Disclaimer: Since I claim that Paramount owns Star Trek, Voyager and everything in and on it, I also disclaim any claims I might have on that ship which is way out of this world (and quadrant). But I do claim my right to claim all claims on this story, and I disclaim all claims Paramount might claim on it. By the way, this story is just for fun, not profit etcetera etcetera.=20
The Situation: Two crews, one ship, and 70,000 lightyears to get home.
Summary: Tom‘s lover takes revenge for something he doesn‘t even know he has done, and he is captured by the Kazon. This is a story in an AU that splits off before Caretaker, and is finally becoming P/T. Hope you have fun reading. BTW, apologies in advance to the many Joe Carey fans.
a Startrek: Voyager fanfic by Niels van Eekelen
August 1998 - February 1999
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Continued from ‚Grudges and Friendships‘ and ‚Fall from the Stars‘
III SEPARATION PAINS
Thomas Eugene Paris had been slow to start his psychological healing process after the accident that had killed his friend Ayala and nearly him, too, but once he started, he hurried through it at an amazing pace. It was only some eight days after his friends had convinced him to move on that he was down on an actually rather nice planet on an expedition to gather edible plants, and he was full of his infamous good humour... Well, maybe it wasn‘t that good.
Tom, B‘Elanna and an ensign called Freddie Bristow were standing in a mortified silence while Neelix dug enthusiastically in the ground for more leola roots. Voyager had bought a small supply of the vegetable from traders some months ago, and none of her crew had been sorry when that supply had run out. It seemed their hopes had been in vain.
"The best source of vitamins and minerals in the entire sector, I tell you!" Neelix explained happily.
Tom, who was in command of the away mission, turned to B‘Elanna and the ensign and grimaced. "I suppose we‘d better help him dig," he said. "Captain‘s orders." They set to work.
A little while later Lt Carey came hurrying to them from the other side of a hill. He smiled broadly when he spoke. "Lieutenant," Carey adressed Tom, "look!" He held up a green fruit; if he hadn‘t known better, Tom would have sworn that it was an Earth apple. He looked back at Carey expectantly. "There‘s a whole forest of trees with those just over that hill," the lieutenant explained.
Unnoticed to the both of them, Neelix had gotten up and followed Carey‘s story with interest. Then he reached out and took the ‚apple‘ from Carey‘s hand. For a moment, the Talaxian studied it. "I wouldn‘t eat any of this," he said. "One bite, and you‘ll..." He began a florid description of the painful death that would follow the consumption of the innocent looking fruit, but fortunately it was cut short by captain Janeway‘s voice speaking over the commlink.
"Voyager to Paris," she spoke.
Tom tapped his commbadge. "Paris here, captain. What can I do for you?"
Janeway‘s voice sounded somewhat tense when she replied. "We have detected a Kazon ship in orbit of the planet."
Tom frowned. "Kazon?" he wondered. "How did they get so close?"
"They are using some sort of cloaking device. Gather the away team and get ready to transport back to the ship."
"Yes, ma‘am," was Tom‘s reply. Behind him, B‘Elanna smiled. It was amazing how much the relationship between Tom and the captain had improved in so short a period of time.
It hadn‘t taken long to gather the away team and their precious harvest, but when Tom had thought they were all ready, someone had noticed that Seska wasn‘t with them, and the Bajoran hadn‘t answered when Tom had hailed her. Fortunately, Carey had seen her headed for a grove near a rock outcropping perforated with tunnels: if she had for some reason entered those, her comm signal might be blocked. That was where Tom was headed now, while the others had beamed back to Voyager already.
Tom didn‘t plan to stop to look around in the small forest, because if she‘d been outside she would simply have been able to answer the hails. That was why he didn‘t see the Kazon until it was nearly too late.
There were two Kazon standing guard not far from the only entrance to the tunnels Tom could see. Fortunately, they weren‘t paying very much attention, and Tom didn‘t have much trouble sneaking past them. It worried him, though. If there were Kazon here, there undoubtedly were more inside. What if they had found Seska?
Tom encountered a few more bands of Kazon sauntering apparently meaningless through the caves, but he managed to stay hidden from sight. At first, that was. Suddenly a shadow dove from a corner right in front of Tom. Tom had his own phaser up before he recognized the figure aiming the Starfleet phaser at his head.
"Tom!" they said simultaneously. Seska sighed in
relief. "I thought you were a Kazon," she said. "Did you see them?" Tom nodded. "I was outside when I first noticed them, and they were so close that they would have heard me if I‘d called for a beam-out." She looked at Tom, who nodded that he understood.
"And when you went inside you couldn‘t contact Voyager anymore. But what were you doing in that forest anyway? It was pretty far from our our beam-in coordinates."
Suddenly Seska grinned and reached one hand into her gathering-bag, which hung from her shoulder. "I saw this," she said, and held up a red fruit. Tom‘s astonished look was priceless.
"That looks like a tomato," he said after a moment.
"And according to my tricorder, it tastes like one,
too. Now you can finally have some real tomato-soup again."
Tom joined Seska‘s smile enthusiastically. "Seska, I could kiss you! In fact-" He kissed her thoroughly. After a few moments, he disengaged. "But I‘m afraid we‘d better get out of here."
Seska put on a disappointed face. "Really?" she asked.
"Really," Tom answered. "We wouldn‘t want those ugly
Kazon to see a sight as beautiful as you, would we?" Tom
started walking carefully toward the tunnel exit, and Seska
followed a few steps behind. She smiled knowingly. If Tom
only knew, Seska thought. But it was still too early. Soon,
she promised herself. Soon.
One of the two Kazon that were standing guard outside never knew what hit him as he crumpled to the ground, stunned by a phaser. The other one, a soldier called Teggah, remained conscious just long enough to see two figures in what he recognized as the cursed Starfleet uniforms rushing past him, and to hear a voice call for a beam-out.
Seska stood staring at the stars flashing by the window of her quarters at Warp speed. She was not happy. That idiot maje! she thought. All had been arranged, and then he had refused to take her and Tom. Who would have thought that Kullah actually had enough brain to be cautious. Seska understood the theory behind the maje‘s refusal, but it would only result in trouble for both parties involved. She would have to carry on with the charade for a while longer, and Kullah would undoubtedly lose equipment, or even lives, with his crazy plan to extract Seska later. Perhaps, with a little planning, Seska could arrange to be simply beamed off Voyager, but she saw no reason to go easy on Kullah. If he wanted to do this the hard way, he‘d get the hard way.
The communicator on the desk suddenly came to life. "Incoming message on sub-space," the computer‘s dry voice said.
"Open channel, audio only," Seska ordered. She stayed put at the window. "I assume the equipment functioned as I promised it would, maje Kullah?"
"It does," came the Kazon‘s voice. "At least, we are still only testing the replicator you gave us, but everything seems to be working properly."
"As I told you it would," Seska said, not bothering to hide her anger at the distrust she was treated with. She had demands in return for the aid she gave, but before she would get what she wanted, Kullah wanted to make certain that her aid was genuine. "We‘ll speak again when you‘ve finished playing around," she said, and terminated the commlink. It was only a minute or so later when Seska heard the door open and another voice spoke.
"Seska? Are you there?"
"Yes, Tom," Seska called back, "I‘m here." *But not
for much longer.*
"So," Tom said, "I thought that since Voyager won‘t be going anywhere for the next twenty-four hours anyway, we could do some scouting ahead. Maybe we‘ll find some ore that does meet our dear chief engineer‘s qualifications." Voyager was getting some much-needed repairs and new supplies at a friendly world, Draya or something, Seska couldn‘t recall exactly. Meanwhile, she, Tom and Lt Joe Carey had been sent to a planetoid where the Drayans had said they could find baritium. Unfortunately, the ore had been of too low a quality to be of any use to the Federation vessel.
Now, with his annoying enthusiasm, which seemed to have grown exponentially since the anniversary of Caldik Prime, her Tom wanted to explore the rest of the asteroid belt. Seska disliked being stuck in the small shuttle for very long, but perhaps it wouldn‘t be so bad: at least it would keep Tom away from the Torres-woman.
On the comm-screen, captain Janeway frowned. "It‘s a good idea," she said, "but I want you to be very careful. We still don‘t know what those Kazon we met last week were doing in this sector, and it‘s far from their own space. Maybe they are following us."
Tom nodded. "We‘ll be careful, ma‘am."
