DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns all the characters on Voyager, I don't. But I own the
characters Ebran and Yvette so there! I'm merely borrowing them to send them on
another adventure. This story is not meant for profit, just pure, simple

NOTE: This is the compilation of the seven chapters that is Log 3. I thank all my readers - they have been so patient with me; I take an agonisingly long time to publish a chapter, I admit; that's why they're angels! And of course, to my beta reader, Sian - thanks for everything! :) And yes, btw, I've changed my e-mail address. It's now lanfear@pd.jaring.my

If you have not read Log 1: Santiago's Legacy, Log 2: The Children of Surelis, you can get it at my website at http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Set/6627

By Lanna

I see with open eyes
The person I have been
But when I look away
I see the person I would be-
To stand between these two
I think it is just best
to remain where I am, unchanging and still.


        As always, it began with a scream.
        And as always, it took him some time to acknowledge that it was
        And like a paralyzed spectator, he found himself going forward;
through the doors that slid automatically before him and into the
blinding light.
        He knew something *bad* was there. And no matter how hard he tried
to remember *what*, he just couldn't pick up the inner warnings of his
        Sobbing. He heard sobbing.
        <I don't want to go in there
        Right foot, left foot - one foot at a time.
        "Please...make it stop."
        Why was he begging? He turned to look behind him, but the door had
disappeared. He was trapped.
        <This is not good
        The second scream took him by surprise.
        Somehow, it always does.
        A flash of light.
        Suddenly, it wasn't so blinding anymore - like a blind man that was
granted his sight back, he saw his surroundings. He smiled at its
        He was back in his room. The stars beckoned from the windows. He
reached out to touch them.
         A flash of light.
        He was back where the scream was.
        He looked around desperately for an exit - and he saw it in a
distance. A single door that looked achingly familiar. He ran towards it,
but his legs felt like lead.
        <Please help me!
        He snapped around, startled by the voice. He abruptly realized that
*he* was grasping his foot.
        He stared at the trail of blood on the floor. A man lay sprawled on
the ground and he was crawling towards him, hoisting himself halfway up
with bloody hands. Bleeding heavily from invisible wounds, he looked up
imploringly with eyes that trickled small trails of blood trickled down
his eyes.
        He stumbled away.
        "No! Get away from me!"
        He kicked away that hand, but it held on, staining his feet with
fresh blood. The man looked imploringly up at him.
        <Why are you running away from yourself?
        "No! I won't go back!"
        He managed to kick away that hand; turned to run towards that door
but it was too far away - he had to make it.

Flash of light.

        "AAGH!" he cried out, clutching his head.
        Sticky. His eyes were sticky. They refused to open fully - and he
realized that they were sticky with blood.
        Moaning, he looked at his bloody hands. They shook violently as
they unclenched.
        <Why do you run?
        He knew that voice.
        Gasping, spitting out blood, he crawled; one hand before the other;
He had to get away - somehow it was important that he got away.
        <You can't
        "No!" he screamed, but only a gurgle came out. Blood spilled out
from his lips.
        A blinding pain in his ears.
        And he could *hear* them tear. Something wet flowed out from his
        There was blinding silence.
        Gasping, crying, he crawled further.
        <Got to get away. Got to get away!
        <Where are you running to Paris? There is no way to run!
        He looked up.
        Silver eyes looked at him.
        <Why bother, Paris? I could kill you with a thought


        "AUGGH!" the cry echoed eerily in the cave.
        He awoke, still groggy from the fever. He opened his eyes, hoping
that he wasn't where he thought he was.
        The darkness of a cave greeted him.
        He shook his head, but his head answered by sending needles into
his brain.
        He groaned and lay back on his side, eyes facing the mouth of the
        He was safe. He wasn't on Surelis.
The stars shone outside, cold lights in a too-dark sky.
        He was too tired to move. Just too tired. He wrapped his arms
around him and curled tighter into himself to get warm. Watching the
stars, he felt only immense relief, though he didn't know why.
        He felt tired.

        A tear ran down his face.

        <I miss you so much, B'Ellana

        In a distance, jewel-green eyes watched from a tree.


        He felt stronger today. Managed to even sit up.
        He saw that he was in a cave and he could see the mountains from
the mouth of the cave. There were strange trees outside. Trees that had
green, blue or purple leaves.
        <Leave him on Rya. Let him die as slowly as he can
        Tom shook his head.
        This is not Surelis. I'm free.

        Why was it so quiet?

        There wasn't a sound. No  chirping of birds, no leaves that
rustled, not even the sound of a wind. Was he in a sound-proof holodeck?
        Tom tried to get up; managed to get to his feet before nausea
overwhelmed him. He fell to his knees, clutching his aching stomach.
        He steadied himself with his hands on the ground and noticed for
the first time that they were bloodied. He touched his face and dried
blood came off his fingers.
        <What happened to me?
                Silver eyes regarded him. Bright lights. Pain. Bahne, Iolo...
        Tom groaned -
        <No, I can't remember!
        Too tired to think further, he sank on the dusty floor and fell


        Tom ran, but he kept tripping. He could not go any further. His
chest hurt from running so much, but he knew that if he stopped, he would
        Emotions crashed in him wildly.
        The forest was dead silent, but he could feel *it*. It wanted to
kill him, wanted to claw him to death, wanted to rip him.
        Terror overwhelmed him, then rage, then terror again.
        Crying out a soundless cry, he threw himself into the jungle,
feeling the leaves whip his already bruised skin.
        Why was it so quiet?! Why was it so silent?!
        His mind was still befuddled after his illness, he couldn't think
straight, somehow he knew what the answer was, but it terrified him.


        He reached the cave.
        His hand shook as he regarded his food. They were dead now - he had
clutched them so tight.
It was beetles.
With trembling hands, he took them, knowing that if he didn't eat
soon, he would die.
They tasted bitter.
Gagging, he spat them out.
        <Why me? Why did this happen? Where the heck am I? What's going to
happen to me?!
        He buried his face in his hands as his mind replayed his month long
ordeal. First the Mylkrie, then the Binoms. Then *this*. Why were they
all out to get him?
        Too many questions. Too little answers.
        <I should have let Ensign DeGaldo have the shuttle that day. But I
was angry at B'Ellana and wanted to go for a spin
        He imagined what it was like on Voyager now if he hadn't gone. It
should be time for Neelix's luau around now. And Harry still owes me some
replicator rations from that poker game. And  the ship-
        He trembled.
        <Have they given up searching for me? Do they think I'm dead? Does
B'Ellana think I'm dead?
        He looked at the silent stars outside. A clap of thunder, and rain
        Tom stepped to the entrance, closing his eyes and looking up,
feeling the rain wash away the grime from his face.
        After a while, he opened his eyes, and  he looked at the stars,
blurred by the rain, mixed with his silent tears.
Alone. On a planet. What if he was alone forever, for years and
years with no end? Would he ever leave the planet? Would he go insane?

        <I can't bear to be alone. I don't want to die here alone. Why?

        The stars did not answer.


        It has been a week since he woke.
        He sat in the cave, looking at a piece of rock in the middle of the
cave as if it gave him answers that he wanted.
        Hunger gnawed at him, but he swore that he would not go out to
*that* madness ever again.
        It had been 2 days since he ate. Fear kept the hunger mostly at
bay. And although he didn't want to admit it, deep inside, he'd hoped
that he would sleep one day and never wake up again.
        The ground shook.
        Startled, Tom threw himself to the ground and waited for it to
        Rocks fell around him, some nearly hitting him.
        Frightened, he threw his hands protectively over his head.

        Why weren't they making any sound?

        He watched as more rocks fell silently to the ground. They did not
even produce a whisper.

        At first, he was confused.
        Then horror filled him.

        Suddenly he understood.

        Tom buried his face in his hands and sobbed, his body shaking in

        Jewel green eyes shot up as an anguished cry pierced the night.


        The creature decided that it was time to approach the
        He was in his cave again, sitting in a corner, staring
blankly out.
        The creature could sense his deep despair.
        For weeks, the creature had watched the new comer. The
newcomer - funny looking as he was, did not move from the
cave. Sometimes the creature wondered whether it ate or needed
to eat.
        When it became apparent that he was not making a move to
feed himself, the creature had decided to provide him food.
        Today was the day.
        Cautiously, the creature had hopped into the cave
clutching his bundle.
        The newcomer had looked up in surprise. For a moment,
the creature could feel the newcomer grasping at him with his
mind, then it shrank away like a frightened morok.
        The newcomer merely sat there, looking at him
        Sending what he hoped was a comforting feeling, the
creature left his bundle - nuts, berries, and  even a precious
fruit - and flew to a nearby branch.

        The creature watched as the newcomer took the food and
craned his neck up to look up at him.
        Their eyes met, one jewel-green, another a blue that was
dulled by hunger and pain. For a brief moment, there was a
Connection - it was brief, but the creature could feel the
newcomer's despair, and his heart filled with pity.
        Then the stranger smiled.


        The newcomer began to get interested. He started caring
more for himself; More than once the creature caught him doing
things that he did not comprehend, like tearing his fur out
and cutting it. Perhaps it was not fur, the creature reasoned,
but something else.
         The newcomer had even dared venture out of the cave.
        The creature knew that it was difficult for the newcomer
to come out. Other than his health, which didn't seem quite
good, for at times the stranger did nothing but sleep an
unnaturally long sleep.
        But if he was well enough, the stranger would venture
out. And each time he did so, waves of terror and anxiety
flowed out from him, and the newcomer would fall to his knees,
breathing raggedly.
        He could feel the newcomer fight the emotions that
surrounded him like a wild child, totally undisciplined and
uncoordinated. The emotions overwhelm the newcomer, but
despite his inability to control them, the newcomer had not
once run back to his cave to hide.
        The newcomer was like him, and it fascinated him that
this wingless creature that walked on two feet *was anything
remotely like him*


        The newcomer was the same today, on his knees by the
river, taking deep breaths, his face very pale - a bad sign,
the creature thinks.
        Gasping, the newcomer looked up into the sky, and the
creature could feel him gathering his strength.
        With a determined look on its odd face, the newcomer got
up and walked into the forest.
        For hours the stranger ventured around aimlessly - he
seemed to be looking for something. Somewhat disappointed, the
stranger had sat down, looking at the ground.
        Sometime around noon, the stranger picked up courage and
ventured north.
        With a kind of despair that parents felt for their young
ones, the creature realized that the newcomer was walking
straight into a Mezeki lair, a creature whose only reason for
existence was to hunt down others and devour them.
        <Danger! it called out.
        The newcomer stopped short and turned sharply towards
        The newcomer's eyes met the creature's for a moment-

        <What the hell was that? Tom wondered.
        Of course the strange sensations - the weird feelings
that cascaded into him in uncontrollable waves were still
there - but for a moment, he felt a coherent feeling. It was
an odd feeling.
        It felt like a warning.
        He looked around. All he saw was that odd creature with
jewel-green eyes he saw two weeks ago. He regarded him for a
moment, and like a stumbling infant, reached his mind out to

        He got the same response he received from his
surroundings. Confusing emotions.

        The forest was silent.
        His heart beat faster.

        Then he felt it.

        Gasping, he spun around in time to see fangs coming
towards him.


        Gasping, Tom opened his eyes, willing that this was just
a dream.
        The balmy air of the jungle greeted him. The cave was
        Nodding, he agreed that it was.

        Shakily, he got to his feet, brushing his tangled hair -
now shoulder length and impossibly matted, from his face.
Sweat made them limp - as limp as his spirit was now.
        Food was nearly gone. Looks like he had to go out again
- forage for some more. He didn't look forward to that. He had
indulged himself to the silence of the cave for the past four
days now. To return to that cacophony of turbulent and bestial
emotions out there terrified him more than he had to admit.
        He grudgingly stepped to the mouth of the cave.
        The sun was rising, casting gentle hues on the green
leaves of the jungle. The cave was high enough to see
everything; the mountains that lay north, the purple skies
painted with tinges of red, most of all, the flying creatures
that skipped on the canopies of the tall trees.
        It will be startlingly beautiful if not for his
        He knew - personally, that is, - how deceptive the
beauty was. How it lies low like an innocent bird waiting for
the moment to strike when you're not looking. He *knew* what
lay beneath the riot of colours and movement. He knew their
sharp desire to survive, to hunt, to breed-
        -I smell the bee-eaters. North. I smell their meat and
blood. It's driving me insane. Must kill. Yes, hide low.
Conceal. Then jump. Kill. Leaves rustling. Right. Left.
Enemies? Smelling. Kill-
        Gasping, he tore himself away from it.
        Shivering, he chided himself for being careless. It was
so *easy* to get lost in the minds out there! So *easy* to get
sucked into the wildness and savagery.
        Taking a deep breath, he shook his head to clear the
remaining emotions.
        <I am not an animal He recited. <My name is Thomas
Eugene Paris, a lieutenant on the starship Voyager. I came
from the Alpha Quadrant. I was taken by the Mylkrie, escaped,
then crashed near Surelis. I had friends, I had a purpose, I
had a life-
        He faltered.
Somehow, he couldn't continue with the thought.
        He said it often - that mantra. It brought him back to
himself and was the only thing that could tear him away from
*absorbing* too much.
        <Stop mooning, Tom. It's time to look for food
        He grasped his trusty stick - a 1-meter mean looking
club - and trudged down the hill.

        All was silent.
        His booted feet maneuvered expertly on the rocks on the
stream, dislodging pebbles that dropped into the stream
silently. When he got on the shore, he kneeled down and washed
his face with the cool water.
        It was dead silent. Even the waterfall didn't make a
sound. Nor the birds, or the animals, or the leaves that
rustled in the wind.

It was dead silent.

        He wished he could hear all of it, of course.

        It was a pity he was deaf.

        Tom sighed and brought himself out of his self-pitying
(which happened with alarming regularity as the days passed

        <You don't know how it was like waking up to a world of
silence he told his reflection. <It's like the world has
upped and abandoned you; turned its back on you and decided to
ignore you forever

        He woke up on the hard floor of a cave almost five
months ago, shaking with high fever and feeling strangely
relieved. Of course it took him some time to realize that he
was deaf - and that the silence was not natural.

        He didn't look clean.
        Sighing, he rolled the sleeves of the shirt he wore from
his days with the Binom. Long sleeved and black, Tom had
improvised by cutting the sleeves off (when he first came),
but when the chilling nights took their toll, he'd had
reluctantly sewed them back with improvised tools.

        He traced his lips with a finger, watching his
reflection intently. Without realizing it, he remembered what
happened on his last day on Surelis.
        He shut his eyes closed.
        <I don't want to remember that!

        He sensed him almost immediately.
        He looked up, and saw the creature perched on a branch
four feet away.
        Tom smiled a welcome. It wasn't hard to do. The feeling
of good-will and gladness that emanated from the creature was
        The creature almost looked like a monkey - except that
it had gossamer wings that eerily reminded him of the Binoms.
But the resemblance ended there. It had green jewel-like eyes
and ever-smiling mouth.
        Even without his new senses, he would've smiled
immediately at it.
        <You're early today!
        The creature squawked an affirmative and threw him a
great grin.
        <Come here he called, extending his hand. The creature
obeyed, fluttering to a spot next to him. Tom looked down at
the creature (who appeared transfixed with its own reflection)
and wondered why it stuck by him.
        Or how it understood him.
        A few days after his fever broke, hunger overcame him.
Tom had tried to scour the area for food, and perhaps sentient
beings. When he stepped off the cave, he was nearly bowled
over by the overwhelming emotions that flooded him.
        For days he thought he was going insane. He had felt
suffocated by the heady emotions. One moment he was angry,
then he felt like killing something, he smelled blood and
visions of gore swam in his eyes.
 But then it took an attack by a creature to help him
realize that he was now empathic.
        <Like a telepath he mused. <Only that I could sense
emotions instead of thoughts

        He had walked further than usual that day, disappointed
after finding no signs of sentient life for the 5th day in a
row when anger suddenly overwhelmed him.
        No, it wasn't quite anger. It was more like desperation.
And then it shifted to hunger.
        He had stopped in his tracks, looking around, feeling
his heart thudding with - joy? Anticipation? Fear?
        The emotions got mixed up.
        Then he felt it -
        He felt himself moving towards a hedge. He could smell a
scent that was unfamiliar and intoxicating. The grass parted.
And he saw the new creature. It stood on two feet. He prepared
to leap-
        And Tom had turned around in time to impale the huge
leopard-like creature with his stake.
        In time, he grew to accept this 'empathy' - despite the
pain it sometimes caused him. Because he knew he would not
survive here without it.

        He never questioned how he got the 'new senses'. The
more he thought about it, the more he was brought back to the
image of Bahne and Iolo, looking down mutely at him, doing
nothing, just waiting for him to die.
        <Shut up Tom
        Huffing, he got up and walked away from the stream.

        In his survival studies class, his father used to tell
his students that at a time like this, when you're abandoned
and alone, the best companion to keep you sane was yourself.
So speak to yourself.
        So he had tried that and realized with horror that he
couldn't do that either.
        Oh, it wasn't because he couldn't *hear* himself
speaking. He just *could not* speak.
        He would send a command to his mouth to open up and say
a word. The command will be sent and it would get lost
somewhere between his brain and his mouth. His mouth will
remain dutifully shut.
        He could not speak.
        It was double punishment. Deaf and mute, he realized now
why he was abandoned here. Oh, not to be spared of his life -
but to die slowly.
        He was trapped in a world of total silence and
isolation. He would go mad eventually.
        The only buffer from that fate was his sight.
        He didn't want to know why it was left intact.

        <Time to go Xiri! he told the creature - still by the
river. He had named him Xiri after a holo character he once
created out of a whim. He was a Bolian hustler with a
particular talent in pool - and his grin was exactly like
        Xiri grinned and followed him, flapping his wings to
keep up.


        <This time, we're going to the City he told Xiri. <I
thought I saw weapons there yesterday. You know, they look
like swords. Care being a pirate?
        Xiri actually shook his head.
        Tom laughed.
        Of course he couldn't hear that, but it felt good
*doing* it.
        He had learnt to compensate his 'disabilities' long ago
by talking to himself in his head. It worked as well. Hell, he
could speak faster and he could speak all day.
        Although life was hard, he was thankful for the small
blessings - namely Xiri. The first two months here was spent
without Xiri, and he'd been a numbed and half-mad lunatic that
lived on insects and nuts, constantly battling creatures that
wanted him for dinner and constantly hiding, always being sick
- and always, he was alone.
        But Xiri brought him back to being human again.
        And after 3 months with Xiri, he had decided that Xiri
was sentient. The creature had learned to nod or shake his
head at certain questions he projected; Tried to communicate
with him, though  Tom only received flashing images and
distorted emotions.

        Tom could see the       City in a distance. It shone
brilliantly in the light of dawn.
        <The Mirrors of Rya he mused, recalling the name he
gave the city. <Is that a romantic name or what? B'Ellana
would have laughed at that
        His smile faltered a little as he thought about her.
        <I miss her so much. Does she think I'm dead?
        It was true - how one couldn't see the truth until you
were forced to. How he knew in his days of isolation that he
loved her beyond life itself; to imagine that he had refused
to speak to her because of mere ego alone. That foolish
thought cost him his life and how his life as he knew it ended
on that day when the pirates burst through the shuttle hull,
ripping its occupants to death-
        <I would do anything. Just anything to see your eyes
again, B'Ellana. From now, I will only remember good memories
        Home was far away.
        He closed his eyes, feeling the sun beat on his face.
        Xiri sensed his dip in emotion and lay a furry paw on
his cheek.
        He smiled a little.
        He received flashes of images and emotions. He grinned.
        <Alright already! You're worse than Chakotay!
        Xiri looked decidedly miffed, but he threw him a grin
after some thought.


