Chapter 4

Dimension 53623
USS Voyager,
Sector 456, Delta Quadrant.

 "I swear, Harry! Somehow the Doc did it on purpose!"
 "Oh? And why would he do that?"
 Lieutenant Tom Paris rolled his eyes and stopped walking to face
his best friend.
 "Because he's in his `golf phase'!"
 Harry Kim lifted a speculative eyebrow. "His golf phase?"
 They resumed walking, with Paris gesturing wildly all the way.
 "He doesn't care if that hour is the only time B'Elanna and I can
get off. It's like his photography phase, his opera phase - and when
he's in a phase, he holds on to his holodeck time like a mynak cat on
its prey."
 "That's a colourful metaphor, Tom," Harry grinned.
 "Harry! This is serious! And you're the only person who has the
time slot B'Elanna and I need." Tom put on the face he usually wore
when he was about to ask Harry a big favour. Like Harry knew he would.
 "Oh, no, Tom. You're *not* going to get any help from me."
 "Oh come on, Harry. I just need two hours. I promise I'll pay you
back. Double the holodeck time!"
 Now it was Harry's turn to roll his eyes. "That's what you said
the *last* time."
 "This time it'll be different. I will remember. Promise!" Tom
shot him an all too innocent grin.
 Harry sighed. "Why me?" More to himself than Tom.
 Tom placed an arm around Harry's shoulders. "Because, my wife and
I will thank you for the rest of our lives for this."
 Harry merely sighed.

 He waited for the voices to pass before he allowed himself the
luxury of groaning in pain. The bright lights blinded him. The pain in
his head made him nauseous, and left him dangerously vulnerable to any
 Tom lifted himself on shaky legs and cracked his eyes open.
Everything was still blurry and spinning, so he closed them again,
taking deep breaths to clear his head.
 <The alien did this to me Rage boiled inside him and he gripped
his fists in fury.
 <You were careless. No one should catch you unawares! Noone! He
opened his eyes again and willed the world around him to be steady.
 It worked, at least for a while. But the effort drained him. He
leaned against the padded wall in exhaustion.
 He frowned.
 Padded wall?
 He turned, staring in amazement at the turquoise wall. And when
he looked down, he was more amazed to see the floor carpeted.
 He was definitely not in the muddy streets of the Shima
Territory. But he still wore his cloak, and it was still wet and muddy
from the rain of that forsaken place, so he had been there.
 Instinctively, he reached for his laser sword beneath his cloak.
Deactivated, it was an innocent looking stick eight inches long. When
activated, it became a double-edged sword, capable of creating a small
weak shield around him when needed. It was cursed luck that he left
behind Kelly, his favourite disruptor back home.
 He studied his surroundings closely. He caught a glowing panel
further down the corridor. He walked carefully towards it, glancing up
and down the corridor for people. When he finally got a good look at
it, he sucked in an angry breath.
 The language and symbols were too familiar to him.
 He growled.
 He was in a Federation facility of some sort. Somehow, the
Federation had caught up with him.
  Or could this be a trick from that alien creature? But for what
 No matter.
 He activated the blade.
 He was not going to let the Federation or the alien have him so
 He heard his opportunity coming down the corridor a second later,
and he readied himself. He was exposed in the corridor, but his target
would not be able to react quickly.
 The blonde woman walked towards him, her eyes fixed on a PADD,
muttering to herself.
 She looked up in surprise, but by then it was too late.

* * *

 Neelix was annoyed. "Forgetfulness is a common sign of aging, Mr.
Neelix. I have more important things to do than to cure forgetfulness
at 4 am in the morning," Neelix mimicked the Doctor's dry voice as he
walked into the darkened messhall to prepare for the Breakfast crowd.
 So he had been a little worried! One of Merlot's Syndrome - a
common disease among Talaxians - most common symptoms was
forgetfulness, and he *had* to be sure.
 "Hmph. What if I forget to turn off the stove one day and burn
down the messhall? Maybe *that* will change his mind!" Neelix
complained to himself as he activated the lights of the kitchen.
 He reached for the apron that hung on the wall and hummed a
Talaxian folk song.
 Neelix blinked when he heard a sound.
 He frowned. Sometimes a crewman or two would end up sleeping in
the Mess hall for some strange reason or another. And most of the time,
they ended up giving him a heart attack when they jumped out from the
darkness to demand breakfast.
 "Hello? Is anyone there?" He called out.
 Again, the scuttling sound. This time accompanied with a whimper
of fear.
 Neelix raised his eyebrows. His voice did not usually frighten
 "Naomi?" he called out. Honestly, if this was another of the
Ktarian girl's idea of a prank...
 <Okay, enough fun and games. "Computer. Lights on."
 This time the voice shrieked in fear. Neelix had to blink away
the spots that formed from the sudden transition from darkness to light
before he could make out the huddled form in the corner of the
 His eyes widened.
 Tom Paris was huddled behind a table, his knees drawn up to his
chest. He was shivering violently, as if he was in a grip of some
sickness. Tom peered at Neelix with wide, frightened eyes. Furthermore,
he was out of uniform, something that struck Neelix as curious as he
knew Tom would be on the early morning shift today.
 "Tom? Are you alright?" Neelix was truly concerned now. He knew
Tom was a prankster, but surely he couldn't imitate that blind fear
Neelix saw in those eyes.
 He walked closer. Tom shrank further into his corner, whimpering.
 "I won't hurt you. It's alright. It's Neelix...remember?"
 Tom only stared at him blankly.
  There was only one thing to do. He activated his commbadge.
 "Neelix to the Doctor."
 "What is it now, Mr. Neelix?" the Doctor's grumpy voice was loud
in the messhall. Neelix saw Tom look around in surprise then shrink
even further into his corner.
 Something was definitely wrong.
 "I think you better come down to the messhall. Now."

* * *

 "Tom! What are you doing?!" his hostage shrieked.
 He had not expected that. She knew his name! It angered him even
 "Be quiet, or I will kill you," he hissed, tightening the
chokehold he had around her neck. She made a small sound of surprise.
 "Tom, it's me, Samantha Wildman. Don't you recognize me?" the
calm in her voice was forced, but Tom could see the fear in her eyes.
 He did not bother answering her, but instead dragged her down the
corridor with him. He pulled her into a small nook in the corridor and
lifted the glowing sword to her neck. She flinched.
 "This facility. The name," he demanded.
 "You're on Voyager," she said in a puzzled tone.
 "A ship?"
 She tried to turn her head to look at him, but he would not allow
her that.
 "Answer me!" he growled.
 "You're on a ship!" Samantha answered, her voice high from
 He frowned, thinking on her answer. They must have transported
him off the planet. How did they know he was there? Better, how did
they know about his real identity?
 "Shuttlecrafts. Where do you keep them?"
 Samantha Wildman gave him a puzzled look. "Where do you want to
 Tom glared at the Starfleet Officer, confused at the intimate way
she spoke to him. As if she knew him...
 "You will answer my question!" he snapped, bringing the sword
closer to her face.
 Wildman flinched, trying to back away from the sword. "It's in
the docking bay. You know where they are," she answered, her voice
sounding more confused than frightened.
 Her answer puzzled him even more. "Lead me to it."
 He pulled her forcibly to him, the blade so close to her fair
skin that it began to burn a light line across her neck. She shrieked
in fear.
 "I do not know you, Starfleet. Now you will lead me to the
shuttlecrafts, or you will die."

 Samantha could only think of Naomi when she felt the searing pain
on her neck. She pictured her daughter asleep in her room, with her
favourite doll, Flotter, curled up beside her.
 <I don't want to die. Not yet.
 So she led Tom to the shuttlebay as he asked. There was enough
time to puzzle out his strange, no, frightening behaviour later when
Tuvok caught him, like she hoped he would do when she had discreetly
activated her commbadge. Tom was too distracted by her screams to
realize, and she was glad for it.
 Tom pushed her away from him and she looked at him, surprised at
her sudden freedom.
 "Do not think you can run from me, Federation. The sword will be
in your back before you finish your thoughts of escape," he said, his
blue eyes flat.
 Samantha would not risk it. But for the first time she caught a
good look at Tom.
 And realized that it couldn't be Tom.
 Or at least, not *her* Tom.
 His hair flowed to his shoulders, some of it tied in thin braids.
He stared at her from eyes that seemed carved out of chipped ice. It
held none of the gentleness and humour she was familiar with. The cold
eyes that stared piercingly at her held rage and hatred.
  He wore a muddy cloak and he was leaner, more muscular than the
Tom she knew. And there was a look about him that unsettled her. It was
almost as if he was wild and uncontrollable, an untamed Creature that
was dangerous to be near.
  She should have realized it by the way he spoke to her. His voice
was flat and icy, even when he threatened her. She knew instinctively,
that this Tom had no qualms about ending her life.
 "Now," he said.
 She nodded, willing herself to walk steadily to the shuttlebay.

 Whizzing stars can be so dull, Tom thought.
 The graveyard shift was the most boring and painful shift ever
created - in his humble opinion. That, and the fact that he had only
three hours of sleep because of an emergency at sickbay. Lieutenant
Le'ana had gone into labour, and he had spent two hours trying to
placate her nervous Bajoran husband Toban. That and in between rushing
to the Doctor with this instrument or that each time he yelled.
  <But the look on Toban's face when I handed him his daughter was
what made it all worthwhile Tom sighed in contentment. Who would've
thought that Toban - the angry and bitter Bajoran who thought
Federation folks were scum second only to the Cardassians would marry a
Starfleet crewman and have a former Maquis/Starfleet traitor hand him
his first child?
 <Did things change these past seven years! Tom mused. For one,
he was now married. Married! The feel of that golden ring on his finger
still amazed him, yet it felt strangely comforting. It was the evidence
that his life had changed so much from the pit it had been seven years
ago, when his only future was to spend life at the fringes of
Starfleet, an outsider forever.
  "Tom. Tom? Voyager calling Tom?"
 He blinked, and realized that Chakotay was calling him. Sheesh.
To be caught daydreaming at the helm by Chakotay of all people was
worse than embarrassing - it meant he was in for a word or two from the
first officer after his shift.
  There was a scattering of giggles from the bridge.
 Oh yeah, life just started getting better.
 "Uh...yes sir?" he turned, knowing that his pale skin did nothing
to hide the blush creeping up his face.
 Chakotay did not look annoyed though. He looked rather amused -
in that quiet way of his. Maybe it was his lucky day today after all.
 "Long night?" the first officer asked.
 Tom turned back, grinning. "Well you know what it's is like being
 A chuckle from Janeway.
 "Or when you deliver babies at three in the morning," Janeway
added, dry amusement in her voice. "How *is* Mr. Toban?" she asked. Tom
could sense her giving him an amused look.
 "Well," he made some quick adjustments to Voyager's route to make
it smoother- "-aside from fainting when Le'ana had her twelfth
contraction, pretty overjoyed, all things considered," he drawled.
 "What are they naming the baby?" Chakotay asked.
 Tom smiled to himself. He could almost feel the whole bridge
perking up in attention. Babies were a big affair on Voyager - the
arrival of a new life, such a rare occurrence on the ship, gave its
crewmembers hope and a renewed sense of being a family. He fully expect
Neelix to do a special "Good Morning with Neelix" episode on Toban's
kid tomorrow.
 "Well, he has a choice of 40 names. And a choice of a dozen crew
members vying to be godfather or godmother to his kid. I would say the
name will be a long time in coming," he quipped.
 There were good-natured groans from around the bridge.
 Perhaps the graveyard shift wasn't that bad, Tom mused. Sometimes
the dead dullness of it all led to some casual talk - and if he was
lucky: gossip.

  An hour later, he reverted to his earlier opinion.
 <The graveyard shift sucks. Nothing going on except whizzing
stars. Give me an asteroid belt, anyone! Tom thought groggily, wishing
desperately for something - anything to happen right now.
 "Captain, we have a situation."
  Tom blinked, glad at the break in the monotony. <Looks like my
wish came true he mused. He turned to look at the Captain. It had
become a habit - looking at the Captain when a situation came up. Her
steady gaze in the face of the direst of circumstances had a strangely
calming effect on him.
 Janeway sat up straighter. In her hands was a steaming mug of
coffee. Judging from her bleary expression, Tom guessed that she
probably had the same opinion as he did about the graveyard shift.
 "What is it, Tuvok?"
 "It's Lieutenant Paris, Captain. He has taken Ensign Wildman
hostage and they are heading towards the shuttlebay."
 Instantly all eyes were on him. Harry had the strangest look on
his face - as if he was about to laugh and cry out in astonishment at
the same time. Megan Delaney had lifted her eyebrows. Tom was too
surprised to even offer a wisecrack.
 The Captain was just as confused. "Tuvok. Lieutenant Paris is on
the bridge. Clarify."
 The bridge was eerily silent as they waited for Tuvok's
 <Sure I wanted some break from the monotony. But not like
*this*! Tom thought. He half rose from his seat, but Janeway gestured
for him to sit down.
 Tuvok seemed to be taking an unusually long time to answer. When
he answered he sounded faintly puzzled.
 "Curious. But it is Lieutenant Paris that is standing before me
 Tom pinched himself to see if he was dreaming. Sometimes he had
these strange dreams where there was more than one of him running
 Before the Captain could reply, the Doctor's voice broke in.
 "Captain! I think you need to come down to the messhall right
now," he said, his voice sharp with agitation.
 Janeway frowned. "Now's not the time, Doctor. I have an
 "It's Lieutenant Paris, Captain. He's hysterical, and I don't
want to risk a transport, not right now."
 Again, all eyes shifted to Tom. He was beginning to think that he
was the butt of a very elaborate joke. He shot Harry an accusing look.
The operations officer shook his head violently in denial.
 "I'm afraid you have to make do without me for now, Doctor. The
other situation is more dire." The Captain gave Tom a pointed look when
she got up.
 "Chakotay, you have the bridge. Ensign Delaney, assist the Doctor
and call for security. Tom, you're coming with me."
 "Aye, aye Captain," he said, feeling all eyes on him.
 <Tom, didn't you know you were supposed to be careful what you
wished for?! he chided himself as he entered the turbolift with the