Janeway sighed at the term of address, but wished them
good luck and then broke the commlink.
Seska, standing behind Tom, leaned her forearms on his shoulders and kissed his cheek. From the copilot‘s chair, Carey spoke up. "Why don‘t you let me fly for a while, lieutenant? I think I can handle a straight line to the asteroid belt, and you haven‘t been out of that chair for longer than fifteen minutes for the past eleven hours."
When Seska could tell from Tom‘s face that he was about to refuse, she whispered in his ear. "Let him!" she said softly.
Finally, Tom smiled. "Well, it appears I am outnumbered. Go ahead, lieutenant." He got up and let Seska take him to the aft compartment. Once there, Seska tried to give him some real kissing, but he avoided her mouth-subtly of course, just not subtly enough. Lately, her charms had started faltering. They had both noticed it, but only she knew why.
"Do you want to work on our holonovel?" Tom asked. A few weeks ago, he had caught her working on a holoprogram- one of Tuvok‘s, actually-and he had tricked her into promising to make a program together with him. To her surprise, she rather liked it. She and her Tom were both very good at programming, and if she would remain on Voyager long enough to finish it, the holonovel would no doubt become a hit among the crew.
"Sure," she said, "why not."
It must have been about two hours later when Joe Carey called them back to the pilot compartment. Tom never liked leaving the pilot‘s chair for someone else, especially in small craft like the shuttle, but he had to admit that he felt rested.
He had enjoyed the argument he had just had with Seska about a scene he wanted to add to the holonovel. She said it was outrageously ridiculous-and it was. Tom had let her have her way in the end, and they would leave the scene out, but that didn‘t really matter. He and Seska were working on the details of the scene she had suggested instead when Carey called.
Tom immediately got to his feet and walked to the front compartment. "What is it, Carey?" He best knew Carey from when he‘d been B‘Elanna‘s competitor for the position of chief engineer, and that hadn‘t left the best of impressions. Still, B‘Elanna said that he really was a decent guy, so Tom managed to get along with him, as well as he got along with any of the Starfleet people, anyway.
"I think there‘s a Kazon ship out there, lieutenant," Carey replied, "but I‘m getting some strange readings." Tom hurriedly sat down in the other chair and checked the engineer‘s readings.
"You‘re right," he said after a moment. "There‘s a ship out there, and it‘s Kazon, but that is about all I can be certain about."
Seska leaned over his shoulder. "Let me see," she said.
Tom leaned aside so that she had a better view of the console. "Carey, lay in a course."
"Aye, sir," Carey confirmed.
"I don‘t think Janeway wants us anywhere near any
Kazon, Tom," Seska said.
"Well," Tom answered, "I‘m not reading any lifesigns, so I don‘t think we‘ll be in much danger."
"Still..." Seska left it hanging.
Tom looked at her, a little surprised. "What‘s up, my
dear? You‘re not usually this squeamish." Seska didn‘t reply, she only looked a bit insulted.
Fifteen minutes later they were approaching the Kazon vessel, still scanning. "You two, help me here, I‘m not an engineer," Tom said. He tapped a finger on a reading. "Isn‘t this alloy typically Federation?"
Carey looked, and nodded. "You‘re right lieutenant," he agreed. Then he frowned. "This is very weird. I don‘t suppose we could go take a look inside that ship? There is some radiation, but it only reaches dangerous levels in one location."
"Let‘s do it," Tom said.
To which Seska, by now predictably, replied: "Janeway
is not going to be happy about this." Tom realized that a month ago, Seska would probably have been able to disuade him. It was funny, he had never realized how much influence she had on him until it started diminishing. He almost resented her for it-he hated being controlled-but it probably was all his own fault.
Tom double-checked the Kazon vessel‘s structural integrity, before asking: "Seska, are you coming with us? You can stay on the Sacajawea if you want to."
Seska sat down behind the instruments Carey had just abandoned. "I‘ll join you in a minute, all right?" she said. "I want to run a few more scans from here first."
"Fine by me," he replied, then went to the transporter, which Carey was configuring to be able to get through the radiation. Tom handed him a wristlight and a phaser from a compartment in the wall. They stepped onto the transporter pads.
"Energize," Carey ordered the computer.
In a shower of light, their surroundings seemed to
disappear. When they could see clearly again, they were on board of the Kazon ship. Both Tom and Carey coughed at their first inhalations of the smokey air. "Where are we exactly?" Tom asked, looking around.
"The alloy you scanned is just in the next room," Carey said, and he took an instrument with which he tried to wrench open a door. Tom joined him there and drew his phaser. Despite the lack of lifesigns, he didn‘t feel as self-assured as he had shown himself. When Carey had gotten the door open a few inches, Tom helped him push it the rest of the way.
The sight of the room on the other side left them both speechless.
"My god," Carey whispered after a little while. There were four Kazon in the room-or at least, what was left of them. All across the room, instruments seemed to have melted. And not just the instruments. The dead remains of the Kazon had abandoned their genetically determined forms, and their molecules had mingled with those of the objects surrounding them. The center of it all appeared to be some piece of machinery, but Tom couldn‘t see it clearly, because it was surrounded by a kind of fog.
"This is disgusting!" he said, regaining control of his legs-he hadn‘t been able to move them for a moment. Tom nudged Carey‘s shoulder. "Why don‘t you determine whether that thing is Starfleet equipment or not," he told the lieutenant. "The sooner you do, the faster we can get out of here."
Carey swallowed. "Aye, sir," he said. He took his tricorder and started taking scans.
Despite his disgust, Tom studied a Kazon corpse. Was it an accident, or perhaps some kind of monstrous weapon that had caused these terrible deaths? When Tom heard Seska arrive, he didn‘t look up. He wished she didn‘t have to see this, but he knew that she had seen things as bad with the Maquis. "Did you find anything useful?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "This."
Suddenly Tom heard a phaser blast, and a muffled cry
from Carey. He whirled around, expecting to find a surviving Kazon. Instead he saw only Seska aiming a phaser at him, and another still aimed at Carey. The engineer had fallen to the deck face down. A wisp of smoke was coming from the left side of his back. Straight from his heart.
"Seska?" Tom asked, completely confused. "What the hell?" He noticed a small, angry smile curling the corners of her mouth.
"It may have come a little sooner than I expected," she muttered to herself, "but it‘s no less fun." Louder, she said: "Don‘t worry, Helmboy. I‘ve got a special phaser set on stun for you. You won‘t die... or at least, not yet."
She fired, and Tom‘s world went dark in a flash of pain.
Fortunately, Kullah hadn‘t been far away when Seska called him-just a safe distance from the testing of the replicator-and he got to the wrecked ship in less than two hours. Voyager had hailed the shuttle half an hour ago, but Seska had left her hails unanswered.
When Kullah and his two bodyguards materialized in front of her in the shuttle, Seska jumped to her feet. "You fool!" she yelled at Kullah. "Can‘t you even use a machine to make food without losing a ship?"
With an effort, she got a hold of herself. "Forgive me, my maje," she said. "I was just worried about our-your—great plans." She made sure that the way she stood gave the Kazon idiot ample opportunity to admire her figure. It worked: Kullah‘s glare evaporated like snow in a Cardassian steam bath.
"There is no problem," he stated. "You only have to supply me with a new machine, and we will come back on schedule."
Seska suppressed a sigh. "I can‘t go back to Voyager, my maje: I killed one of their people, and stunned the one you promised I could keep for a while."
"You little hraga!" Kullah scolded her. "You planned this all along! You have wanted to leave Voyager since the beginning, but I would not let you!"
"If I had let them escape, they would have reported that you have access to their technology, they would have increased security, and I wouldn‘t have been able to give you anything anyway," Seska told the maje coldly. Besides, she thought, how could I have anticipated you were stupid enough to make a replicator explode! "At least this way," she added out loud, as an afterthought, "you can keep the shuttle."
"Indeed," Kullah said, nodding. It seemed from the way he said that that he had thought that all along and was complimenting Seska that she had figured it out.
"Could you please have your men take Tom Paris from the Kariph, maje Kullah? He‘s been in that radiation for nearly two hours now. That can‘t be healthy." Kullah gestured for his guards to make it so, and one of them had himself beamed over to the other ship. "Now, my maje, please let me advise you how the useful equipment can best be taken from the shuttlecraft."
"We‘re not taking the entire shuttlecraft?"