        The Mirrors of Rya stood tall. It was the remains of
whatever civilization that was here before. Made out of a
glass-like substance, the spires often shone so bright in the
piercing afternoon sun that its light could be seen from his
cave two miles away. At night, it bathed the jungle with an
eerie glow.
        He felt Xiri flap his wings and disappear into the
        Tom sighed. He thought he could make Xiri come this
        Suddenly, the ground shook.
        He felt the panic in the minds of the animals around
him. It immediately infected him, and he found himself
sprawled on the wet grass, covering his head and trembling.
When the tremors subsided, he looked up, breathing heavily.
        <The tremors are getting stronger. Damn it! There has
got to be someone on this forsaken planet!
        He looked up into the piercing light of the sun.

        The light dimmed and the sun disappeared.


        Harry saw B'Ellana start from whatever daydream she was
        "What, Harry?"
        "You seem preoccupied?"
        "Hmm." She returned her gaze to the blue orb beneath
        "Can you sense him?" he tried again.
        B'Ellana looked surprised. "Why do you ask that?"
        "Well..." seriously, he didn't know.
        "Yeah," she answered anyway. "I don't know, maybe I'm
imagining it, but I *feel* him." She looked exhilarated for a
moment, then her smile faltered.
        "Do you think I really could sense him?" she took out
the palm-like holo projector given by the Binoms.
        Harry was about to answer when he was interrupted by
        "Well, everything seems okay back there. I don't know
why the engines are the way they are."
        "Strange." B'Ellana answered, in full engineering mode
again. "It's almost as if the warp engines are being drained
by something. Hmm.." she gave a small smile.
        Harry and Chakotay exchanged wry glances.
        Since Bahne told her that the holo-projector was more
than a holo-projector, but was actually a telepathic
communicator, B'Ellana had almost been content, secure with
the knowledge that Tom was indeed alive, and that they were
getting to him. And that her dreams meant something.
        Harry caught her smiling yesterday - and she was looking
out of the mess hall windows. He had placed a reassuring hand
on his shoulder, and he could see her reflection smile in
        "I had a dream yesterday." She had answered. "I saw
three moons on a dark sky, and trees that was awash with
light. I know that it was his eyes that told me what I saw.
He's alive, Harry."
        Harry felt relieved, but at the same time he was worried
about B'Ellana - although the doctor assured them she was all
right and that the device was indeed a telepathic device.
        "Janeway to Chakotay."
        "Chakotay here." Chakotay maneuvered himself into the
        "We're picking up new warp signatures in your vicinity."
        "You have? I haven't-"
        Harry started. He couldn't say anything for a moment but
B'Ellana answered it for him.
        "Oh my God." She whispered. She shot Chakotay a
horrified look. "They're back!"
        Chakotay saw the ships approaching.
        They were on them in a second.


        The lights came from a mysterious inner sun. Made entirely out of a glass-
like substance, the chamber stood 20 feet tall, towering over him like an
impersonal monolith. The 'Chamber' was the best description Tom could give it -
although it was mostly a maze of glass tunnels that seemed to lead nowhere.
        Brushing his unruly hair aside, Tom squinted his eyes against the bright
lights in the chamber.
        One distinctive quality that 'the Chamber' had from the other tunnels was
its 'occupants'. Statues, almost thirty to forty of them littered the chamber in
several poses. One standing, looking decidedly in thought, a young girl, head
cocked aside, looking particularly mischievous. A young male, fingering what
could be a musical instrument. A mother with a helpless child. The creatures
were slim and almost human in appearance except for their huge elfin eyes and
gently ridged foreheads. They reminded him of the elves of Earth's fairy tales -
and the cold, transparent crystal that they were made of failed to diminish
their 'life'.
         The light that reflected off the statues was blinding, but at the same
time, it made them ethereally beautiful. The perfect mausoleum for a long lost
        The beauty was marred by pieces of broken crystal scattered on the floor.
        As before, he had wondered what tragedy struck this race
        <Why are they here? A memorial? Works of art? A warning?
        The statues regarded him silently.
        <Calm down Paris, aren't you getting a little morbid?
        Sighing, he looked up, following the delicate steps of the glass stairs.

        He had discovered this place four months ago, and had explored its
interior since. The place was unusually large - because it seemed to hold more
things after each visit. The sword, for example, was one.

        He was particularly hungry that day and he had entered the 'Palace' deeper
than usual.
        Tom had closed his eyes, picturing the meals he would have had with his 5
month unused replicator rations - barbecued ribs with mashed potatoes on the
side, Octavian roasted chicken, Betazoid Crystal Mirange-
        After a minute of fantasizing, he'd opened his eyes. That little moment
brought back memories of Harry and him in that Alkitarian prison. The stab of
pain he felt was as keen as the time he spent on Surelis. Sighing, he got to his
feet and faced the Corridor -
        And had taken a step forward...
        He could not remember how he got into that room except that he ran and it
was the third room and that the sword lay-
        Tom shook his head. His pulse was racing.
        <Calm yourself, you dolt!

        He faced that very same corridor now after climbing those delicate stairs.
        <Corridor with a capital 'C' he thought absently as he built up his inner
courage to step into that said Corridor.
        It stretched out almost endlessly before him. The internal light made it
difficult to see what lay at the end. Tom didn't mind. In fact, he didn't want
to know what lay out there. Something told him it wasn't a pot of gold at the
other end of the rainbow.
        The truth was, this palace of glass gave him the creeps.
        Particularly the Corridor.
        Two statues flanked the mouth of the stairs. Obviously male, they stared
like corpses with empty eyes that had a crude life of their own. The palace, the
whole monolithic glass ball of it was a cold and uninviting host. He was an
intruder here, and the dead wanted to be left alone. These were the reasons why
he did not make this palace his home as logic would naturally dictate.
        Taking a deep breath, he proceeded into the corridor. Crystal scraped
beneath his boots.

        There was, of course, another reason why he didn't like this place. Tom
winced when the visions overtook him. Tom buried his face in his hands-

        ...Alucia stumbled down the corridor, her breath coming in gasps. Her legs
could not move fast enough and she cried out in frustration. The corridor was
the refuge, and at the end she could escape! Screams around her, blood on the
walls. She screamed-

        -and shook his head violently and took quick steps further, as if not
seeing the corridor would put the visions at bay...but the visions pestered him.

        ...the cold hands grabbed her hair, and no matter how hard she tried to
push the cold hands away, they held on. She felt herself being surrounded by
        "Tomas! Tomas help me!"
Alucia heard more screams in reply. Their fear was a bitter pill. She
choked out a scream as the creature enveloped her legs, crawling up her legs
like a lazy Jutlah slug- she felt a searing pain as she was being consumed like
the others-

        Tom fell to his knees, gasping heavily.
        <I can't do this!! he cried out in frustration. He could still remember
the sharp pain on his skin. It was like being consumed by acid. There were
other, more, vivid sensations of course - of how he could feel his bones
dissolving, how *he* finally stopped screaming only because his throat was no
longer there, consumed by-
        The corridor wavered in his vision. He could still hear the phantom
screams; He could still feel their terror as their life was drained from them.
Tom squinted, covering his eyes from the unbearable light - but dark splotches
invaded his vision.
        This was the time when he came to detest his newfound 'empathy'. The fact
that he couldn't turn it off at his own whim - images pestering him day in a day
out, feelings that were not his own rampaging in his mind.
        <Vulcans can control it, Betazoids can control it-

        Phantom screams united in a chorus, drowning out his thoughts. They told
him of their despair at their early deaths, their terrible pain-
        <Go away! Get the hell out of my head!
        His shoulders shook as he sobbed. He couldn't face his pathetic reflection
on the walls so he buried them in his hands. Lt. Tom Paris, class A coward.
Terrified to death by a corridor with alien statues. Hooo...that will settle well
with Dad...
        <But they're dead, Paris! They can't hurt you! They're not real! Imagine
what a prize that sword would be! That's what matters now. Survival. Survival!

        Tom pushed himself off his knees. Logic won out. He had not survived five
months of hell only to be intimidated by phantoms. Survival...
        Tom gritted his teeth and literally flung himself into the corridor.

        He reached it sooner than he thought.
        The third room on the left nearly greeted him with joy, for
the blade was right in the middle of the room - never mind how it got there
since he thought he had placed it by the corner. Right now, he only thought
about its uses.
        Rolling up the long sleeves of his shirt, he reached for it.
        Gently, he took it, feeling apprehensive. He got bad vibes from it before-
fear, pain and revulsion. The first time he picked it up, he was instantly
repulsed by it. Now the urge was no less. But necessity won out, and he picked
it up.
        Why the bad vibes? It had killed before, that was sure. He did not want to
probe deeper, nor did he want to know. Sometimes, knowing less is the best.
        Tom ran a hand across the handle. It was black; so black it seemed to suck
light in. He could feel the pride that the maker had when he first held it to
the light. As long as his staff, it would make a terrific weapon.
        Controlling his impulse to throw the blade away, Tom whirled it around,
feeling its grace, lethalness and perfect balance. It was a killing weapon, Tom
thought, smiling viciously to himself.
        He balanced himself as the ground shook again.
        When the tremors passed, Tom used the sword like a staff.       Then a silver
light caught his attention. He would've ignored it, thinking it came from the
cavern, but the light shone directly at his face.
        He looked up.
        He felt the blow to his face and felt his lip split. He flew and landed
heavily on the ground.
        Totally surprised, he quickly got to his feet and backed away, each step
followed by-
        A humanoid shaped creature hissed a challenge. Light rippled off him as if
uncertain where to land.
        It certainly wasn't like any humanoid he had ever seen. It seemed
shapeless and solid at the same time.. An empty face stared at him - only in
time to melt to form a fanged mouth. The creature didn't seem so shapeless
anymore after it formed a huge claw  on its right appendage. Its silver form
        It opened its mouth in a challenge. Tom noticed it had a nice row of
*very* sharp teeth. Never mind that it didn't have a face before.
        He certainly hadn't seen *this one* before.
        Without warning, the claw whizzed to his neck. Tom quickly ducked, rolled
and attempted to plant the blade into its torso, but the creature sidestepped
him and kicked him in the gut.
        Tom gasped, stumbling back, landing on his back.
        <Boy that felt solid before the pain took him.
        A flash of silver light.
        <Any second now and I'm dead...
        He heard  the air whisper and rolled to his left. The claw planted itself
on the floor where his head had been.
        With a fluid motion, the creature suddenly extended his hands. Caught him
by the shirt and flung him halfway across the chamber.
        He landed on the corridor wall. A staring statue wavered - with a crash,
it smashed beside him. The shards gleamed brightly as they fell, and he cursed
as he buried some in his palms - he quickly got to his feet-
        A fist swung and smashed the side of his face.
        This time, he landed on the stairs - or rolled down it.
        The being lost its shape and flung itself at him-

        <...Alucia felt her skin melt away. It was all silver, the creature was
silver. She shrieked-

        Tom gasped and flung himself aside, realizing that the vision just told
him something.

        The creature, now in its full blown humanoid shape revealed its fangs

        <I know who you are! he called.

        The statues seem to stare pleadingly at him.

        <You killed them all! You were the one that killed them all!

        The creature hissed - it seemed to understand him, and right now, it
appeared to be laughing at him.

        <I know your name

        The claw came towards him in a split second, but he flung himself aside
and landed on the now still pool. He gasped and spat out blood and brackish
water when he broke the surface.
        He was fuming mad.
        <Come get me you bastard. Let me show you how you *don't* mess with a
        He scanned the creature like he did with all the other wild creatures on
this planet, attempting to get into its head, to know what it felt what it wants
to do next-
        The creature walked towards him almost uncertainly.
        Tom watched it tensely, blade raised high above his head. The icy cold
water bit at him, and his legs were beginning to freeze-
        His breath came on faster.
        For he could not sense the creature at all. To him, it was a well of ice-
cold emptiness.
        He was helpless before it.
        And it knew it.

        The fanged mouth extended until it reached his face. It opened almost
        <What are you waiting for, bastard? Come kill me like you killed these

        And strike it did-
        But a flash of brilliant red interrupted the claw reaching for his head.
It struck the creature straight on its 'head'.
        The effect was almost immediate.
        The creature folded in on itself until it lost shape. Slithering away
almost in shamed defeat, it soon disappeared into the cracks beside the well.

        <Where the hell did *that* come from?
        Then only did he permit himself to feel the pain of his lacerated arms and
hands. Wincing, Tom permitted himself a groan. Still not daring to move, Tom
scanned the floor and felt-
        A gentle prodding at the back of his head.
        Tom turned.
        Xiri regarded him curiously from the arm of a statue. It's green eyes
blinking greatly.

        Then he remembered no more.


        Alucia walked towards the corridors, her heart light. She smiled as she
fingered her necklace, her elfin eyes bright. It was time for her Joining, and
Tomas was chosen to be her her Destined-One. She opened the door to the final
room and looked up at the sky. It was a perfect day. She ran a hand across her
ridged forehead, mimicking her Destined-One's caress. How would he be like when
he Joined with her? How-?
        Her smile faltered when she saw the rain. It shouldn't bother her, but the
rain was coming down rather slowly and it was silver, not colourless. Tomas
would know what it was. I must get to him - Now.
        The she heard the first scream.

        Tom came awake with a start.
        He was face down on the wet ground. Blinking to clear his vision, he saw
that a caterpillar regarded him irritably from a blade of grass he had just
He jerked up and instantly felt how muddy and grimy he was. Water ran down
his face in muddy rivulets. Tom turned when he felt a soft presence behind him.
        Xiri regarded him from a low branch.
        <How did I get here?
        Xiri didn't answer but instead rubbed his nose with a paw.
        <I was sick again, was I?
        Xiri nodded.
        He closed his eyes in despair, wondering how long this would go on. It had
been four months, and his blackouts have not ceased. He would usually wake up
deathly ill after that. Sometimes so weak he could not even walk.
        He called these periods the 'Zoning Out' periods. And they usually came
when he thought his life on Rya was getting tolerable and normal. These were the
dark spots of his life. As dark  as the time when Bahne approached him and told
him that he was dying, and that the Binoms could not cure him.
        He had wanted to pretend that on Rya, he was no longer sick, but the same
bone-sapping weakness haunted him and sometimes it got so bad that all he could
do was sleep. But at times, like today, he would feel strong again, like how he
was back on Voyager; and he would think that he was fine again, and he would be
exhilarated - only to be shattered by strange blackouts. Blackouts that happened
only after -
        The thought went astray like waves crashing into a solid wall.
Tom stashed it away like pieces of garbage he thought they were.
<If I die on Rya, let it not be because I day dreamed and let one of those
'phanters' attack me from the back though it would not happen, Tom reasoned.
His 'extra senses' would have compensated by warning him well before the
predator *decided* to attack.

        Images flashed behind his eyes as Xiri talked to him. With a start, he
realised that Xiri was afraid.
        There is a new thought pattern, Xiri seem to say. And Xiri did not like
it. Go check it out. Now.

        Reaching out with his mind, Tom obeyed and caught it almost at once. He
exchanged a puzzled glance with Xiri.
        Xiri nodded. Yes, you're detecting the right thought patterns.
        Somehow, the pattern of this mind, or rather, minds - was different. This
was no beast they were tracking. It was orderly and it filled with calculative
purpose. A purpose he knew too well after his stay on Rya.
        To kill.
        They are not from Rya, Xiri informed him by showing him a fenced creature
with another outside. It flashed too quickly for him to detect how the
'outsider' looked like.
        <Did they come in ships? He projected a shuttlecraft.
        Xiri merely cocked its head aside.
        Xiri may be intelligent, but a shuttlecraft is still a box to him.
        Trying to be helpful, Xiri projected a falling meteor.
        He felt his excitement building.
        <Close enough. Obviously a form of transport. But why am I feeling more
than dread?
        He followed the pattern - the urge to kill grew more intense as he neared
the source.
        He could see through the beings' eyes, he could feel their frustration and
annoyance. But most of all, he felt their purpose. They have lost something, and
they are here to find it.
        <Sentient. These beings are sentient.
        It did not fill him with joy.

        Keeping his breath steady, Tom parted the thick leaves and vines in his
path, praying that the 'new comers' do not hear them - because he had no way of
gauging how much noise he was making.
        But he was closer - that much he knew. And the closer he got, the more
agitated the thoughts became.
        Parting some shrubs, Tom looked out. And gasped.
        Heavily ridged brows puckered in annoyance. Beady eyes stared forth as
fanged mandibles clicked in irritation. If he could hear, he would hear their
guttural hisses.
        Anger welled up in him, hard and strong. To kill!
        <Now I know why I felt more than dread. It was hate I felt
His hands turned into fists and he felt his fingers dig bloody crescents in his

        He had found the Mylkrie.


        Voyager shook violently.
        "Shields are holding! Two Mylkrie ships destroyed, Captain. I
don't know how long-"
        "Thank you for the additional information, Ensign Tel, but we
don't need it." Janeway gritted, flinging herself off her seat.
        20 Mylkrie vessels remained.
<Twenty! How the hell did they track Voyager down? Better - how
the hell did they manage to sneak up on us like that? Janeway
thought distractedly to herself.
        The memory of the two Mylkrie ships latching onto Chakotay's
shuttlecraft was still fresh on her mind. The ship and the two
Mylkrie vessels had plummeted helplessly into the atmosphere. Janeway
would have transported her crew immediately if it weren't for the
sudden flare of warning to indicate that planetary shields had just
been activated.
        Uncaring of their fallen brethren, the Mylkrie vessels had
promptly attacked Voyager.
        Now 5 was latched to Voyager's hull - the remainder fired on
        "Captain," Seven's cool modulated voice came,"We have to
        "Retreat is not an option!" she said as Voyager shook again.
        "It is not logical to fight a hopeless battle." As an
afterthought, Seven added, "Captain." Janeway felt a twinge of
annoyance *and* humour at the word 'logical'. <Seven has been
spending way too much time with Tuvok  Janeway winced as Voyager
groaned in protest.
        "I do not see retreat as a viable alternative." Janeway
returned, her voice gentler. "Either way, the Mylkrie will still be
at our backs." She continued.
        "I beg to differ, Captain. I have a plan."