Chapter 5

  They had backed him into a cargo bay, but he still had his
 The Sharbokh in him felt an immediate revulsion at the sight of
the Vulcan. He narrowed his eyes and growled, "Stay away from me, dung-
 He had unconsciously spoken in Romulan. The Vulcan lifted an
eyebrow and gestured for the other security officers to move away.
 "Surrender your hostage now, and you will not be harmed," the
Vulcan replied coolly.
 Tom could only smile at him cynically. Who was this dung-eater to
threaten him, an Assassin of the highest order? Romulan epithets sprang
into his mind, and he found himself cursing the Vulcan with them.
 Tom reigned that part of him in, feeling annoyed and disturbed at
the depth of his hatred. Sometimes the Romulan side that was implanted
in him grew too strong to be controlled. Sometimes he became the
Sharbokh of old *too* much.
  "Give me a shuttlecraft. Do not think I will not kill this
woman. You know I will, Vulcan," he said, this time in Federation
 "I am Tuvok. You are Tom Paris."
 Tom hissed in anger. Was his identity known to all?! "I am not
interested in your name, *veruul*! You will order your guards away, or
I shall kill her," he said in Romulan again. To demonstrate his
sincerity, he lightly scraped the blade against Wildman's forearm.
 The material burned away, and she yelped in pain as the blade
burnt a red line on her skin.
 "Stop!" Tuvok demanded, his brows drawn together.
 Tom threw him a malicious smile and took the blade away.
 Tuvok gestured at the Security Officers, and they backed away
 And at that moment, Tom picked up a faint movement behind him.
Without wasting a moment, he grabbed Samantha Wildman and pulled her to
his chest as his shield as he threw a dagger in the direction of the
sound. He saw a Security officer grip his chest in agony before he
 He cast a quick look at Tuvok, his eyes narrow.
 "Perhaps you doubt my sincerity, Vulcan. Should I demonstrate
more? Perhaps I should cut off a finger or one of her toes?" He brought
the glowing double-edged sword to her face. "Or perhaps her nose?"
 Tuvok stiffened, Wildman whimpered.
 Just then, the cargo doors opened and two figures walked into the
bay. One was a red-headed woman with an authoritative posture - the
leader of this facility, he guessed.
 The other-
 He stiffened, locking his eyes with the man's shocked blue ones.
He wore the uniform of a Starfleet Officer. The red of Command. It
 Yet, not him. This man was a softer version. There was no
hardness in his eyes, or cynical twist to his mouth. His body was firm,
but not strong or honed to perfection like his.
 But the sight of his 'twin' in Starfleet uniform brought back
confusing memories and needs, and he hesitated-
 It was all the hesitation Tuvok needed. Tuvok fired his phaser in
a laser-quick motion.
  Tom turned quickly, and the phaser bit a line into his arm
instead of his shoulder. His arm flung the laser-sword away in a reflex
reaction to the pain, and it also made him release his hostage, and she
quickly ducked behind a few barrels a few feet away from him.
 It happened quickly then. But he had been `trained' to react best
in these situations, and the Starfleet officers would pay badly for
their deception.
 The Security officers that hid behind him attacked, running
clumsily towards him - perhaps hoping to pin him down. Tom used that to
his advantage, side-stepping the humans, delivering painful jabs with
his fists. He took a hidden dagger from beneath his cloak and plunged a
knife into an officer's back, and then ripped it out to slash the
dagger across another's face. He somersaulted behind another and
delivered a kick that would have snapped the man's neck if he had not
been Vulcan.
 And then, he was left with the Vulcan called Tuvok, and the red-
headed woman and his dopplenganger. One of the security guards beside
the Vulcan lifted his phaser as if to fire at him, but Tuvok gestured
for him to put it away. He did so, albeit reluctantly fixing him a look
of anger and strangely enough, puzzlement.
 "You have pathetic guards, *veruul*," Tom taunted in Romulan,
returning the guard's glare. He twisted his mouth in a cynical smile.
   The sharbokh in him was too strong now, and Tom did not want to
control it. He reveled in its hatred and anger.
 He saw Janeway stiffen in surprise and then shot the other Tom a
confused look. The other Tom did not take his eyes away from him.
Instead, he stared at him in open-mouthed fascination.
 He gave his twin a look of scorn.
 "Weak, weak like the humans he came from," he hissed, his Romulan
accent coming strong through the Federation English. "If this is your
trick to detain me, it is a weak ploy. I will not fall for it."
 "You are Romulan," Tuvok said, his phaser trained on him.
  He felt a strong urge to say yes, despite the falsehood.
  "The human side of me died a long time ago. It did not deserve to
live," he answered instead, glaring at the Vulcan.
 Tuvok frowned. "How did you get here?"
 Tom frowned. "You brought me here," he accused.
 "We did not."
 "Do not think you can trick me, *veruul*! Do not think this
elaborate holographic trick-" he pointed at his double "-will make me
say anything. And do not think you can take me so easily either!" He
lifted the bloody dagger, ready for the last strike that would surely
mean his death-
 Then the pain hit him again.
 It flared from his temple and shot through his body like an
electric bolt, paralyzing him and filling his vision with bright sparks
of light.
 He felt his body fall bonelessly to the floor.
 <The alien. I forgot about the alien. Veruul...
 And his thoughts died.

 Janeway reacted immediately when the other Tom collapsed. She
took out her phaser and walked quickly towards the man.
 "Captain-" Tuvok began.
 Janeway motioned for him to follow her, and he gladly did,
bending beside the still body.
 "He spoke Romulan," she said while Tuvok checked for a pulse.
 "He is unconscious," Tuvok confirmed. "And yes, he indeed, spoke
 "A Romulan made to look human? If that's so, what is he doing on
Voyager, ten thousands of light years from the Alpha Quadrant?"
 Then something seemed to occur to her. She tapped her commbadge.
 "Janeway to the Doctor. Your situation," she barked.
 "It's controlled now, Captain. Tom seems to be content playing
with a ball I replicated for him. He's quiet now."
 Tuvok lifted an eyebrow, looking at the fallen Tom, then to the
one standing dumbly at the entrance.
 "Me too, Tuvok. Me too," Janeway sighed and counted the number of
fallen security officers. "Doctor, prepare for six more patients-"
 Just then, they heard a thud behind them. When Tuvok and Janeway
turned to look, they saw that *their* Tom had collapsed. Samantha
Wildman emerged from her hiding place to kneel beside him.
 "-make that seven," Janeway corrected.

* * *
1100 hours

 It wasn't everyday that you got to see three versions of the same
person in the same room, the Doctor mused.
 Lieutenant V'tar, the Vulcan security officer had been released
together with Ensign Lynd who had a deep facial cut, but their two
colleagues had not been as lucky. Ensign Kennedy had a torn back muscle
and some damaged nerves, not to mention severe blood loss due to a
severed artery, while Ensign Toban - the proud father of a healthy baby
girl - was still recuperating from a punctured lung. Whoever that
version of Tom was, he was a very efficient fighter.
  The Doctor shivered - he had added that new subroutine just
recently - when he looked at the unconscious man. His muddy cloak had
been removed, and he now wore the black pants and shirt that were
beneath the cloak. The Doctor had placed him under a force field and
added some restraints to that. His medical condition had been
perplexing and fascinating.
 And the *other* Tom was rolling the colourful ball the Doctor had
replicated out of desperation back and forth. As he had been doing for
the past two hours. The Doctor peered at him curiously.
  When he got to the Messhall, he steeled himself for anything -
from the Rokalian plague to an ensign with a burnt finger (with Neelix,
you could never know *what* was an emergency). But he certainly had not
been prepared for the sight of his medical assistant cowering behind a
 He had stared dumbly at the sight, thinking - <great, and now
Lieutenant Tom Paris thinks that a prank at 4 in the morning is an
efficient use of my time before Tom suddenly let out a loud shriek and
crawled beneath the table.
 Prank or not, he knew Tom Paris would not resort to these strange
measures for a joke.
  It had taken Megan Delaney's gentle coaxing - it took her about
20 minutes - to get him from beneath the table.
 By then, the Doctor realized that something was seriously wrong.
He chucked all medical theories from his database when Megan told him
that there was *another* Tom onboard.
 <Just another day on Voyager, he mused as he activated the
biobed. He heard a gurgling sound from the Tom on the floor. He gave
him another look.
 <Severe brain damage. Amazing that he's even alive. But the
doctors had done a good job in repairing the necessary parts of his
brain, the Doctor thought.
  <Wonder how he got this way? He certainly was born normal The
Doctor thought sadly, returning to his latest patient. He sighed as he
scanned the patient on the biobed. By all accounts, he was incredibly
healthy, just like his last medical checkup had revealed.
  But still, *their* Tom lay on one of the biobeds, in a deep coma.

* * *

 "What do you mean he's in a coma?"
  "Exactly what I said, Captain. He's in a coma."
  The Captain shot him a look that seemed to say: Doctor, this is
not the time for smart-assed remarks.
 "Because?" she asked, her tone warned him off further sarcasm.
 "I'm uncertain, Captain, but it's as if someone switched him
off," the Doctor felt sheepish at his answer. Now, he honestly wasn't
trying to be sarcastic this time.
 "Switched him off?" That was B'Elanna, sounding quite annoyed.
B'Elanna certainly didn't believe that his remark was sarcasm free.
 "Yes. That's the best explanation I can give you," he replied,
getting slightly exasperated. He hmphed.
 "You're saying that there's an external influence to his
condition?" the Captain asked, her brows knitting together, possibly
forming a theory in her brain already.
 The Doctor looked at the three Paris' in a row and then back at
the Captain. "Wouldn't you?" he asked her incredulously.
 Just then, they heard a groan coming from one of the biobeds.
B'Elanna froze, staring at the black clad Paris. He could see that she
was uncomfortable with the situation.
    It shocked her to find out that the black-clad Tom had seriously
injured some crewmen. It unnerved her to watch the other Tom, looking
so helpless and lost. To think of him cut down so young, and in such an
ignoble way...
  B'Elanna turned away, banishing the thoughts from her head. They
were not *her* Tom. For now, that would do.
 Tuvok moved from the side of the Tom that played with the ball to
stand beside the biobed that contained the black-clad version.
 Janeway did the same, flanked by Chakotay. B'Elanna kept her
distance, watching from her husband's bedside.

 Tom opened bleary eyes to see a circle of human - and Vulcan -
faces staring down at him. He instantly struggled to sit up, but found
himself restrained.
 He cursed and glared at the red-headed woman balefully.
 "The Doctor has run some tests on you and discovered that you are
fully human," she said in a steely voice.
 "However, you have some inexplicable readings that I want you to
confirm," said a balding man in a medical uniform. The Doctor, he
presumed. Tom knew what he was going to say.
 "There is an implant, and even nannites in certain areas of your
brain. Our engineer has discovered that it is a technology allegedly
used by the Romulan Tal-Shiar, who use it to extract information from
their prisoners."
 Tom glared at the Doctor. "So you know what it is. There's
nothing to be discussed."
 "Oh yes there is," the woman said, frowning at him.
 "Release me," he demanded, narrowing his eyes in anger.
 She lifted an eyebrow. "I don't think so. Not after what you did
to my security officers. You will answer my questions or I will *make*
 "You are threatening me. How foolish."
 Her eyebrows knitted in annoyance. "I am Captain Kathryn Janeway,
and you're onboard my vessel. I want to know how you got here."
  "You obviously brought me here!" he snapped.
 "No, we did not," it was the Vulcan, Tuvok. "We did not register
a transport beam at the time of your appearance, which was impossible
since the ship was shielded. It will do both you and the crew good if
you tell us the last thing you remember before you appeared on
 Tom studied the sea of faces above him and thought about it. Very
well, he would tell them only what they needed to know. If this was a
 "Raise me up. I feel nauseated with all of you looking at me," he
 Something flickered in the tattooed man's face - annoyance,
irritability? No matter. Tom smiled, feeling strangely pleased that he
had affected that stony man.
 Janeway nodded at the Doctor and he raised the biobed to a
relatively comfortable position. He sighed in relief, feeling better
than he admitted, but threw them a glare to prevent them from thinking
him weak.
 So he told them about the strange alien that cornered him at the
muddy alley in Shima Territory, the pain and the burst of light. It was
short and clipped. As the three senior officers and Doctor pondered on
the information, Tom's eyes shifted to the other biobeds. He froze,
looking at the unconscious lieutenant and the half-Klingon woman beside
him. She looked at him uncomfortably and turned away. But it wasn't
them that caught his attention. It was *the other* version of him.
 He sat on the floor, rolling a colourful ball back and forth,
humming to himself. The twin seem to realize he was being watched. He
looked up and stared at him blankly, his blue eyes seeing him, yet
looking *through* him as well. Drool escaped his lips to fall on his
   Tom grimaced. It disturbed him more than he would admit.
 He glared at the officers once more. "What sort of trick is
this?" he demanded, his anger making him slip back into Romulan.
 Janeway frowned. "A trick that we hope you can explain."
 "I will explain nothing until you tell me *what* they are!" he
 "*They* are *you*," the Doctor said. "At least, DNA wise. The one
on the biobed is *our* version. Lieutenant Tom Paris. The one on the
floor...we don't know where he's from, but he appears to be Tom as well.
He recognizes his name, even if he does not recognize anything else."
 "He is...defective," he said in scorn.
 The Doctor frowned at his words. "He has severe brain damage, but
as far as I can tell, he was born normal. His brain was damaged from
some kind of accident. This type of injury can occur from any number of
possibilities, including asphyxiation," he said.
 A flicker of concern traveled across Janeway's features before
she turned towards him. Then she sighed heavily and straightened.
 "This is getting us no where. Tuvok, have a full security escort
bring Mr. Paris-" she gave Tom a pointed look, "-to the brig. Doctor,
keep me posted on Lieutenant Paris' condition. Chakotay, Tuvok, a word
with both of you."
 Tom watched them all leave, his mind working furiously on escape.

* * *

  He could sense their curiosity.
  But the crewmen moved out of their way, giving them a wide berth,
some casting him puzzled looks. Others averted their eyes as if they
were embarrassed at his predicament. It made him wonder if Janeway's
story was true, that somehow he was in another dimension. A dimension
where he had not been cashiered out of Starfleet and led a life he once
dreamt of-
 <RIDICULOUS! the thought came so sharply it seemed like a shout.
<It's a trick! A stupid Federation trick to get me talking about my
contacts, my `crimes'. He glowered at the backs of the two security
men before him. Two more were behind him, each holding a phaser in a
  The later corridors to the brig was emptied specifically for him.
Apparently, security wasn't taking too many chances with him.
 His hands were bound securely behind, his left leg tagged with
the tracking device they used on prison inmates. All of it made him
 He didn't think that the Federation would resort to such
elaborate methods to obtain information from him. Never mind how they
knew about his real identity - this complicating story of dimensions
and alternate realities did not seem like Starfleet's style.
  It was more Romulan.
 <Perhaps it is the Romulans, not Starfleet that has me in their
 His eyes widened at the thought, suddenly alarmed. He pushed the
feeling back when he realized that it was an echo of a memory the
implant had given him.
  The Sharbokh was once the elite Guard of the Emperor of the
Churag Dynasty. But when the last emperor of the dynasty was
overthrown, the Sharbokh was hunted down to the last man- and although
it took many decades, and many lives, the Empire got rid of most of
 Or so they thought.
  The descendents of the very few Sharbokh that survived lived on
in Romulus, blending into the Romulan way of life, yet secretly fearing
- and loathing - the new Emperor they  apparently served. After so many
centuries, these negative sentiments remained largely unchanged, which
was why the Tal Shiar was still actively keeping an eye out for any
hint of Sharbokh activity.
  He saw flashes of memories flicker before his eyes. A Sharbokh,
fighting to the death - in the background, he heard the whimpers of a
frightened child. And then a woman's terrified face as she breathed her
last. More images of violence-
 Tom closed his eyes for a moment, trying to get rid of the
memories. They were not his. Not his!
 <Get away from me! All of you!
 He felt something nudge the small of his back. Tom opened his
eyes, and realised that he had stopped walking. The show of weakness
alarmed him.
  Sometimes the Sharbokh in him grew too strong.
 He continued his even pace, pushing aside the uncertainties and
vague worries of losing control and having something else take over.
 <Now, I must escape
 He lowered his eyelids, concentrating as he was thought. In his
mind, he pictured them moving from his spine - where they were
carefully implanted by a physician from a non-Federation planet in the
Metar Sector. To ensure that the doctor cooperated, Tom had shackled a
nano-bomb around the physicians' neck. If he had died, the Doctor would
die with him. Simple. He was awake during the operation. It had
  All it took to control them was a thought, said the physician,
who went on to explain how the nannites would react to specific thought
  It was something he never thought he would use; something he
reserved only for desperate situations. Capture was not something he
entertained. He would rather kill himself than be captured.
  He pictured them moving up his shoulders, then down both arms.
Sweat beaded on his forehead. This time, he could *feel* them crawling
underneath his skin to pool in the middle of his forearms. Thousands of
them perhaps. He never really knew how many of them the physician had
placed in his bloodstream. The nannites were built in such a way that
they would be undetectable to scanners. He had no way of knowing.
  This time, he felt a burning sensation shoot up his wrists. He
bit his tongue from the pain, but he kept his pace steady. He could not
give a hint of what he was to do.
 There were more now. Any time now it would be visible.
 The pain was unbearable.
 And Tom realized it was time.
 <NOW!! he commanded the nannites.
 He felt a piercing pain as the nannites erupted from underneath
the skin of his forearms.
 He couldn't stop it - he cried out in pain.