"That would not be wise, maje Kullah. Better to take
what we can use and destroy the rest." With a little work and a little work, Janeway would believe that the shuttle had been destroyed with the three part crew in it.
Captain Janeway looked over her shoulder at the Operations station. "Try it again, Harry," she said.
"I just did, captain," the young ensign replied. "They‘re still not responding." Chakotay could hear the worry in both their voices, and he had to admit that worry had not left him entirely untouched either. Though the other two were probably worried most about Paris. Even Kathryn was something like a friend to the man now. Chakotay wasn‘t particularly worried about Paris. Anyway, the pilot had a habit of coming out of bad situations alive. He was more worried about the others.
At the Helm in the front of the Bridge, Lt Bateheart spoke. "We‘re within visual range of where the transponder says they are, captain."
"There is something there," Harry said, "but I don‘t think it‘s the Sacajawea."
"On screen," the captain ordered. When the image appeared on screen, the entire Bridge crew took in a sharp breath.
In the cold nothingness of space, they all saw debris. Not the Sacajawea, as a whole, but small pieces of it were everywhere. Very small pieces. "It is the Sacajawea," Harry confirmed in a stricken voice. "But not all of the debris is from the shuttle." He adjusted his sensors to get better results. "The other ship is-was-Kazon."
A few hours later Voyager‘s senior staff had gathered in the Conference Room. The Doctor, of course, was only there by way of a commlink. Everyone had something to report, had led an investigation on some part of the deaths of their crewmates. B‘Elanna, by analysing the debris itself, had done perhaps the most important part, but somehow she couldn‘t concentrate on Chakotay‘s words now.
When she had first heard of Tom‘s death, she had been in Engineering, and she hadn‘t believed it. It had seemed absolutely absurd that Tom would be dead. She couldn‘t even imagine it. When Harry had told her what he had seen, she had started to doubt her strong conviction, but she had only truly started believing in Tom‘s death while analysing the debris. In her lunch-break, which she usually would have skipped, she had gone to her quarters and had cried. Cried! B‘Elanna hadn‘t cried, not like this, since... She couldn‘t even remember the last time she had.
Why would Tom‘s death make her hurt so, she wondered. He was probably the best friend she had ever had, once she‘d gotten through his irritating exterior, but like most people in the Maquis she had known better than to grow to close to someone who might die in battle the next day. She hadn‘t really broken the habit since coming to Voyager: life was still full of dangers.
But if Tom was dead, she wouldn‘t know what to do with herself. It was as if life had just lost everything that made it worth living. Was this the result of mere friendship?
B‘Elanna was shocked out of her reverie when Harry, who was sitting beside her, prodded her in her side with an elbow. Startled, she looked up from the table, realizing that captain Janeway was saying something-to her, apparently.
"I‘m sorry, captain," she said. "What did you say?"
The captain looked at her with that mixture of shared
grief and motherly compassion that only she could muster. "I just asked you to give your report three times, lieutenant. Please try to pay a little more attention." Her words were stern, but not so her tone.
"I‘m sorry, captain," B‘Elanna said. "We have been able to reconstruct what happened pretty well from the debris..." She continued to give a detailed description of what must have happened. It was really quite amazing how much could be told from a few chunks of alloys and plastics, but B‘Elanna wasn‘t even thinking about what she was saying. She noticed that some of the others gave her strange looks, but she didn‘t care.
From what B‘Elanna and the other engineers had been able to tell, the Kazon vessel had dropped out of Warp on top of the Sacajawea, surprising her crew. Though evidence indicated that they had raised their shields nearly instantly, the Kazon had gotten a lucky hit on the shuttlecraft‘s Warp core, causing the core breach which had incinerated most of the shuttle and those in it. B‘Elanna knew that of Tom and Seska, only some genetic material had been found.
The Warp core breach was also responsible for destroying most of the Sacajawea‘s logs. Unfortunately for them, the Kazon‘s already heavily damaged ship had also been destroyed in the blast.
"Was there no indication of the presence of the second Kazon vessel, of which we detected the Warp-trail, lieutenant?" a frowning Tuvok asked.
B‘Elanna absently shook her head. "Nothing," she said.
The Doctor, on the commscreen, was also frowning. "Ms Torres," he asked, "wasn‘t the Sacajawea boarded?"
Again B‘Elanna denied it. "Why do you ask, Doctor?" captain Janeway asked the hologram.
"Well," the EMH started, "as you know, I performed an autopsy on the remains of Lt Carey. Due to the extensive plasma burns and the effects of the exposure to the vacuum of space, it was an exquisite piece of work on my part to even positively identify the man, I must say. Despite all this-" Here the captain cleared her throat. "To be brief," the Doctor continued, a bit more hurriedly, "I have concluded that Mr Carey was killed by a shot from a hand-held phaser."
All around the Conference Room, a shocked silence fell.
He‘s alive! B‘Elanna thought. Irrational as thought was, suddenly there was no doubt in her mind. "What if the Kazon somehow captured Tom and Seska and destroyed the shuttle to hide the evidence?" she blurted out.
It was a few nerve-wrecking moments before anyone spoke up. Ultimately Tuvok did. "I would say the matter is certainly worth investigating." The Vulcan looked at captain Janeway for approval. She nodded.
Tom groaned softly as he regained consciousness. When his head had cleared enough, he opened his eyes-carefully, so he wouldn‘t be blinded by the sudden light. Soon Tom found that the gesture was unnecesary, because the room he was in was only very dimly lit. The room itself did not look familiar-well, the technolgy did have something familiar, but it was definitively not Federation-and for one moment, Tom was glad that it wasn‘t Sickbay.
The moment he saw Seska, Tom realized that the technology matched that of the wrecked Kazon vessel they had found-and everything that had happened fell back into place in Tom‘s memory.
He looked up at Seska, who was leaning casually against what looked like a console, and got up off the floor. He didn‘t get any higher than on sitting on his haunches, before he had to lean back against the wall for support. The effects of the phaser set on maximum stun hadn‘t worn off completely yet. "Seska, what the hell is going on!" Tom demanded, trying not to sound as shocked as he still was.
A wicked smile formed on Seska‘s lips. "Oh, my poor Tom," she said sarcastically. "He has no idea of what‘s going on."
"I think I have a pretty good idea by now," Tom replied. "You betrayed us to the Kazon." He could not really believe that, but he knew Seska well enough to know that he would find out the truth soonest by playing along.
"Exactly, Helmboy," Seska said coldly, and Tom‘s mouth sagged open: he could tell from the woman‘s tone of voice that she was telling the truth. "But you don‘t have the faintest idea why, do you?" Seska continued. "How could your infatuated girlfriend ever betray the glorious Thomas Eugene Paris?" She grimaced. "I don‘t think I ever told you before, but that‘s a dreadful middle name, you know.
"But I really should be thanking you, instead of making fun of you, Tom." As Seska was talking, she took a few steps forward, and then she kneeled to put her eyes on the same level as the pilot‘s, and she placed her hands on the sides of his head. "Over the years, you‘ve given me so much information." She smiled evilly.
"I‘m sure I‘ve given you a lot to think about," Tom responded suspiciously. What on Earth is Seska talking about? he wondered silently.
The Bajoran woman considered the helmsman‘s answer for a moment, and then shook her head. "To think about, yes," she said, "but not really for me, more for my superiors."
Tom‘s eyes widened. He was stunned, and he leaned back on the wall he had been leaning on moments before because of the effects of when he was more liteally stunned. The pilot had just been trying to get to his feet again-standing straight on them that is, but now his strength left him again. Meanwhile, Seska got back up easily and took a few steps away from him. "Your... superiors?" Tom asked hesitantly.
Seska replied: "The Central Command. You know, of the people you were fighting?" Then she stopped walking, and half turned to show Tom her profile. She touched a hand to the ridges on her nose that marked her as a Bajoran. "All that information..." she said wonderingly, "it was even worth getting this nose for."
Tom sat in silence for a minute, processing the incomprehensible data he had just been given.
For that one minute, Seska didn‘t move.
Then she suddenly rounded on her former boyfriend, and
anger was written all over her face. "Curse it, Tom!" she practically yelled at him. "It didn‘t have to be like this! If you had just stayed firmly under my control, I wouldn‘t have had to deal with these filthy Kazon, and you wouldn‘t be in this mess! But no; you had to fall in love!"