        The blazing battle above the skies of Rya retreated as Voyager
sped away at Warp 7. The Mylkrie ships relentlessly pursued them.
        "What's the plan, Seven?"
        "There is an asteroid field one light year from here."
        "How the hell do you think we can escape an asteroid field,
*Seven*?" Henley snapped from the helm.
        The former Borg regarded the *former* Maquis cooly. "As I said,
I have a plan."
        "Well, you better let us in on it, because we're running out of
time."  Henley snapped.
        The asteroid field loomed dangerously close.
        "Captain!" Henley protested.
        Janeway looked mutely at Seven.
        "I need your help, Captain. We need you to do this
        Tuvok raised an eyebrow at Seven's plan. Nevertheless, he
looked decidedly impressed. For a Vulcan.
        "I do not think our gravitational buffers can compensate for
the extreme gravitational shift, Captain." He cautioned as Seven's
fingers moved rapidly on the Engineering console.
        "All right everyone. Brace for impact!"
        Voyager came to an abrupt stop at the edge of the asteroid
field - so abrupt that the pursuing Mylkrie had no time to
        The metallic wings of the Mylkrie were peppered by the
asteroids; flaring into flames. Like broken toys, the vessels spun
and collided into each other.   "Three ships destroyed, Captain." Tuvok
        "Captain! The others have escaped! They're coming this way!"
        That was Henley - thought Janeway as she worked feverishly on
her console. She glanced at Seven, who promptly returned her gaze.
        "Plan B, Captain."
        "Plan B?" she lifted an eyebrow. At least Seven's vocabulary
has improved.
An arc of light from Voyager's deflector array swept the
asteroids aside. The asteroids, removed from their natural
gravitational pull, hurried towards the nearest gravitational pull
available - the planet Rya. Unfortunately, 12 Mylkrie vessels stood
in their way. The Mylkrie vessels' powerful shields could not
compensate for 300 trillion tons of asteroid rock hurtling towards
them. They too, were destroyed.
        Simultaneoulsy, Voyager began to glow brilliantly. The Mylkrie
vessels that were latched on its hull burst into balls of plasma
        At the same time, Voyager lost gravity.
        "Oh my God!!!" Henley cried as she floated out of her seat
        Around her, the crew helplessly latched onto something -
anything - to stay grounded.
        Amazingly, the lights were still on.
        "Computer! Activate emergency inertial dampers!"
        "Unable to comply," the computer replied. The computer's
normally pleasant voice seemed to have a desperate edge to it.
        Janeway's ears popped as she lost her grip on the console - she
floated helplessly to the top of the bridge.
        Suddenly, the world toppled.    There was a strange, heavy
silence as then there were startled shrieks and.
        Janeway grunted when she landed on her side heavily.
        Groaning, she shook her sore head - it promised a trip to the
sickbay - and looked around.
        Henley was by the helm, grumbling as she got up. Tuvok was a
little ruffled but physically, he was fine. Seven-
        "What do you have in your hands, Seven?"
        Seven looked at the piece of rod in her hands.
        "The manual override would not comply. I am afraid I have
damaged the isolinear chips in my efforts to correct the error. The
rod was useful in the fuction. Captain."
         Janeway managed to smile wryly at that but soon directed her
gaze to the view screen.
        The carnage it revealed amazed her.
        Mylkrie ships, all 20 black-winged vessels, were floating
aimlessly in space. Their hulls were still glowing from inner
explosions. No one could survive in those ships.
        "The scanners detected no survivors, Captain." Tuvok confirmed,
as if reading her mind.
        The Mylkrie threat was eliminated. -for now.
        Janeway sighed, feeling relieved. So relieved that it sucked
the life out of her. She had to sit down.
        Just then, the main lights went off and the auxilary powers
came on.
        Janeway did not have to hear the engineering report to know
that they were now a literal sitting duck. Getting up, she headed for
the turbo lift. "Good work," she told Seven before entering the turbo
lift to Engineering.
        Seven did not reply, but she did permit herself a small smile.


        "I can't believe that this is happening ALL OVER AGAIN!"
B'Elanna nearly roared.
        "Shouting it out loud won't make it all better. In fact, *they*
may come-" Harry was interrupted before he could finish.
        "I know!" B'Elanna hissed. Sometimes Harry could be so damned -
        Chakotay looked around. His brow was already beading with
sweat. "I think we lost them."
        "I hope so. I don't know how long I can continue running."
Harry panted. He took out a tricorder and scanned the area. He
cursed. "I'm getting nothing but static! Must be the planetary
        "Now, why didn't I detect the planetary shields system?" If it
was possible, B'Elanna sounded more annoyed this time.
        "I don't know. I just know it's not your fault, B'Elanna. Its
this *Sector's* fault." Harry muttered peevishly as he disappeared
into the forest.
        Chakotay chuckled in amusement.
        "What's so funny?" B'Ellana fumed.
        "Nothing." Chakotay allowed a smile though.
        "Commander." Harry called suddenly. He looked worried and
anxious at the same time.
        Catching on to his mood, Chakotay frowned. "What is it?"
        Harry looked up and pointed at a tree.
        Puzzled, B'Elanna followed his gaze.
        "What are they?" B'Elanna asked.
        "I don't know," Chakotay answered.
        A dozen creatures observed them from a branch, their gazes
        "Simian life forms. Not sure whether they're harmful though."
Harry answered.
                The sapphire eyes of the creatures blinked all at once.
        B'Ellana felt uncomfortable under their gaze. It was as if they
were prodding her mind, scanning it.   She shook herself mentally.
"That's insane! They're just monkeys!"
        Harry turned, his eyes wide. "Did you say something, B'Ellana?"
        "Are they sentient?" she growled.
        Chakotay looked at the creatures again. They did not move.
        "Hard to say." He cleared his throat. "My name is Chakotay - of
the Starship Voyager."
        The 12 creatures blinked again.
        Chakotay felt immensely silly. Talking to monkeys? That'll be
the day. "They have not responded..." he trailed off.
        "I know they haven't!" B'Ellana growled. Hefting her backpack
roughly, she walked away from the trees, her gaze intent on the brush
before her.
 "Enough sight seeing for now, you two." B'Elanna's voice cut
from behind the brush. "I want to find Tom. And I want to do it
        Harry shrugged at Chakotay's bemused look and followed her in.


        "Ensign Diaz, can you set the relays to a modulation of
        He had been annoyed - the shuttle was packed, if not
over-packed. Crewmen Lim, Diaz, Loge and Amos tried their best
to avoid his obvious ill temper that day, but had not quite
        "Er, Lieutenant Paris?" he heard crewman Loge ask.
        "What is it?" he nearly snapped. Was it getting hot in
here or what? The cave should cool him down once he reached
it. The cave? What cave? Something's not-
        "I detect strange energy fluctuations." Loge
interrupted. "Somewhere near the starboard section."
Somehow he knew what it was. And he knew-
        "Oh God!" cried Ensign Lim. She rose from her seat, as
if to shield her face. Startled, he turned towards Lim,
wondering what was wrong-
        The shuttlecraft rocked violently. It began to creak in
ominous way.
        And there was a bright flash of hot fire.
        "Voyager! Call Voyager!" Diaz screamed.
        After that, it was a cacophony of pain, confusion and
        Ensign Lim tried frantically to reach for her fallen
phaser, but a blade erupted from her back and she sagged.
        He knew horror then. As intimately as it had been his
lover. He would know it in months to come-
        Tom had tried desperately to hail Voyager then, but knew
that the electrical storms of Rhikari would not permit it - at
least from this distance.
        "Get away from her!"  Amos threw himself at a Mylkrie,
desperately trying to pry the Mylkrie from Lim. The Mylkrie -
the Mylkrie was *doing* something to her chest-
        Dimly Tom remembered that Amos and Lim had become
engaged two weeks earlier. It was when he saw Diaz, still
crying out from a deep cut at the back of his neck that he
        "No!" he hurtled himself at the creature, managing to
ram it into the wall. He failed to stun it.
        The creature roared and grabbed his arm in a painful
grip then, with a leer, twisted it. Tom heard the bone break
from a distant place, and he screamed. But not from the pain.
        The Mylkrie was turning away from him, returning to Diaz
to finish what he had started. Diaz screamed frantically,
crawling away with useless hands...but it was too late.
        It was the last human voice he heard.
        Diaz feebly tried to shield his neck. He screamed when
the blade came down again, and again, and again-
        Tom couldn't stop the memories if he wanted to.
        Unexpected tears formed in his eyes and he forced them back.
        But he was back again on that Mylkrie ship- the forests of Rya
shimmered and a thought came to him-
        -that the Universal Translator must be defective.
        "You can go," said the Mylkrie.
        Tom was still on the ground, too weak to do anything
else. They had healed his arm, but it was still tender and
useless. After he had regained consciousness, they had
unceremoniously dragged him away from a makeshift bed to toss
him before this apparent leader. "My crew?" he croaked. "Where
are they?" He knew the answer before it answered.
        "They were pathetic, human. You call yourself that,
don't you? They did not deserve to live, so we killed them."
        He did not answer them, merely stared at the rusty
floor. It was a while later when he spoke. "You're a pathetic
Hirogen-wannabe, coward." His voice was no louder than a
whisper, but he was proud that it was steady enough to convey
his hatred.
        The blow made his vision black out for a moment before
the metallic taste of his own blood woke him  from his stupor.
        The Mylkrie leader grabbed his face and hissed into it,
        "*We* hunt the Hirogen. Now, you *can* go."
- The forests shimmered back and he felt the emotions of
the forest in a flood. Frantically, he cut them off. They
faded to a murmuring.
        Tom winced. The Mylkrie's emotions were still screaming
though. He felt their bloodlust through the strange haze of
his own hatred. Hate was...refreshing. Hate was vengeance. Hate
was...a human emotion. He had been surrounded by alien
sensations for too long now. It was time for him to hate
        -He had escaped all right - those damned fools.
Overconfidence was their weakness. But his escape had been
        He had crashed into the hands of the Binoms.
        Once again Bahne and Iolo stared at him, and he could
hear the Mylar, who was doing things to him. To his mind...God
it hurt, God it hurt so much-
He bared his teeth involuntarily. <You caused this! You
were the source of my months of hell!! He wanted to lunge at
them there and then, but caught himself. <No. I won't be a
victim this time. This time, I will be a hunter!
        A nudge in his mind.
        Tom turned to his right, catching Xiri's eye.
        Xiri was full of disdain. Xiri didn't like what he was
doing. No, about to do. He...was disapproving.
<Why shouldn't I? he sent abruptly, bursting the stream of
emotions being channeled into him. Xiri flinched, rubbing his
face in distress.  <They deserve to die. Do you hear me? They
all do!!
        Xiri made a valiant effort to soothe him, and from the
disjointed emotions and pictures that he received, Tom
realized that Xiri was trying to talk him out of it.
        <NO! he turned away and fixed his eyes on the Mylkrie.
        <By the Mirrors, you are stubborn!
        Tom nearly jumped out of his skin.
        He snapped back to Xiri, his eyes wide.
        But Xiri was gone.
        <I must have imagined it. Xiri *cannot* talk. Bloody
simian. Besides, what does he know about being torn away from
your family? Watching your life ripped apart? Loosing it
forever in this damned wilderness?!
        One of the Mylkrie tilted its head aside, as if sensing
something. Its fanged mandibles clicked agitatedly.
        <What does Xiri know about justice? he thought.

        "I sense something." Idjaj hissed. His pupils narrowed,
then dilated again.
        "Do you?!" Melik taunted, hoisting his *bicara* proudly.
The beautiful blade extended another foot, leisurely,
extending graceful blades at the tip creating a fork-like
projection.   Melik felt his scales ripple. He could imagine
impaling the humans on the weapon.
        Like any other hunter race, the Mylkrie had a deadline
to meet when killing their prey. They had dawdled too long
already on these 'humans' and it was becoming dishonorable.
His impatience had to do with Idjaj's incompetence in getting
them trapped on this blasted planet. But young and
inexperienced, if overzealous, Idjaj thought of it as a
challenge. To hunt a prey in a complicated environment such as
this! What a tale it would fetch!
        There were four of them. Pathetic Iri died in the crash,
dying a dishonorable death by permitting himself to die not of
his own hands. It was truly gratifying to see him die slowly
of that torn throat - befitting a coward such as him. Loyal
Andri and Miv were with him, people he could rely on- or the
very least, trust in such situations.
        There it went again.
        "I tell you, Melik! I hear it!"
        "Of course you do! Am I deaf? You are bringing notice to
our prey! The humans must have run a thousand miles by now!!"
As if answering his statement, the leaves rustled.
        Hoisting his *bicara* in triumph, he prepared to throw
the lance when a wave of nausea and disorientation wafted
through Melik. His party reacted the same. Idjaj reeled
violently while Andri and Miv merely shook their heads.
        The intruder parted the leaves and stepped out.
        When Melike realized *what* it was, he burst out
        Tom regarded the laughing Mylkrie. Suprisingly, he found
himself smiling sardonically at it. He felt nothing now, no
fear, no terror, no hatred. He merely felt at peace and
        Tom caressed his lance, knowing somehow that it was
godsent. <I want to die knowing that I've plunged this in your
        With that, he turned and ran.
        Melik could not believe it. That fool of a human had
come out of the bushes and had run! It was amazing that these
cowardly creatures were so much of a challenge to the Mylkrie.
        Melik decided that this human would fetch a high price
indeed. It had escaped them once before - but not twice.
And he would be the one to catch it.


        Tom felt the wind whip at his hair, tossing the unruly
strands towards his face. His lungs felt as thought they were
about to burst, but wild images fluttered past his eyes enough
to confuse his senses, Not to mention the EMOTIONS he was
getting. All he felt was the thrill of the Hunt. It felt good
to Hunt. Good to Kill! Something told him that was not
right...but nothing mattered much anymore.
        Suddenly, his whole world turned upside down and he
found himself sprawled on the damp forest floor. Stars swam
before his eyes. With a shaky hand, he wiped off blood from a
gash on his forehead.
        Cursing, he got off the ground-
        (...I hold a knife to my chest. It is time to kill myself.
I will join the others...my legs are now gone, eaten away. What
more do I have to loose?)
        Tom shook his head violently.
        <Get out of my head!! his mind screamed.
        The intruding images dissapeared from his mind.
        The trees returned sharply into focus. Before he could
register it fully, a heavy weight plummeted into him.
        Startled, Tom  lost hold of his lance. Scaly hands gripped his
neck, beady black eyes glared into his blue ones. It was then
that the musky smell of the Mylkrie hit him. The Mylkrie
smiled, pointing the strange blade at his neck. Tom gasped
when the blade unfolded its smaller blades.  The Mylkrie's
mandibles opened and shut. He was talking. Tom cursed himself
for his carelessness but forced himself to calm down,
stretching out his mind as he had done for months now, probing
and searching.
        <It's alone. The thrill of the Hunt has made it selfish
and it has misled the others to the Ravine. They will not
catch up any time soon. Triumph. It thinks it has won-
        Tom smiled. The Mylkrie shoved the lance in his face. <-
Yes, it is sure of it. Joy. Triumph. Bloodlust.
        He bared his teeth, forcing himself to suck in more.
<Blood. Hunt. Kill. Now!!!
        Tom gripped the tip of the lance and shoved forward as
hard as he could. He ignored the sharp pain of the knives
biting into his hands. Startled, the Mylrkie nearly lost its
balance. It regained it at the last moment, neatly shoving the
weapon back into his face.
        But Tom found himself grinning. He was part-Mylkrie now.
He understood the Mylkrie. Was one with it.
        He went deeper.
        Images danced behind his eyes. He saw ships roaring
across the blank skies of a purple planet, he saw a young
woman butchered helplessly as loathe and disgust welled up in
*him*. Useless prey-
        <I am you now, Mylkrie.
        The Mylkrie wavered, clutching its head.
        Tom pictured the creature's mind as a strong, slim reed,
and he was an insect, clutching it for dear life. For
         The Mylkrie struggled to hurl the lance, but all it
could do was tremble.
        The insect gnawed into that reed, stripping away fibrous
tissues until a gaping hole appeared.
        The Mylkrie was shaking violently now. All control
completely stripped away.
        The gaping hole quickly became bigger.
        Blue eyes met beady black eyes.
        The reed snapped.


        The roar caught them all by surprise.
        Chakotay swung his phaser around, his heart tense.
        "What the hell was that?" Harry muttered. When he didn't
get an answer from B'Elanna, he caught her looking glazed.
        B'Elanna didn't answer Harry for a moment, then she
turned towards him.
        Harry saw that her eyes were heavy with uncertainty.
        "I think I 'felt' Tom." She opened her palm, staring at
the device Bahne had given her.
        "And?" Chakotay prompted.
        She shook her head, her uncertainty deepening.
        "He's happy." She looked up again. "But I don't like


        Tom realized that he was laughing when he found himself
shaking. Taking a deep breath, he grinned atthe corpse,
prodding it with a finger.  He traced the green blood that
dribbled from the Mylkrie's into its throat. His finger
slipped into the gaping hole.
        The Mylkrie had slit its own throat. <Who is the coward
now? He gloated, mixing his own blood with the green blood on
his hands. The motion stung, sending pain shooting up his
arms. He stared into the strange bloody mixture, mesmerized by
his bloody hands.
        Something's not right.
Tom turned his head to where he knew Xiri was. As quiet
as an ant, Xiri had crept up from nowhere, observing him from
a branch. For once, the ever-present grin had disappeared.
Xiri watched him silently, its eyes blinking slowly.
        It didn't take an empath to know what Xiri was thinking.
<What do you care, Xiri?
        Xiri didn't move - his eyes held such a deep
disappointment Tom had to turn away to look into the Mylrkie's
eyes. <You don't understand how I *had* to kill him. He would
have killed me!
        Xiri's emotions were still the same. Suddenly, anger
clouded his senses.
        <Fine! Get away then! I will kill all of them, Xiri! If
I should die, let me die with the knowledge that I have killed
the people who have made me suffer!
        With that, he ran into the forest.


        When Melik heard the roar, he frowned. It was a roar of
        Andri and Miv looked expectantly at him.
        Immedately, disappointment settled in Melik's heart.
        "He got what was coming to him, that coward." Melik
gloated. He then turned into the thick brush, closely followed
by Andri.
        Miv shook his head, disappointed at Idjaj. They were of
the same blood, and his death was the only release it had on
their family name. He had much to answer to when he returned
home. For years Idjaj had slagged behind, killing by the
fingertips when he could have killed by hundreds.
Miv stopped. Andri and Melik soon became distant ripples
in the thick brush. Balancing his weapon carefully, he looked
carefully around, perking his sensitive ears for sounds of
        Strange, he found it hard to concentrate.
        Fear rose in him. Fear?
        Miv growled. "What trick is this?"
        <Someone is watchig me. By Alkri's Head! My legs are
shaking! What is wrong with running? "Coward" is merely a
        Miv hissed. "I am not a coward."
        A soft laugh.
        Surprised, Miv twisted his head - only to see the soft-
hided human next to him. It regarded him like a curious child;
its weak blue eyes sparkling as if in humour.
        Miv remembered him well. How they hunted its small
pathetic ship and killed its fellow beings. How he had been
surprised when this *human*, as it calls itself, managed to
escape them - even though the escape had been engineered.
        Too late did he realize that the 'weak' human held a
strange weapon to his neck. It felt sharp enough to draw
        <I am indeed so weak. I did not even notice him coming
behind me. I must kill myself to avenge my honour. I am
nothing but a pathetic weakling
        Before the feelings of shame overwhelmed him, Miv
remembered a tale one of his blood brothers told him. Of a
race in the Pala sector who communicated without speaking.
        Understanding rose and Miv pushed the emotions brusquely
        Tom felt the Mylkrie *push* aside the emotions like a
paper boat on a stream. A moment of panic assailed him - but
it was quickly vanquished by his bloodlust.
        He twisted the lance, throwing his full weight onto it.
The Mylkrie twisted aside and grabbed him by the hair. Tom
cursed and brought the butt of his lance into the creature's
stomach. Surprised, it stumbled enough to let go of its grip
on his hair.
        With all his might, Tom projected a feeling of fear
towards the Mylkrie. His head hurt like hell after he did it,
and stars swam underneath his eyelids. Tom stumbled back and
hurled himself backwards on the Mylrkie.
        The Mylkrie landed heavily on his back, stunned. Its
eyes were glazed, and it appeared to struggle valiantly to
regain its composure.
        Tom stood over it, studying its beady eyes and the
confusion that lay beneath it. Quickly, he scanned the
Mylkrie. Its eyes became his -
        Its thoughts were scattered. Unable to think coherently,
its vision swam.  It was afraid.
        Tom broke the connection. The Mylkrie swam into focus.
It was still on its back, gasping pathetically. Tom fingered
his lance, long, black and sleek, it should be better than a
bat'leth with its better balance...
        His thoughts had trailed.  He decided to prove his
musing right. The lance came down and pierced the Mylkrie's
chest neatly.
        The Mylkrie convulsed, green blood spewing out from its
mouth to splatter on Tom's black robes. He felt some cold
blood on his face, but he didn't flinch. He merely stared at
the light of life fading from its eyes. Just as he saw Diaz,
Lim, Loge and Amos' life fade from their eyes.
        The Mylkrie gurgled and lay still.
        Instead of elation, Tom retreated inward into his mind,
not knowing what he would find *in* there. Refuge perhaps?
From what?
        As he turned away from the corpse, he dragged the lance
behind him on the ground.
        <My mind is a cold, empty place; No hand could rise
against me, as Death becomes... his mind trailed off again.
        Yes, he remembered now. Tom felt the forest dissolve
into a cacophony of wild emotions. Tuvok had said that - when
was that? Seven months ago...by Selik. Selik was the poet.
                <Death becomes me
        And it repeated in his mind when the darkness claimed


        "Death becomes me."
        B'Elanna blinked. "What did I just say?"
        Chakotay frowned at her bleary eyes. He exchanged looks
with Harry. "You said 'death becomes me'. Some Klingon saying,
        "Klingon saying? No." she trailed off.
        "B'Elanna?" It was Harry this time.
"Nothing is wrong, all right?" she snapped brusquely.
The constant attention to her 'well-being' was beginning to
grate on her nerves.
        Harry decided that it was time, just time, to set it all
straight. "No, everything is wrong. We're on a planet with
wild tectonic readings, we are being chased by Mylkrie and my
best friend has been  zoning in and out on me for the last
couple of weeks! No B'Elanna, I think something is very
        Her lips thinned at that. "You got that straight." She
whispered. "I'm worried for Tom. So damned worried for him."
Her voice trembled. "Not that you care." She hissed.
        Harry's eyes slitted. "What the hell do you mean by
that?" he snapped, showing some uncharacteristic anger.
        B'Ellana instantly regretted what she had just said. She
looked away, blinking back tears. "I'm sorry, Harry. I didn't
mean that." She turned away.
        Chakotay watched their heated exchanges silently. <This
is how you've affected us, Tom. he thought sadly. <You
would've laughed it down like you always do.
He touched their shoulders gently. "We don't need this
now, both of you." He managed sternly.  "Harry, scan the area
for tectonic activity. The tremors that Rya has been throwing
at us seem to grow more and more frequent."
        Harry nodded brusquely. It was clear that he had not
resolved whatever feelings B'Elanna had evoked. "It has
increased in frequency in the last 20 minutes. You were right,
Commander. From my calculations, there will be a full-blown
earthquake in an hour."
        "Great." Chakotay muttered, not entirely pleased. "Let's
find shelter."
        Harry nodded to himself as Chakotay and B'Elanna walked
away from him. His feelings roiled with both anger and guilt
at B'Elanna's words. <I do care. he thought, but it was
heavily tinged with guilt.
        From somewhere above, lighting cracked in the night.
Sighing, Harry looked up and spotted a tree on a hill.
Lightning flared again, bathing the forest in light. It was
then that he saw what the tree held. Ice formed in his heart.
He called Chakotay. "Commander."
        B'Elanna and Chakotay stopped in their tracks.
        "What is it Harry?" answered the Commander.
        "On the tree. 3 O'clock."
        On cue, lightning flashed.
        "My God.." Chakotay whispered.
        A body was hanging from a branch, gently swaying. It was
small from this angle, but they could see the now familiar
armour and the strange mandibles that potruded from its face.
        It was a Mylkrie.