 Ensign Rollins did not know what to think of the man walking
before him. He was Paris. Yet not Paris. It was weird, then again, what
was the Captain's favourite saying about life on Voyager? Weird is part
of the job?
  This was certainly strange.
 But Tuvok cautioned the four of them, saying that this version of
Tom was deadly. Nearly killed Toban and Kennedy and would've done the
rest in if it weren't for Tuvok distracting him.
  So Rollins was not taking any chances with this guy.
  When he had stopped suddenly, he was immediately on the alert. He
could sense Diana beside him take a defensive posture. It was a common
trick they had learnt to anticipate - the token stumble before the
 But surprisingly, it never came. `Tom' had continued walking as
if nothing out of the ordinary was on his mind.
  But he didn't relax his guard. He kept a close eye on the man's
back - so close it made his head pound.
 <What the-
 His eyes caught unexpected movement.
 He gaped.
 Beneath the man's skin?
 Before he could cry out a warning, blood splattered on his face
and he saw a dozen black particles shooting to his face. They landed on
his face-
  -he gasped in shock-
  Diana screamed.
 And then he felt them crawling on his face and burrow beneath his
 His screaming began then.

 <No time for pain, human Terrak's voice cautioned him.
 He was right. No time for pain. Only escape. He opened his eyes
just in time to see the two security personnel turn around in alarm at
the sound of their crewmen's screams.
 He lashed out a foot and caught one in the face with the heel of
his boot. The man grunted in pain and fell, dazed.
 The other man did not hesitate. Tom could see in his eyes that
this was a man that was experienced in his work, and had seen many
battles and has defeated most of his foes.
 But not me. Not today.
  The man raised his phaser and fired.
 Tom had anticipated that. He quickly slammed himself against the
side of the corridor, but the shot grazed his arm. He hissed in pain,
but did not allow himself the pleasure of experiencing it for too long.
He ducked and rolled, nearly getting shot again by his clumsy
movements. He slammed into the man's knees, knocking him off balance.
The next shot went awry.
 The man landed on his back with a grunt, and Tom did not give him
time to recover. He got to his feet quickly and slammed his right foot
on the man's sternum.
 He heard an audible crack above the man's screams and the screams
of the others. With another violent kick, he slammed his boot into the
side of the man's head. He fell abruptly silent.
 Suddenly, he was knocked forward. Caught off balance, he fell and
rolled to his back just in time to see the man that he had stunned
point a phaser at him.
 "Stay down" the man wheezed, his eyes round with alarm and anger.
"Don't move!" he snapped.
 Tom merely gave the man a malicious smile. "You rely too much on
your fancy weapons, Federation."
 "Well - I like it that way," the man growled, tightening his grip
on his phaser. The temptation to fire flickered on the man's face. Tom
did not give him time to entertain the thought.
 The man suddenly screamed, toppling to the ground, his left foot
nearly severed at the ankle from the blade protruding from Tom's right
  Tom gave the man a vicious smile. "So do I."
 The man made one more valiant attempt to fire at him, but Tom was
faster. With one quick kick to the head, the security man slumped to
the floor unconscious.
 Working quickly, he searched the guards for the key to unlock his
bonds. He found it on the nannite infested male security officer and
quickly inserted the key into the bonds. It gave a soft sound before
releasing its grip and falling to the floor. Relieved, grabbed a fallen
phaser next to the man and quickly fired it at the bonds. He had half-
expected the bonds to blow up when he inserted the key and was
immeasurably relieved when it didn't. Still, it was better to be safe.
 Next, he focused his attention on the tracking device around his
ankles. It seemed standard Federation issue. And the Federations did
not plant bombs in their tracking device.
 Unless they were Romulans.
 He pointed the phaser uncertainly at the device.
 He had to take the chance.
 He aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger.
 With a loud flash, the device broke apart.
 He froze, waiting for the explosion. When it didn't come, he felt
strangely disappointed. He didn't seem to be dealing with the Romulans.
Could the Captain be right?
 He snarled. <Don't be tricked, you veruul!
 He quickly surveyed the carnage he had caused. The two security
guards behind him were silent now, their faces disfigured from the
nannite infestation. It would only take a few minutes for the nannites
to infest their brains completely. Soon, they would have no brain to
speak of. The other two lay in a pool of blood, one, his face nearly
obscured by the blood flowing from his scalp. They too, would not
survive long. He stepped over their bodies and casually toed his right
boot. The blade slid back in place, an innocent looking sole once more.
  Only four security men? They had seriously underestimated him. Or
have overestimated these men's abilities.
  He turned.
      It was time to go.


  Ensign Croden swam up desperately to consciousness. The moment he
felt a tiny flicker of control over his limbs, he ordered his heavy
hand to move up to his commbadge. It took such great effort - but he
managed to tap it.
 It activated with a tiny beep and he took a shuddering breath to
speak into it.
 "Tuvok," he croaked, hoping his voice was strong enough for the
commbadge to pick up.
 Stupid, he cursed himself. He had been too shocked by the sight
of Rollins' and Detal's disfigured faces to shoot the bastard down. He
should have done it when the man seemed defenseless, lying on his back
with his hands behind his back. But Starfleet didn't teach you to fire
on a defenseless man...
  "Ensign Croden. We detected weapons fire. Security is on their
way," Tuvok said coolly, his level voice coming out soft and loud in
 Stupid, Croden. You should know better. You should've fired on
that man. He was dangerous. He was an animal. Nearly killed Kennedy
with that knife. What were you thinking?
 His vision was beginning to blur.
 "Escaped," he managed to grate out. "Sickbay..." he slurred.
 "We're on our way, Ensign."
 Tuvok said something else - something that was meant to be
reassuring. But Croden felt very cold suddenly, and decided to give in
to the blackness that was determined to drag him down.

Chapter 6

 He crept into the Jeffries tube, wincing as the rough floor
grazed his now-bandaged arms.
  An access panel on the corridor told him that the weapons locker
was ahead of him, but somehow he sensed that they were waiting for him
on the other side.
  He frowned, knowing that his choices were limited.
 Perhaps he would die here after all.
 <Stop it! You think like a coward! he chided himself.
  Then he would go where they did not expect.

* * *

The Weapons Locker

 If Tuvok could hiss in frustration, he would have.
 "They're dead," said one officer in a tremulous voice.
"Their...their necks were broken...it was quick," Lieutenant Marr said in a
whispery voice. Tuvok could see the man's hands shaking.
  Their deaths had been brutal - a man who grew up sheltered from
the horrors of war, Marr, a petty officer, was more accustomed to
phaser burns than the more brutal forms of injury meted out by the more
uncivilized part of their universe. Even after Borg, Kazon, and a host
of other alien attacks, Marr was still shocked.
 They were too late. It was inconceivable. Even now, the ship was
crawling with security personnel. It would have been difficult for the
man to evade them. Yet the intruder had managed to creep into the
weapons locker and kill two crewmen.
 Tuvok looked up. He frowned. He should have realized it a long
time ago.
 "The Jeffries tubes," he said.

* * *

  "It is bad, Captain," came Tuvok's voice.
  Janeway paced on the bridge, her brow wrinkled in a frown. A
dangerous man was loose on her ship. A man that was a trained killer. A
man that looked like one of their own.
  Just another day on Voyager.
   "B'Elanna. Can you detect him?"
 "No ma'am," came B'Elanna's voice. She sounded embarrassed. "I
should be able to by using Tom's biological readings, but the computer
is not picking him up. I think he has somehow managed to disguise his
readings," she said.
  <Of course. If you're in a profession which required you to skulk
around and kill people, which is what I'm 100% sure this version of Tom
is involved in, this is a skill you would acquire Janeway let out a
loud sigh. She wanted to wring the man's neck. And more.
 Four men down. The best of her security team. Two of them dying
from nannite infestation. Another two dead. Also security personnel.
  "Red alert," she commanded. Amber lights appeared, and the crew
looked expectantly at her.
  "Tuvok, send your team out. Be careful," as she said so, she
stalked towards the turbolifts.
  "Captain?" Chakotay enquired.
 "I have an idea," Janeway said, pausing in mid stride. "I'm going
to bring our man down without any weapons exchanged," she said, a
twinkle in her eye.
   Chakotay had always been impressed by the Captain's `ideas'. But
more often than not, it involved high-risk endeavors - like driving the
ship towards a sun.
  The Captain read his mind. She gave him a reassuring smile. "Wish
I could explain in greater detail, Chakotay, but you have the bridge,"
she said.
 Before the doors to the turbolift closed, she saw Chakotay
regarding her with a puzzled frown. She felt guilty for not explaining
things to Chakotay, but she simply did not have the time.
 "Sickbay," she told the computer.

* * *

 He never thought anyone could be so violent. So vicious. So
cruel. So merciless.
 More words ran in the Doctor's head as he frantically worked to
save the four additions to his sickbay. Lieutenant Travis' skull was
cracked and so was his sternum. Ensign Croden got off the lightest -
relatively speaking - his nearly severed ankle was easy to reattach,
his serious concussion easily rectified.
 But Ensign Rollins and Ensign Detal?
  He didn't think technology could be this perverted - even the
Borg did not use nannites in such a manner. Somehow, these nannites
were programmed to destroy tissues.
 It was a race against time to remove the nannites infesting the
victims' brain. And thanks to the Doctor's abilities - and the fact
that he could work at a much faster pace than a human doctor - he was
able to remove the nannites before any serious damage could be done.
 <Though...I'm not sure whether they'd survive this attack without
some defects to their coordination or worse, memories
 He sighed. Time to think about it later.
 He looked grimly at Lieutenant Paris on the next biobed, looking
as if he was in a deep, but pleasant sleep.
 <What made you turn out so different from that monster, Tom? he
  "Doctor. I need the data you have on the assassin," said a flat
and commanding voice.
  "The `who'?" the Doctor looked up briefly from his patients -
still twitching from pain in their unconscious state - to regard Seven.
 "The intruder," she explained briefly.
  The Doctor scowled. "Can this wait, Seven? As you can see, I'm in
the middle of something here!" he barked.
  Seven lifted a pale eyebrow. She did not look the least bit
perturbed. The Doctor wondered whether she even knew how.
  "Unless you wish to see more patients like these, I would
recommend you to comply now," the former Borg commanded in her no-
nonsense tone.
 The Doctor heaved a great sigh and impatiently walked over to his
medical console to key in the necessary encryption to unlock the former
patient's medical files. A brief glance to his right - his office - and
he saw the Captain bent over his terminal, her eyes squinted in
concentration. Somehow, in the middle of all that hustle-bustle trying
to save the crewmen's lives, he had not noticed the Captain come in.
 "What are you both up to?" he asked as Seven took over his spot
at the console.
 "We are building a micro-tetrion device," Seven said without
taking her eyes off the readings before her.
 "Oh?" the Doctor remarked as he returned to his patients. He
noted with satisfaction that his pain medication was finally working.
Rollins and Detal appeared to have slid into a more peaceful form of
sleep. Of course he had no idea what Seven's device was supposed to do,
but something told him that it would not bode well for the `assassin'.
  "His neural implants may be the keys to bringing him down," said
the Captain as she walked to Seven's side.
  A sliver of insight crept into the Doctor's program.
 "You can't!" he said, horrified.
 The Captain paused in the midst her work. The Doctor continued
before she had a chance to say anything.
 "The implants are connected to his main functions-" he began.
 "Exactly," the Captain said.
 "It could kill him!" the Doctor protested.
 The Captain sighed, braced a hand on the console and gave him a
look she normally reserved for Chakotay when he argued against some of
her ethically suspect decisions.
  "Would you prefer him kill more of our crew? Perhaps mutilate a
few while he's at it?"
 "I see your logic in this but-"
 "The device will not kill him. It will merely incapacitate him,"
Seven interrupted smoothly.
  The Captain returned to her work. "Unlike this Tom, we're not in
the killing business. But he needs to be stopped."
 She tapped her commbadge. "Tuvok, get your team ready. We're
going in for the kill," she said.