Tom had even less of an idea what the Bajoran woman-no, the Cardassian woman, he corrected himself mentally-was talking about now than she had been a minute ago, but he knew that by losing her temper, Seska had also lost the advantage. He smiled-in the way that he knew never failed to irritate Seska.
"You know, Seska," he said, "I thought you‘d lost track of things when you shot Carey. Now I‘m certain. But don‘t worry: I may not be in love with anyone else, but I‘ll take special care not to love you anymore."
The woman stood there fuming for a few moments, and for a moment Tom thought that she was actually going to attack him. Fortunately, she got a hold of herself. The pilot was a bit amazed-and not just by everything that Seska had told him just now. He didn‘t think he had ever seen Seska this upset before. She usually kept a tight reign on her emotions. In that, she‘d always been the exact opposite of B‘Elanna.
As if she had heard Tom‘s thoughts, Seska spoke again, softly, threateningly. "That‘s probably the worst part of it all. You spoiled both our chances to perhaps even found an empire here in the Delta quadrant, and you don‘t even realize what you feel for the Torres-woman." She turned on her heels and stalked out of the room. Tom noted that two big Kazon were standing outside on the other side of the door.
Tom smiled. It had been easy to get on Seska‘s nerves. If there was anything he had learned from the mess about Caldik Prime a while back, it was to take every small victory he could get. They would most often lead straight to larger victories. Considering how betrayed the helmsman was feeling, he needed every small victory he could get his hands on, and right now. Besides, it really was rather funny. Seska might always have been a little paranoid, but now she had really gone over the edge.
But all too soon Tom‘s smile faded. For some reason, that ridiculous idea that he would be in love with B‘Elanna did not seem quite as ridiculous as it should have.
"Captain," Harry said, "I‘ve managed to determine in which direction the Kazon vessel‘s Warp trail is leading."
The captain looked at him over her shoulder from her captain‘s chair. "Is there anything on the long range scanners, ensign?" she asked.
Harry checked. "No ships or M-class planets in that direction, captain, but there are two asteroid belts which could be interfering with our scanners. No telling what‘s behind them-or in them," he told his commanding officer.
Without further delay, Janeway turned to the helmsman on duty. "Ensign Bateheart, lay in a course matching the Warp trail. Warp eight. We‘ll make sure the Kazon will remember never to abduct members of my crew again."
"Aye, captain," came the reply almost instantaneously.
"Course laid in."
As the stars on the viewscreen elongated into the
stripes of Warp flight, Harry had to smile. Suddenly it seemed foolish to doubt that Tom was alive without having seen the body. B‘Elanna was right: they would get their friend back.
Seska smiled at the tall Kazon male. "Have you considered my proposal, maje Kullah?" she asked.
"I have," he replied, "and I have discarded the idea." Seska felt her temper rise, but didn‘t let it show. Kullah was being stupid again, and she dreaded the task of convincing him of it.
"But my maje-" she started.
"No!" Kullah barked. "The Nistrim are strong, and they
will not go to the other sects to beg for help!" Seska rolled her eyes. Fortunately she was standing behind the Kazon, and the high and mighty maje found = himself too good to turn to look at a lowly woman.
She stepped towards him and laid her arms on his shoulders. "Think of it, maje Kullah. The power of Voyager: stronger than an entire sect." She leaned forward and put her cheek against the side of his head. With one hand, she started to softly caress his chest. "No sect could take that ship on its own, but together..."
Kullah grabbed her hand. "Enough. If I have to share Voyager‘s technology with the other sects, nothing will be gained."
"Who said anything about sharing?" Seska asked innocently. Finally, a broad grin spread on Kullah‘s features. "I believe the maje of the Relorah is currently on a planet we‘ll be passing really close by," Seska suggested.
When he heard the door opening, Tom quickly shoved the panel on the dead console back into place. Fortunately, the room where he was being held was still only dimly lit, so the guard couldn‘t tell what the pilot had been doing. Tom turned to the Kazon and leaned against the console.
"More of the delicious Kazon cuisine?" Tom asked as the man put a plate on the ground. The guard only glared at him once before turning back and stalking out again. "I mean it, I swear!" Tom called after him. "You guys could teach Neelix a few things!"
As the door slammed shut, Tom grinned. It had been two days since he had been imprisoned, and the effects of the phaser blast he‘d caught had long since worn of, so he‘d decided to put his time to good use. This room obviously wasn‘t an official holding cell-Tom got the feeling that Kazon weren‘t very used to taking prisoners, so he surmised that Seska had plans for him yet. For one thing-about the room-it had a computer console in it. Of course, it had been disabled, but Tom had never let such things stop him before. He hadn‘t watched B‘Elanna fix his navigational console all those times for nothing. Seska, Seska, Tom thought, while going back to work, that paranoia is really getting to your infamous sharpness. He crossed another two wires, and the console suddenly lit up.
Hurriedly Tom set off to send a message to Voyager. He had no doubt that Seska would find out sooner rather than later, and he still felt her right hook from the last time she‘d visited, but it would be too late to stop prevent a short message out. "This is Tom Paris, calling Voyager," he said.
Harry frowned at his console. Then he tapped a few more buttons, and saw his suspicion confirmed. "Lt Torres," he said, "could you give me a hand?" B‘Elanna had spent the entire shift so far on the Engineering console on the Bridge, helping in the search for Tom and Seska‘s captors.
Captain Janeway turned to the young Operations officer as he spoke. "What is it, ensign?" she asked.
"I‘m not sure, captain," he said, and stepped aside to give B‘Elanna some room at his console, "but I think that I received a fragment of a subspace message." At this, B‘Elanna nodded. For a few minutes, the two friends worked on the transmission together. "Boost the carrier wave by .5?" Harry asked. B‘Elanna grunted her agreement. Harry did what he had suggested, and they both smiled at the results he got. "We‘ve got it, captain: it‘s a message, audio only."
"Let‘s hear it," the captain ordered.
Harry tapped a few more buttons, and a loud crackling
noise suddenly roared across the Bridge. The Operations ensign winced, and quickly adjusted the message‘s volume. "It must be from Tom," B‘Elanna whispered to him. "Only he would produce such noise."
"This is Tom Paris, calling Voyager," the message confirmed for the engineer. There still was a lot of static, but Tom‘s voice was understandable. "I‘ve been taken prisoner by the Kazon. Seska sold me out to them. I repeat: Seska betrayed me to the Kazon. I believe Seska will attempt to lure Voyager into a trap. Be careful and get away as fast as possible!" There was a faint noise in the background, what must have been a door opening, and footsteps were heard rushing in. "And for tomorrow‘s weather-" Tom‘s voice continued calmly. Then the transmission ended abruptly with another loud noise.
For a few moments, the Bridge on Voyager remained quiet.
"Ensign," the captain said finally in her command voice, "were you able to trace the transmission?"
"Good. Bateheart," captain Janeway continued, "adjust
course to match. Maintain Warp eight. Cmdr Chakotay, you have the Bridge. I‘ll be in my ready room." Leaving behind a Bridge still stunned and shocked by the news of betrayal, she walked away.
About a quarter of an hour later Kathryn Janeway was still trying to comprehend why a member of her crew would betray them, when the door chime buzzed. "Come," she said. When she looked up from her desk, she saw Chakotay come in. "What‘s the matter, Chakotay?" she asked.
"I‘ve been thinking," Voyager‘s first officer started hesitantly. "Paris told us to get away, and maybe he was right." Something must have shown in the captain‘s eyes, because Chakotay raised his hands defensively and hurried to defend his position. "I‘m not saying we should just abandon him. Anyway," he muttered, "Seska probably had the Kazon ransack the Sacajawea for anything they could use, and we can‘t let them have our technology." For what must have been the at least one millionth time, Kathryn wondered what could possibly have happened to make Tom and Chakotay despise each other so much. "But Seska is probably setting a trap as we speak," the XO finished.
"Not necessarily," the captain objected. "I don‘t think she meant for Tom to get that message out. I believe she is responsible for how we found the shuttle: perhaps she wanted us to believe that the entire team was dead, so that she would have more time to arrange things. Actually, we should strike as soon as possible."
"I suppose," Chakotay agreed reluctantly. The two commanding officers sat opposite to each other in silence for a while. Then Chakotay spoke again, as hesitantly as he had before. "I don‘t suppose it would mean anything if I reminded you that Paris was the one who told us we could trust Seska?"
Janeway frowned at him angrily. "Commander, that was beneath you."