        Tom walked into the dense forest.
        I don't feel well, he thought. But he continued anyway,
compressing his lips against the wave of  nausea that
overwhelmed him.   <I'm getting sick again. What was I doing?
Tom fell to his knees, clutching the lance. Lightning streaked
the dark skies.
        He stared blankly at his bloody hands, wondering. <I
know they deserved to die. he thought disjointedly.
        A gentle touch on his knee. His lance jerked
automatically but he managed to stop in time when he saw a
pair of jewel-green eyes staring back into his. He saw no
judgement there.
        Sniffing, he wiped his face, rubbing the blood on his
face. Blinking, he brought his hands into focus. He stared at
his bloody hands - hands that were noticeably shaking - and
looked questioningly at Xiri.
        Xiri nodded.
        <I have blacked out again. Oh, I remember killing the
two Mylkrie. But I don't remember taking *these* He took out
the gruesome trophies, his hands trembling. They were a pair
of Mylkrie mandibles.
        The rain fell, washing away the filthy blood from his
face and hands. From the two crab-like pincers that were
Mylkrie mandibles. He dropped the severed mandibles and buried
his face in his hands and sobbed.
       He cried because his mind hurt. He cried because he was
alone. He cried because he was sick. He cried because he was
going to die.
        But he cried mainly because he was turning into an


        The cave they found was nestled behind a clump of tall
vegetation. The inside of the cave was damp and wet leading
deeper into shrouded tunnels, but they were reluctant to
explore them. Right now they camped at the mouth of the cave.
        Chakotay had started a fire with his phaser - correction, the
*only* phaser - and was adding some twigs to the growing fire.
And Harry sat at the deep end of the cave, studying something
in his hands.
        B'Elanna sighed. She deeply regretted what she had said
to Harry. Did it help the situation that he was sitting almost
three meters away from her? Chakotay had noticed the change,
but his quiet ways did not permit him to interfere.
        Occasionally he threw her a few supportive glances, but that
was as far as he would go.
        <Why did I say that? B'Elanna wondered. <It was
uncalled for. Totally undeserving of him.
        <He cares for Tom as deeply as I do. It was unfair of me
to say otherwise. You know what's your problem, B'Elanna.
You're too much of a Klingon sometimes.  She bit her lip.
B'Elanna made up her mind. She got up and walked over to
Harry. Harry jerked his head up in surprise when she sat next
to him.
        "Mind if I warm this spot?" B'Elanna smiled crookedly.
        "No." he replied awkwardly. He handed her a rock. "Rich
gallacite deposits by the way."
        She took his peace offering with a smile. "Thanks. Maybe
        I should bring this back as a throphy. I thought you said the
tricorder wasn't working?"
        "It isn't. At least not long range. I tried scanning the
rocks a few minutes ago. I found out that the tricorder could
scan at short range - for a few seconds that is." He
demonstrated by running the tricorder over the rock. The
readings faded after a while.
        Harry managed a smile of his own. "Maybe if we pack some
of these rocks in our back pack we could collect enough to
power up the warp core." He joked.
        "Look, Harry. I'm sorry." She blurted out abruptly.
        "What I said earlier. It was uncalled for-"
        "Wait." Harry interrupted. "Maybe it's not."
        Puzzled, B'Elanna waited for him to continue. He exhaled
quickly, as if trying to get a huge weight off his shoulders.
        "We tried for months to look for him. Somewhere around the 2nd
or 3rd month, I gave up."
        She looked up at him.
        He nodded, his dark eyes guilty. "You were right, I gave
up on him. I pushed him away from my thoughts and stored him
in my memory banks like old data files. Even after we found
the shuttle, I never thought I'd find him. I thought he was
dead for sure. It's true what you said. I stopped caring." He
said roughly.
        "It's not true. You worked harder than I did trying to
find him." She clasped his hand. "We have our own ways of
coping, right, Harry? I am sorry I wanted you to grieve *my*
        He smiled uncertainly. "You don't understand B'Elanna.
Somewhere around that period, I forgot what he looked like.
One day, I spent a great day at Sandrines. I wasn't even aware
that he *wasn't* there. When I got back to my quarters..." he
shook his head. "I felt as if I had betrayed him
        She felt unexpected tears pool in her eyes. "I know you
love him, Harry, just like I do.  There is *no* way you could
betray him." She found herself hugging him. Unable to suppress
her tears, she let them flow.
        From his corner, Chakotay witnessed the exchange
silently. He looked into the embers, and unwillingly, he
remembered how he had coped with his own grief.
        It was a short one, he admitted brusquely. Just like(As
with?) his father's death, he had gotten over Tom's *death*
equally fast. He was convinced that Tom was no longer alive.
But guilt at his easy forgetfulness prodded him to consult his
spirit guide.

        "I was surprised at the level of my grief."
        The wolf regarded him in an almost bemused fashion.
        He nodded. "We never did like each other, but our years
on Voyager had forged a friendship. There was always this
level of distrust that I could not get rid of. But when he
died, I realized that he was my friend."
        "Friends must rest in peace."
        Chakotay knew that he was still grieving - now, in
combination with his guilt. It was time for Tom to rest in
        Somewhere along the prairie, the sun rose and Chakotay
walked towards the warm rays of brightness, each step making
his heart lighter
        "Unless..." said his spirit guide somewhere behind him.
"He's still alive?"
        He had looked back but she was gone.

        The sudden shaking of the ground brought Chakotay back
to the present. He grabbed the walls for support while
B'Elanna shielded her head from tumbling stones. Outside, he
could hear the sounds of trees snapping and falling.
        "This is the worse one so far," Harry shouted above the
        Chakotay could not agree more as one of the trees that
camouflaged the cave entrance collapsed. He was about to reply
when the cave was instantly bathed in a bright burst of light.
        "What was that?" B'Elanna cried, stepping towards the
        "B'Elanna, don't move!" Chakotay called. The earthquake
wasn't done yet. Anything could topple.
        She obeyed, crouching in a corner, watching the still
burning light. It pulsed like a throbbing heart, washing the
forest in a strange eerie glow. Slowly, the light receded,
waning into a soft glow, similar to gleam cast by the moons
over the colony on Kessik IV. It was at that moment when she
saw jagged shapes against the light. The angles were too
precise to be a natural formation.
        "I see something!" she shouted. Then, it was gone,
swallowed by the light. The light flared, brighter than
before. More trees fell outside.
Chakotay squinted against the light, trying to see what
B'Elanna had mentioned. But all he could see was light.
        "Commander!" Harry called suddenly.
        Surprised, Chakotay turned towards him. He felt the
sudden sting of a blade before his eyes could readjust to the
darkness. He knew what had happened immediately. "You." He
hissed. A Mylkrie towered before him, holding an odd looking
blade to his neck.


        Tom avoided the tree that toppled before him easily, his eyes
on the cave entrance.  His hair lay in limp tangles from the rain and
he felt bruises beginning to form on his body. His hands stung like
fire, but pain was far from his mind right now.  The Mylkrie were in
*his* cave.
        He had pulled the hood over his head, hoping that the chaotic
emotions he had been receiving from the forest would somehow go away.
But of course, they hadn't. They continued to assault his tender mind
- but a few minds rose from the chaos of the forest
        There were more of them. His mind would not allow him to
differentiate their emotions nor analyze them as he did earlier with
the two he had killed. They were nothing but a squabble of emotions
with a distinctive pattern: sentience.
        And because of the chaos that was his thoughts, he did not
sense the Mylkrie that flung itself at him.


        "What do you want?" Chakotay demanded, eyeing the blade.
        "Your companion." Came the guttural response.
        Harry and B'Elanna frowned in puzzlement.
        "Your companion!" it hissed. "Where is he?"
        "I don't know what you mean." Chakotay replied slowly, hoping
to buy time.
        The answer did not please the Mylkrie. He dug the blade deeper
into Chakotay's neck, eliciting a hiss of pain from him.
        "Hey!" B'Elanna protested.
        "Your companion." The Mylkrie demanded again.


        Tom reacted quickly, pulling his lance from beneath his cloak.
He almost managed to run the blade into the creature's gut, but he
was flung aside by a blow to his skull.
        Head ringing, Tom shakily got to his feet.
        The Mylkrie rushed him from behind, but this time he was
        He sidestepped the charge and watched the Mylkrie slam himself
into a tree. Without pausing, he flung the lance, slicing something
off the Mylkrie. The Mylkrie howled, clutching its wrist. Tom
realized that he has taken off the creature's hand.
        The Mylkrie stopped howling and stared balefully at Tom. For
long seconds, both human and Mylkrie glared at each other. It was The
Mylkrie who made the first move. With a small laugh, the Mylkrie
pointed his remaining hand at him.
        Now it was Tom's turn to hurt

        B'Elanna growled and hauled herself to her feet.
        "Be easy, female, or I'll kill this creature." The Mylkrie
hissed. "Now you will tell me where is he?"
        "What the hell are you talking about? There's only three of us
here." Then she paled. "You...you saw another one of us?"
        Harry understood what she was getting at. Could it be...? But how
could he have survived the Mylkrie alone? He knew that if he didn't
do something fast, Chakotay would be gone. And B'Elanna.
        "I know where he is." He said quickly.
        The Mylkrie smiled in its grotesque way, mandibles clicking


        Tom cried out in pain when the projectile slammed into his
shoulder. Dimly, he felt himself sinking to the ground.
        The Mylkrie didn't even pause. He slammed his remaining fist
into Tom's face.
        Tom hit(we just used slam) the ground hard and felt blood spurt
from his mouth. He trembled violently and tried to crawl away, but
the Mylkrie caught up with him and roughly yanked his head up by his
hair, glaring into his dulled blue eyes.
        <I want you to die, human!
        The voice razored into his mind. He winced, but the shock he
experienced was not from the pain induced the blade. The Mylkrie was
telepathic?  He didn't have time to evaluate that line of thought
when the Mylkrie hit him again.
        Tom did not allow the dizziness to paralyze him this time.
Sucking in his pain, he yanked the edged projectile from his shoulder
and rammed it into the creature's throat
        The Mylkrie's mandibles widened in shock as it grabbed at its
throat, looking down at the human with a puzzled frown.
        Tom crawled shakily away, but the Mylkrie wasn't finished yet.
It must have laughed, for its mandibles quivered. Taking a few steps,
the Mylkrie hauled its strange weapon from the ground and activated
it.  Tom watched with bleary eyes as the blade extended and forked
out. The Mylkrie raised it high above his head and Tom knew that it
was impossible to survive this one
        Time seem to slow down then. He saw his life again: his time in
Starfleet, then in Auckland as a prisoner, then onboard Voyager, with
Janeway, Harry. With B'Elanna. And he felt furious. Furious that the
happiness he had found aboard Voyager with B'Elanna was cruelly
ripped away from him because of some egocentric hunter creature.
        The Mylkrie gurgled as the lance sliced into its gut. For a
moment it looked puzzled, then its gaze fell on the blade and it
sagged, falling across Tom's legs.  Tom didn't bother with it.
Sighing, he closed his eyes, allowing the rain pattering on his face
to be the last sensation he felt.


        B'Elanna frowned. What was Harry up to?
        "Harry-" she began.
        "B'Elanna. He's not worth it." Harry said forcefully. He looked
up at the Mylkrie. "I will lead you to him now."
        "I won't let you do this, Harry!" she cried.
        "B'Elanna." Harry pleaded as he got to his feet.
        Chakotay felt the blade move from his neck and saw his chance.
He suddenly lunged at the Mylkrie.
        Hissing in anger, the Mylkrie slashed the blade at Chakotay.
The blade bit into Chakotay's shoulder. He grunted heavily as his
head hit the cavern wall.
        B'Elanna didn't even think, just acted. She grabbed the blade
and tried to yank it away from the Mylkrie, but the Mylkrie pushed
her to the ground like a sack of grain.
        "NO!" Harry cried out in horror as the blade sank into her arm.
        B'Elanna screamed.

        The scream tore(seared?) into his mind like a phaser blast.
Bewildered, he opened his eyes, wondering why it should disturb
him from his sleep. His vision was fuzzy and bright stars danced in
his vision.  Somehow, what he heard was important. It was.
        Groggily, he raised himself to his elbows. His vision swam red
and he groaned weakly. As the red faded, he saw that he was in the
forest and that he was wet with rain.
        A furry creature stared at him from his foot. He knew that
creature, but didn't know why he should.
        His body hurt. Hurt so much he couldn't think. Particularly his
head.  He must have cut open his forehead because he could feel warm
blood run down his face.
        <Where are my brains? he felt his head, wondering if they had
all flowed out.
        The green-eyed creature pulled frantically at his sleeves,
flutteting gossamer wings in his face. Under normal circumstances he
would have thought the creature cute, but right now, it was a pest.
His vision flared red again. Tom sighed. He needed to close his eyes.
He was about to obey that line of thought when a voice intruded into
his head.
        <Hurry! the voice urged.
        Tom groaned and clutched his head. He felt as if someone had
bounced a pool ball in his skull. But despite the pain, he got to his
feet shakily. He found a weapon of sorts and used it to hoist it to
his feet. His subconscious told him that it was somehow important to
obey the voice. <TOM!!! another voice screamed, cutting through
his bewildered mind, clearing the cobwebs.
        His eyes widened.  <No, it can't be. She's far away
        Xiri suddenly floated before him. He flapped his wings
frantically and his jewel-green eyes seemed to sparkle.
<There's a battle he deciphered from Xiri's images.
<Fighting.  Blurred images swam before his vision. A blade coming
down. An anguished scream. A scream whose voice seemed achingly
With a sudden burst of energy, he ran towards the cave.


        B'Elanna cried out again when the blade was yanked from her
shoulder. She clutched the wound and glared fiercely at the Mylkrie.
She wasn't about to give the Mylkrie her fear, but the Mylkrie wasn't
the least bit interested in her. It was looking at Harry.
Specifically, it was clutching Harry by the collar.
        "You will lead me to him, now."
        "So long as you don't hurt my friends." Harry snapped back
        "Coward." The Mylkrie disgustedly flung Harry aside. "Your
lives are forfeit. They mean nothing to me."
        "Then fine. I will not lead you to him."
        The Mylkrie laughed.  "It does not matter, human. I will *make*
you find him." The Mylkrie turned away from Harry and walked towards
        "What are you doing?" B'Elanna demanded.
        The Mylkrie did not bother responding. He lifted B'Elanna and
clutched her by the neck with one hand, squeezing. B'Elanna growled,
kicking the Mylkrie furiously, but her legs began to grow weak.
        Harry's eyes widened. "Don't!" he cried desperately. <Damn it!
he thought. <Where's the phaser?! He rushed towards Chakotay,
shaking the unconscious commander.
        "Chakotay! Damn it! Wake up!"
        B'Elanna's eyes rolled up in her head.
        "B'Elanna!" He gritted his teeth, preparing to launch himself
at the Mylkrie.
        Just then, the Mylkrie dropped B'Elanna. B'Elanna collapsed to
the ground, gasping. Harry left Chakotay instantly and dragged her
from the Mylkrie. He felt hideous because he was having to hide from
the Mylkrie instead fight the creature.
The Mylkrie walked into the darkness of the cave.
        From the darkness, a hooded figure approached them. It looked
like the spectre of death - and it clutched-
        Harry's heart sank.
        It clutched a long blade.


        Melik felt the female dying in his hands. Instead of pleasure,
he felt only anger. Anger that she didn't die fast enough, anger at
the fact that she was still fighting him.
        Melik didn't expect something to distract him from this moment,
but it did.
        He looked warily into the darkness of the cave.
        He could only describe it as a touch on his mind. He had felt
this sensation before. It was the same sensation he had when that
human first appeared.
        But still, Melik could only feel astonishment when he saw the
creature approach him. Astonishment because that certainly meant that
Andri was dead.
        Killed. By a Human.
        He growled. He felt his mandibles clicking in anticipation. No
weak human will kill Melik, First Son of Donr. But this was no weak
human. He had to grudgingly admit that he faced a warrior.
        "Well met, warrior. I will indeed be proud to kill you."
        The newcomer did not reply; he merely extended his blade. The
strange blade that was all black, simple and not worth a Mylkrie's
attention. A coward's weapon. The weapon of fools!
        To be killed by *that*!
        He felt shame, shame at the easy deaths of his crew.
        Hissing, the Mylkrie attacked.


        The newcomer acted as if he knew what to expect. He dodged the
Mylkrie's every move. However, he was not able to hit the Mylkrie.
        Howling, the Mylkrie suddenly swung the butt of his weapon at
the stranger, connecting with the stranger's midsection with an an
audible thud. The stranger grunted and fell to his knees, shaking.
        "Give up, creature. You have done well have you not? Killed my
crew as if they were inexperienced whelps instead of the warriors
they were. But know this - I will not be so easy to kill!"
        Harry wanted to shout a warning to the stranger as the blade
descended to his head, but the stranger evaded the thrust easily
bringing his lance to cut into the Mylkrie's body. The Mylkrie
grabbed the shaft and shoved himself away from the lance, grunting in
        "Very good, warrior. But not good enough!"  The Mylkrie hit the
stranger with a fist. The stranger cried out in pain and reeled.
"Die, creature!"