* * *
The Bridge

 The news was not good.
 "B'Elanna?" he asked.
 "We're scanning the Jeffries tube now. It's tough going with the
interference-" Carey muttered through his commlink.
 "Any sign of him?" Chakotay cut through, impatient.
 "No sir," Carey said sheepishly.
 Chakotay frowned and placed his hands on his hips, staring at the
streaks of stars before him. He felt eyes staring at him, and Chakotay
knew what they were thinking.
 <How could one man evade highly trained Starfleet personnel?
 Though, as a former Maquis, Chakotay realised that Starfleet was
not used to guerilla tactics, though they may have wizened up with the
Maquis. Starfleet did not play hide and seek. This man excelled in it.
 As Maquis, he had encountered assassins before. Usually of the
Cardassian kind. They were good. This one was better.
  Since the trouble began, the turbo lift doors swished open and
shut endlessly as personnel hurried from station to station. He heard
them again and did not bother to turn to regard the new arrival as he
did earlier.
 It was his mistake.
 He heard a loud thud and a startled exclamation.
 When he turned in surprise, he was in time to see two officers
shot down. The lieutenant at the conn managed to get his phaser out,
but was shot down just as quickly. He crumpled to the ground
bonelessly, hopefully stunned.
 Chakotay was surprised. Actually, he was amazed.
 "How did you-"
 "Tricks of the trade, Commander," replied the doppleganger of Tom
Paris as he pointed the phaser at him with one hand, and held Ensign
Kim in a chokehold with his other arm. Kim's expression was stony, but
he kept perfectly still, knowing that the knife held at his throat
could end his life in a moment.
 "And it does help when your men are so incompetent," the man
continued smugly.
 Chakotay noticed that the assassin's wrists were bleeding.
 "What do you want?" he finally grated out.
 "What I've demanded. A shuttlecraft," the man replied. The blue
eyes, so different from their Paris, bored into his, full of
calculating menace.
 "And go where?" Chakotay challenged. "Voyager's in the Delta
Quadrant. We're decades away from Earth."
 The assassin frowned, fury crept into his eyes and his lips
thinned into a cruel line. Kim gasped as the man drew the knife lightly
across his throat. A thin red line trailed after the blade.
  Chakotay did not need to hear the assassin speak the meaning
behind the gesture. *You lie* - the blade seemed to say.
 Chakatoy did not betray the nervousness he felt, but instead went
on determinedly.
 "If you insist, go ahead. But I warn you, the Borg do not make
good flying companions."
 "You lie!" the assassin snarled.
 Suddenly, there was the familiar hum of a transporter beam.
Chakotay reacted instinctively. He reached for his phaser-
 But Harry beat him to it. Distracted by the beam, the assassin
lost hold of Harry when he drove his elbow into the man's gut. The
assassin doubled over in surprise, but recovered in time to slash Harry
at the shoulders. Harry grunted in pain and flinched when he saw a
phaser trained on his face-
- Chakotay fired.
  It caught the assassin on the shoulder. He flew backward, the
phaser and knife flying from his grasp.
 But the man was not stunned. He rolled to his feet and prepared
to duck into the turbolift.
 But he wasn't quick enough.
 Something flew in the air and landed on the man's neck.
 Chakotay realized that it was a dart. He grimaced when he saw the
familiar grey mottling of the veins around the wound. The dart had been
filled with nannites.
 The assassin's eyes widened. Then he slumped to the ground,
 "Incompetent indeed," he heard Janeway mutter.
 Tuvok appeared on the bridge via the turbolift. Behind him were
more security personnel. Quickly, they restrained the assassin.
Chapter 7
The Captain's Quarters
1245 hours

 Janeway sighed and then stretched, feeling the tiredness of her
muscles. For once, she was glad that the Doctor ordered her to her
quarters. The alternate Paris' vicious escape attempt had drained her.
The thought of four more of her crewmen lying seriously wounded - two
of them from nannite poisoning (a condition she had not known was
possible until now) in sickbay made her furious and anxious at the same
time. Two of her crewmen lay dead in the morgue. She wanted to punish
him for depriving them of their lives, but the shady nature of the
assassin gave her pause.
  The implants must have been forcibly placed in him, the Doctor
had reasoned. Surely no one would have allowed the implant to be
embedded in their head. He had gone on to explain how the implant was
so intricately connected to his brain that to remove it would have have
adverse effects.
  Plus, how it got there wasn't pleasant. It had been injected
through the temple. They couldn't know how it had happened, because the
Assassin refused to divulge anything about that.
 <Brainwashed? Forcibly recruited by the Empire? If so, he was as
much a victim as her officers were
  With all this going on, frankly, she wasn't sure how long she
could have stayed awake.
 Just what the hell was going on?
 A theory had been forming in her mind, and it sounded plausible
when she discussed it with Chakotay and Tuvok.
  After further grilling with the black-clad Tom, they discovered
that his world was slightly different from theirs. In his dimension, he
had not joined the Maquis - this information he gave out in extreme
reluctance - and had gone `his own way'. Historical events differed
slightly as well. Admiral Paris was in the Badlands fighting a war with
the shady Dominion, while *their* Admiral Paris was heading the
Pathfinder Project. Again, the information about the Admiral was given
out reluctantly.
  It seemed reasonable to conclude that he and the other Paris had
come from different dimensions, where history had turned out
differently for both. For the other Paris, his fate had been an
accident that had reduced him to the mentality of a child, while the
other became a warrior, or if her suspicions were correct - an
   And for some reason, they had ended up on her ship.
  They had gone to Astrometrics, and Seven offered the possibility
of an inter-dimensional anomaly, something the Borg had encountered
 They scanned for that anomaly but came up empty.
 She was frankly, at a loss.
 She sat at the edge of her bed, rubbing her aching forehead.
 Somehow, emergencies mostly happened when she was tired and wrung
out, not when she was happy and chirpy. She huffed in amusement.
 Her thoughts returned to the Assassin Tom.
 That was what they called him now, because that was what he was.
Tuvok said that his fighting techniques were reminiscent of Ancient
Vulcan martial arts, something Romulans and Vulcans inherited from
their common ancestors. The arts were lost on Vulcan, because it was
deemed too violent. Now they were subjects of Academic study, real life
admonishments and a reason to comply with the dictates of Logic. On
Romulus, it was rumoured to have been the exclusive fighting technique
of a class of Assassins loyal to the Emperor, now long extinct.
  Theoretically, *shar-bokku* (as the art was known) was extinct.
  How he came upon that knowledge was another matter.
  As for Thomas- how had the accident happened? Was he aware of his
limitations, of what he had lost?
 Despite them coming from different dimensions, she was concerned
for them, just as she was concerned for the one that was in a coma.
What she saw in *them* disturbed her because they were possibilities of
how *her* Tom would have turned out.
  And now, Lieutenant Paris was in a coma. The list of troubles
went on and on.
 "I'm sorry, Kathryn, but I had to put him to sleep."
 Janeway turned around in alarm and tapped her commbadge
instinctively. "Janeway to Security, intruder alert!"
 Immediately red alert rang throughout the ship.
 She detected a movement to her right.
 "Computer! Lights on!"
 The computer obeyed immediately, and Janeway saw her visitor
 The alien was obsidian in colour, it's skin so black that it
seemed to absorb light. Golden, pupil-less eyes regarded her.
 "Who are you?" she demanded, reaching for the phaser that was
tucked in the uniform draped across her bed.
 "There is no need for that," the alien said, its voice high and
resonant. "I will bring you no danger."
 Now that she thought about it, this alien did fit the Assassin's
description of the creature that had attacked him.
 "I don't think so," she said, whipping out her phaser to train it
on the alien.
  "I am not the one that attacked Tom Paris. I am looking for him,
actually," the alien said, as if reading her mind.
 "Tom Paris?" Janeway asked, her hand tightening on the phaser.
 "No," the alien said, shaking her head, sending red curls
tumbling about. "Lyssiss. The one who nearly killed the one you call
 "You read my mind?" Janeway demanded.
 The alien shrugged. "In a manner of speaking."
 Just then, the doors to her quarters burst open, but Janeway
gestured to the security officers to stand down.
 "So I take it that you're responsible for bringing him and the
other one on board my ship."
 "That is correct," the alien inclined her head.
 "To trap Lyssiss. To save them."
  "Is that why you put Tom in a coma?" it didn't make sense. None
of it did.
 "I'm sorry I had to do that, but it is for your protection, to
bide time. With this dimension's Tom Paris in a coma, Lyssiss would not
be able to detect his presence. It will take time for him to find the
others, and I have to be ready for him. We need to talk, Captain."

* * *

 The senior members of her crew stared at the alien in suspicion
and fascination. `She' - for her name was Jorel, sat in the middle
seat, blinking her golden eyes lazily as she looked around.
 "I am from a Dimension where all dimensions meet. It is in this
place that we live, and observe the lives of other dimensions.
 "You believe that there are other dimensions, separate yet
slightly similar to yours?" Jorel asked.
 Janeway nodded. "Yes. Universes with different possibilities
existing together. That's a part of temporal theory."
 Jorel nodded. "Oversimplified, but it will do. There are millions
of dimensions, Kathryn. Some are so similar that the difference could
be very minute - different colour for eyes, a smile instead of a frown.
My people plot these dimensions in a series of lines. The further one
dimension is from another, the more different the dimension is from the
other. You understand, yes?" she asked.
 Jorel did not ask it in a condescending manner, but asked it in a
way a teacher taught his student. From the beginning, Jorel had not
called her Captain, instead, preferring to use her first name. But she
said it in a respectful manner, as if her first name meant more than
her station.
 Janeway nodded and Jorel continued.
 "Lyssiss became obsessed with failure. All of us were assigned an
individual to `watch'. We patrol the dimensions like you patrol your
`outer space'."
 Again Jorel waited for her to acknowledge that she understood.
Janeway nodded impatiently.
 "Lyssiss watched Tom Paris. And he was disturbed by what he saw.
In some dimensions like this one, Tom Paris had retribution, and was
`saved'. But there were other dimensions - Thomas' and the
Assassin's...that he considered failures."
 The senior members of the crew exchanged puzzled glances.
 "Failures in destiny," Jorel explained, fixing her golden eyes on
some members of the senior crew. "With Thomas he gave in to his despair
and attempted suicide, only to survive and live out his life as a
quarter of what he was. With the Assassin, he led a life of violence,
coming close to killing his father. Do you understand?" Again Jorel
 Janeway nodded, feeling sickened at the revelation of the Assasin
and Thomas' past.
 "So he considers them failures because they led their lives in a
less...pleasing way? Because they didn't live up to *his* expectations on
what a `successful' destiny was?!" B'Elanna demanded angrily.
 Jorel looked pained - she bowed her head. "It is indeed true. It
is painful and shameful that he would use his powers to manipulate the
Dimensions...and kill. Lyssis had already killed two alternate versions
of Tom Paris before he tried to take Thomas and the Assassin. He will
not stop until he has killed them. And many more."
 "Why is he doing this?" Janeway asked. "Why Tom?"
 Jorel gave her a small smile. "I cannot tell you more, Kathryn.
My very presence here is a violation of everything we stand for. The
Prime Directive?" Jorel gave her a smile.
 So these beings have their own version of non-interference with
alien cultures. Only with them, it was dimensions. Janeway nodded.
 "But we realized that we had to stop Lyssiss. I had snatched the
Assassin and Thomas before he could kill them and have brought them
here, on `neutral ground', where he will not harm this dimension's Tom
Paris. Lyssiss has followed me to this dimension, and he will be here
 Janeway stood up, alarmed. "You said you placed Tom in a coma to
prevent that!"
 "Not prevent, delay," Jorel said. "The confrontation will come,
Captain. He knew that to find the other Paris', he had to find the Tom
Paris in this dimension. Kind leads to kind," Jorel said, nodding.
 "These different versions of Tom...they're bound together some
 "In a manner of speaking, yes."
  "And what happens once Lyssiss find him?" Janeway asked.
 Jorel seem to consider before answering. "Before he comes, he
will send out...`beings' to search for them. This will signal that his
approach is near."
 "Beings?" Chakotay asked, his tone saying that he didn't really
like the sound of it.
 Jorel shifted her gaze to the First Officer. "Creatures that you
will never find in this world. They scour the dimensions for us. They
serve us, unfortunately, mindlessly, without thought of right and
  "Are these beings dangerous?"
 "No. Unless..." Jorel did a good imitation of a frown.
 "Unless?" Harry prompted, leaning forward.
 "Unless he altered them someway. It can be done. But to that...no,
he *would* never do that."
 "What makes you so sure?" Janeway demanded, leaning back with a
heavy frown on her brow. "He has bent the rules before, what makes you
think he'll stop at this one?"
  Jorel looked disturbed at her argument. "I will protect them.
Until then, do not separate them. They must be together at all times."
  There was silence for a while.
  "So what should we do before Lyssiss comes? Wait?" Chakotay
asked, breaking the tense silence.
 "Indeed. We wait," Jorel answered matter-of-factly.

* * *

 They must be together at all times.
 It seemed easy, but with the Assassin, it was difficult to say.
Six security men guarded the sickbay - two outside, four inside. They
were taking no chances this time. The Assassin had been thoroughly
checked for more hidden weapons, but even weaponless, no one could
estimate how dangerous he could be.
 He sat cross-legged on the floor behind a forcefield enclosed
area of the sickbay, looking exhausted and pale.
 He lifted his icy blue eyes to hers when she approached him.
 "What have you done to me?" he accused, his eyes blazing with
 Janeway lifted her chin, staring at the mirror-copy of her
helmsman dispassionately.
 "Only what you deserve," she answered coolly.
 In a burst of unexpected strength, Tom got to his feet and
stepped to the edge of the forcefield, his face mere inches from hers.
 "Answer me!" he growled.
 The security guard behind her grew nervous, moving forward to
protect her. She lifted a hand to assure him.
 "It is temporary," she answered. The Doctor had informed her that
Seven's micro-tetrion nannites had worked perfectly and had blocked the
implant's signals to the brain, effectively shutting it down. The
deactivation would disorient him badly, and it would cause him to
behave erratically.
 But they could not deactivate the implant for too long. It would
kill him. That much was clear - especially when she saw him suddenly
swaying on his feet.
 She resisted the instinctive impulse to help him, instead, she
watched him stumble to the biobed and grasp it for support.
   After a while, he turned to look at her. What she saw there made
her pause for a while. It was confusion. Then it was gone, replaced
with resignation. Tom slumped to the floor, suddenly exhausted.
 Her face softened, and despite what he had done, she felt pity at
his plight. What circumstance had driven him to such a condition,
dependent on brain implants?
  Whatever it was that drove him to talk was gone now. After a
minute of his silence, Janeway left him with the guards.

* * *

 "Jared, I told you not to go to that creek, didn't I?"
 His son looked upset, especially now when his cut had to be
stitched up.
 "Hold still," he told him.
 "It hurts, daddy," his son whimpered, trying to pull his hand
from his.
 "Just for a while." How he wished for a skin regenerator.
Anything but this barbaric method of treatment.
 Mereen seemed unfazed though. "Listen to your papa, Jared. It
will be over soon," she said as she handed him some gauze.
 "Jared, if you want to go to the creek, I'll take you there, how
about that?" he said, hoping to distract his son as he lay in his first
 "Really?" Jared's eyes brightened. Then suddenly he yelped. "Ow!"
Then he began to cry. Tom did his job quickly, cursing with every
stitch. He hated hurting his son.
 "I'll take you fishing, youll like that won't you?" he said as he
put in the last stich.
 Jared sniffed but tried to act brave. "You'll let me put in the
 He threw his son a gentle smile. "I'll even let you hold the rod,
how about that?"
 Jared smiled brightly.