The American Indian sighed. "I know and I‘m sorry," he replied. "But I just couldn‘t resist trying."
One million and one times. At least.
Seska wearily sat back in her chair. Guiding the Kazon to the right decision was a tedious process, especially since all three of the majes gathered didn‘t think she-as a female - - had anything to say worth listening to. Fortunately they seemed to be headed for an alliance now, but that did by no means signify the end of Seska‘s problems. She still wasn‘t sure if enough of Tom‘s signal had gotten through to reach Voyager. She sighed. Had she had any decent Cardassian equipment, she would have known by now. And then she still had to get Tom‘s security codes for when she and Kullah would attack Voyager. She wished she had some solid Cardassian equipment to get them from the pilot, too, but she would just have to do without. Seska could hardly wait.
Four ships went to red alert at the same time.
"What the hell?" Seska exclaimed on one of the three Kazon ships, the Nistrim‘s. Around her, the various Kazon all rushed to their battlestations. She, of course, had none.
"It‘s the Voyager!" called a man from the Ops console. Seska was shocked, but after what Tom had done, not caught completely by surprise. While Kullah was shouting orders to fire all weapons, she moved to to Ops station and pushed the Kazon standing at it aside without hesitation. Quickly, she transmitted her security codes. They, while not having Tom‘s level of clearance, would still be enough to influence the unprepared Voyager‘s systems.
"Status!" Janeway, standing in front of her chair on the Bridge, ordered.
"I‘m reading a Human and a Cardassian life sign on the center vessel," Kim reported, "but I can‘t lock onto them. Their shields went up immediately when we dropped out of Warp, and the targeting beam can‘t get through them."
"Shields are holding," Tuvok stated at the Tactical station. "Shall I return fire?"
"Hold for now," Janeway said.
From the chair beside hers, Chakotay spoke. "We‘re
receiving Seska‘s codes, as we anticipated." He grimaced.
"Good thing we disabled them."
A good thing indeed, the captain thought. She
frowned sadly. "Then Lt Paris must have been correct," she
said in her most professional voice, to mask the pain she
felt that came with being betrayed. At Chakotay‘s questioning
glance, she nodded.=20
Chakotay stood up. "Mr Tuvok, target the Kazon vessels: target the center one with our phasers, weapon systems and shield generator only. Photon torpedoes on the other two." He turned to the Conn. "Ensign Bateheart, go to evasive pattern Delta Seven." ‚Yes Sir‘s sounded across the Bridge.
"Now you will see that we can indeed harm Voyager," Kullah spoke smugly to his two fellow majes. He had seen Seska move to the console, and though he did not approve of the female taking her own initiative, her timing was good. He had nearly convinced the leaders of the Relorah and the Ogla sects to join their forces with his in the alliance he had conceived, but they had doubted that he really had a way to annihilate Voyager‘s shields. Now they would see.
Kullah stumbled as his ship suddenly lurched. "What is going on!" he demanded, staring at Seska. "How can they still fire?"
The Cardassian woman shook her head in confusion. "I don‘t understand. Their computer isn‘t accepting my codes." Then her head jerked up all of a sudden, and hate sparkled in her eyes like the crystal sands of Karahn. "Paris!" she said coldly, as if that one name explained everything. Obviously, Kullah did not understand.
"Kullah," maje Abdar of the Kazon Ogla spoke-disrespectfully, to Kullah‘s ears-"you must take us out of here now. You will give us transportation to our own vessels as soon as we have lost Voyager. You‘re lucky that we will let you live." Kullah looked to maje Terbran for support, but it was clear that the man stood with Abdar.
"It won‘t be necessary to wait that long," Seska spoke, and the maje of the Nistrim sect had been dealing with her long enough now to recognize the slyness in her voice. In a rare moment of insight, Kullah realized what she was talking about-or so he thought.
"Yes," he said casually, "that‘s right, the Nistrim appropriated a matter/energy-conversion transporter not long ago. It will take you back to your ships." Vaguely, Kullah thought he remembered Seska saying something about that this transporting could only be done succesfully when a vessel‘s shields were down, but he thought he must be wrong. Anyway, the two men would no doubt be suitably impressed by this display of technology. "Seska, ‚beam‘ the majes to their ships," he ordered, and said to Abdar and Terbran: "I hope you will reconsider the alliance, my friends. Remember that Seska is only the lesser of my trumps..." When the three had left the Bridge, Kullah barked: "Helm! Stand ready to take us out of here as soon as Seska gives the signal."
B‘Elanna worked frantically to keep Voyager‘s shields operational at tolerable levels. "Nicoletti!" she yelled, as usually in Engineering, forgetting what her commbadge was for. "How are we doing?"
"Shields are at 53%, chief!" her subordinate replied. "The Kazon‘s are at 39%, 73% and 47% respectively." Silently, B‘Elanna cursed. She knew that if the situation got much worse, captain Janeway would take Voyager out of it. The chief engineer also realized that Janeway would have no choice, but that didn‘t help her. They just had to save Tom. It was all she could think of.
"Lieutenant!" Nicoletti called suddenly.
"Bridge says two of the Kazon vessels are breaking off
their attack, and are preparing to go to Warp!" Quickly B‘Elanna called up the external sensors‘ readings on her screen. It was true! Only the ship carrying Tom and that serpent Seska-the one with the least shields left-was stil firing, and Voyager was now concentrating her weapons fire on the one vessel alone. A feral grin spread across the half-Klingon woman‘s features. For whatever reason the two ships had stopped fighting, she did not care, but there was no way the last remaining hostile ship could withstand Voyager.
Then B‘Elanna was momentarily distacted by some strange reading from the Kazon ship. It seemed almost like a transporter being used. Half a second later, she had confirmed that it was, and realized that as Tuvok suspected, the Kazon had indeed taken more from the Sacajawea than just Tom and Seska. B‘Elanna performed a quick scan, and found that two Kazon bodies had been beamed directly into the vacuum of space.
The next moment the center Kazon vessel‘s Warp engines were powering up, and suddenly it was gone, vanished into Warp speed. Two seconds later both of the others had followed. The chief engineer nearly screamed in frustration. They had been so close, and now Tom was gone again. With effort, she remained in control of her feared temper. "Nicoletti! Jonas! Gerron!" she called to her three nearest subordinates. "Get repairs started on the shields! I‘ll be on the Bridge." She stalked away to the turbolift.
It had been about three quarters of an hour since Tom had been shaken off his feet by what he could only assume was enemy fire. Though it may not have been ‚enemy‘ fire for him. The helmsman wasn‘t quite sure whether to be happy or not if Voyager had come after him. That his shipmates had come so quickly would work in their advantage, but Tom was afraid that Seska might still be ready for them. Well, nothing to be done about it now, he guessed.
He reckoned that whoever had fought with his captors couldn‘t have been caught completely by surprise, because Tom had felt the ship go to Warp in what appeared to be a hasty retreat.
Suddenly the door swished open and Tom turned to find Seska stalking up to him with two big Kazon guards on her heels. The woman looked pissed. Tom smiled at her. She took a swing at him. He‘d let her do that before, because he knew that his ex-girlfriend-he still could hardly believe that this Cardassian Seska was the same as that Bajoran one-had plenty of Kazon at her disposal to keep him in place for her if she needed them, but the pilot noticed the force behind this punch, and decided he didn‘t like it. He sidestepped her fist. She stumbled, unbalanced by the lack of impact.
"Good evening to you, too, Seska," Tom said. He frowned. "It is evening, isn‘t it?"
Not surprisingly, neither Seska nor the guards replied. Instead, the woman stood panting out her anger for a few moments, and then she gestured for the Kazon to do something, and they immediately grabbed Tom and planted him firmly on one of the two chairs in the room and kept him there. Seska took another swing at him, and this time, there was nothing the helmsman could do. He bit his lip to keep from moaning.
Then he shook his once to clear it. "Damn Seska," he said arrogantly, "you know I‘m proud of those teeth! Never had a cavity in my life, and now you try to knock them out!"
After hitting him again, Seska took the other chair and sat down close in front of Tom. She leaned forward. "You told Voyager that I‘m not on their side anymore," she stated in a dangerous tone. Tom noticed that she had taken something that reminded him of an ancient injection needle out of her pocket.
"Well, essentially, I suppose that‘s true, but more precisely, I told them you are a stinking traitor with a racial identity crisis." Tom grimaced in pain when Seska planted the thing in his leg with a stabbing motion. He blinked. Suddenly, he felt a little dizzy.