        Harry scrambled to B'Elanna's side as she awoke. She
shook her head groggily and looked around.
        "What?" she mumbled.
        "We have to get out of here." Harry insisted, trying to
hoist her up. The ground shook suddenly.
        "Damn earthquakes." Harry muttered. His balance was
precarious at best. Luckily, B'Elanna was more or less on her own
feet now.
        "What the hell is going on?" she muttered when she
noticed the battle.
        "I don't know. Chakotay!" he called, trying to wake the
still unconscious Commander. B'Elanna was on her knees, searching
desperately for the missing phaser.
        Chakotay opened his eyes and shook his head. "What the-"
        "No time to talk, Commander. We have to go *now!*" Harry
snapped. Just then he sighted the phaser. It was hidden behind a
rock. Suddenly, a roar made them turn.

        Tom felt his energy give out when the Mylkrie hit him a second
time. His head, already an aching furnace, roared. His vision dimmed
and he felt himself sinking into darkness again.
        <You cannot give up!
        That voice again.
        He knew he had to protect someone. Or something. It was as
important as life itself. But now he thought how foolish it was to do
so. Nothing mattered more than to sleep.
        Tom gasped - a surge of pain and awareness flooded his brain
and his vision cleared again. The Mylkrie was standing before him,
and the strange blade was coming down fast- He acted without
thinking. He brought up both feet and kicked as hard as he could.
        The Mylkrie flew backwards-
        <Now, Tom! You must run!
        Run? He got up shakily, but his knees started to buckle again.
        The strange energy that had coursed through him only moments ago bled
out of him again.
        <Where am I? he wondered. The world seem to tilt-
        Tom flinched but he obeyed.
        Suddenly, the earth moved. It shook the rocks free from their
perch and they pelted him mercilessly.
        Tom fell to his knees again. This time, he swore he would not
get up. But the voice was insistent.
        <I'm tired. Leave me alone.
        <Move, Tom! Move!
        Gasping, he crawled away - moments later, the ground he lay on
broke apart to reveal a gaping hole.
        The Mylkrie fell, but managed to stop himself by desperately
clutching at the edge of the opening with his fingers. Without
hesitation, Tom brought down the lance on the Mylkrie's hands. With a
cry, the Mylkrie fell into the crevice.
        But there was another threat to be met. Tom twisted to lay his
lance against the neck of the new intruder.

        Chakotay flinched when the hooded stranger brought the lance
next to his neck. Seeing what the stranger had done to that Mylkrie,
Chakotay would not be surprised if this man cut off his head. He
could still hear the Mylkrie crying out in rage as he fell into the
crevice. The cry did not stop for a long time.
        "Relax. I mean you no harm." He mouthed the words slowly,
praying to his gods that the Universal Translator could translate the
words - even if the stranger hadn't spoken yet.
        The stranger did not even flinch. Instead, the blade pressed
        "I'm getting tired of this." Harry muttered, his hand inching
towards the phaser.
        "No, Harry, wait." B'Elanna whispered her hand on his. She
looked bewildered.
        "B'Elanna? Chakotay-"
        Anxious whistles interrupted Harry. A winged creature - the
same species as the simian creatures he had seen earlier, floated
before the stranger.


        Tom tried to concentrate as hard as possible on the faces before him.
He knew that they were familiar. He knew-
        The thoughts whirled away from him as fast they had come. All
he knew now was that it was better to be safe than sorry. And safe
always meant to kill first.
        <No, Tom. Do not!
        He turned slowly to that source of voice and saw that creature
        <You are tired. You are sick. You need to sleep.
        <No, he answered without taking his eyes away from the
intruders. <They will kill me in my sleep.
        <No they will not. Look closer, Tom The winged creature
flapped closer and landed on his shoulder. Gently, it lay a webbed
paw to his forehead.
        Its touch was like a laser through his skull. Tom gasped and
momentarily lost focus. Then the world swam back into view again.
Their faces returned to his vision and he saw their anxiety and fear.
He gasped.
<It's them.
        His lance clattered to the floor. With shaking hands, he
removed his hood to get a better look at them.
        The world brightened and darkened and brightened again. But
despite his swimming vision, he could see that it was them.
        <They have come back for me


        B'Elanna waited tensely as the stranger removed his hood.
Dimly, she had heard Harry gasp and had seen Chakotay visibly flinch
as the lance fell away from his neck, but she hesitated to move to
him. She knew something wasn't exactly right-
        His blue eyes, normally clear and bright, were glassy and flat.
They were pale, much paler than before. They took the colour of ice
instead of the sky blue to which she was accustomed. And his hair was
a tangled matt streaked with black and green. He looked nearly dead.
        He didn't move. He merely stared at them.
        "Tom!" B'Elanna exhaled. She moved cautiously to him. The pale
eyes followed her movements, but she didn't see any recognition in
them. Her heart pounded with sudden fear. Bahne had said that he was
changed. Did that mean his memory? Did the Mylar take away his
        She was close enough now to breathe the iron scent of blood
that stained his face and clothes. She didn't care anymore. She
wrapped her arms around him, burying herself in his presence - in his
realness. His body stiffened.  And with a joy she couldn't describe,
she felt his arms come around her and he clasped her to him. He was
still ominously silent, but she could hear his quickening breath and
        "It's alright. It's going to be all right. I'm never going to
leave you again." She whispered.
        He pulled away from her and looked into her eyes. A slow, tired
smile spread across his face. It wasn't the same smile he always gave
her, but it was enough for her to know that this was her Tom.


        B'Elanna felt him loose his balance. She felt relief when
Chakotay appeared at her right to help her support Tom. Tom turned to
look at Chakotay, his blue eyes wary but sharp. They slowly faded
into recognition when Chakotay smiled. They placed him beside the
now-dead fire. Tom resisted their help for a moment, but then
resigned himself to their support as they sat him down.
        Blue eyes met dark ones when Harry lay a hand on his shoulder.
Tom appeared to study Harry's eyes for a long moment, then a slow
smile appeared. He gently squeezed Harry's hand.
        "Damn it, Tom." Harry muttered, emotions choking his voice.
Tentatively, he hugged Tom. "It's good to finally find you!"
        Tom looked as if he wanted to respond, his eyes flickered with
emotions, but he didn't even move his lips.
        B'Elanna covered the bleeding wound on his forehead with a
piece of cloth she tore from her uniform. She found her hands shaking
as the cloth quickly became damp with blood. It should have hurt, but
Tom did not react to her ministrations. Instead, he was disturbingly
silent and distant.
        "I'll start the fire again." Chakotay said after the long
silence. His dark eyes were worried, and they were trained towards
        B'Elanna just nodded. She didn't take her eyes of Tom's face.
His eyes were slowly losing focus. Fear robbed her of all function.
All she could do was hold the cloth to his wound and suck in all the
feelings she was getting from Bahne's telepathic transmitter.
        <A blessing and a curse she thought.
        Tom turned to look at her, as if hearing her thoughts.
        "Tom." She whispered, hoping he would respond. But he didn't.
He merely stared into her eyes glassily.
        B'Elanna jerked when Harry gripped her hand. She looked up to
see him offering her a canteen. She took it gratefully and gently
gave it to Tom who stared curiously at it.
        "Drink it, Tom. You need it."
        He shook his head, looking faintly sick.
        "Have you checked for broken bones?" Harry offered.
        "No..." she realized, feeling instantly guilty.
        Harry gave her a reassuring smile and proceeded to check Tom.
Again, Tom didn't react as Harry gently examined his arm. He merely
stared blankly ahead of him.
        Chakotay sighed. The phaser's power supply was getting lower by
the second. But they needed the fire badly night was falling and it
was starting to freeze up in the cave.
        <No he decided, putting the phaser away. <Time to put father's
training to good use. he thought, grabbing two pieces of stone lying
        As he struck the two rocks together, he felt the turmoil in his
heart lessening. He was worried for Tom; no, he was fearful, because
he saw in his eyes what he saw in Old Majuta's face when he lay dying
from Strickl's disease back in the colonies. Majuta had been a family
friend, and when he knew he was dying, he sent for Chakotay's father,
and his father had brought him along. As a result, the eyes of the
dying were firmly imprinted on his brain. It didn't help that he had
the added experience of a Maquis to supplement his ability to note
the empty gaze of a dying man.
        In the background, he could see the simian creature fluttering
nervously around Tom like a worried mother. It chattered anxiously
and turned in tight circles.
        <A pet? he wondered.
        "Voyager." He could hear B'Elanna call. Chakotay turned to see
B'Elanna tapping her commbadge. Her face had a desperate edge that he
hadn't seen before. "Voyager can you hear me?" her voice broke. She
tapped on her useless communicator again. "Damn it." She hissed. She
turned to Tom again. This time, she lay a hand to his cheek. It was
frighteningly cold. He responded this time. Energy seemed to return
to his eyes for a moment and he clasped her hand to his cheek. "I'm
getting help, Tom. You must hang on. Please." She pleaded.
        He seemed to understand. He nodded. Then he gently kissed her
on the lips. B'Elanna jerked involuntarily as she felt how cold his
lips were. Emotions coursed into her sharply. Before, she only felt a
trickle, now it was a flood, and it surrounded her for an instant
until all she felt was *him* and *him* alone. She felt his relief; it
was like a slap of cold water against a burning wound. But most of
all she felt his love for her. She never knew how deep it was and she
was frightened by it. Her instinctive reaction was to pull away but
she realized how much she loved him too. The tears came involuntarily
as she sensed a new emotion from him. Something that made her heart
constrict with fear.
        B'Elanna slowly withdrew and blinked back tears.
        "No, it's not time yet." She whispered forcefully to him,
pulling away the emotions she felt from Tom. She pushed herself away
from Tom running to her backpack. Tom watched her sluggishly.
        Harry did not understand what she meant, but somehow it sent a
shiver down his spine.
        "Tom, it's me Harry. Maybe you should get some rest." He
clasped Tom's hand, hoping the physical contact would bring Tom out
of whatever stupor he was in.
        Tom watched Harry's face - no, he seemed to be concentrating on
his lips. He shook his head, then moved his hands.
        "It's sign language." Chakotay observed from the now burning
fire. His voice betraying his surprise. "He says that he doesn't want
to sleep. Not yet. I took a course in sign language at the Academy. I
guess Tom did too." He reasoned.
        "Why is he using sign language?" Harry felt his heart sink when
Tom's eyes became glassy and unfocused again.
        "There's only one reason. I just hope it isn't the one." He
heard Chakotay answer. "He has a bad concussion from the looks of
it." He didn't want to add 'possible hemorrhage' though he highly
suspected it.

        B'Elanna searched through her pack for the device Bahne had
given her. She hoped to God that whatever emotions she was feeling
now was not from Tom. But who was she fooling? She could feel the
disorientation and the numbness creeping up her body as if she were
Tom. The freezing cold that was...
"No, he's not-" she whispered. She could feel how fast he was
slipping away. <But damn it! I just found him! He can't just die!
She found the device. Breathing a sigh of relief she got up-
        - only to get the device yanked away by that simian creature.
        "Hey!" she snapped. She was at the end of her tether right now,
and this was not time for simian games! "Give it back to me!"
        The creature fluttered towards Tom. Tom looked up slowly and
began to climb to his feet. Harry and Chakotay tried to stop him, but
he pushed their hands away, concentrating on the creature. For a
moment, Tom and Xiri stared at each other in a strange, silent way -
almost as if they were in telepathic contact.

        Tom wondered why Xiri was looking at him so oddly. He was
tired, that was for sure. He watched Xiri flutter down to sit on his
shoulder. Out of habit, he caressed the creature's soft fur. Xiri was
holding something in its hands. Tom started to reach out for it, but
Xiri pulled it away possessively.
        <Why, Xiri? Is it gold? Tom wondered whether Xiri understood
        Tom received a flurry of images and emotions. He closed his
eyes against the barrage-


        Chakotay was the first to see him fall. Reacting immediately,
Chakotay leapt to his feet, but he could not get there in time to
stop Tom from falling heavily to the ground. His heart stopped when
he saw Tom's glassy eyes staring back at him.
        "Tom!" B'Elanna cried. She felt his pulse - it was slow, dead
slow but it was still there. "Tom, please talk to me." She had never
felt so helpless in her life as she stared into the lifeless blue
        Chakotay was examining him, she noted distantly. She did not
know what he was looking for, but the look he later gave her didn't
assuage her fears.
        "I don't know what's wrong with him." Frustration bellying his
words. "Damn it, if the medical tricorder-"
        "The medical tricorder was destroyed Chakotay." She interrupted
firmly. "There wasn't anything we could do."
        The furry green eyed creature suddenly landed on her shoulder.
        <Move him.
        The voice silenced her. She looked at Harry and Chakotay,
hoping that she didn't imagine it.
        She didn't. Chakotay was looking at the creature with a puzzled
frown while Harry muttered under his breath.
        <Move him she received a dizzying array of images and
emotions. They sent her reeling for a moment-
        <I'm sorry the visions stopped abruptly. <But you must move
        Chakotay complied silently. Chakotay lifted Tom easily into his
arms, surprised at how light he was.
        "I'll put him by the fire." He told them.
        B'Elanna nodded brusquely then returned her gaze to the simian
creature intently.
        "You're telepathic." And intelligent, she added in her mind.
        <I do not know the word. came the response. Was it her
imagination or did it sound miffed?
        "What's wrong with Tom?" <Might as well get straight to the
point B'Elanna thought.
        <He's sick.
        She felt frustration welling up, choking her patience. "I
*know* he is sick. But..." she softened her tone, "is he...do you know
what's wrong with him *inside* his body?"
        <Not body. Mind.
        "Mind?" she echoed.
        <He will be well again. I have helped
        Before she could contemplate what it meant, she heard Harry
        "B'Elanna?" With that, she rushed to Tom's side. They had laid
him as close to the fire as possible. The once glazed eyes were now
tightly shut, as if against pain. He was moving slowly, as if each
movement caused him an ounce of energy that he couldn't afford to
lose.  Moving in what way?  Doing what?
        A feeble hand shakily reached up to touch the wound on his
forehead. She stopped him in time. Tom winced and closed his eyes
tight as a spasm rocked through his body.
        <He looks so vulnerable B'Elanna thought. Her heart ached for
him. <I can't imagine what he went through here. I can't imagine what
the Mylar did to him to cause him so much pain.
        <He hurt his mind. the voice butted in.
        "What do you mean?" before the creature could answer, she heard
Tom moan. She reached for the canteen of water, but Harry beat her to
        "Drink this, Tom." He murmured, helping Tom drink by propping
up his head with a hand.
        Tom turned his head away.
        "You're dehydrated, Tom. You have to drink," she told him
firmly, clasping his hand. Pale blue eyes met hers and he nodded
wearily, accepting the drink reluctantly.
        <You are all in danger. came the voice again.
        B'Elanna looked up reluctantly from Tom's face. If she hadn't
been so preoccupied with Tom, she would have noticed Chakotay and
Harry intently studying her. It was as if she was now the leader -
the 'representative' of the strange creature of Rya.
        "Please," She found herself saying. "Not now." She mustered
enough strength to look apologetically at the creature. "I don't want
to listen to it. Right now, Tom *is* the one in danger."
        Chakotay watched B'Elanna refocus her attention on Tom, and
didn't blame her at all. After all, First Contact was not one of her
favorite areas when it came to Starfleet.
        "Why don't we start with your name?" he directed the question
at the creature.
        The creature, so like the monkeys back on Earth, looked almost
comical when it frowned.
        "Name, you know, what do your people call you? Harry
        Both of them received something. *Something* was the best way
to explain it, because it was a jumble of emotions and images. Images
of a storm swept sea, a bright light, and trees.
        "Alright." Chakotay thought resignedly. "Perhaps-"
        <He calls me Xiri the creature spoke again. <I like it
        Harry smiled. "Then Xiri it is."
        <You are in danger. Please listen. You must leave.
        "I know. The Earthquakes," Chakotay responded regretfully. He
wondered what were to become of Xiri and his people, and whether
Voyager could help.
        <Not earthquakes. You're in danger from- there was a pause and
Xiri looked away, an incredibly human gesture. <You are in danger
from my people


        Tom felt incredibly sick.
        And foolish.
        Foolish to have fainted right in front of Chakotay and
Harry...and especially B'Elanna. He had prided himself on being strong,
the 'man' in control. Heck, his father had *wanted* him to be so.
Loosing so much control was unthinkable. Unimaginable.
        But wasn't *that* his life for the past six months? Out of
control? It seemed for ages that his life hung in the hands of
others; First the Mylkrie, then the Binoms, then the wild danger of
        He didn't know what it was like to be in control any longer.
His lack of control was at its greatest peak when he had ruthlessly
slaughtered the Mylkrie one by one, like an animal.
        He turned away from B'Elanna's worried eyes, ashamed at his
weakness. He knew that if he had stayed on Rya for another week, he
would've succumbed to the primal feelings generated by the creatures
of the planet.
        <She will see it; my weakness. Any Klingon could he closed his
eyes as unexpected tears formed behind his eyes. <Another sign of
loosing control, Paris. What's going to happen to you now?
        Tom braced himself as another spasm shot up his body. His
shoulder wound ached madly and his head swam.
        This attack had been the worse yet. Perhaps it was compounded
by his injuries, but at least he hadn't woken up in a strange place
with no memory of what he did. He felt incredibly feeble now, but he
was afraid to go to sleep. He was afraid that he would wake up and
find this all a dream.
        A gentle hand turned his face, and he found himself looking
into B'Elanna's eyes again. Her lips moved, but he didn't understand.
He might have taken a course in sign language just to spite his
father, but he had been hopeless when it came to reading lips. All he
*felt* was her anxiety, and he felt sad that he was the cause of it.
        <I wish so much that I could speak to you, B'Elanna, or hear
your voice. Nothing could be better he clasped her hand, hoping it
would do for his lack of words.


        B'Elanna was disappointed that he didn't answer. He seemed to
sense her disappointment because he squeezed her hand weakly.
        "You need to sleep, Tom. Please?"
        A frown of puzzlement on his face and another squeeze.
        "You can't hear me can you?" she whispered, bringing to light
her fears. He was deaf. The signs were all there, but she just didn't
want to see it. Not that she feared that his injury would be
permanent. She had feared the cause behind the injury, the pain that
he had been forced to endure. "What did the Mylar do to you?" she
whispered, squeezing his hand.
        She pictured the Mylar: the creature that was the exact replica
of Tom, yet not at all like him. The creature that took Tom's cells,
cloned bodies out of him, then discarded him when he was no longer
needed. In her mind, she imagined Tom helpless before the Mylar-
        Tom flinched, as if reading her mind, then turned away from the
fire. She watched as his eyelids grew heavy and fluttered shut.
        Satisfied, she placed his hand on his chest, watching him sleep
uneasily. In a corner, Chakotay and Harry were talking to the monkey,
but she wasn't the least bothered.
        "Let's get you cleaned up, Paris." She spoke to no one in
        She ran her hands over the elaborate Binom garments that Tom
wore, searching for any blood stains that would indicate a wound. The
attire was now tattered and faded, but the robes were still intact.
It was fortunate that the Binoms favored long, flowing sleeves
because it was freezing cold now, even with the fire going.
Anxiously, she wondered how he had survived 5 lonely months in this
cold cave, but she pushed the thought away.
        She poured some water into a container and dipped the cloth
(more souvenirs from her uniform)into it. She then proceeded to wipe
away the blood and grime from his face and hair, feeling a strange
measure of control as she did it.
        "You're going to be alright, helmboy," she said, slipping back
to her favourite nickname for him. "The next thing you know, you'll
be shooting pool at Sandrines and telling us-"
        She didn't know how to continue. Telling them what? About how
he witnessed the brutal deaths of four of his crew mates? About being
hunted the Mylkrie or nearly killed by the Mylar? About five months
of lonely isolation on Rya?
        "-telling us what you're going to do with your 6 months worth
of rations." She finished softly. She remembered how he had thought
of food during his imprisonment with Harry in that Akritirian prison
and how they had blown the piled up rations in two days. It made her
smile despite herself.
        "Neelix learnt to cook Bajoran Hessik pie for you, but he made
me swear *not* to tell you that because he wanted to surprise you
once you returned, so you have to pretend to be surprised when he
gives it to you."
        Tom lay quietly, his breathing was beginning to even out; his
sleep seemed to be more peaceful. B'Elanna brushed a hand on his
slightly warm forehead.
        "I love you, Tom Paris. I was such a fool *not* to realize that
earlier." She felt penned up tears welling up in her eyes and let
them flow silently, relieved that Tom wasn't awake to see it. Once a
half-Klingon, always a half-Klingon, he used to tease.
        She took his limp hand and clasped it to her cheek. It was so
wonderful to feel him again. She kissed his palm, savoring the feel
of him.
        <I will never loose you again she vowed.
And B'Elanna prayed to the gods of all the planets she had
visited that Voyager would come, and come soon.