 He opened his eyes, disoriented for a moment. Had he fallen
asleep after treating Jared? No...that didn't sound right. Something had
happened. Something very wrong.
  He was sitting up, lying against something on his right side. He
was faintly aware that his body was shivering and that sweat beaded his
forehead. He opened his bleary eyes and stared at the blinking lights
around him. And as he took in his alien surroundings, he began to
panic. Where was he? Where was Jared? Mereen?
  Confusing memories flooded his brain. Scenes that didn't make
sense - a Romulan woman weeping, his father glaring angrily at him. And
Mereen hanging from a tree-
 He groaned, trying to make sense of the images.
 Slowly, his memories began to reorder themselves, and he
remembered every painful detail. His wife's suicide. His son, cold in
his lonely grave on that backwater planet. And then the neuro-syringe-
 He felt a sudden surge of hatred.
 <They did this to him! Those Federation bastards!
  There was a movement to his left. He turned abruptly, glaring at
the intruder with red rimmed eyes. But he wasn't fooling anybody. He
had the strength of a day-old targ pup.
 It was a bald headed man in a blue uniform, and he held a
hypospray in his hand.
 "This will help you," he said. "And don't try anything with me.
I'm a hologram," the man said wryly.
 A hologram? He looked around in panic. Wasn't he in the Shima
 He felt the man administer the hypospray to his neck. He barely
reacted to it as he tried to make sense of his situation.
 "You're disoriented. But it'll pass. Any improvements?"
 He blinked, and the man - obviously a Doctor - was right. Clarity
was beginning to return. With it, the memories of the past few hours.
Anger turned to bitterness at his failure. He felt shame burning so
brightly in his heart that he wanted to die of it. He did not deserve
to be Sharbokh.
 He glared at the Doctor, accusation in his eyes.
 "I see you're better already," the Doctor quipped.
 "What have you done to me?" he demanded. He had not received an
answer from Janeway the last time, and was too disoriented to ask
 "That'll take too long to explain, and under the circumstances -
especially after what you did to the eight security men that just went
through my doors - a very foolish thing to do," the Doctor said dryly.
 He gave the Doctor a contemptuous glare. "*You* did this to me!"
he accused.
 The Doctor sighed. "Leave it to the Romulans to suspect a
hologram. Not that you are one, though I suspect the implant is
responsible for that `pleasant' side of your personality," he rambled
as he studied the tricorder on his left hand.
 Tom struggled to get to his feet, but everything swam wildly
around him. He cursed.
 So did the Doctor. He felt firm hands grab his shoulders and help
him sit on the biobed.
 "This can't go on for too long," he heard the Doctor mutter.
 Suddenly Tom was too tired to think further. He sank down on the
biobed and curled on his side, disoriented again, dreaming once more of
Shalak Nor and what he had left behind.
* * *
The Captain's Ready Room

 "Captain, we have to deactivate Seven's micro-tetrion device.
It's killing him," the Doctor said.
 "I advise caution. It could be a ploy. Deactivating the device
could be a serious error in judgement," Seven said, her eyes narrowing
with disapproval.
 "Nevertheless," Tuvok broke in coolly. "It would also be a
serious error in judgement if he were to perish. It could affect the
stability of his dimension."
 Janeway sighed. "I have considered these arguments in my head
myself," the Captain answered. "And I've made my decision long before
you made yours, Doctor."
 The Doctor bent forward a little in anticipation.
 She couldn't help but give him a tiny smile. "Deactivate Seven's
device. Let this be a warning that if he tries to escape again or harm
a hair on my crew, we can easily reactivate it and incapacitate him."
 "A Crosari Tracker," Seven commented, lifting an eyebrow.
 "Seven?" Janeway swiveled her chair to study the former Borg.
 "Species 879. They implanted a neuro-disruptor in the brains of
their social deviants to control them. They were able to wander around
freely, but were at the mercy of their controllers who activated the
device whenever they pleased. Usually without cause," Seven informed
them dispassionately.
 The Doctor looked sickened. "That's barbaric!" the Doctor cried.
  "I agree," Janeway said, her voice flat. She knew what Seven was
getting at, and the comparison did not please her. "But we're not
...Species 879. We only do it *only* when it's necessary."
 "Of course," Seven answered coolly, as if thoughts to the
contrary did not occur to her.
  "Doctor, get on with it," she heaved a big sigh and looked at
Tuvok as Seven and the Doctor exited her ready room. "Tuvok. I suggest
you put in a full security watch 24/7 in the Sickbay."
 He only nodded.
Chapter 8
Day 4 1405 hours

 Thomas couldn't stop crying and wailing.
 "Shut him up, or I shall," growled the Assassin from his corner.
 The Doctor shot him a glare. "Say one more threatening word and
I'll reactivate the micro-tetrion device. Gladly."
 The Assassin merely glared back.
 "Sour tempered Romulan wannabe..." the Doctor grumbled beneath his
 Samantha Wildman was doing her best to soothe Thomas, but he
batted her hands away as if her touch hurt him. The Doctor felt
uncomfortable looking at Thomas - it reminded him too much of a child
in a temper tantrum.
 "Now, Thomas! Here's the ball, play with the ball now!" he
coaxed, showing Thomas the ball.
 Thomas howled louder, batting the ball from his hands. The Doctor
sighed, growing desperate. Perhaps the Assassin was right. He should
sedate him.
 Then he caught something from the series of howls and wails
Thomas made. It was a word. Not very clear, but it was definite.
Samantha watched him curiously as he squinted and listened. There it
was! It was one word:
 "Dog!" he exclaimed.
 "Doctor?" Samantha wondered out loud.
 "He's asking for a dog. Maybe he had a pet back home that he was
attached to. What dog did Lieutenant Paris have?"
 "Er...he had a few. His favourite was a Golden Retriever named
 "Alright! Buster it is!" the Doctor walked determinedly to the
medical station, calling up a series of commands. "Computer, build a
holographic projection of a Golden Retriever, aged two years. Download
the matrix at my command-"
 He entered a series of commands and told the computer to activate
the projection. There was a mild hum, and then a Golden Retriever
padded into the middle of the room.
 The doctor held his breath, watching the Golden Retriever and
 Thomas stopped crying, staring at amazement at the dog. Then he
said the word again, this time clearly: "Dog," he cooed.
 The dog wagged his tail and padded to Thomas. When it reached
him, Thomas gave the dog a hug. It licked his cheek enthusiastically.
 Beside him, Samantha Wildman heaved a sigh of relief, throwing
the Doctor a glad smile. The Doctor felt quite proud of himself,
grinning broadly.
 The Assassin got up from the biobed on which he sat. He gave the
Doctor a strange look and moved to another corner.
 The Doctor wondered what it meant, but the look the Assassin gave
him filled him with a sudden determination to make things better for
 He looked at the careful reports he had typed out on his PADD.
Taking in a deep breath, he scooped them up and headed for the
Captain's ready room.

 When Jorel said they should wait, she didn't tell them that it
could take weeks, even months. Apparently, time had no meaning for
their kind. Janeway was not amused.
 They had released the Assassin from his bonds, and he was allowed
limited movement in the sickbay behind his forcefield. Meanwhile, the
Doctor spent an inordinate amount of time with Thomas. And it soon
became clear why.
 "Captain, I believe I can heal the damaged portions of his
brain," the Doctor said in her ready room.
 Janeway suspected as much. Because of their time in the Delta
Quadrant, the Doctor had picked up some advanced medical knowledge -
especially from the Vidians and the Borg.
 "Denara Pel taught me some regenerative techniques when she was
here. It's so simple, Captain. All I have to do is get some nanites
from Seven-"
 Janeway sighed. "Out of the question."
 The Doctor was stumped. "But Captain-"
 "I know you're concerned about Thomas, Doctor. But we do not know
what will happen to his Dimension if he returns home cured. We simply
can't risk that."
 "But how about the other two dimensions, Captain? The Tom Paris'
in those dimensions are dead, and somehow these `beings' are not
running around in a panic!"
 Janeway was quiet. Part of her was very tempted to allow the
Doctor to continue with his treatment. She had watched Thomas the other
day and had seen him caressing the controls by his biobed the same way
Tom had at the helm. He had noticed her studying him, and the look he
had given her had haunted her - it was a look of sadness and confusion.
Somehow he knew that there should be something more to his existence,
but there was nothing he could do to find out what it was. Janeway was
certain that Thomas remembered something of his old life.
 "We can't let him live out the rest of his life like this when we
hold the cure! It's like denying a dying man his medicine!" the Doctor
argued heatedly.
 Janeway glared at the Doctor. "It is not the same thing, Doctor.
Thomas is not dying."
 "He deserves to be cured, Captain. It's his right."
  Janeway sighed, knowing how right he was.
 "He is correct, Kathryn. He deserves to be cured."
 Janeway and the Doctor regarded Jorel in surprise. She had
appeared out of nowhere.
 "But the Dimensions-"
 "Will hold," Jorel said softly, her golden eyes regarding her
seriously. Janeway frowned - she recognized that look. It was the same
look she had when she bent the rules to save her crew.
 "You're breaking the rules, aren't you? Why?"
 Jorel merely inclined her head and said softly but clearly:
 "Everyone deserves a second chance."
 But the Captain did not let the matter go so easily. She demanded
an explanation from Jorel, and soon their conversation lapsed into
temporal-mechanic goobbledygook that the Doctor would have preferred
not to hear. But after an hour of heated debate, the Captain finally
 "Alright, Doctor. You can proceed."
 He blinked, wondering whether his hearing subroutines were
damaged - and decided to leave before the Captain changed her mind.
 "Alright, Jorel. You convinced me. Now, I want to know what we're
going to do when Lyssiss makes his appearance."
 When Jorel explained, Janeway was furious.
 "You're using Thomas and the Assassin as bait?" Janeway asked
 "And Lieutenant Paris as well," added Jorel.
 "Not a member of my crew!" Janeway snapped.
 "He will find the others through your crew member, Kathryn. If
you build the shield according to my parameters, then they will be
safe. Lyssiss will not be able to enter the shield and kill them - and
he needs to touch them to kill."
 "Alright. Say we build the shield to your parameters. What then?"
 "I will remove him."
 "Just you?"
 "I am enough."
 Janeway sighed. It didn't sound like a good plan, but it *was* a
plan. "Alright we'll do it your way. I'll get Seven and B'Elanna to
work on it immediately."
 "Good," Jorel nodded.

Chapter 9
Day 6, 0200 hours

 He felt strange.
 Tom opened his eyes, and realized that he was looking at a
biobed. The clarity of thought surprised him, and he wondered why he
should be.
 He heard humming in the background, and his ears picked up faint
beeping noises of machines. He put two and two together and realized
that the humming in the background was a warp engine, and that he was
in a sickbay of some sort.
 Tom lifted himself up so that he sat on the bed. He looked around
in the semi-darkness and wondered what in the world he was doing on a
starship - a Federation starship at that - and in it's sickbay?
 He frowned, trying to remember.
 A faint memory stirred - confusing images of a lake, of being
surrounded by water, panic as he tried to surface but couldn't.
 He shut his eyes, feeling dizzy suddenly.
 "Ah, you're awake!"
 The voice surprised him and he flinched away.
 A bald man in a Starfleet uniform - medical uniform, he realized
- stood beside his bed, holding a mediical tricorder. Why hadn't he
heard him coming?
  Everything was such a confusing blur.
 The Doctor looked grave. "Do you understand what I'm saying,
Thomas?" he asked slowly, as if he was speaking to a child.
 Tom felt faintly annoyed at the condescending tone and the fact
that he used `Thomas', something only his father called him. Not that
he liked it much - Admiral Paris only used it when he was about to give
his son some serious tongue-lashing.
 "I should think so," he said sarcastically. Only it came it out
as `I shlld thk sss'. He raised his eyebrows in alarm.
 "Don't worry, Thomas- it'll improve in time." The Doctor sounded
 "How is he?" came another voice. A woman's voice - soft and
 "The surgery was successful, Captain!" the Doctor said
 The woman looked at him, smiling. She looked familiar. "Thomas.
I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway - how are you feeling?"
 Kathryn Janeway. Now he remembered. His father talked about her
often. She was the star pupil that he had to measure up to.
 "Dnt cl me Tmas," he muttered, feeling annoyed at his lisp.
 But the Captain understood. "I'm sorry Thomas, but we need to -
for simplicity's sake."
 Tom looked at her in confusion. Then another memory resurfaced.
He remembered coming home - he was in San Francisco, with Moira. No...no,
Moira had gone away and she hadn't come back for a long time. Tom was
confused by the jangle of memories and lapsed into silence, trying to
sort them out.
 "Captain, I think we need to let him rest," the Doctor said
 Janeway nodded and left him alone. Tom settled down on biobed,
trying to remember more.

* * *

 The `Assassin'...that's what they called him now, and he felt a
taste of irony at the name. The Assassin...only in this world they knew
his true identity.
 He had heard the conversation on the biobed between Thomas,
Janeway and the Doctor and felt faintly...relieved.
 Thomas had disturbed him. He was, in every way - a copy of him.
Only this copy was frightening - instead of the illustrious Starfleet
officer of this dimension, Thomas was a mentally disabled man who
played with toys and cooed at holographic dogs. He wanted to strike
Thomas dead - because he reminded him of how close he had come to that
 Before Terrak saved him, he had been an addict of Lintz, and if
he had not saved him, he would have damaged his brain the same way
Thomas had when he drowned or suffocated himself. Yet, each time he
looked at Thomas, he felt no sympathy but fear and revulsion.
 So now Thomas was given back his mind. He was given a second
chance at life.
 Suddenly, the Assassin was envious.

* * *

 "Elizabeth...we can settle things," said his father. Tom squinted
to see the blurry shapes that moved before him, but everything appeared
in a blur.
 "Stop it, Owen. You've done enough. Do you want to destroy my
life as well?"
 Her voice startled him. Elizabeth Paris did not speak like that -
so cold and angry. His mother was always warm and friendly, even when
Dad was being his most difficult, Elizabeth Paris never sounded harsh.
 He saw his father turn towards him.
 "Go play with Buster, Tom," Owen said gently - he hadn't spoken
like that to him in years. "Go on..." he said.
 Tom opened his eyes, feeling disturbed by his dream.
 There were others as well. Kathleen, talking to him in low tones
in words he did not understand. Dreams about suffocating,
drowning...Moira - Moira shouting at his father and never coming back.
And in the dreams, he felt sluggish and slow, as if he looked from
beneath thick layers of gauze.
 He sat up.
 "You should lie down, Thomas."
 "Are we at Starfleet Medical?" he asked, ignoring the Doctor's
 The Doctor paused. "No, we're on board USS Voyager. We're on a
 "I suspected as much," he said. Then he realized that he was
speaking normally. He smiled.
 The Doctor returned the smile. "You're coming along quite well,
Thomas. Soon, you'll be fully recovered."
 Tom frowned. "Why did the Captain say that she had to call me
Thomas for simplicity's sake?"
 The Doctor looked uncomfortable at the question.
 Then he decided on a more important question. "What happened to
 The Doctor perked up, but he looked guarded still.
 "How much do you remember?"
 Tom shrugged. "I remember being in the Academy. I remember...the
accident, Caldik Prime-" he gave the Doctor a pointed look, as if he
expected him to react in surprise. The Doctor merely nodded. He knew
that part of Tom Paris' history well enough. "And the trial. Leaving
home. That's it. After that, everything is a blur. Sometimes, it's
 "Go on," the Doctor coaxed.
 Tom frowned. "I dreamt that I was drowning," he shook his head as
if to clear the frightening images. "I wanted to swim up, but I had no
strength. Is that what happened to me? Did I drown?"
 The Doctor sighed. "We're not sure, but we suspect something of
that nature."
 "Didn't Starfleet Medical send you my medical records?" Tom
asked, perplexed.
 "Well...we're not exactly near Starfleet Medical right now."
 "What do you mean?"
 "Maybe you should rest, Thomas."
 "I want to know, Doctor," he said firmly.
 The Doctor looked uncomfortable.
 "You tried to kill yourself," said a voice.
 Tom jumped and paled when he saw *himself*.
  *He* was behind a forcefield, an arm braced against the wall as
he leaned casually against it. His hair was long, tied in braids which
cascaded to his shoulders. It was his eyes that disturbed him the most.
They were...cruel.
 "Mr. Paris!" the Doctor barked.
 Tom could only stare in fascination at his double - he had a
hard, steely look about him that unnerved him. But he was strong -that
much he could see. The form before him was lithe and muscular.
Everything about him spelt danger.
 "He asked a question, didn't he? I answered it," the man answered
coolly. He gave the doctor a cynical smile. "And isn't my new name
`Assassin' - for simplicity's sake?" he mocked.
 "I thought it was ridiculous," the Doctor muttered. "No one
should be called by what they...do."
 "They named you the same way," the man said.
 The Doctor was about to retort when he was interrupted by another
 "Say, Doc! I think you better do something with my vision because
I'm seeing double here," said another voice.
 And all three turned to see a bleary-eyed Tom Paris in Starfleet
uniform stumbling towards them.
 "Sleeping Beauty awakens," said the Assassin, a cynical grin on
his face.