"In case you‘re wondering, Tom," Seska‘s voice was saying, "that was a Kazon truth serum. We need your security codes to access Voyager‘s computer." She took Tom‘s face in one hand and made him look at her. "But if I know you, you‘re not going to give in to something as simple as a serum," she said. Tom smiled broadly, and shook his head in agreement-as best as he could, with the Cardassian grabbing his chin. Unfortunately, Seska smiled as well. "Good. Because I am positively dying to do all sorts of things to you to make you talk."
"How dare you!" Kullah screamed. "How dare you do such a thing without my permission!" He backhanded Seska across her face. The Cardassian got up from the floor slowly, and wiped some blood from the corner of her mouth. She could barely contain her anger. She wasn‘t used to this! Back in the Alpha quadrant, she had always been allowed to act as she saw fit. She had earned that right!
Kullah had just discovered what she had done to the two other majes, and he was obviously not very happy about it. But was that because he didn‘t approve or because she had done it? Seska guessed that it was the latter.
"But maje Kullah," she replied placatingly, "when I signed to you on the Bridge, did you not give your approval of my plan then?" With Kullah‘s IQ there was no way that he could have understood what she meant back then, but this way he could at least make himself believe that he was in complete control.
The maje of the Kazon Nistrim frowned. "I suppose I did."
Seska offered him a seducing smile, which never failed to get his attention. "And when word has spread of how the majes of two of the most powerful sects of the Kazon died for defying you, maje Kullah, who will dare to refuse you anything?"
Kullah smiled absentmindedly, his thoughts on the glory he would soon gather. "No one will," he said. Then he suddenly noticed Seska‘s clothes. "What is that?" he asked. "On your clothes, is that blood?"
Seska looked down to her clothes; she had almost forgotten about that. "Yes, my maje," she said, "it‘s the Human‘s blood. I‘ve been... interrogating... him, so that you will have the real security codes for Voyager when you meet with the other majes."
Kullah‘s eyes lit up at the prospect. "Yes, I think I will contact the Oglamar, and all of the other sects. They will bow for me!"
Tom winced when the guard shoved him forward, into the room.
It had been three days since Seska had started
‚interrogating‘ him, and he was nearing his limits. To tell the truth, the pilot was somewhat amazed at Seska‘s torture. Judging by what he had heard from the many true stories about Cardassian torture, he would have expected to be treated far worse. Perhaps he got on Seska‘s nerves too much with his remarks, so she couldn‘t concentrate.
"... This is all the evidence that I am telling you the truth that you need," Tom heard Kullah‘s familiar voice say. He imagined that he must have looked like pretty convincing evidence that the mighty Voyagers were not untouchable. He looked up to see that the maje of the Nistrim was speaking to about half a dozen other Kazon-and Seska was sitting in a corner, too-but almost immediately a hand of the guard grabbing his neck from behind convinced him to look down at the floor again. Kullah continued. "This is Voyager‘s pilot, a high officer. We have his all of his codes! Voyager‘s shields will be useless against our weapons!"
Surprised by these words, Tom looked up again. Fortunately, the guard didn‘t seem to be paying attention anymore, because there was no hand to push his head down this time. "Is that what Seska told you?" he asked. Kullah didn‘t seem very interested, but he did turn and listen, and so did the other Kazon. "I really wonder how long it‘s been since she told the truth. Think she‘s forgotten how?"
On the other side of the room, Seska fumed silently. She should have known that Tom would try to mess things up if they let him in here. She had indeed lied to Kullah about having his security codes, but with all of the firepower these majes could gather, it would hardly matter if she didn‘t manage to get them out of Tom in time.
She studied Kullah. He appeared to be dismissing what Tom was saying without a second thought. Good. Unfortunately, the other majes were paying more attention. No matter. With her help, Kullah could actually be a bit charismatic: he would convince the others into joining him with his endless tales of the power they would gain.
"Are you sure they were alive when they were beamed out into space?" captain Janeway asked.
"Quite sure," the EMH replied over the emergency holographic channel. "And what is more, Mr Neelix came by to take a look at the bodies-and I must say he was quite *un*professional about the corpses-and he identified them as majes of Kazon sects. The Ogla and the Relorah, if I‘m not mistaken."
"Majes!" Janeway exclaimed. She leaned forward to her desktop display terminal, curious. "Could Kullah be forming an alliance against us?"
"Mr Neelix suggested the same, but he seemed to dismiss the idea almost immediately, claiming it was unlikely. I would think that it is quite clear that these majes are not allied to the Nistrim. Why else would they be beamed into the vacume of space?"
"Perhaps Kullah was showing off his new technology," the captain said, frowning. "I‘m certain the other Kazon in the Ogla and Relorah vessels were very impressed." She glanced at the chronometer standing on her desk. "I‘m sorry, Doctor," she said, "but I have to go to the Bridge. We‘ll catch up on the ship that is holding Lt Paris captive in about thirty minutes."
"Then I will prepare Sickbay in case we have casualties, captain," the Holodoc responded.
"Very good." Captain Janeway turned of the commchannel and got up to walk onto the Bridge. "Report," she said while crossing the doorway.
Chakotay got up out of the command chair and told her what was going on. "We‘ll have the Kazon on our normal sensors in a few more minutes," he said. "Don‘t worry, Kathryn," the XO continued, seeing the captain‘s frown, "that extra distance B‘Elanna rigged for the long distance sensors may not seem very reliable, but she‘s convinced that the Kazon are there." Janeway nodded, conceding the point.
"She was right," Harry Kim said from the Ops station, "they certainly are there, captain. I‘m reading seven-no, eight Kazon vessels at the coordinates we thought they would be."
"All stop! Harry, have they seen us?" Janeway asked.
"I don‘t think so, captain," the ensign replied. "They don‘t seem to be responding in any way."
Captain Janeway breathed a sigh of relief. "There‘s no way we can defeat eight ships," she softly stated the obvious to Chakotay.
"Then perhaps we can outwit them?" the tattooed man replied. Janeway looked at him in surprise. He shrugged. "It wouldn‘t be the first time we pulled something like that off."
With new hope, the captain tapped her commbadge.
"Senior staff report to the Conference Room."
B‘Elanna wasn‘t about to give up now. "We can beam him out," she stated.
"You weren‘t able to do so last time," Chakotay reminded her. "And besides, can we really risk dropping out of Warp in the middle of eight Kazon vessels?"
"But I‘ve found a way to get Tom out through the interference! And I can beam Tom out while we‘re still at Warp," the chief engineer added.
"At Warp speed?" the captain wondered. "Wait, let me guess-it‘s a Maquis trick? Starfleet never tested transporting at Warp speeds, because of the extreme risks."
"But even Starfleet says that it‘s theoretically possible, captain," Harry joined in, backing up his friend. "And that they haven‘t done anything doesn‘t mean nobody has."
"Harry‘s right, captain," B"Elanna said. "I have done it before. And is the risk really so much larger than attacking a force of eight ships, or that of leaving Tom in the hands of Seska and the Kazon?"
Captain Janeway looked around the table and saw the determination on the faces of her senior staff. Only Tuvok and Chakotay appeared less enthusiastic. Janeway sighed. "All right, we‘ll give it a try."
"Bridge to Transporter Room One," the captain‘s voice sounded through the intercom.
B‘Elanna tapped her commbadge and replied. "Here, captain. We‘re ready on this end." She and Harry had been making slight modifications to the targeting subroutines in the transporter to adjust for the difference in momentum the target-Tom-would have opposed to Voyager.
"Acknowledged," captain Janeway said. "I‘m rerouting the sensor data we‘re getting to your console. We‘ll enter maximum range in four minutes, seven seconds, at Warp one. Good luck."
"Thank you, captain. Torres out." The half-Klingon exchanged a glance with Harry, who was standing beside her.
"We‘ll get him," they both said simultaneously. Then they laughed. "We will," Harry said. Then the panel beeped when it made contact with the exterior sensors, and the two friends fell silent as they saw the Kazon ships draw nearer.
Several minutes later the action began.
"I‘m reading one Human lifesign on one of the
vessels," Harry confirmed. "Attempting to lock on... The targeting beam isn‘t getting through the interference. B‘Elanna-you‘re on."
"I‘m working on it," the half-Klingon engineer said. She was sitting on the floor, working on a portable LCARS console attached directly to the transporter itself. "There! That should do it," she called enthusiastically.