        They had taken too long with repairs.
        It took Voyager three full days to limp back to Rya - and that at maximum
capacity; which wasn't much. The crew had worked almost 24 hours on repairs, and
Janeway reminded herself to add commendations on the crew's manifest soon.
        For 3 days, she was a science officer once more, stabilizing the warp
core, fixing damaged consoles and rerouting corrupted algorithms. Now, Janeway
sat impatiently in her seat on the bridge, looking at the object on the screen,
back in full 'Captain' mode. She sighed. If only she could explore the
satellite, analyze its alien technology...Janeway smiled. She didn't know how
much she missed being a science officer until now.
Tuvok waited untiringly at his post for her comments. Like the others
around them.
        "It appears to be a satellite. And from the readings I've been getting, I
could safely presume that it controls the shield around the planet."
        That was Ensign Parr, Harry Kim's relief. She was a petite blonde with
clear, intelligent features. Her blue eyes twinkled with excitement from
underneath her blond bangs. Despite doing multiple shifts for the past few days,
Yvette Parr still looked fresh and energetic - something the Captain envied.
        Turning away from Parr, Janeway announced: "Well then, the reasonable
assumption now is to board it, isn't it Tuvok?" she arched an eyebrow at Tuvok.
        He nodded his consent. "I would assume so Captain. Although we have to be
careful in the event the station has self defensive capabilities."
        "Good." She raised herself from her seat, watching the planet Bahne had
named 'Rya'. "Let's go get our crew."
        <I just hope we have a crew to get.


        His name was Ebran. And he was bored.
        Being a fast worker, Ebran had finished his analysis of Ensign Nuritari's
blood sample in less than 20 minutes. The blood tested positive for Ryker's
Disease, an inherited illness that weakened the immune system so badly that a
simple flu could almost instantly kill.  Now, as the Doctor worked over the said
Ensign, busy with whatever he needed to perform (Ebran didn't much care to know
what) he was left with nothing to do. Restless, Ebran's feet began to tap with
impatience. Unfortunately, he tapped his feet so hard that the equipment on a
nearby trolley vibrated.
        "Excuse me Ensign. You're a medical assistant, not a ping-pong ball. So do
you mind?" snapped the nearly bald Doctor from beside the bio-bed. Ensign
Nuritari, zonked out from whatever drugs the Doctor gave him did not stir.
        <Ping-pong ball? What the heck is that? Ebran hurrumphed. He rubbed the
ridges on his nose in frustration and wondered how in the world he had became
Tom Paris' replacement as medical assistant. Oh yes, his 6 month stint on the
Plains of Eron at one of the moons of a Cardassian colony. His team had been
trapped there after raiding the outpost for supplies. The team of a hundred had
whittled to a mere twelve in three short months. Trapped on a moon powered by
Henik soldier drones could do that to a Maquis cell. The mere twelve, all on
this 'glorious' Federation ship, had chirped happily about his ability as a
'medical genius' during those testy months. After all, he got them all out
        When he had received this assignment, he had reminded the doctor about the
88 that had  not survive.
        "Well, that means you have room to learn." Was his only reply.
        And now Ebran was so bored out of his mind enough to think of ways to
'repay' the twelve that he had so foolishly saved.
        The doors opened and Ebran looked expectantly to them for diversion. As if
in response, a beautiful blonde walked through, eyeing him saucily.
        "Hello handsome. You're wanted."
        "When am I never wanted? Especially by you?" he lazily encircled his arms
around Yvette Parr's waist, watching her blue eyes twinkle. His eyes immediately
dilated when she bent forward to-
        "Excuse me. This is the sickbay, not the Holodeck." Snapped the Doctor's
testy voice.
        Yvette sighed and broke the embrace.
        Ebran seethed and thought of ways to delete the Doctor. How could Tom
Paris even spend an hour with this hologram? It had only been six months and
already he wanted to wring his hands around the Doctor's non-existent neck!
        "Sorry Doctor. I just came to tell Ebran that he is on the next away team
on Rya." She threw him another coy smile. "Imagine, our first away mission
        "Whoop-tee-do." The doctor deadpanned. "Is there a reason why I'm not
        "Well-" she began.
        "The shields around the planet could have an adverse effect on your
portable holo emmiter, doctor." Interrupted a deep, level voice. Commander Tuvok
stood at the entrance, looking at Yvette with Vulcan disapproval.
        She blushed immediately, and Ebran realized that she had not been
authorized to inform him about his mission.
        "In addition, Ensign Ebran has some engineering skills that would be
beneficial on our mission."
        "I see," said the Doctor, returning to the biobed, but still keeping his
eyes on the Lieutenant Commander. He paused then said, "Are you going to the
        Was it anxiety he heard in the Doctor's voice? Ebran couldn't help but
hear it.
        "No, Doctor. We are to transport to a satellite orbiting Rya. We believe
this is where the shields are activated." Tuvok explained.
        The Doctor nodded, but the worry did not disappear from his eyes. "Well, I
know it is foolish to say this since *nobody* ever listens to me when I say this
- but, be careful."
        Tuvok nodded. "Understood. Ensign, prepare yourself. We will meet at
Transporter Room Three at 0100 hours."
        "Aye, sir," he sighed.
        As Tuvok turned to exit, the Doctor called out. "Please...tell me if there
is any word of Lieutenant Paris. Knowing him, I would need to prepare the
sickbay adequately for his arrival."
        His tone was sarcastic, but he still looked anxious. Tuvok merely nodded
on his way out.
        Ebran saw Yvette raise her eyebrows at the Doctor, who was now busy with
his patient.
        "What?" he asked.
        "You know, I think he cares about Lieutenant Paris."
        Ebran shook his head. "Yeah, right."

        "Ebran?" Joe Carey commented. "That man's a walking firecracker!"
        Tuvok merely raised an eyebrow.
        "He may be a 'walking firecracker', Lieutenant," Janeway countered, "but
Ensign Ebran is the only medical assistant we have, and the doctor is too much
at risk for this mission." She appeared more amused than annoyed at his
        Joe sighed. The reason for his aversion was possibly not clear to Janeway.
B'Elanna wasn't the only Maquis to break a part of his body. Ebran had the
dubious honour of nearly breaking his jaw. Ebran had received some time in the
brig for that, and a few summary reports by Tuvok to Janeway. Carey did not know
whether Janeway knew about their 'little history', but Janeway had not
demonstrated any knowledge about it. <But Janeway being Janeway wouldn't
demonstrate it even if she knew Carey mused. <And it'll just be like her to
stick me with Ebran just like how she stuck Paris with Neelix after that 'mess
hall' incident a few years back Carey grinned at that memory, and wistfully
wondered whether he'd see the pilot again.
        The door slid open and the Bajoran/Betazoid former Maquis walked through,
his strange dilated blue eyes flat and bored. Joe noticed that he still
stubbornly wore the Bajoran ear piece.
        <That kid still has *the* attitude. 5 years on board, 2 disciplinary
hearings and he has *not* changed. Wonder what Parr sees in him? he mused when
Yvette Parr appeared behind Ebran.
        Janeway cleared her throat and took out her hand. Sighing, Ebran took off
his ear piece and tossed it into her hand.
        <Attitude. He would've gotten a court martial for *that* if we were in the
Alpha Quadrant
        "Are we ready?" Janeway queried, looking at her away team. <Joe Carrey,
Yvette Parr, Ebran Tonay and Tuvok, she recited mentally. She wished she could
go - very badly - but the ship was in dire need of repairs, and the crew needed
her onboard more.
        "We are, Captain."
        Janeway nodded, and after a moment, the away team shimmered out of


        The first thing that greeted Joe Carey was light. When his eyes became
accustomed to the light, he was greeted by a glass statue, which reflected light
in blinding sparkles. Taking two steps back, he stumbled into another one. He
nearly let out a yelp as a pair of glassy eyes stared back at him.
        "Where are we?" Yvette asked from somewhere.
        "The satellite?" Carrey volunteered helpfully, still looking at the
statue. The statue he stared at was of a female humanoid with a gently ridged
forehead. A translucent hand clutched her chest in an expression of horror,
although her face remained tranquil.
        It was when he looked away that he noticed that they were surrounded by
more of them. Perhaps twenty or thirty more.
        "Yeah, where are we?" he muttered. Then he noticed that Tuvok and Ebran
were ominously silent and strangely motionless.
        "Commander?" Tuvok turned almost carefully as if he didn't want to topple
any of the statues. For a moment, Carey saw pain in the Tuvok's eyes, but it
vanished, replaced by calm Vulcan composure. But Tuvok's jaw still twitched as
if he held back...emotions? Before the engineer could even ask about it, Janeway's
voice chirped over the commbadge.
        "Commander Tuvok, is everything alright there?"
        Tuvok looked almost disconcerted for a moment. He exchanged a look with
Ebran, who was definitely ashen, and said, "Yes, Captain. However, I notice that
there is a strange 'atmosphere' in the satellite."
        "Emotions." Ebran butted in, his voice shaking. "The whole place is
dripping with emotions!"
        "What do you mean, Ensign?" Janeway's voice was getting worried.
        "I believe Ensign Ebran's empathic abilities are registering...'emotions' in
this place. This 'place' seems to generate emotions. I find that...disconcerting."
Tuvok explained, the muscle at his jaw tightening.
        "Do you want to abort the mission?"
        "I do not think it is necessary." But Tuvok glanced at Ebran. "Ensign, are
you fit to continue the mission?"
        He seemed to pause, then nodded. "What the heck." He muttered.
        Joe Carrey rolled his eyes and proceeded forward. He got to admit that
this place was a beauty. The satellite interior was made out of a crystal-like
substance that reflected light, making the place almost surreal.
<I feel like I'm in heaven Carrey mused, looking around. The place was
incredibly exquisite alright, and the walls appeared carved, not constructed. It
was as if someone had dug a tunnel in a diamond. A diamond the size of a small
asteroid. They wandered about aimlessly for a moment before coming to some sort
of control room.
        This room was strangely dark. The bright light outside was very absent
here; controls blinked in a foreign language and there was discernable hum.
Tuvok trained his wrist light to illuminating a corner of the room. A huge
screen dominated that corner, coming to life the moment the light touched It,
displaying a view of Rya.
        "We must get to work." Tuvok said scanning one of the control panels.
        Joe nodded. "The faster the better." Joe muttered.
        "Ensign Ebran, Ensign Parr, work on the controls." Tuvok ordered before
proceeding to a terminal beside Carey's.

        Ebran tried hard to ignore the voices. But they called to him seductively,
inviting him to share their secrets with him. But the screams stood out above
the seductive calls. The screams of terror and pain.
        <Damn. he hissed as the control panel he was looking at faded away from
view. <I hate it when I can't control it! he raged. Emotions raged in him.
        It was tough being a Bajoran and a Betazoid. <What a deadly combination,
he hissed to himself. The combination was made worse with a father who was a
naturally empathic Bajoran vedek.
        He knew Tuvok sensed the emotions. Perhaps not as strongly as he, being a
touch-telepath, but when his eyes met the Vulcan's, he knew Tuvok could hear it.
        <Do not shut down the shields! The voice rang clear in his head, cutting
like a missile through his mind, tearing away the blankness and numbness,
sending pain shooting through his head. Ebran cried out.
        "Ebran!" Yvette cried, clutching him as he fell.
        "No!" he gritted out from beneath the haze. "Don't let him shut down the
        "What are you talking about? That's exactly why we came here!"
        "Found it!" he heard Joe Carey exclaim. Tuvok started to walk towards the
        "Stop him, Yvette!" he cried out, forcing his feet to raise his body off
the floor.
        Yvette shook him, surprising him for a moment with her strength. "Snap out
of it, Tonay!" her voice was fearful.
        Ebran blinked for a moment. "But-" he noticed Carey and Tuvok looking at
him suspiciously, as one would look at a person who was about to run amok. "I
was sure I heard it."
        "Heard what?" Yvette whispered, her eyes large.
        <But then again you're not a telepath, are you Tonay? You must have heard
it in your sleep or something. You're hallucinating. Again      The prospect sent
rivulets of fear down his back. <No. he thought forcefully. <That is history.
It is over! He looked wordlessly into Yvette's eyes, not sure what to say.
        "Ensign, if you are not fit-"
        That did it.
        "I am fit, Commander!" he snapped, stubbornly returning to his controls.

        Joe sighed. There goes 'Firecracker Ebran' again. <Must've been the
statues. The statues would scare anyone. Absently he scanned the controls,
trying to piece in and translate alien design to a more understandable human
design. <How Harry Kim would prove useful now! he thought. After tapping a few
controls, it beeped to life.
        "Commander, I think I found it." He called again.
        Tuvok was already beside him. He nodded in approval as he tapped his
        "Captain, I believe we found the controls for the shields."
        "Good." Answered the Captain. "Proceed with caution, Commander."
        "Aye Captain."
        Carrey took a deep breath and punched the appropriate controls. From the
corner of his eye, he saw Ebran fidgeting nervously. Carrey decided to ignore
Ebran and punched in the last sequence.
        "There seem to be no- wait Captain." Tuvok looked up as the room seem to
vibrate slightly. The screen before them changed. The planet Rya was suddenly
covered in grids, but the grids slowly dissolved one by one as an alien voice
spoke in the background.
        "It's working," came Janeway again. "The shield is deactivating."
        Soon, Rya appeared before them without any gridlines. The shield that
barred strangers from entering Rya was now gone.
        The room vibrated again and suddenly, there was a clap of light and a
strange, round portal appeared at the right hand corner of the room. Tuvok
scanned it with his tricorder.
        "Captain, I believe a 'gateway' has appeared in the control room. It
appears to be a transportation device."
        "Where do you think it leads?"
        "Uncertain," came the quick reply. "But it seems safe, according to my
tricorder readings."
        "Should we try it?" Before Tuvok could answer Carrey's query, the gateway
shimmered to life and a room appeared in it. It looked almost similar to the
interior of the satelite.
        It looked almost inviting.
        "Captain, according to my further readings, it leads to the surface."
        "Alright then, let's try the gate and see where it leads. Proceed."
Janeway said..
        Tentatively, Tuvok stepped through. Ebran cringed, waiting for the sound
of Tuvok being vaporized, but it didn't come. Instead, Tuvok appeared on the
other side, studying his surroundings almost curiously.
        "Here goes nothing." Joe Carrey muttered as he stepped through. He too
appeared safely on the other side.
        Yvette followed. Before stepping through, she gave Ebran a reassuring pat
on the shoulder. On the other side, she motioned him to cross.
        Ebran took a deep breath as he took a step towards the gateway-
        But stopped short.
        His heart raced.
        A glass statue studied him on his left. It gazed at him with unblinking
eyes, body stooped slightly forward as if in the act of investigating him
        It wasn't there before.
        He swore it wasn't there before.
        "Ebran, come on!" he heard Yvette cry.
        The voices around him wept piteously. He could feel the eyes from the
twenty statues staring behind his back. The cries increased. They moaned and
wept, each clamouring for his attention.
        <Why are you crying? he raged, frustrated at their intrusion. <Why are
you even here? You don't exist, damn you!
        The voices faded into silence.
        <Foolish. The statue was there. I just didn't see it before.
        He swept aside his fears and stepped through.
        Before he reached the other side, he heard a woman crying.

        Ebran felt a wave of dizziness when he appeared on the other side.
        "Whoa." He muttered, clutching his head.
        "Don't worry, Tonay. It'll pass." Yvette assured.
        She was right. As the dizziness passed, he noticed that the room was very
much like the satellite's interior, but it was emptier. No controls adorned this
room. Quickly, he turned, sighing in relief when he spotted the still open
        "Captain." He heard Tuvok call. "Can you hear us?"
        "Yes Tuvok. Loud and clear. Where are you?"
        "According to my readings, we are on the surface of Rya. Scanning for life
forms." Tuvok moved around with his tricorder, his brow furrowed in
        "Captain, I detect four humanoid life signs almost two miles from here."
        "Three human life signs...and a half Klingon." Carrey cried out in
happiness. "They found Tom! I'm sure of it!"

        Up in Voyager, Janeway smiled gladly at the news. All around her, the crew
was smiling too - Tom would be surprised at the number of people who actually
missed him.
        "Good work, everyone. Normally I would transport you there, but as you
know, although the transporters are working at maximum capacity it still does
not have enough energy to beam you aboard. You would have to wait perhaps in an
hour. Looks like you have to take a walk."
        Ebran sighed at the sound of Janeway's happy tone. The Captain's voice
ended with a chirp from the commbadge.
        "This is too easy." He muttered.
        "Did you say something, Ensign?"
        Ebran regarded Joe Carrey dismissively - a gesture he knew Carrey hated.
"Nothing, Lieutenant."
        They stared at each sullenly. The air between them seemed to freeze - the
tension was that thick.
        "He said that it was too easy." Yvette butted in, giving Ebran a pointed
look. "Frankly, I have to agree with him."
        "Did you think that for once, we would have an uneventful away mission
where everything worked in our favour?"Joe mused.
        "Oh I believe in that." Yvette answered, her lips curling into a grin,
"But you know what, this is *just* too easy. A convenient transport to the
surface just a mile or two from our crewmates, ready for a joyful reunion. Sorry
sir, but this smells of 'bad'."
        Joe Carrey chuckled and turned to follow Tuvok out.
        Yvette gave Ebran a smile before joining Carrey. The tension had
        Ebran smiled. Yvette could always make a dangerous away mission sound like
a picnic at Risa. And melt tension like sugar under the sun.
        Lugging his medical kit, he followed them out - to Rya.


        It has been three days since they had found Tom. And Voyager had not
returned, nor had Tom awakened.
        B'Elanna studied his still features for perhaps the twentieth time for the
past two minutes. He looked almost at peace, but the lines of fatigue and pain
still marred his features. She brushed a hand through his hair, and touched his
bearded chin gently, hoping that that would wake him, and of course it didn't.
        "Lunch!" she heard Chakotay call.  Chakotay came in with a furred 'thing'
in his hands. Harry took it from the Commander, wincing at the smell it
        "What's this? A skunk?"
        "Food." Chakotay grinned.
        "Food that smells bad." Harry corrected, settling down to cleaning it. He
wrinkled his nose in protest.
        B'Elanna couldn't help but chuckle a little. For the past three days,
Chakotay had used his hunting and trapping skills to snare 'food' while Harry
had the job of cleaning and cooking it. While she...well, she looked after Tom as
best as she could. Most of the time, she tried to make him drink. Sometimes he
would stir a little and drink what she gave him, but most of the time the water
just trickled down his chin - and that scared her most, because she knew he was
far away. Too far away to care about his body. Sometimes she thought he was
        But his pulse was strong, and his breathing even. But what was she to say
about that? Frustration at her limited medical training gnawed at her. Once or
twice she felt tempted to return to the crash site to retrieve the medical
tricorder, knowing quite well that it could be damaged. But of course reason,
and Tom - held her back.
        They had moved him into a 'room' of sorts in the cave. It separated Tom
from the rest of the cave, keeping him from view, but it was warmer in that
'room' , which was the main reason why they chose to move him.
        "How is he?" Chakotay sat beside her.
        "No change." She sighed.
        "Has he eating anything?"
        "Last night, he woke up enough for me to give him a piece of fruit, but he
slept after the first bite." She bit her lip. "Damn it, Chakotay! Tell me what's
wrong with him!"
        Chakotay sighed at the sound of her frustration.
        "He's sleeping." Harry said firmly, still cleaning the skunk.
        "What makes you so sure?"
        Harry cleaned the animal with a renewed vengeance. "I just know."
        Which translated into, 'I don't really know but I'm saying this, hoping
that what I'm saying is true'.
        "Commander Chakotay, can you hear me?"
        B'Elanna's head snapped up in shock. She tapped her commbadge in reflex.
        "Tuvok, is that you?"  she asked, her voice quivering with excitement.
        "Yes, we are walking towards your position. Where are you exactly?"
        "We're in a cave. It's at a base of a mountain. It's not much of a climb
really." Chakotay answered. Relief was written all over his face. "Oh, a good
landmark would be the Mylkrie hanging on the tree."
        "What?" That was Carrey.
        "You'd see it when you get there." Harry answered, his smile broadening.
        B'Elanna smiled gladly and returned her gaze to Tom, stroking his hair
affectionately. "Do you hear that Tom? They're coming. We're going to get you
out of here."