Chapter 10
Day 8 1002 hours

 Talk about a weird day. Or rather, a weird week - since they told
him that he had been in a coma - a coma! - for a week.
 All because some inter-dimensional being wanted alternate
versions of him dead.
 It was weird, but he felt no satisfaction for passing the `test'
and not being a `failure' to the being. When he looked at the Assassin
and Thomas, he felt a stab of remembered self-revulsion and fear. He
could've easily been either of them.
 B'Elanna had grabbed some free time to tell him about the two,
and the story was not pleasant. Assassin was well, an assassin who had
an implant in his head. When he had come onboard, he had taken Samantha
Wildman hostage, nearly killed four of Tuvok's best men and killed two
others. He thought he was a Romulan and worse, acted like one.
 Thomas, on the other hand was the complete opposite. Just a few
days ago, he had been a child in a 28-year-old man's body until the
Doctor healed the damaged portions of his brain. He had ended up
disabled because he had drowned in the very lake behind his house in
San Francisco.
 The thought unnerved him.
 <Mom would've been devastated if that had happened. She would've
blamed herself because it was *her* lake, and her son had drowned in
it. He looked at Thomas' back, as he slept on his side.
 The Assassin in his corner, sat cross-legged in some kind of
meditative pose. As he stared, the man's eyes shot open. They glared
balefully at him.
 "How long must we wait?" he suddenly growled.
 Tom looked for the Doc's reaction.
 "I don't know," the Doctor replied peevishly. It must have been
the gazzilionth time the Assassin had asked him the question.
 "If the creature wants to kill me, release me so I can face him!
I am not bait for that creature!" he spat.
 "I thought we *were* bait." Tom just *had* to add that.
 The Assassin glared at him, his blue eyes staring piercingly at
him as if he was doing an imaginary dissection on him right then.
 "Just wonderful," the Doctor muttered. "Three Parises in the same
room. What did I do to deserve this?"
 Tom chuckled. The Assassin narrowed his eyes and looked away.
 He sighed. *That* version of him was one major grump.
 Just then, the sickbay doors slid open. Seven, B'Elanna and the
Captain entered.
 He signaled B'Elanna desperately. Get me out!" he mouthed to her.
"I don't think so," his wife mouthed back, smiling. But beneath that
smile he sensed worry. He wanted to tell her everything would be all
right, but he wasn't sure himself. Especially when the obsidian
coloured alien entered the Sickbay.
 "Whoa!" he jumped up from the biobed.
 "Easy, Lieutenant. She's alright," the Captain said.
 "I'm glad you're feeling better, Tom," said the alien. Tom
thought that it was the most mysterious voice he had heard - it was
high and resonant, like a musical instrument.
 "I feel like a million bars of latinum," he answered. "Only I
feel a little weird because there's three of me."
 "Understandable," said the alien.
 "Tom, we have to move all of you to Cargo Bay 2 now," Janeway
said, her eyes betraying her concern.
 Tom nodded. "Where we'll be the proverbial worm on the hook," he
 "Jorel-" Janeway nodded to the alien, "-awakened you because she
wants Lyssiss to find you."
 "The bad guy."
 Janeway grinned. "Yes, the bad guy. Once in the cargo bay, you
will be placed underneath a special force field which will prevent
Lyssiss from physically touching you."
 Tom nodded and gave B'Elanna a grave look. "Don't worry B'Elanna,
it's just another routine assignment where I wait for the bad guy and
kill him in the end," he threw a devil-may-care grin, but his eyes
betrayed his nervousness.
 "Maybe I'll get some dinner ready for you tonight after the job
is done. Maybe bake a turkey or something," she said after a long
pause. Her attempt at humour made Tom chuckle. Hanging around him has
had more than one effect on B'Elanna after all.
   "Don't forget the honey, dear," he said, throwing her a secretive
 B'Elanna merely looked into his eyes and then slowly lowered her
eyes suggestively. It made him look forward to getting into Jorel's
trap so that he could get the whole thing done and over with as soon as
 The Assassin gave him a mysterious look. A look which Tom
completely ignored.

* * *

 The cargo bay was dark.
 The one called Thomas watched the Assassin and the lieutenant,
feeling strangely envious of them. The lieutenant was humming to
himself as he sat cross-legged on the floor. The assassin merely stood
near the surface of the shield, staring at nothing, facing away from
 Somehow the lieutenant caught him staring at him and met his
eyes. Tom was not unnerved. He stared back.
 "You are the person I've always dreamed I would be," he finally
said, feeling the old hurt resurface as he said the words.
 The lieutenant looked surprised. "Little old me? Stuck here in
the Delta Quadrant, away from the Federation?"
 "But you still have the nasty habit of using humour when you're
nervous," Tom said, leaning back against the stack of barrels behind
 The Lieutenant sighed and shifted himself nearer to him.
 "Look...Tom, I'm...I'm not a role model."
 "I didn't say you were," he replied.
 "I stand corrected then. The thing is, I know you - because you
are *me*. You're feeling a whole sack of self-pity right now and I know
what you've been through, because I've gone through Caldik Prime, the
trial...and Odile's death," he said gravely.
 Tom studied his Starfleet counterpart; noticed the confident way
he spoke, the happiness that was reflected in his eyes. *That* was what
he wanted. Not some Starfleet rank.
 He remembered it all at last. The two terrifying years of fear
and depression, and finally - the lake.
 "Did they visit you then?" he asked.
 The Lieutenant looked puzzled. "Who?"
 "Odile. Bruno...Charlie," he blinked away tears. He felt so weak
and useless.
 The Lieutenant paled and leaned back against the barrels.
 "It wasn't so long ago," he merely said, his voice subdued. And
it was like looking into a mirror. Tom could see the same guilt and
fear mirrored on the Lieutenant's face.
 "Yes, they visited me. On board the USS Copernicus. I thought
they'd come back to haunt me again and again, but after the trial, they
never came back. They must have been satisfied that I confessed," he
shook his head wryly.
 "They visited me. For two years. They were *never* satisfied,"
Tom said softly, knowing that his eyes betrayed the pain and fear he
felt. His voice sounded bitter to his ears.
 The Lieutenant look stricken. "I'm sorry. Nobody should live
through that," he said softly.
  Tom had to continue. He was afraid that if he stopped, his
cowardice would be with him forever.
 "Two years ago, Odile came to me at the place I thought I was the
safest in the world. And I couldn't take it anymore. I lay on the muddy
shore of Mom's lake, thinking that it all had to end. And then I
realized, that *that* was what they wanted me to do. To end it. I was
dragging them around with me, and I had to die so they could be free.
So I did what I thought was right. I walked into the lake and drowned."
 He said it all in a frighteningly monotonous voice, devoid of all
emotion. But his eyes became misty with tears - tears of his weakness.
He hated himself for it. The assassin hid his pain with violence, the
Lieutenant with humour, but he had nothing to hide under. He had been
stripped of everything; his dignity, joy, even anger.
 "You think I'm a coward," he said.
 The Lieutenant shook his head. "No. I would have done the same
thing. I *know.* My life wasn't a picnic - you think I'm some kind of
model of `greatness' or perfection," he snorted. "Truth was, I was
pretty much on my way to the pits of hell before I confessed. I joined
the Maquis, worse, got myself captured on my first mission. It was a
Dad-Oh-So-Proud moment," he muttered sarcastically. He was quiet for a
while, then gave Thomas a hard look.
 "You aren't weak or a coward if you survive and grow strong again. You
have to remember that," he said.
 Tom nodded. "You...have a good life, Lieutenant. Despite what
you've been through, you have a wife, friends who love you and you can
fly," he said the last word longingly. "Don't ever forget that."
 The Lieutenant nodded, his face grave. "I never have. Not for a
 They sat in the cargo bay waiting for it happen.
 But Lyssis never came.

* * *
Captain's Ready Room

 "I do not understand," Jorel said.
 That was something Janeway did not want to hear from the inter-
dimensional alien.
 "He must have been expecting you," Chakotay said.
 "The bait has been cast, but the fish is too wary to grab it,"
Janeway muttered, her eyes blazing with annoyance.
  "What will he do next?" B'Elanna asked, her voice strained.
 Jorel did not reply.
 Janeway knew that that was not a good sign.
 "Will there be reinforcements?" she demanded.
 Again, silence.
 Janeway wanted to rail against the alien. How could you let this
happen? She wanted to scream. Jorel looked helpless, as if she had
never been in this situation before.
 "He has grown unpredictable. He is more determined than I
imagine," she said.
  "I'll say," Janeway muttered sarcastically. "Don't you have
security measures to prevent something like this?"
 Jorel looked chagrined. "This has never happened before. My
people do not even know the meaning of war, let alone...murder," she
sounded pained. "We do not kill. Never," she said vehemently.
  Janeway did not know what to say. Neither did any of the crew.
 Finally, Harry spoke up. "Isn't there anything to prevent him
from entering this dimension?"
 Jorel look askance at Harry. "That would kill him. We do not
 "Well, don't kill him then!" B'Elanna shot back. "Shackle him.
Imprison him. Just stop him!"
 "B'Elanna," Janeway admonished. The half-Klingon fell silent, but
anger still simmered in her dark eyes. "Well?" she asked Jorel.
 Jorel stood up uncertainly. "There is a way...but it will cause him
great pain. None of us has done it before. Theoretically, it is
possible...but...it goes against everything we believe in!"
 Janeway frowned. "Jorel," she grated.
 "Alright, Captain," Jorel said before she could continue. "I
 The shimmer was barely perceptible at first. Then it became
obvious that Jorel was...flickering.
 "Captain?" Harry asked, half rising from his seat.
  "Jorel!" Janeway called out - reaching out for the alien.
 "No, Captain!" Tuvok restrained her hand. They watched helplessly
as the flickering increased. Jorel disappeared and reappeared, and each
time she became clear again, the pain in her features increased. Jorel
looked shocked, and Janeway knew why. The `something that was not done
before' was being done now. To *her*.
 There was a blast of light and a piercing scream. It felt as if
the whole universe shook - then the universe shifted to normal.
 It left them disoriented and breathless.
 Chakotay was the first to regain his breath. "Looks like Jorel
will not be the first to employ that little trick after all. Lysiss has
beaten her to it," Chakotay wheezed.
 Janeway stared at the empty spot where Jorel was, her mind
whirling. How could they stop something that could do *that*?

* * *

  "You're kidding."
 "Wish I was," said the First Officer seriously, his arms folded.
 "You have a talent for understatement, Chakotay. Where's my
 Chakotay lifted an eyebrow at his abrupt change of subject.
 "Here, Tom," B'Elanna said as she entered the sickbay. "I was
studying the bipolar energy discharge Jorel left when-"
 "Enough of that," Tom muttered as he walked to his wife. He
wrapped her in a hug.
 B'Elanna looked surprised, but she returned his hug, wrapping her
arms securely around his.
 "I missed you," he said when he broke the embrace.
 B'Elanna, never one to show affection openly in public could only
nod. Her eyes flickered to the Assassin who sat on the floor, his eyes
closed, then to Thomas, who pretended not to notice their public
display of affection. He wasn't pretending very well.
 "Now that we've got that out of the way, I want you to stay away
from me," Tom said.
 "What?" B'Elanna's brown wrinkled in puzzlement. Her voice had a
dangerous tone to it.
 "Uh-oh," he heard Chakotay mutter in the background.
 "I've got an inter-dimensional being on my tail!" Tom protested.
 "And you decided to play knight in shining armour and rescue your
fair damsel from peril?" B'Elanna asked sarcastically.
 B'Elanna gave him a shove. "That has never worked, helmboy. And
if you think being gallant at a time like this is amusing-"
 "B'Elanna, I don't want anything to happen to you," Tom was
deadpan serious.
 B'Elanna's expression softened. "I know. And I don't want
anything to happen to you, either. So just shut up," she added gruffly.
 Thomas watched the exchange in fascination.
 <They obviously love each other. Will I find that when I return
to Earth?
 And then he thought about what Chakotay said about Jorel.
 <If I return
 When they began to kiss, right in the middle of sickbay, Thomas
turned away in embarrassment.
  He saw the Assassin studying the couple with a strange look. He
looked almost...sad...as if he remembered something that hurt him.
 The man noticed his stare and returned it, his blue eyes flashing
hotly. Thomas turned away again, annoyed and disturbed.
 "He is an assassin," he heard the Assassin speak up. Wondering if
the man spoke to him, Thomas turned to look. But the man's eyes were
centered on the first officer.
 B'Elanna and Tom broke from their intimate embrace. The half-
Klingon looked embarrassed.
  Chakotay walked to the Assassin's cell, regarding him silently.
Tom got up and walked to the shield, so near to Chakotay that they were
mere inches apart.
 "So he thinks like one. And he will strike when you least expect
it, where you think you're the safest," he said. The Assassin looked
up. "In fact, he is on the ship now, waiting for the right moment to
 Then the assassin shifted his eyes to meet Chakotay's. His lips
stretched to a cold smile.
 "That's what I would have done," he said.
 Thomas shivered.

* * *

 The lake was cold.
 But it was the right thing to do.
 He took a step. And then another. Odille was before him, gliding
away from him, beckoning him to the right thing.
 Release us, she was saying. Release us from this hell you put us
 They were rotting, wasting away because he was still here. They
were waiting for him to join them. He wasn't supposed to survive
Chaldik Prime. Because of his error, they were condemned to live this
living death.
 It all made sense now.
 He continued walking until he couldn't feel his feet anymore,
then he tripped-
- and sank like a stone.
  Immediately, he began to panic. His survival instincts overrode
his desire to do the right thing and he trashed in the frigid waters to
break the surface.
 But he couldn't - his arms were like lead. His feet - he couldn't
feel them.
 His vision began to cloud, then it turned red, like blood.
 And he opened his mouth to take a desperate breath.
 But there was only water.
 Cold, slimy water.