"Uh... I‘m not having any more success now, B‘Elanna," the Operations ensign replied.
"What?" the chief of Engineering jumped to her feet..
"I said that-" Harry started.
"I heard what you said!" B‘Elanna roughly shoved her
friend aside to get to his console. Agitatedly, she started punching buttons, but it had no effect. Tom was still as unreachable as he had been the previous time Voyager confronted his Kazon prison-ship. "That cow Seska must have realized what I was doing last time and have changed their shields‘ delta-modulation! But I can break this one too."
The young ensign gently laid a hand on her shoulder. "B‘Elanna," he spoke sadly, "we‘re flying past those ships at Warp speed. You worked on a way through their old shield modulation for an hour and a half. There‘s nothing you can do." Startled, B‘Elanna found that she had to choke back tears before she could reply. She couldn‘t stand the fact that all her attempts to reach Tom kept amounting to nothing—or the fact that that all was Seska‘s fault.
Then, suddenly, she lost her chance to reply at all, when the ship rocked violently. The two friends flew over the transporter console and landed with a bang on the floor in front of it. B‘Elanna grunted as one of Harry‘s legs landed on her stomachs. "What the -- !"
"We‘ve dropped out of Warp!"
They were interrupted when the intercom chirped.
"Bridge to all hands," Chakotay‘s voice boomed, "those of you who aren‘t there yet: battle stations! We‘re engaging hostiles."
Captain Janeway turned on Lt Dalby. She was furious, though not at him. "Dalby! What just happened?"
"I... I don‘t know, captain," the former Maquis replacing ensign Kim at the Operations console stammered. "We were hit by some sort of... of... gravitonic beam, coming from one of the Kazon vessels, and then we just dropped out of Warp. I can‘t explain it, ma‘am."
"Captain," the Vulcan Security chief interrupted, "the Kazon vessels are powering their weapon systems and raising their shields."
"Do the same for us, Tuvok," Chakotay joined in. He tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Kim and Torres. I want you on the Bridge now!"
"We‘re already on our way, Sir," B‘Elanna‘s voice replied over the commlink.
Meanwhile, the captain had taken a few steps towards the Helm. "Ensign Kaplan, can we get out of here?"
The young woman shook her head, not slowing her frantic attempts to make her console do something. "Warp engines aren‘t doing anything, and the impulse drive is sluggish. The only thing really reliable that we‘ve got are manoeuvering thrusters."
Just when Voyager suddenly shook violently when the Kazon began firing the turbolift doors at the back of the Bridge opened and the ship‘s senior Operations and Engineering officers spilled out. "Harry, B‘Elanna!" the captain yelled. "Get us a way out of here! Tuvok, return fire, all phaser banks and torpedo bays!" Silently, Kathryn cursed. The situation did not look good. Perhaps Tom had been right in his message, and they should not have given Seska the opportunity to lure them into a trap.
"Damn you, Seska! What are you waiting for? Their shields are holding! Send those codes now!"
"Yes, my maje," the Cardassian answered docilely to Kullah‘s tirade. She pressed some buttons on the console that the maje had assigned her to to make it look like she was obeying, but in truth, she still hadn‘t been able to get Tom‘s security codes from him. Inwardly, though, she was smiling broadly. It was amazing what such primitive technology could accomplish-if it was handled by a properly educated mind, like hers. Imagine that, pulling a Federation starship straight out of Warp! Kullah would have her hide for this when he realized what she had done, but the opportunity had simply been too good to let pass.
Then a gruff voice sounded from behind her-it was Kullah‘s first officer. "Brace for impact!" he called out. Seska took a firm hold on her console just in time to avoid being thrown across the Bridge, like Farlec, the first officer, was. Unfortunately, when she looked back at her console, she saw a reading indicate that a plasma conduit was rupturing right behind it.
Seska quickly put her arms in front of her face, and threw herself out of her chair sideways, but she was not fast enough to miss the explosion completely.
Slightly singed and more than slightly dazed, the Cardassian woman lay on the floor when the damage report came in. "One of their photon torpedoes broke through a weak part of our shields. Direct hit to Deck eleven. Hull breaches on Decks nine through fourteen. Casualty reports are coming from everywhere!" The reports became more panicked as they went on.
Decks nine though fourteen! Seska suddenly realized. Her Tom was being held on Deck thirteen. She didn‘t stop to consider that he might be dead, but instead was certain that he would use this to his advantage. Still dazed, she got to her feet, leaning on the remains of her console for support. She took a disruptor from a dead or unconscious Kazon laying on the deck nearby and while Kullah was issuing orders to coordinate the battle with the other ships, Seska hurried off the Bridge.
And to think that I always thought those back-up stations were a waste of space! Tom thought while working the unknown Kazon controls to get a clear view of the situation. The lock on the door to his cell-along with most of the systems in his section of the ship-had sizzled with electricity for a few moments after the big bang, which had felt like a torpedo hitting at least, and then had gone to lock heaven.
The helmsman had seen his chance and grabbed it immediately. He wasn‘t feeling very well thanks to Seska‘s interrogating sessions, but nothing was hurt bad enough to keep him in his cell. The door had opened easily now, and the only Kazon nearby, who must have been guarding him, had died in an explosion. Unfortunately, the explosion also appeared to have taken the guard‘s disruptor with him. Tom had hurried through the corridors away from where Seska and the others might start their search for him, and to where he could find a computer terminal. Soon, he found the Tactical station where he was now.
"Aha!" he exclaimed when he finally got the console to cough up the information he needed. The pilot wasn‘t entirely surprised when a picture of Voyager appeared on the small screen, but when he saw the number of Kazon vessels opposing his ship, his eyes widened. "Whew," he whistled. "They must want me back really badly." In his mind though, Tom recognized that Seska must have set a trap, like he had expected. Voyager wasn‘t taking bad damage yet, but her shield were dropping as he watched.
The Nistrim ship he was on seemed to be in a much worse shape, though. Shields at 20%, and hull breaches on half of the Decks. Weapon systems were barely doing anything either, but Tom noted that the vessel was still emitting some sort of beam towards Voyager which he didn‘t recognize.
"Computer," he said, "identify the beam emitted from Deck four, section seven."
"The beam emitted from that point of the ship is a gravitonic beam, programmed with an alpha carrier wave of 37.4, a beta-" the Kazon computer‘s monotone voice told him.
Tom interrupted it. "Skip it. What does it do?"
"The gravitonic beam theoretically disables a
starcraft‘s ability to enter Warp speed. However, this theory has yet to be proven correct."
"Like Seska cares," the pilot mumbled. He was starting to see how the clues he had picked up fit together. Quickly, he continued talking, not giving the computer a chance to give its version of the Starfleet computer‘s ‚Please restate your question.‘ "Computer, I don‘t suppose I can deactivate the thing from here?"
"Affirmative that I can or affirmative that I can‘t?"
Tom asked. There were a few seconds of silence as the computer mulled this over. Tom smiled, wishing he had more time, so he could talk this computer into insanity, but he hadn‘t.
"The gravitonic beam cannot be deactivated from your current position," the computer said finally.
"Why am I not surprised. Computer, give me a map of this part of the ship and show me the way to the closest place where I can deactivate the beam." A picture of a normal Kazon vessel appeared on-screen, and quickly dissolved into a mass of lines signifying her corridors. The room that Tom was looking for wasn‘t far off, and after memorizing the shortest route, he hurried to it.
Seska tried to check her portable scanner one more time to confirm that she was heading in the same direction that Tom had, but she had to lean heavily against the wall as the corridor suddenly spun. She had noticed from the blood trickling into her eyes that she had hurt her head worse than she‘d thought at first.
This time around, though, the Cardassian suddenly realized that it wasn‘t her injury that was causing the spinning, as she was thrown into the air and slammed back onto the deck. The clear part of her brain told her that Voyager undoubtedly had targeted the gap in Kullah‘s ship‘s shields, and she knew that this shot would have most likely crippled the vessel. If Kullah had any brains, he would withdraw from the battle. Seska was afraid that he might not.
As fast as she could, she got back to her feet and staggered down the corridor. The Kazon scanner the Cardassian woman was holding quickly led her through a few more corridors, and then to a room, which she vaguely recognized as a control junction. She had halted at the entrance to catch her breath when an all too familiar voice caused her hate to burn the haze off her mind.
