all he wanted to hear was what it wanted of him.  It had toyed with him long enough.

"I had been studying your ship for awhile.  Kathryn," the alien said, its head swiveling to look at her, "your crew has been through a lot, but for the most part, except for an occasional dream, they deal with it well.  Very boring.  However, I knew that there were enough experiences that I could utilize to make things interesting.  I was checking through the time line, preparing things, when something interesting drew me.  One of your crew, one who on my initial observations seemed adjusted and unworthy of interest, began to have nightmares on a regular basis.  Night after night, I watched. Fascinated.  I even watched on the nights when he didnít sleep.  That was just as much fun.   He would pace, his eyes slipping closed at times, as he tried to fight the exhaustion and delay his inevitable excursion into the nightmares."

"It went on for a while, getting worse each time, and then they just stopped. I was confused, how could they just stop.  I watched as he resumed his life. I had never seen any race do this before.  Walk away from such horror so quickly.  I had to know more, and once I found out more, I was even more intrigued."

The creature glided around the table, behind Kathryn, and down the other side until it was standing near Tom.  "Do you remember, Tom, the cells down on the planet?" It didnít wait for Tomís answer.  "Of course you do. Well they didnít die that way.  The two you saw were husband and wife.  They died when their house was bombed. Their eight-year-old daughter found them.  She came home to her house ruined, and her parents dead, bits from her motherís abdomen smeared across what was once her beautiful homeís threshold.   She had nightmares about that for the rest of her life, and the first time I brought one of those nightmares before her in daylight, she crumbled to the floor screaming.  For days she didnít venture outside.  It only took two weeks before I drove her mad."

Tom swallowed around the anger that made him want to scream at this thing.  Ask it why it would want to torture someone that way.  Wasnít it enough that she had had to see how her parents had died?

"Youíre angry at me, arenít you Tom?  You sympathize with that unknown woman, and it makes you angry that I did that to her.  Yet I did to you what I did to her, and you didnít loose your mind.  You didnít crawl into a hole and hide from the world.  You saw her, not that alien, in the cell didnít you?  Smelled the blood, and it momentarily sickened you, but you pulled yourself together and recognized quickly that something was creating images for you. I was impressed."

"Why would you want to do that to someone?" Harry asked. Tom noticed the strangled, appalled tone in his friendís voice.  He almost sighed, wishing Harry hadnít asked the question.  Beings that enjoyed the pain and misery of others couldnít be reasoned with. Tom was sure its explanation would be warped an unpalatable.

"To learn," the creature replied.  "Watching races, talking to them, only shows so much.  When you see them respond to fear and terror, though, you see sides that often the individual didnít even know they possessed.  Control slips from them, and often the mind becomes oneís worst enemy.  Thereís a struggle that goes on trying to find a light through all the darkness, and when every avenue for escape is cut off, and one becomes trapped in his mind, that final battle is the ultimate violence.  Forget bombs, phasers, and other physical violence.  What plays out in a mind that is torturing itself far exceeds any harm another could do."

Tom had had enough. He didnít want to hear any more stories of how torturing people gave this thing an adrenalin rush.  "What do you want?"  In his head, he heard the creature laugh, and despite his vow to stay calm, he clenched his fists.

"Ah Tom, Iíve studied you long enough to know you donít have a lot of patience.  Iím surprised you lasted this long.  Then again, maybe I shouldnít be.  You have a temper that you keep under tight control, letting it build, until finally you can no longer contain it.   You donít give yourself opportunities for brief release.  Are you ready to explode at me Tom?"

He was not going to let this thing push his buttons.  Across the table, he saw BíElanna looking at him concerned.  Taking a breath, he tried to assure her with his eyes that he was fine. He turned back to the creature and said, "Why should I explode?  Iím just bored.  Sorry but I donít find your stories fascinating.

The gold eyes dulled and then glowed again.  "We both know thatís not true.  Youíre not bored in the least.  You also already know what I want.  Youíve known what was coming from the moment you figured out just what Tabor was looking at in your mess hall.  I want you to watch with me what you lived through.  Itís a simple as that."

"No."  Tom jumped slightly, surprised by the Captainís sudden interruption and the vehemence in her exclamation.

"I will not allow you to subject a member of my crew to something just to gratify your own desires," Kathryn said angrily.

Tom appreciated her quickly coming to his defense, but he knew there was nothing she could do about what was to happen.  It was inevitable.

"Kathryn you have no choice.  How do you propose to stop it?  Thereís nothing you can do.  Nothing you can change.   Nothing for you to control and fix.  Poor Kathryn, youíll have to sit there and watch, just like everyone else."

"And what happens after I finish watching your little show?" Tom asked, trying to draw the creatureís attention back to him and away from the Captain.

"If you watch everything I show you without trying to flee, cover your face or in anyway avoid it, Iíll let your ship go.  Your systems will work again, and you can resume your journey."

"And if I donít watch the whole thing," Tom asked, needing to know the stakes.

"Why, Iíll leave you alone, at first.  Instead, Iíll go through this crew pulling up and playing out their memories, until they canít sleep and are afraid of what each day will bring.  Iíll drive them insane, leaving you alone to watch, and then replay it all for you.  Any other questions?"

The room was silent.  He imagined the Captain was trying to come up with a way to stall the creature. It would be a wasted effort though. This creature wouldnít let them go until it took its trip through his past.  He could handle this.  After all, he wasnít going to see anything new.  He had dealt with these dreams before.  Afterwards, he might have some rough nights, but heíd be okay.  BíElanna would be there for him, wouldnít she?  He glanced across the table, and saw an expression of pure hatred on BíElannaís face as she looked at the alien.  He had no doubt that she wanted to shred the creature taunting them all. Yes, sheíd be there for him.

Feeling his gaze, she turned her eyes to him, and her expression changed to one of worry.  He wished he could tell her that he was okay.  If only he had gotten a chance to talk to her and to attempt to explain some of what had happened.  He wished she didnít have to see it.  What would she think of him afterwards, and how would the creature portray things?  This was not the time for such thoughts.  He could worry about those things later.  Now he just needed to get through this, and he could.

"How do I know youíll do what you say and release the ship after Iím done watching?"

"You donít, but I will.  You have no choice but to accept that.  Everyone here will get to watch too.  You do realize that of course."

Tom nodded and then asked,  "Well what are you waiting for?"

The creature didnít respond. Instead, at the opposite end of the table from the Captain, the air began to shimmer and in seconds a scene appeared.  Expecting to see a space station, Tom at first didnít recognize the place.  It was an oceanfront, the water rattling beneath the docks.  Standing at the edge, gazing out at the ocean was a woman. The wind was tossing her long, auburn hair.

Tomís stomach felt hollow.  For years now when he pictured her, he saw her lying, lifeless in the brig.  He had forgotten what she had looked like alive.  Somehow seeing her standing there, completely unharmed, disturbed him more than any of the nightmares. It awakened an old ache and a memory of desperate longing. It had been so long since he had remembered her beauty and the sweetness that existed before the horror.

TBC