 Thomas cried out in terror and came awake, his body shivering
 "Thomas are you alright?" A voice asked him frantically.
 It took him a moment to focus on the Doctor. Thomas was dismayed
when he saw a troupe of security men behind the Doctor, all looking
incredibly concerned. Amazingly, Lieutenant Paris was snoring on his
biobed, totally oblivious of the commotion.
 "I'm fine," he gulped. Then he glared at the security  men. "Stop
staring," he muttered.
 The Doctor gave the men a nod, and they left the sickbay.
 The lights were dimmed again, and Thomas was left with the Doctor
who scanned him with his medical tricorder.
 "I'm fine," he said peevishly.
 "Well, a little distressed, but that's understandable. Did you
have a nightmare?"
 Thomas didn't really want to say yes, but he nodded anyway.
 When he didn't elaborate further, the Doctor nodded. "Alright.
I'll be here if you need me. Just call." With that, the Doctor walked
to his dimly lighted office. When he was sure that the Doctor was gone,
Thomas let out the shuddery breath he had kept in. He covered his face
with his hands, and released a sob.
 <Stop crying you weakling! he scolded, but a tear escaped. "Damn
you," he cursed himself between sobs.
 "Did you dream of drowning?"
  He had forgotten about *him*.
  The Assassin studied him, his cold eyes seemed to glow in the dim
 "What do you want?" he snapped. His patience was tapped. The man
could go to hell for all he cared.
 The man moved forward.
 "You went willingly," he said, undeterred.
 "Shut up," Thomas snapped, then casting a look at the medical
office to make sure the Doctor had not notice. He had not.
 "What drove you to do such a cowardly act?" the man prodded.
Curiously, his voice held no disgust or malice. It was flat, almost
neutral - as if he was curious to know why.
 But Thomas flinched, stung. He was not going to take this. Not
from this aberration.
 "What drove you to be a butcher? Killing men as if they were
nothing? And doing it for a living! And you dare judge me, you - you
abomination!" he shot back.
  He was furious, but he also wanted to know why. The man was him
after all - a man who was driven down a different road. A harsher,
crueler road.
 The Assassin leaned against the wall, giving him a wry smile.
 "Men *are* nothing. That's something you should know- *Thomas*."
 He said his name as if it amused him.
 "They said you nearly killed...Dad. Would you even kill your own
child, too?" Thomas prodded further.
 The Assassin stiffened, his eyes widened in fury, his lips
thinned into a grimace. Then he turned abruptly.
  "You would, wouldn't you?" Tom goaded.
 "If I were free...you would pay for that remark with a knife in
your gut," he said almost casually. He still faced away from him.
 "That's it, isn't it?" Thomas said, getting off the bed. "You
killed your son!"
 The Assassin's shoulders stiffened.
 "Didn't you?" he goaded.
 The man turned, staring hotly at him. Then his expression
changed. Pain flashed across his hard features.
 "You don't know what you're saying," he said, his voice a
whisper. Then the pain was gone, replaced with cold indifference.
 "Yes," he said after a moment, his expression unreadable once
more. "I killed my son. And because of that, *I* am nothing."
 He turned away and walked into the darkness of his little cell.
 Thomas could only stare, wondering.
* * *

 You killed your son, didn't you?
 Tom leaned against the wall, thinking. Thinking about things he
should not be thinking about. Life in the Paris home, with its ordinary
lake and the ordinary gardens. With that ordinary Starfleet career
stretched out expectantly before his young life. His sisters, his
loving mother, his doting father. The perfect family.
  Stop it Tom! He could hear Moira scolding him when he packed his
bags. He had been furious, shoving clothes into the bag, not even
bothering to check what he had packed. He was going to leave and never
come back.
 Dad is just like that! She had said.
 And then he was pointing that gun in his face, ready to kill him.
 What do you think of your son now, Admiral?
 Jared, his neck broken, with his hands around his neck.
 You killed your son, didn't you?
 His heart was cold, a thing made of stone. Tom Paris died a long
time ago.
  Then he felt someone staring at him again.
 Thinking it was Thomas, he ignored it. But it was persistent,
like a needle poking his back.
 He hissed in anger and turned.
 His eyes widened.

Chapter 11

 Lieutenant JG Thomas Eugene Paris dreamed.
 He was in Auckland, the prison, and he was sitting at his
favourite spot, staring.
 He did that a lot. Thinking was his worse fault in the idyllic
prison of the New Zealand Corrections Facility.
 It was a habit that the counselors took note of, and was the
reason why they dragged him for counseling every once in a while to
make sure he didn't do anything silly to himself, like slit his wrists
or something.
 He stared at the stars above.
 He was thinking, Dad had not visited.
 <Stop being a baby, Tom! he chided himself. His Starfleet
career, ruined, ruined. He was not a Cadet anymore. He was not part of
Starfleet either. What was he now?
 He gripped his hair in his fists, moaning in pain.
 Then his thoughts went still again. He lowered his hands and
stared at the fluttering grass. He wasn't supposed to be here, he
realized. He should have been in his quarters, asleep. His unlocked
quarters - Starfleet had a laissez-faire policy with its prisoners. As
long as you had that convenient tracking device strapped to your ankle,
they're fine with you.
 He looked up. It was that Betazoid again. That half-Betazoid,
that is. The one that liked to smile a lot. He frowned.
 "Isn't it a little late for a picnic?" she asked him. He hated
her sense of humour. It never made him laugh.
 He looked away, keeping his eyes on the fluttering grass again.
 "Stop it, Tom."
 She had her hands on his face, forcing him to look away.
 "Tom, look at me. You must stop this. You don't have to die-" her
voice trailed then she gasped.
 She held his hand, alarmed at the blood flowing heavily from his
 "Tom what did you do?" she cried out in shock, then lifted her
hand to tap her commbadge.
 Then her eyes widened in pain.
 "You stop," he muttered, staring at the shard of glass that he
plunged into her chest. "You talk too much."
 <Wait a minute. It didn't happen this way! He had walked away,
stumbling to his bedroom, ashamed of the suicidal thoughts that were
swimming in his head then. He knew Troi had sensed them. He did not
kill her!

 He was in a padded cell, gazing with empty eyes at his father.
The admiral was disappointed. The admiral was sad.
 "Tom, can you hear me?" he said, his voice shaky. "For goodness
sakes, answer me..."
 [He killed Counselor Troi. Then he returned to his quarters to
kill four more inmates in their sleep. Then he went to bed, pulled the
covers over himself and slept. Docs found him just in time. His bed was
red with blood. Dripping, really. Now he's mad. Mad, mad, mad...]

 He was a Maquis, grinning and laughing as he shot Chakotay
through the heart with his phaser. "The Cardassians paid more, Indian

 "No," he said, horrified. "It didn't happen this way. This isn't
me! They are not me!"
 "Do you understand now, why I must kill them?"
 The voice startled him. He turned to see an obsidian skinned
alien like Jorel looking at him. And he knew without a doubt that it
was Lyssiss.
 "No..." he said. "They screwed up...but they deserved to live. Just
like Thomas...and the Assassin. They could have had a second chance, but
you took that away!"
 Lyssiss glided to him and whispered silkily as he placed a cold
hand beneath his chin. "Say that again. This time, do not lie."

* * *

 Tom Paris, the man who killed people for a living, stared at his
 "Hi, Daddy," Jared said. He yawned and rubbed his eyes. "Aren't
we going fishing today?"
 Jared stood behind the force field, waiting for his response.
 He could only stare dumbly at the ghost.
 "Daddy? Aren't we?"
 "J-Jared," he stammered, his voice shaky. "Is that you?"
 Jared looked puzzled. "Of course it is, Daddy.
 He let out a tremulous breath. "No," he muttered. "He's dead."
 Jared waited. Then he stretched out his hand. It passed through
the forcefield effortlessly. It hissed, then fizzled out.
 "Take my hand, Daddy, let's go fishing," Jared begged.
 He missed his son. He missed him so much. It hurt to think that
his boy was decaying beneath alien soil, alone, so many light years
 "But I'm here, Daddy," Jared reassured him. "Just take my hand,
and we'll leave this place-"
 He reached out. Just to make sure he was real.
 Then Jared screamed.
 A knife burst out from his chest and a mushroom of blood seeped
through his nightclothes.
 "NO!" he screamed, reaching out for him.
 "Stop it!" he heard someone say. Someone was pulling him away.
"He's not real!"
 He struggled violently in the man's grasp, in agony at the
thought of losing his son again.
 Then his face snapped painfully to his right. He tasted blood
from his cut lip.
 His head cleared abruptly.
 Thomas' was before him, shaking him. "He is not real!" he said
again. Then he pointed to where Jared lay.
 Only it wasn't Jared.
 The creature was yellow in colour. It lay in a tangled heap, its
many tentacles lying askew. It looked like an octopus.
 "How did you-"
 "The Doc's scalpel. I didn't think I could kill it - but, hey.
We're not sticking around to find out, are we?"
  The Assassin brushed Thomas' hands away and got up, looking
around with a heavy frown.
 "Sticking around where?" he asked.
 It was then that Thomas realized that they were no longer in the
 And from the looks of the black, empty space around them - they
were probably not on Voyager either.

* * *

 Lieutenant Tom Paris froze.
 "Me? Lie?" he said nervously, giving the alien a plastic grin.
 Lyssiss frowned.
 "They must die," Lysiss said, as if it explained everything.
 "Why?" Tom demanded. "Because they're not perfect? I've screwed
up spectacularly myself! Hell, kill me too while you're at it - I'm not
exactly Mr. Perfect Destiny!"
 Tom gulped, realizing he had said too much.
 Lysiss stared at him, as if considering his words. Then he
released him abruptly, turning away.
 "Hey, wait!" he called out, reaching out for the alien-
 The world around him evaporated and he found himself face to face
with the Doctor.
 "Wait for what?" asked the Doctor, frowning heavily.
 He was on his biobed. In the infirmary. On Voyager. That was some
dream, but somehow, Tom was quite sure that was not just a dream.
  Tom took a deep breath before replying. "Lysiss is here," then he
saw the security personnel around them and the empty cell and biobed
beside him. His counterparts were missing.
 "But I bet you already knew that," he said.

* * *

 "Where are we?" Thomas asked.
 The Assassin did not reply. He stared at the darkness balefully.
"He is a coward, killing us like this."
 Thomas shivered.
 The air was getting cold. If it was air around them, that is.
Thomas wrapped his arms around himself.
 "Show yourself!" the Assassin demanded, whirling around.
 "Hey, I'm not in ta hurry to die," Thomas muttered, shivering
 Then he saw something moving in the inky darkness. It was a
distortion of the darkness. And it was getting closer.
 Thomas heard the Assassin gasp in pain beside him. He saw
Jorel...no, it must be Lyssiss, holding the Assassin by the neck. And the
alien slowly turned his yellow eyes to him.
 You will be next, the eyes seem to say.
 "No," he hissed. "I will not die like this!" he reached out.
 There was a flash of light.

* * *

 "Oomph!" Thomas landed heavily on his side. For a moment, stars
swam in his vision.
 He heard a groan that sounded like his. No, it was the
Assassin's. He looked up to see the Captain offering her hand to help
him up. Thomas took it.
 "Are you alright?" she demanded.
 "Yes," he answered as he got up, but his voice was shaking. It
was close, too close.
  "You disappeared for a while. Then reappeared again. Care to tell
me what happened?"
 "It was L-Lyississ," he stammered. Why was it so cold?
  "He was a coward!" the Assassin fumed at his side. Even now
Security restrained him, placing him in shackles. They were not taking
any chances with him at all.
 "He grows desperate," said a high and tremulous voice.
 The security personnel trained their phasers at the Obsidian
skinned alien. Thomas froze.
 "Jorel..." Janeway said.
 "He tried to kill me," Jorel said. Her voice betrayed her
distress and despair. But she did not dwell on that.
  "We must bring them to the Cargo Bay now and set the trap once

Chapter 12

 Lieutenant Tom Paris pitied worms. Because he understood now what
it was like to hang from a hook while fish swam around you, waiting to
eat you. It wasn't a pleasant feeling, really.
 Again, they were in the cargo bay. The Assassin standing on one
side, armed to the hilt with goodness knows how many weapons. Thomas
gave him a nervous look, clutching his canon phaser. He was afraid that
he was rusty. After all, it had been almost five years since he held a
 Tom, on the other hand, hated to be the magnet that Lyssiss used
to find these two.
 <If they die, it's because I led Lyssis here!
 He gave Thomas a reassuring smile, which was returned with a
hesitant one. Jorel had disappeared. Janeway and half the ship was
hidden around the cargo bay area, waiting. Their nerves were strung
 <What makes them think that Lysiss will walk into this obvious
trap?? Tom thought.

  <Who would have thought I would have ended up here? Thomas
thought to himself.
 He was afraid - he wasn't brave like the Lieutenant or the
Assassin. He closed his eyes, thought about pleasant things like Peter
Pan when he was about to fly.
 He thought about his father, how he sang to him while he tried to
sleep. He had been eight then. He always did that - until his father's
Captaincy took that away from him. Then it was those grey years, where
he sang him to sleep again. And all Thomas could do was look at his
father, his mind an empty husk.
 Then he felt the air around them dip into a chill.

* * *

 Lyssiss knew that it was a trap, but he had to finish what he had
begun. He saw the two that were denied him standing with the other of
this dimension. It was too easy. He was where Jorel wanted him to be.
 In a flash, he sped towards the two Tom Parises. They saw him,
crying out in words he did not bother to decipher. His hands reached
out towards the frail hearts that beat beneath their chest. Their
suffering would end here. Now!
 Then he crashed into a wall.
  It flung him across the cargo bay. He landed painfully on the
wall and slid down. Furious, he glared at the three beings, feeling
ashamed that he had not detected the shield in time. His limbs were
resonating with pain, but he ignored it, lifting his hands to destroy
the shield-
 "It's over, Lyssiss," Jorel said, appearing beside him. She
knelt, looking at him plaintively with golden eyes. "Don't do this."
 "You have a shield around them," he accused.
 "To keep them from you," Jorel replied.
 "And to keep them trapped," he said. He acted immediately,
drawing upon all his strength to summon what he needed and pointed at
his targets.
 Jorel's eyes widened. "No! Don't do this!"

 "Oh-oh, that doesn't look good," the Lieutenant muttered.
 The Assassin could sense a battle coming his way. But how could
the two others protect themselves - especially Thomas?
 Bright light burst again, but this time it was different. This
time it brought along something.
 The creatures stood there for a moment, looking perplexed. They
were seven feet tall, ugly bipedal creatures with yellow skulls for
heads and sharp fangs that were three inches long. Their legs were bent
like a kangaroo's, and muscles rippled on their yellow bodies. The
three creatures snarled at them, clawing the air around them as if
their claws could carve marks in the air.
 "Friends of yours?" the Lieutenant asked.
 The assassin wished he would shut up. Unnecessary banter wasted
 The first creature struck-
  The assassin pulled out his laser-sword and activated it,
catching the creature with a slash across its chest.
 The creature howled in pain, stumbling back to peer at its chest.
 The assasin's eyes widened in surprise. The creature should have
been cleaved in half, but it stood there instead, with a light scratch
across its wide chest. It snarled at him, bent and leapt-

 "Stop this Lyssiss!!" Jorel screamed. "You will kill this
dimension's Tom Paris as well!"
 "Why are you stopping me?" Lyssiss said, his golden eyes burning
with fury. "I am easing their pain!"
 Jorel turned to pull the creatures into their dimensions, but
Lyssiss struck first, hurtling her across the cargo bay to land
painfully on a stack of a barrels.
  A flurry of phaser fire rained on him. It was the Voyager crew.
Lyssiss waved his hand dismissively. Captain Janeway and her retinue of
Starfleet officers disappeared.
 Jorel, on the other hand, did not stop for a breath. She
disappeared and reappeared at his side, gripping Lyssiss' hands.
 "Don't make me do this, Lyssiss!"