        "You have to get out of there."
        Tom studied Alucia for a moment then shrugged. "I like the cave."
        "But not the 'Mirrors of Rya'?" she teased.
        Tom studied the Ryan woman and smiled at her hesitantly. She was
beautiful, in a delicate way. Her eyes were a gentle lilac, and her hair, a soft
blue. The exotic blend made her unreal. But she was real wasn't she? He knew
her. He knew how she lived, how she was to be joined with-
        Unbidden memories returned. About the screams, the silver drops of rain.
        "Forget all that," Alucia whispered, brushing his hair aside. "I'm here,
remember? Why don't you join me at the place you like to call the 'Mirrors?'"
        "The Palace?"
        The dream shifted and he found himself lying in someone's arms. With a
sudden horror, he realised where he was and he struggled from the person' grip,
hissing in terror, but he was too tired, too weak-
        "Iolo. Is he dead?"
        "No Bahne. Just so." Came the quiet voice. His voice. Silver eyes regarded
him. So very like his, yet not at all like his.
        Let me go, he tried to plead, but his mouth didn't move.
        "We cannot leave him to die, Bahne."
        Bahne looked apprehensively at him. "The Mylar wishes him dead."
        "Do you?" Iolo challenged, his silver eyes narrowing.
        "He is mortally wounded, there is nothing we can do."
        "I can cure him."
        Bahne clutched Iolo's hand. "To do so will *change* him. You cannot do
that, it is an abomination!" he hissed.
        "Bahne, we owe him so much." Iolo pleaded. He offered Bahne his hand.
"Join me, sibling."
        Bahne paused then reluctantly, he reached out for Iolo's hand.
        "Forget that." Alucia whispered from somewhere behind him.
        Tom turned around and found himself standing in the 'statue room' of the
        "Join me!" she urged, grasping his hand with a sudden strength that
startled me. "Join me." She pleaded, and her eyes began to darken to a violet.
"Join me." She whispered again.
        He pushed her hands aside. "Why?" he hissed suspiciously. "Why do want me
to join you?"
        She turned instantly coy. "Because, I want you."
        "Want me...for what?"
        "Please, Tom, join me."
        Her eyes turned hard. "Join me." She commanded.
        "Alucia, why are you doing this?" he tried to back away, but she held him
        "Join me or your friends will die." She hissed.


        A Mylkrie hanging on a tree.
        He thought he had seen it all.
        The body swayed gently, possibly disturbed by the wind - If that was
possible. Strange, birdlike creatures swarmed around the body by the dozens.
Ebran didn't want to know *what* the birds were doing although he had a pretty
good idea *what*.
        "Great landmark." Yvette remarked wryly.
        "Wonder who killed him?" Joe muttered uneasily. Although he had not
engaged one in a hand to hand combat, he could pretty much gauge that hanging a
Mylkrie was no easy feat.
        "We do not have time to ponder that fact, Lieutenant. I believe we are
near the cave." Tuvok admonished.
        The mountain loomed ahead. Like a small dot in the horizon, they saw the
said cave. For the first time, Ebran wondered how Tom Paris was faring. 6 months
away from Voyager must be tough. 5 months here must be hell. He had no love for
Tom Paris. No hate either for that matter. He met Paris with Chakotay on that
Maquis outpost almost ten years ago. Onboard, Ebran hardly acknowledged Paris,
and Paris, through a learned prior experience wisely avoided him. Prior
experience. At that, Ebran smiled.
        Yes he was decidedly curious to see how old 'helmboy' was doing.
        As he turned his gaze from the cave to the Tuvok's back, he heard the
leaves the tree on his right rustle. He let out a yelp as a figure rushed
towards him and sent him crashing to the ground.
        Something wriggled in his arms.
        "Let go!" cried a voice.
        The wriggling something was removed from him.
        As his vision cleared he saw a woman. An alien woman. A *beautiful* alien
woman at that.
        "I'm sorry," whispered the woman. "I thought you were the Mylkrie."
        "I see." Joe answered. "You were brought here by the Mylkrie?"
        "Yes," she gasped, her chest heaving. "Please, can I follow you? I swear
I'll be no trouble. I need company! I have been alone for four days." She
        When they didn't answer, she renewed her pleading with a vengeance. She
clutched Tuvok's sleeve and begged, "I know it's difficult to believe me now,
but I was on the Mylkrie vessel. Please, don't leave me alone." A tear slid down
her cheek.
        "You can follow us." Tuvok agreed. "What is your name?"
        Lilac eyes met theirs. Full lips curled into a shy smile.
        "My name is Alucia."


        B'Elanna felt like cheering when she saw the figures approach the cave.
She saw Joe Carrey smile widely when he saw her. She rushed to give him a hug,
too happy to care about decorum. Chakotay greeted Tuvok, briefing him on what
happened while Harry smiled at everyone.
        It was then that she noticed the new addition to the company. The strange
alien woman regarded her with a smile that B'Elanna curiously found uneasy.
        "And this is-?" she began.
        "Alucia D'overnaty." Said the alien female. She did a curtsy of sorts,
bowing and extending both her hands behind her.
        B'Elanna just nodded, not understanding why this petite and obviously
harmless looking female was making her hackles rise in alert.
        "We 'found' her. No, she 'found us'." Said a voice.
        B'Elanna grinned at the ensign that appeared at the lip of the cave.
"Tonay, you crazy Bajoran!" she hugged him.
        "B'Elanna, you Klingon! How are you?"
        "Fine." She answered, but his question brought her back to Tom. "But Tom
isn't. I need your help."
        Ebran nodded, his curiosity back. "Sure."
        "Where's Tom?" Carrey asked.
        "We placed him in another 'room' of sorts. Follow me." Harry instructed,
gladly leaving his 'skunk' behind.
        Alucia D'overnaty studied the Starfleet officers as they left her with the
tattooed one and the female. For a moment her purple eyes blazed with a strange
fire. Then her lips slowly curved into an unreadable smile.

        "Commander, are they all there?" Came the Captain's voice.
        "Yes, Captain. They're all here." Chakotay answered, trying to restrain
the feeling of apprehension that came over him. From the corner of his eye, he
spotted the alien woman smiling at him.
        "How is Tom?" Janeway sounded worried.
        "Ebran is looking at him right now."
        "Is he in serious condition?"
        "I...I have no idea Captain. I need to get back on you for that." He
        "Ensign Parr?"
        Ensign Parr turned, her eyes alert.
        "Why don't you keep Alucia company?"
        "Aye, sir." She responded. She caught the hidden message from Chakotay
with ease: Keep an eye on her. I don't trust her.
        She caught Alucia smiling at her. Yvette was tempted to ask her what's so
funny, but restrained herself. She smiled back, albeit a little uncertainly.
        "So tell me," Alucia began. "What is this transporter technology that I've
been hearing about?"

        When the new away team moved to Tom's room, they instantly sobered -
including Ebran. Tom still lay motionless on his makeshift pellet. In all
appearances, he looked asleep, but he was much too pale.
        "How is he?" Joe whispered, as if his voice would wake him up.
        "I don't know." B'Elanna gazed at Tom's still figure. "But he has been
sleeping for three days. It's almost like he's in a coma." She transferred her
gaze to Ebran. "Tonay." She pleaded.
        Ebran sat beside her, nodding and giving her a reassuring squeeze on the
        "Anything for you, B'Elanna." And he meant it. Other than Chakotay and
Seska, Ebran was probably one of the closest companions she had in the Maquis.
B'Elanna gave him a reluctant look and then nodded, leaving with the rest.
        When he was left alone with Tom, Ebran began unpacking the med-kit. While
he sorted out the equipment, he cast glances at the unconscious figure, trying
to assess Tom on the go.
        "Maybe he's just plain tired," he muttered to himself as he ran the
medical tricorder over him. His eyes bulged when he saw the readings. "On the
other hand, maybe not."
        A stab wound to the shoulder, a few healed broken bones, most were minor
fractures. A serious concussion. And a host of other unexplainable readings that
only the Doctor could decipher. Anemia, malnutrition and a mild 101 degree fever
added colour to his condition.
        "Really Paris - you're a pitiful mess." He muttered.
        Just then, Ebran saw Paris' eyes flicker.
        Out of reflex, he bent over to get a closer look at Paris-

        <The statues are moving! The statues are moving!
        Tom stared, transfixed as the glass heads turned to him one by one.
        "You're not supposed to be moving. You're not alive. You're DEAD!" he
yelled, hoping they would stop moving if he raised his voice, but they kept
        On his left, a glassy hand reached and brushed his hair.
        "No. NO!" he covered his face with his hands. "Please wake up Tom." He
whimpered. "No more bad dreams!"
        "But this isn't a bad dream."
        He looked up at Alucia. She stared tauntingly at him.
        "You have to join me. It's the *only* way!"
        "Only way? To what?!"
        "To stop them!" she snapped, her voice frustrated. "Don't you want the
statues to stop moving? Then join me at the Mirrors! Join the Core! It's the
only way!"
        "I - do not - want to join any BLOODY CORE!" he flung his lance (which
magically appeared) at her.
        It slid past her like a phantom.
        "Please Tom...we are friends, aren't we?"
        "Friends?" he hissed.
        "Not friends then." Alucia shook her head sadly. "To think that I
shared with you my most painful memories."
She pouted, and for a moment, her resemblance to Seska was so similar that it
was unnerving.
        "What are you?" and it occurred to him that he had not asked her that; Now
that he remembered those painful memories that he thought were dreams.
        "I'm Ryan, what else can I be?" she said heatedly. "Why are you so
stubborn? If it wasn't for me, you would have died from your injuries a long
time ago!"
        He shook his head in denial. "You're just a dream." He looked around the
all-consuming whiteness.
        "B'Elanna. I saw B'Elanna. What happened to me? Where am I?"
        "It doesn't matter where you are." She answered, her voice strangely
        "I was asleep wasn't I? I just need to wake up."
        Alucia's lips thinned to a bitter line. "I cared for you Tom."
        "You are a figment of my imagination!" he yelled.
        Tears collected in her eyes. "I cared for you. That's why I sent Xiri.
That's why he's always with you, don't you understand?" she pleaded.
        Tom shut her out, walking around (at least, he thought he did) to search
for a way out.
        "But it doesn't matter, Tom." Alucia said somewhere behind him.
        The whiteness began to disappear as he walked further away from her.
        "Because, I'll find you anyway."
        He heard a growl behind him and he turned quickly, but not fast enough to
stop a blur of fangs from attacking his face-
        He brought his hand up to grasp the creature and it yelled in surprise.
Lifting himself up from the ground, he tossed the creature down on its back and
clenched both hands around its neck.
        But instead of cold glass, the creature was suprisingly warm. It gazed at
him with blue dilated eyes, eyes that were wide with shock. Feeble hands tried
to pry his hands from its neck. Its mouth opened and closed for air that never
        Understanding registered in Tom's befuddled mind slowly. He frowned into
the newcomer's face.

        Ebran let out a yelp when Tom suddenly came to life. The next thing he
knew, he was on his back with Tom's hands around his neck, determined to choke
the breath out of him.
        His grip was surprisingly strong for a man in his condition, he managed to
        "Yvette!" he tried to yell, but it came out as a barely audible hiss. He
stared into the pale blue eyes above him in shock, hoping that Tom would snap
out of whatever dream he was caught in. And after what seemed like aeons, Tom
did snap out of that dream. Slowly, the grip loosened, but Tom didn't let go. He
just stared at him, and Ebran realized that there was no recognition in those
ice-blue eyes. They now stared at him in befuddlement.
        "Glad to have you back, Paris." He said (or rather, croaked) sardonically.
        "Tom?" he heard B'Elanna asked from the other side. Quick footsteps
accompanied the call. Then a gasp.
        "Tom, hey! It's Ebran, don't you recognize him?" Joe said behind him. He
stretched out an arm as if to touch Paris, but seemed to think better of it and
        Tom did not move. Infact, Ebran didn't think he noticed them entering the
room at all.
        "I don't think he recognizes me. Anyway, do you mind getting off my
stomach?" Ebran snapped at Tom.
        "He can't hear you." B'Elanna said as she placed a hand on Tom's shoulder.
"He's deaf."
        The realization sank into the new away team's faces. Joe Carey looked
        "Oh geez...I'm sorry." He apologized to no one in particular.

        Tom jerked with surprise when B'Elanna touched his shoulder. He looked up
to see her looking down at him, her eyes so gentle...it was unlike her to be so
gentle. Her eyes usually blazed with an inner fire of her Klingon soul. He found
herself smiling at her until he sensed something was slightly amiss. He was
still straddling the man.
        Immediately, he felt foolish. Memory started to return and he realized
that the man below him wore a Starfleet uniform, which meant he was from
Voyager. Of course he couldn't place the face with an appropriate name yet, but
he was a friend, not an enemy. Somewhere in the archives that were his memories,
he recalled a day at a Maquis outpost where he faced a tattooed man and an
empath with blue dilated eyes that unnerved him.
        <I don't think I'll get used to having people around me again He looked
back at the stranger, not knowing what to do. Without thinking of it, he scanned
the man, probing into his mind for an identity.
        He saw the man's eyes widen and the next thing he knew, the ground rushed
to meet him as he was tossed violently aside. Although disoriented, he sat up
quickly, his muscles coiled and ready for an attack, but the man merely stared
at him with hatred. Tom returned his gaze impassively. Frankly, Tom was puzzled
at his reaction.

        "Ebran, what's wrong?" B'Elanna asked as she returned to Tom's side. Tom
sat up, and with B'Elanna's help, started to stand.
        "He-He invaded my mind! Like some Vulcan on a mind-meld rampage!" he
sputtered in disgust.
        Tuvok raised an eyebrow at the image, but did not correct him. "Are you
saying that he tried to telepathically communicate with you?" he sounded
        "No. More like he tried to barge into my head with phasers blazing." He
snapped, staring vehemently at Tom, who only returned the glare with an
impassive gaze.
        "Tonay, he doesn't know what he's doing. Cut him some slack." B'Elanna
snapped. Her features softened a little as she continued, "Tom has been changed.
Just like Bahne said." She turned to Tuvok. "But he's *still* Tom." She
        Ebran relaxed. They wouldn't understand, being non-empathic beings. They
wouldn't understand how an invasion of the mind was the most unfathomable of
crimes on Betazed or how he had suffered from one such act before.
        It was then that Tom began to look at the new away team. As his eyes
descended on each face, his expression changed from one of suspicion to an
instant joy. He rushed to Joe and hugged him, pulling back to look into the
latter's eyes. Joe grinned in surprise at Tom's uncharacteristic show of
emotion, but hugged him in return.
        "It's good to have you back, Tom." He smiled. Tom didn't answer but smiled
widely as he shifted his gaze to Tuvok. Tom greeted Tuvok much the same way,
ignoring Tuvok's discomfort. This new, exuberant Tom wasn't the Tom they were
used to- The Tom that covered his real emotions behind bad jokes and walled up
everything else. But now, what he couldn't do with words before, he did with his
        <I have to say something Tom thought. Tentatively, he signed to Chakotay,
whom he knew understood sign language.
        "He said that he is glad to see all of you. And that he's sorry he hugged
Tuvok. He couldn't help it." Chakotay chuckled along with the rest. Tom still
had his humour.
        [How long was I asleep?] Tom signed.
        Chakotay glanced reluctantly at B'Elanna before signing back. "Three
        Tom's eyes widened. [How can this be? No wait.] he sighed. <It has
happened again. he ignored the implications of it, and returned to Chakotay.
        [Where's Xiri?]
        [He left us two days ago. He hasn't returned since.]
        Chakotay saw disappointment etch into Tom's features but it was
immediately replaced by another emotion.        [We must leave!] Tom signed, his hands
moving in agitation.
        "Of course." Chakotay said, understanding the fear in Tom's eyes. Being on
Rya for 5 months, now that his rescue was so imminent, he wouldn't want the
chance to slip away.
        [The transporters will only return to full transporter capacity in twenty
minutes, Tom. We *will* get you back.] Chakotay signed.
        The fear left Tom's eyes, but not completely. Tom nodded and reached out
to clasp his hand.
        Chakotay looked down in surprise at Tom's hand clutching his. He squeezed
his hand and accepted the silent thanks.
        [We will get you back, and that's a promise] he signed. Tom nodded at
this, and he appeared more relaxed. After a while, Carey, Yvette, Tuvok and
Harry left to give them some room.

        "Tom, you must lie down. You've been...asleep for the past three days."
B'Elanna urged while Chakotay translated. "Let Ebran look you over."
        Tom turned to look at Ebran, the man he so cordially attacked moments ago.
Tom now remembered who he was. Ebran Tonay. Chakotay's 'empath' back in the
Maquis days. His gaze lowered to the medical kit beside his pallet. Apparently,
Ebran was now the medical assistant. He grinned at that. Ebran would have driven
the Doctor nuts for sure.
        Ebran noticed the grin but didn't know how to respond to it. He just
snorted and returned to his kit, motioning Paris to sit down.
        "Well, I don't have all day." He muttered.
        "Tonay." B'Elanna scolded.
        Ebran threw her a charming smile that she apparently didn't buy because
she was still glaring.
        [I don't need any checkups] Tom insisted, stubbornly backing away.
        "I'm sure your legs would agree with you," B'Elanna answered sarcastically
when Tom's legs wobbled. She managed to catch him before he fell to a heap on
the floor.
        [I'm fine] he signed stubbornly.
        "Not to me." She said, turning his face to hers. For a few moments, their
eyes gazed at each other, lost in some silent communication neither Ebran nor
Chakotay should be privy to.
        Ebran snorted again. <What does she see in him anyway?
        They finally got him to sit on his pallet. Reluctantly, Tom let Ebran
examine the area of his shoulder wound. Taking a small blade which he always
brought along in his pocket, Ebran slit open the fabric to reveal the wound. He
heard Paris hiss in discomfort, but other than that, the pilot seemed to take
the jostling well.
        "Well?" B'Elanna asked. Her voice was tinged with anticipation. "I've put
a bandage on it. Tried to keep it as clean as possible. But we didn't have any
        "It looks half healed to me." Ebran said. The wound still looked reddish,
but instead of the deep, raw gash that he had been expecting, only a jagged,
thin, red line appeared. The skin around the area of the wound looked pink, but
the wound had closed. It didn't seem infected. "It's even beginning to scab.
When was this wound inflicted?"
        "Four days ago."
        Ebran shook his head in surprise. "Amazing, Paris." He looked into Paris'
eyes. "Do you have accelerated healing? Perhaps it's a perk from being a medical
        Tom's lips thinned at that. In return, Ebran sensed disdain in Tom Paris.
He blinked in surprise. Sensing emotion wasn't new to him, but sensing emotion
so strong that it blocked everything else was surprising. Usually he sensed
emotions as if they were murmurings in the background, not a shout in a silent
desert. Tom's emotions were like a shout in a desert.
        "Something wrong, Tonay?" Chakotay asked.
        "Nothing, Commander." He answered, his eyes still on Tom's. "But I think
the Doctor will have a field day with the Lieutenant when he returns."