"Come on, you damn machine," she heard him say agitatedly, "turn off, will you. Where‘s B‘Elanna with her Klingon curses when you need her?"
The mention of her rival drove Seska over the edge, and she jumped into the doorway, her disruptor raised, yelling, "Tom!" It might have been better if she hadn‘t jumped, though. The ship seemed to spin around her again, and though he had to look around in surprise first, Tom managed to dodge her first volley of shots. Instead of hitting their intended target, the shots blasted large holes in the machinery Tom had been working on.
The two former lovers both stood frozen while the computer spoke. "Warning: the gravitonic generator has been damaged. Unable to maintain coherent gravitonic beam."
In a split second, Seska realized what her Tom had been attempting to do, and, in effect, what she had done now. With the generator off-line, Voyager would be able to escape into Warp and outdistance the Kazon easily.
A split second was all Tom needed. "Thanks for the help," he said in his annoyingly cocky fashion, and dodged into a corridor. Seska sent another barrage of disruptor fire after him, but to no avail.
Screaming in rage, Seska sped after Tom, firing at him almost continuously. The wild chase went on for minutes-
Seska couldn‘t be sure for how many-and she never caught more than a glimpse of the pilot disappeared around yet another corner. She would get him! Seska‘s rage, combined with her head injury made it near impossible for the Cardassian to think straight. She did wonder, though, why, throughout the ship as she chased Tom, she didn‘t run into any of the Kazon crew.
"Seska!" a voice called to her from a side corridor. She stumbled to a halt and nearly shot the owner of the voice before she realized it was Kullah. Once she stopped running, Seska discovered that she could hardly stay on her feet. "I have looked for you everywhere," the maje complained. "We are leaving: our Warp core is about to breach, and everyone else has already gone to the escape pods."
"No," Seska objected weakly, "I have to get Tom. He went that way."
"You are delirious." He gestured at the blood streaming down her face. "I saw the prison block, and there is nothing of it left! Your Paris is dead!" He grabbed her arm.
"No, I can‘t let her have him," Seska muttered, almost incomprehensible to her own ears. Kullah jerked her arm to pull her in the direction of their escape, and she tried to resist, but instead fell to the ground. Seska noticed only half-consciously how the maje of the Kazon Nistrim picked her up, threw her over his shoulder and carried her away.
"Port shields are down to 9%. Starboard to 11%." Somehow, in his emotionless voice, Tuvok still managed to convey that he thought they really needed to get out of there. Voyager shuddered. "Direct hit and hull breach on Deck thirteen. Emergency forcefields are holding. More casualties are on their way to Sickbay."
"Harry, B‘Elanna!" the captain yelled, nursing the arm she had injured falling. "Tell me you‘ve got something!"
"Nothing, captain. We-Wait! The gravitonic beam just went out! We can go to Warp!"
"Helm-" captain Janeway began to order.
"No!" B‘Elanna yelled, startling even herself.
"Captain, the ship that‘s holding Lt Paris has lost shields.
This is our chance to get him out. We may never get another."
Janeway considered it for a moment, dreading the decision. She had to get her crew out alive, but what if they could accomplish what she had put them in danger for in the first place as well? "You have two minutes," she decided.
Harry turned to the turbolift doors instantly, but the half-Klingon engineer grabbed his shoulder. "No time," she grunted. "Torres to Transporter Room One. Two to beam to your position!" Immediately the purplish light surrounded the lieutenant and the ensign and the Bridge started to fade. The could just hear captain Janeway order Helm to prepare the Warp engines before the familiar sight of the Transporter room where they had been working so shortly before started to take shape around them.
B‘Elanna immediately rushed to the portable console that was still attached to the transporter, while Harry dismissed the ensign on duty.
"I‘ve got a lock. Harry, get him out of there!" the chief engineer ordered. The young ensign replied eagerly by activating the transporter. B‘Elanna got up and stood in front of the transporter padd.
Harry‘s commbadge chirped, and Chakotay‘s voice spoke.
"Ensign Kim: ten seconds before we‘re leaving."
"We‘ve got him, commander." Harry smiled as he saw his friend materialize before him. The pilot had obviously been running when the transporter beam caught him, and he stumbled to a halt.
The Ops officer watched in silent astonishment when Tom fell headlong into B‘Elanna, who caught him, and while the two of them shared a long kiss. That kiss did not mean ‚I‘m glad you got back alive, my friend‘. It was a while before Harry could speak again. "Did I miss something?"
"It all ended well, really, all things considered," captain Janeway was saying to her XO. They were sitting in their customary places on the Bridge, enjoying the first quiet shift in over two weeks, now that all priority repairs had been dealt with. "We got our best pilot back, and thanks to the Warp core breach the Nistrim‘s ship suffered, the Kazon don‘t have a scrap of our technology left."
Tom, finally sitting at his favorite station again after far too long, smiled over his shoulder at the captain at the compliment-even if he knew that he more than deserved it, of course. Turning back to his console, the helmsman‘s eyes passed the Engineering station, where B‘Elanna was sitting, and stuck there like glue. B‘Elanna was staring at him, too. He wondered how he could have been so blind for so long-and he wasn‘t thinking about Seska now.
Kathryn noticed her chief pilot‘s attention straying from what he was doing. Given his reasons, she could forgive him, but she still had to do something about it. "Mr Paris," she said, "isn‘t that a meteorite dead ahead?"
Tom‘s head literally shot back to his sensor data, and the look on his face when he found absolutely nothing to substantiate the captain‘s suspicion was priceless. Captain Janeway nearly fell out of her chair laughing, and she wasn‘t the only one on the Bridge having that problem. After a few moments, even Tom joined in himself. It was good to be doing this: everyone was still far too tense from the past crisis.
"This is all very well, Mr Paris, but do try to keep paying attention." Chakotay grunted his agreement with her words.
Tom had obviously heard, and couldn‘t stand letting the commander get away with anything. "Learn from my mistakes, Chakotay," he said. "Don‘t fall in love with someone you have to work with on the Bridge: it pisses off the captain." Kathryn sighed inwardly. She didn‘t know what Tom was referring to or why her first officer was turning so red in the face, but she did know that now she would be wondering what the grudge between the two men was about for the rest of her shift-again.
"Captain," ensign Kim spoke up unexpectedly, "we‘re being hailed, on a Starfleet frequency. Wait," he continued, sounding disappointed, "it‘s Seska."
The captain saw Lt Paris flinch at the mention of his former lover. "Put her on-screen, Harry," she said in a tight voice. Seska‘s false Bajoran face appeared on the screen. "Seska," captain Janeway greeted coldly. "I see that you have survived the recent demise of your ship. We were in some doubt about the matter."
Ignoring captain Janeway completely, Seska turned instead to the Helm, and adressed Tom. "Hiya, Helmboy. It‘s so good to see you again."
The pilot treated her with a false smile. "I would say the same, but I‘ll leave the lying to you."
The Cardassian seemed to ignore the remark, but when she continued, her voice dripped poison. "I don‘t have much time before we‘ll be out of communication range, Tom, but I have some good news which I really have to share with you."
Tom raised an eyebrow. "And that would be..."
"You‘re going to be a father!"
For several moments, absolute silence reigned on the Bridge of Voyager. Finally, Tom stuck a finger in the air. "Eh... I don‘t want to be difficult or anything," he said, clearly completely embarassed that he was saying this, "but every time we... well, you know... every time, we both made certain that something like this wouldn‘t happen."
"Indeed we did, dearest," Seska responded slyly, "but that didn‘t stop me from collecting some... samples... from you while you were my and Kullah‘s guest and impregnating myself with them." She smiled evilly. "Well, I have to go now, but I expect I‘ll see you in about... nine months?"
Then the commlink was terminated from the Kazon end before Tom could reply. Not that he would have been able to say anything with his mouth hanging open wide as it was, just like that of every single person on the Bridge-always excepting Tuvok, of course. Yes, Tom thought, *yes, I think we will meet again. In nine months.*
=3D =3D =3D =3D =3D =3D =3D =3D =3D =3D
SCHISMS will be concluded in ‚Child of Hatred‘
but please... don‘t hold your breath.
Archiving is okay (but I‘d appreciate it if you let me know), but if, because of it, my ego grows out of my skull, I‘ll blame you.
I would like to thank my beta reader, my sister, Maaike van Eekelen.
Comments are more than welcome.
E-mail to: Nielsve@Hotmail.com