 "He won't survive with that puny sword!" Lieutenant Paris yelled.
Thank goodness the Captain had given them weapons in case anything went
wrong, which it had done in a spectacular way.
 Thomas fired at the creature coming towards it. Each blast seemed
to irritate it more, and did nothing but push it back a little. With
shaking hands, he set it to kill - and fired.
 This time in yowled in pain, stumbling a few steps back. Its
chest had a small, yellow hole.
 "Way to go, Tom!" the Lieutenant yelled as he fired his own
 The creature leapt towards the Lieutenant and ignored the blasts,
knocking the man down. It straddled him, hissing into his face.
Lieutenant Paris struggled to get its weight off- Then the creature
brought its claws down to impale him with them-
 And a blast blew it away.
 It shrieked in pain.
 Thomas held the phaser, knowing that that precious second he used
to save the Lieutenant was enough to send the other one on him. And it
did, knocking him flat to the ground.

 Jorel gripped Lyssiss' hands, staring into his eyes, but she saw
only madness, not reason.
 "Everyone makes mistakes, Lyssiss. But you do not punish those
that fail!"
 "They are in pain, Jorel! I'm easing them of their suffering!"
 "You want to ease *your* suffering. You want to erase your
mistakes, not theirs! Again, don't make me do this Lyssiss!"
 Jorel could sense him gathering his strength for another strike.
 She had no choice.

  The weakness was in its hands!
 Bleeding from numerous cuts, the assassin leapt at the creature
that pinned Thomas down. With two quick slashes, he lopped off the
creatures hands. Yellow blood spurted out, staining his black shirt
with filth.
 Then he was thrown across the area to land painfully on the force
 It stunned him for a while, but he gathered all his strength in a
burst and reached for the dagger inside his shirt and rolled towards
the creature, planting the dagger into its foot. It howled-
 But the assassin did not give it time. He reached for his fallen
laser-sword and lopped off its feet.

 Thomas trembled violently, shocked by his near death. But he
didn't give himself too much time to react. He pointed his phaser at
the creature pinning the Lieutenant down. It hissed at him- and he
pointed it at its mouth and fired.
 It shrieked, shuddered and fell.
 The Lieutenant gasped and tried to get up from beneath the
corpse. Thomas helped him, dragging him from the creature.
 They looked up just in time to see the assassin stand on another
monster - without hands or feet - and plunge the laser sword into its
throat. It gurgled and lay still.
 But he was not out of danger.
 "Look out!" Thomas shouted. Another creature remained, it swung
its claws-
  -and stabbed the assassin through the back and lifted him.
 The assassin gasped in pain, but his eyes were determined as he
bent his knees and kicked himself away from the creature. As he fell
from the monster, Thomas and Lieutenant Paris fired their phaser at the
creature's wide-open mouth. Its head exploded, and it fell in a bloody
 Thomas ran to the assassin, gently turning him over.
 He was pale, and blood trickled from the side of his mouth.
 "Just hang on, you're going to be alright."
 The assassin clutched his arm in a sudden fierce grip.
 "Promise me something...Tom!" he hissed.
 He nodded quickly, trying to push the man down on his back.
 "When you return, do the...right thing-" he closed his eyes in
pain. "-do what I will never have the chance to...do. Tell Dad..." he
gasped, then his eyes rolled into his head and he went limp.
 "He should've taken the phasers," the lieutenant said as he came
to his side. "Is he dead?" he asked, breathing heavily.
 "No. But he's hurt bad," Thomas replied, shaken.
 "What did he say to you?"
 Thomas lay the assassin gently on the floor. "What I've always
thought I should do," he said softly.

 When Lyssiss died, Janeway and her crew reappeared at the cargo
bay area in time to see Jorel gazing down at a charred spot on the
floor. Janeway also saw the Tom Parises - two looking bruised, another
looking dead. They were surrounded by the bodies of huge, yellow
 "Doctor, three to transport to sickbay," she snapped.
 They were transported immediately.
 She walked to Jorel, anger accentuated in each step. It had been
over in a matter of minutes. Or more, since they were removed from the
area by Lyssiss.
 "You said they would be safe," she accused.
"I am sorry. He did another grievous thing. He changed the
creatures that served us."
  Janeway didn't want to know what she meant.
 Jorel looked at the creatures in revulsion. With a dismissive
wave of her hand, the creatures disappeared along with their blood and
  Janeway looked down at the charred spot. "And this is...was
 Jorel nodded. "He would not listen. There was nothing I could

* * *
Two days later.
1835 hours.

  He caressed the console, marveling at its beauty. Hesitantly, he
took his seat, adjusting himself a little as he leaned back to enjoy
the view of stationery stars.
  He never thought he'd be behind the wheel of a starship. It
filled with him with a sense of joy he didn't think he could feel once
  As he leaned forward to study the panel, he caught his reflection
on its shiny surface. Funny, he realized that he had not seen how he
looked since he woke up aware in sickbay almost two weeks ago. He
touched his cheek, then ran his hand through his hair, which lay in
unruly wavy locks slightly beneath his ears. He did not look at all
like the lieutenant with his Starfleet standard haircut.
 Then again, he liked the hairstyle. Maybe he'd keep it.
  He studied the panel again. It was new; there were new additions
to the console that he did not recognize. The ship was probably
commissioned some time after his fall from grace.
 He touched the panel. It lit up, waiting for further
 Slowly, he entered the coordinates for the nearest star system.
Then he slid his hand up the panel that controlled warp speed. His left
hand turned in a circular motion on the panel that controlled the
 Then his fingers were dancing on the panel nimbly. Joyously, it
seemed - they had never forgotten the feel of a starship.
 "She's a beauty, isn't she?"
  Thomas turned to see Lieutenant Paris studying him, his arms
folded, a grin on his face.
 "Intrepid class. Sustainable cruise velocity of warp factor
9.975, 15 decks, bioneural circuitry," he said. For a while, the
lieutenant seemed lost in thought. "A Lieutenant Stadi once told me
that.  I was being shuttled to Voyager, docked at Deep Space Nine. Back
then, I was supposed to be just an `observer'. A man who peddled
knowledge for his freedom."
  Lieutenant Paris sighed and leaned against the console, staring
at the streaking stars.
 "I didn't think I would have the chance to come near this," he
said, caressing the console.
 Thomas nodded, understanding. They were both pilots, in love with
being above ground.
 "Ever thought of what you're going to do once you return?"
Lieutenant Paris said after a moment of silence.
 Thomas thought for a while. "I think I'll buy a vineyard in
France. Farming has always been an interest of mine," he said
 Lieutenant Paris stared at him uncertainly. Vineyards and
piloting - it seemed miles away to the man.
 Thomas chuckled. "Of course, since I do not have a green thumb,
and no interest in agriculture, that idea's scrap," he said.
 Lieutenant Paris chuckled along with him. "The old Paris humour,"
he said. "Seriously, what would you do?"
 Thomas shrugged. "Seriously, never thought about it." He paused
then touched the panel. "I miss this. Yeah... I do. But I won't return to
 Lieutenant Paris nodded.
 "Maybe I'll get my doctorate in Astrophysics," he grinned. "Dr.
Paris - how does that sound?"
 Lieutenant Paris only smiled.
 "No," he shook his head. "I don't know what I'll do. But what I
want to do is call Moira back from Deep Space whatever and tell her
that it's about time that she joined us for our annual Paris family
dinner - one that she had neglected for the past two years. And then
maybe bring Mom and Dad together again," he gave Lieutenant Paris a
pointed look.
 "Think about them often?" he asked.
 Paris looked uncomfortable. "Sure. Even spoke to Dad once. Well,
actually, he spoke to me...my mouth was hanging open - I supposed that
didn't count for speaking."
 He told Thomas that Voyager had received several messages from
home these past few years. And that he wrote back...once or twice.
 "I don't know what I'll do if he calls again," he laughed
suddenly. "Maybe I'll tell him I'm married just to give him a shock.
Then lump in a `you're a grandfather' along with it," he chuckled.
 Thomas was surprised. He didn't know B'Elanna was pregnant.
  He flew through a nebula, then through an asteroid belt for a
challenge. It felt euphoric, but his holodeck time was almost up - and
it was time to return to sickbay, his home for the past few days. The
Assassin was recovering well, asleep most of the time. The injuries had
been serious, but the Doctor had healed him well.
  He wondered what would happen to the man. Despite what he did
here - and his dimension, he found it difficult to dislike him. In a
way, he understood why he did what he did.
 "Good luck, Tom Paris," he whispered to himself.


* * *

  The one they called Assassin made a quick recovery while
Lieutenant Paris returned to his duties on the bridge. After further
evaluations from the Doctor, the Doctor declared Thomas fully
recovered. And today, Jorel told her that they would return soon to
their proper dimensions.
  Janeway joined Jorel at Astrometrics, wondering what stars she
gazed at.
 Jorel smiled when she entered.
 "You are seeing us off, Kathryn?"
 Janeway smiled. "And when you take them back, what's going to
happen to them?" Especially the assassin.
  Despite the fact that he had killed two of her crew members in cold
blood, she couldn't help to feel concerned for him. His past was a
carefully shrouded mystery - a mystery that was filled with so much
pain that it drove him to kill.
 "They will live out their lives," Jorel answered evasively,
giving her an amused smile.
 They gazed at the moving stars a while longer before Janeway
couldn't stand it anymore.
 "Why did you allow Tom to be healed? I never understood that. Why
break a rule for one person? You could do the same for many. And you
made it clear that you wouldn't. But why Tom?"
 Jorel gave Janeway a small smile.
 "Because...in a small way, I would be saving Lyssiss," she said in
a small voice.
 Janeway frowned. "I don't understand," she said.
 Jorel sighed, gazing into the stars. "Lyssiss was the son of my
teacher. I in turn, became his teacher...and one day, while probing the
dimensions, he destroyed one in a fit of rage."
 Jorel did not bother explaining that. Instead, she looked down at
her feet. "He was taken away from his post, and his father never
forgave him for his crime. It haunted him, and eventually he could not
take any reminders of his failures...he couldn't see those who failed
because it reminded him of his own failure," she paused and looked at
her pointedly.
  "There are so many dimensions out there, Kathryn. Some so
similar. Others so different they seemed like night and day. But there
will always be a similarity between all these dimensions. With Tom
Paris, it is always the same. He will commit a grave mistake, but
whether he takes the path to retribution or damnation is another
 Janeway's quick mind grasped Jorel's double meaning, but she
could not believe it. It sounded too astounding.
 "Lyssiss...is another alternate version of Tom Paris?"
 Jorel nodded. "And in many ways, Kathryn. You are *me*."
 Janeway took a step back, amazed.
 "We always bend the rules - all the Kathryns in the dimensions,"
Jorel laughed. "And although in my dimension, humans have evolved
beyond anything you are familiar with, we share a common destiny. To
boldly go where no one has gone before."
 Jorel smiled and disappeared. Janeway knew then that the Assassin
and Thomas were gone. She stared at the stars for a while afterwards,
wondering what destiny lay ahead for them.


 The smell of fresh flowers. Tulips in spring. The sound of birds
chirping. They were all vivid now, not dull echoes heard from a damaged
 Tom Paris looked at the spot where the lake had been, saddened by
its disappearance, and feeling worse at the thought that his mother had
done this.
 Something wet and cold touched his hand. He looked down and saw a
Golden Retriever grinning up at him, wagging its tail furiously.
 "Hey, Buster. Was I gone long?"
 The dog grinned and wagged its tail more furiously.
 <But I was gone, he thought, closing his eyes and taking a deep
breath of the fresh, spring air. <Two years, a living shadow of what I
was. And now, I have a second chance. A second chance to do the right
 "Tom?! Tom! Where are you?"
 His father's voice made his heart hammer with nervousness and
 He could see Owen Paris running, looking around him desperately
while calling out his name.
 He knew he should call out and tell his dad he was safe, but he
didn't seem to have the nerve. The old familiar intimidation he felt
for his father returned. But Tom tried to focus on the other admiral -
the admiral that, in his hazy, dream-like recollections, fed him when
he could barely pick up a spoon; who handed him his favourite
sandwiches in a tender voice, and who had held him in his arms when he
cried from nightmares.
 Owen finally saw him, and his anxious face broke into relief. He
ran to him, breathing hard when he reached his side.
 "For a moment, I thought...doesn't matter what I thought." Owen
Paris patted his shoulder. "Just don't scare me like that anymore,
would you? Are you all right? Did the light scare you? Come inside," he
took his hand, to guide him to the house.
 Tom pulled away uncertainly, feeling lost.
 Owen looked bad, his face concerned. "Damn it, it scared you,
didn't it? Don't worry, Tom. Kathleen will be back, and she will make
you feel better," Owen said gently.
 Tom shivered, feeling the pull of too many emotions. To him, it
was only yesterday that he barely spoke to his father, and an
unbridgeable gulf stood between them. And it was difficult to bridge
that distance even now, but he had to try.
 "Come on, Buster," Owen called. The dog followed eagerly, heading
towards the house. Tom faintly remembered that this was a common trick
Owen used to get his son to follow him.
 "Dad!" he called out in the strongest voice he could muster.
 Owen froze in his tracks, then swung around. Disbelief coloured
his features. The grey eyes held such painful hope that Tom felt guilty
for causing it. He had to say it now, or not he would loose his nerve.
 "I'm..." he hesitated, then walked towards his father slowly. "I'm
sorry, Dad," he finally said when he reached his father. "I'm sorry for
the years of silence. I'm sorry for...the words I've said. I didn't mean
them. I...I miss you, Dad," his voice trembled, and he felt overwhelmed
as he looked into the grey eyes.
 Silence stretched between them. Tom felt desperate for Owen to
say anything.
 "Aren't you going to say something, Dad?" he blurted out in
 Owen grabbed him suddenly, wrapping his arms around him in a
vise-like hug. Tom realized that his father, the stern-faced Admiral
that told him that crying was a weakness - was crying.
 "What are you talking about, Son?" Owen whispered tearfully as he
pulled away to looked into his eyes. "*I* was the one who left you."
 The older man studied him for a long time, and he looked afraid -
perhaps afraid that his son, who seemed so normal - was a dream.
  "I love you, Tom. And I've missed you so much," he finally said.
 Tom blinked back tears and smiled, returning his father's hug.
 He knew that they had finally crossed the bridge that divided

 On top of the steep hill that once overlooked the lake, the
assassin looked as the father placed his arm around his son
protectively and walked them to the house.
 "His sudden recovery will be questioned," he said.
 Jorel merely smiled.
 "They will call it a miracle," she turned her golden eyes towards
his. Tom did not acknowledge her answer.
 "Where will your redemption come from, Tom Paris?"
 He did not react to her piercing question. The cool spring breeze
whipped his long blond hair so that it obscured his vision for a
moment. But he only remembered his wife, his dead son, the father he
nearly killed...and the life he abandoned.
 "There will be no retribution for the likes of me. I only need to
return home," he said flatly.
 Jorel smiled, as if she was privy to a delightful secret. "Then
you shall return home."
 He stared at the departing figures until they disappeared from
his vision.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
(C)Lanna 13 June 2001
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