"Hello, I see we have a new friend back there." A soft, feminine voice
greeted him as he returned to the front of the cave from Paris' makeshift
"You can say that," Carey answered as he looked at the alien woman. She
regarded him curiously, her head bent aside, her purple eyes twinkling with
mischief while she twined a lock of blue hair with a delicate finger. She looked
like an elf of the old Earth mythologies.
He frowned when he noticed Yvette missing. "Where's Ensign Parr?"
"She said she wanted to check up on something outside." Alucia replied.
Her lilac eyes narrowed with worry. "Why, is there something wrong?"
Carey tapped his commbadge, his eyes not leaving Alucia. "Carey to Parr."
"Parr here."
Carey sighed in relief. "What are you doing out there, Parr. This is *not*
the time to be adventurous."
"Sorry sir. I'm on my way in. Parr out."
Carey shook his head. Parr should know better. Frankly, he was surprised
at her lack of discretion, she was, after all, not an ensign fresh out of the
academy. Unless there was something out there that sure needed attention...
"Where's Ensign Parr?" Chakotay asked as he stepped beside him.
"She's coming in."
Soon, Harry and Tuvok joined them.
"How is your friend, Commander?" Alucia asked, her lilac eyes wide with
Chakotay shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. Somehow, there was
something about her gaze that reminded her of someone. He frowned. He knew
exactly *who* she reminded him of, and he wasn't pleased about it. She may not
appear threatening, but a certain Bajoran hadn't looked Cardassian either. He
wondered how Tuvok, with all his caution about security, would let the woman
into their team. But then he chided himself.
"Janeway to Chakotay."
Chakotay snapped out of his reverie. "Yes Captain?"
"Prepare for transport."
Surprise registered in the away team's faces at that abrubt command, but
they appeared more glad than suspicious. Unlike Chakotay. Suspicion choked him
like a vise. A transport this soon? And the Captain...was it his imagination or
did she sound...rather mechanical?
"Alright Captain, let me get-"
Before he could continue, he felt the tingling of the transporters on his
body. He saw Carey cry out in surprise and Tuvok reach instinctively for his
Then Transporter Room 2 came into his vision. Ensign Vorik stood in the
middle of the room, his eyebrows lifted as high enough to indicate shock,
although his features were composed. In a corner was Ensign Wildman, who
appeared to be fixing a console. She looked startled.
"What the hell happened? You could at least give us a warning!" Carey
snapped, stepping off the platform.
"I was hoping you could answer that question, Lieutenant. And...what
warning?" Vorik replied.
"I thought the transporters needed another twenty minutes to have enough
power to function. How did you get the power up so quickly?"
"Harry." It was Ensign Wildman. "We haven't."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?"
 "I was on duty with Ensign Wildman, monitoring the Transporters for the
next beam out when it suddenly activated by itself and transported all of you to
the ship. I am at loss at how to explain this phenomenon." Ensign Vorik
As Chakotay stepped off the platform, he realized that the other half of
the away team had not followed them.
"Commander, Lieutenant Torres...Tom?" Harry's eyes were worried.
The door to the transporter room slid open and Captain Janeway entered.
She stood still for a moment, staring at Tuvok, Harry, Carey and Chakotay while
Ensign Vorik filled her in:
"The Transporters are now off-line. I have been unable to ascertain the
cause of their malfunction."
"Captain, why did you beam us out?" Harry asked, his eyes betraying his
"Beam you out? Ensign, I ordered no such thing." She looked pointedly at
"Captain, as I have explained earlier, the transporters activated
themselves. I have no explanation on how it could have happened."
"It's true sir, I was here." Ensign Wildman said.
Janeway felt the familiar sensation that told her of impending danger. She
took a deep breath and steeled herself.
"It looks like we have a new *problem* to deal with, people." She voiced,
her eyes hard.

Chapter 7..."END"

        This new attempt had taken too much of their precious energy. The strange
metal thing that traveled the stars held strange secrets that none of them
understood, but, with great effort, they managed to isolate those that posed a
danger to their cause. But it took too much of their strength, and they needed
their remaining reserves to fulfill their mission. Their last mission.
The Core hung together like tottering old men, clunging to each other for
energy. Eventually, that too was not enough, and they took from the living
beings of Rya.
        The ancient eyes looked out at the turbulent skies, and some did shed
tears. But what had to be done, would be done. Rya knew that.


        They were called Those Who Serve. For centuries they had done so. Sitting
contentedly on branches of brackha trees, their gossamer wings fluttering in the
air, they waited for commands from the Core. None remembered the time when this
was not so. To them, their lives were to serve the Core.
 Century after century they tended the ancient ruins that were reminders
of Those Who Came Before the Core. But times were getting desperate, and the
creatures knew that. The trees whispered songs of a life long lived; they
whispered tearful songs of goodbyes as Those Who Serve stood sadly by.
         Those Who Serve were no fools. They knew their fate, which had been
sealed to them when the creatures from the sky fell and devoured Those Who Came
Before the Core. They had been taught by the Core to prepare for the Day, and
the Day had finally come.
        But although eons of indoctrination had been wrought on him, Xiri was not
        He had come here to think - that's what he thought. He gripped the branch
of the brackha tree as many of his ancestors had before him. He knew what he had
to do. But it conflicted with everything he felt now. So, Xiri was here to
consider whether he should serve the Core or go against it.
        Going against it would loose a terror that thousands of lives had
sacrificed to imprison.
Serving the Core would mean the death of the friend he had come to know
and love.
 What was the thought he had fished out from the one called Paris? *The
lives of many outweigh the life of one*. It was a sensible saying, thought Xiri,
but not a good one.
<It is not good to think such thoughts. The Core has spoken
Xiri blinked his huge eyes at his litter-brother and shook his head in
distress. <The Core has spoken. I am not prepared
His litter brother, Nine Stars, blinked in sympathy. <None of us are. But
you know we need him
Just then a flock of Those Who Serve alighted from the brackha trees. He
knew where they were heading. He knew their mission.
Nine Stars and Xiri watched their brethren go. Nine Stars was content.
Xiri was not.
<What you're doing is wrong
<Perhaps Xiri answered. <But he is a friend
Nine Stars blinked. <The Core is our friend
<But the Core is not helpless Xiri countered.
<The Elders say that they are losing hold of the ship in the stars. In
time, the ship will send reinforcements. We must act now Nine Stars countered.
He blinked rapidly in anxiety and wondered whether Xiri posed a threat to their
When Xiri remained silent, Nine Stars continued, <I do not understand your
persistence in protecting this *Paris*. We need him.
<But there is another one, now Xiri countered. <The one called Ebran. Why
not take him instead of Paris?
Nine Stars fidgeted on the branch, his nimble hands peeling off the bark.
<The Core wants them both
Xiri rubbed his face in distress. <Why both? Isn't one enough? He was
angry at their greed.
<Why take one when you can have both? Nine Stars rationalized.
Despite his disapproval, Xiri could see the logic in it. Years before, the
Core was serviced by twenty empathic Ryans. Now there were only nine. They
needed as many as they could get.
When Tom Paris arrived on Rya, the Core thought it best to bide their
time. He was an empath, yes, but the Core found him too unstable to incorporate
into their Collective right away. To amend the situation, Xiri was sent to
*attend* Tom Paris so that he would grow stable enough to complete the
transition to join the Core. In time, Xiri grew fond of Tom Paris. Perhaps, too
Although Xiri's efforts to stabilize Tom Paris had been successful, it had
made the human dependent on Xiri. Xiri knew that without his presence, or that
of the Core, Tom Paris would die almost immediately.
<Can you imagine if the Core collapsed?
Xiri shivered. <The Xyrons will awaken. he answered.
<And what will happen if the Xyrons awaken? Nine Stars prompted.
Xiri lowered his head in shame. <The Xyron Armada will be reactivated. The
galaxy will be in peril once again.
<Do you want to undermine the sacrifice of Those Who Came Before? Nine
Stars voiced heatedly. <They sacrificed their beautiful civilization so that
others might live! To emphasize that point, he raised a paw-like hand to point
at the ancient ruins of Rya.
<But Tom Paris is my friend. he stubbornly asserted. He looked once more
at Nine Stars. <I must at least warn him
Nine Stars sighed. <You have always been the one with a greater heart. But
you know what *I* must do
Xiri nodded. Without another word, he flew away from the branch.
<We know. A voice prompted Nine Stars before he could warn the Core. Nine
Stars blinked. <But it will not change anything the Core replied.


        He sensed it as a delicate shift in the normal pattern of things. Before
the worried expression came into B'Elanna's eyes or the silent exclamation
erupted from Ebran's lips, Tom knew that something was wrong. As they ran out to
inspect the new danger, Tom felt curiously detached, as if he was in a dream.
        And for a moment, he thought he was still in a dream. He got unsteadily to
his feet and approached the 'main cavern' in trepidation. B'Elanna and Ebran
scurried silently around, tapping their commbadges in exasperation. Mouths
opened, words were exchanged, but Tom was not interested in his companions.
        He was interested in the one standing in the middle of the cave.
        She stared at him with pale eyes, her mouth a slack, disappointed line.
Tom could see that she wore the same clothes as before, but her hair was limp
and lifeless. As were her eyes.
        <Come with me
        And with that silent command, Ebran and B'Elanna seemed to disappear from
his vision. It was just he and the creature of his dreams, Alucia - facing each
other in silence.
        <Come with me she repeated, the voice flat and lifeless. <We need you
she said.
        Tom was more than wary. Where were the threats? Where was the guile that
he had seen in her? Where were the sweet words that were meant to seduce? Where
were they all? Tom was afraid...
        <Do not be afraid Alucia said. Her arm lifted and she offered a hand.
        Tom watched the hand reaching out for him and stepped back.
        Almost immediately, Alucia disappeared.
        His heart pounded. B'Elanna and Ebran returned to his vision. They didn't
seem to have noticed Alucia. For the first time, Tom noticed they were alone.
Where were the rest? Could Voyager have taken the others without warning them of
a transport? It was not possible, but what other possibilities were there? He
took a deep, calming breath.
        <Something is trying to stop me from leaving Fear assailed him at that
thought. <No, he cried out in anguish. <Not when I'm so close to going home!

        "Voyager! Yvette!" Ebran cried, tapping his commbadge. "Damn it, it's no
use. Somehow they've transported the rest away!"
        "That's not possible!" B'Elanna snapped. "They would have told us!"
        B'Elanna almost jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Tom looked
mutely at her. Using her very limited knowledge of sign language (a class she
hadn't bothered taking seriously then) she told him of the situation.
        Tom nodded, but his eyes betrayed his fear. He took a deep breath and
signed, [I sense something coming. It is not safe to stay here any longer.]
        "Not safe?" B'Elanna was confused. Sensing? What could Tom possibly sense?
Then she remembered Ebran's assertion that Tom was probing his mind. <But that's
not possible she thought. <Tom is not an empath
        "He's right." Ebran said, his voice curious. "It's like a thousand
jabbering voices. But it's like background noise, almost unnoticed by me."
        <Yvette. Ebran thought suddenly. <I hope you're safe
        "We can't just stand here," B'Elanna said. "Did you get here by
        "No. We came through a portal." Ebran looked to B'Elanna, knowing what she
would say next. "You suggest we return the way we came?"
        B'Elanna nodded. "Any other bright ideas?"
        "Well, it seems to be the only idea we have."
        B'Elanna turned to explain to Tom, watching his face turn from puzzlement
to skepticism.
        [A portal? I searched the area for over a few hundred miles and I don't
remember seeing a portal] he signed.
        "Believe me. We came through a portal. A few miles south of this cave is a
building of sorts - I'm sure you didn't miss it. A crystal building of some
kind." Ebran made gestures that he hoped Tom would understand, but he mostly
pointed to the south of the cave, at the distant glittering light that was the
        Tom understood at once. He paled. [You mean the Mirrors] he shook his
head. [It's not a good place.]
        Ebran sighed, agreeing in a way. "It's no picnic for empaths." He saw
B'Elanna's puzzled expression but he did not bother explaining. Non-empathic
creatures would never understand. "But it's the only way out."
        Tom frowned and, after a moment, merely nodded. [But first, I must tell
you something]

USS Voyager
Briefing Room

        "The seismic activity on Rya has increased 25.9% in the last hour." Tuvok
        "That activity occurred at almost the same time we were transported off
Rya. This is too much of a coincidence," interrupted Ensign Kim.
        "Engineering reports no malfunction occurred during the time of transport.
We can rule out the ships' system being the cause." Carey announced, studying
his PADD. "But our sensors detected a surge of energy from Rya at that moment.
The energy activated the transporter controls, effectively triggering them. I
don't know how to explain this, Captain. And...we even managed to find a sort of
encryption code. A code we've never seen before. Whatever's behind that energy
wave is intelligent."
        Janeway frowned. "Are you saying that something on the planet is somehow
responsible for the transport?" Janeway asked, her voice betraying her
incredulity. The sensors had not picked up any signs of intelligent life, only
ancient ruins that had long been abandoned. If there was intelligent life on
Rya, it was not advanced enough to be capable of doing what it just did to the
        "I know it's far fetched, Captain, but what other explanation do we have
here? Who transported us? Why the sudden seismic activity after our departure?
It must be some intelligent lifeform on Rya that is doing all this." Harry
insisted, his black eyes passionate. "I say we return to the surface with the
shuttlecraft and take them back!"
        "If it is indeed true that there is a being on Rya that is capable of
controlling both Voyager and the planet, I do not see how a shuttlecraft would
escape its attentions. The weather conditions on Rya are worsening by the
minute." Tuvok said.
        Harry slumped in his chair, he looked almost defeated, but his eyes were
roiling with emotion.
        Joe Carey watched the tense officers and cleared his throat. "The portal."
He suggested.
All four pairs of eyes swiveled to him.
        "The portal at the space station." He shrugged. "It could be the only
        "We were led onto Rya by that portal," Harry answered, still sticking to
his intelligent being theory. "Do you think *it* will allow us to return the
same way?"
        "It is slim," Carey replied slowly. "Alright, let's say we do have this
almighty powerful being on Rya. If it's so powerful, why hasn't it activated the
warp core and sped us light years from here? And why not blast us out of the
skies while it's at it? I think this 'being' has limitations. Maybe it's
influence *cannot* extend for too long at such a distance from Rya. Flying a
shuttlecraft on Rya would be risky with all that unpredictable weather.
Transporters are down. What other options do we have other than the portal?"
        "Maybe they need us." Chakotay thought out loud. "Maybe that's why they
kept us here."
        "I don't think so." Janeway mused. "Why did it go through all that trouble
to transport you back to Voyager? Why not simply keep you on Rya? No, it wants
us out of the way."
        "Lieutenant Carey's suggestion is a logical conclusion, but it is a high
risk to take." Tuvok reasoned. "But considering our options, I must concur that
perhaps, the portal is the only way."
        "But what if it's shut down?" Harry voiced anxiously.
        "Then we just have to force it open." Janeway concluded. "Meanwhile,
Tuvok, I want you to stay on Voyager to reestablish contact with the away team.
Kim and Carey will beam aboard the satellite to open the portal."


        Tom told the story mechanically. He watched B'Elanna's eyes closely as he
related how he had found the Mirrors accidentally while foraging for food one
day. He had traveled far that day, stumbling from hunger after almost a week
without proper solid food. He also related how the building affected him, the
dreams of Alucia and, most of all, the strange creature that seemed to guard it.
        [It is a dangerous place] He emphasized his message with harsh gestures.
[We must find an alternate route!]
        He could sense Ebran judging him from his seat atop a rock. Tom tensed
immediately, remembering the time when Ebran had played that role before as
Chakotay's 'Empath'. He had never liked the half Betazoid. Ebran reminded Tom
too much of a man in his past that was just as critical.
        "I know this is a confusing experience for you." Ebran begun hesitantly,
speaking slowly so that Tom could read his lips (which he could do to a very
limited extent). "Believe me, I was an empath from birth. It doesn't get easier
as you grow older. Those bad vibes you got - well, it could just be that. Vibes.
The truth is - and you know it is - the Portal may be our only way out."
        "If Voyager had transported them out, we would have been transported out a
long time ago." B'Elanna added, hoping she wasn't making a mistake by allowing
this expedition. "Besides, Ebran came through the portal. He didn't meet any
        Tom abruptly got to his feet and turned away from them. He was furious
they did not take him seriously. The fact that B'Elanna supported Ebran stung,
too. On Rya, his decision was the only thing he relied on. To have someone
contradict his judgment was jarring, almost alien. His first instinct was to
stop listening and walk away. His reaction stunned him because it was so unlike
his previous days on Voyager where a command was sacred and teamwork was
everything. Just how much of Voyager did he lose with his time on Rya? Authority
seemed foreign. He looked back at B'Elanna. So were friends.
        For one horrible moment, he did not recognize B'Elanna. All he saw was a
Voyager crewmember, a distant tie to his past. A past that, perhaps, he could
not return to. Did he love her still? His heart constricted.
        He refused to go along with that line of thought. For now, only their
escape mattered.
        [Alright] he signed curtly. [The Portal]


        The journey was spent in silence. Ebran and B'Elanna trudged behind Tom
who walked with an amazing agility that astounded even the athletic Ebran. While
they tripped and sometimes fell, Tom evaded the nasty roots that seem to jut out
of nowhere on some inner instinct. Even with the heavy lance he was carrying,
Tom moved like a dancer traversing a stage.
 It was later in the journey that Ebran realized that the branches /did/
appear out of nowhere. He caught one shooting up from beneath the ground to
snarl his foot with a root.
        "I'm beginning to hate this planet already." He cursed, after kicking the
offending root from his foot.   B'Elanna merely grunted - a signal for him to shut
        A while later, they emerged from the dark forest to an open field. There,
out from the protection of the forest, they felt the full extent of the planet's
unstable weather.
        The wind whipped at them mercilessly. The sky roiled with colours,
sometimes purple, most of the time red. Lightning flashed in the sky while
thunder seemed to shake the ground itself. Distant trees shook wildly like straw
in a hay field, mimicking their hair, which fared no better. At one time during
the journey, Tom had stopped to rip a small vine from a tree, which he used to
tie his shoulder-length hair. He did it smoothly, as if out of constant
        The action was so alien to B'Elanna that she stopped to stare. And for the
first time, she noticed the profound change the harsh planet had rendered on
him. Tom was thinner, but this was compensated with muscles that were more
compact and lithe than before. He had a beard that made him look older. And his
hair, once a sandy blonde, was bleached to a lighter shade. Only dark roots
interrupted the colour.
        He seemed so changed. So different.
        Which was why she had not expected him to hurl the lance he was carrying
at her.


The Satellite
0706 hours

        Harry Kim and Joe Carey materialized in the satellite almost an hour after
the meeting. As the shimmer died away, Carey's first reaction was to gasp.
        "What's wrong?" Kim exclaimed, immediately tense.
        "The statues..." Carey muttered, looking around the crystal room. "They're
        "Yeah! There were twenty, no, make that fifty, of them here. We were
almost surrounded by them!"
        "They're not here." Harry said, more of a statement than a question.
        "That's right." Carey answered, his voice incredulous. "Unless they upped
and walked away, which is impossible..." he trailed off, frowning fiercely.  "I
don't like this." He nodded brusquely to the Ensign. "Let's get down to business
and get the hell out of here as fast as we can."
        Harry couldn't agree more.
        With purpose, both stepped into the control room where the portal was
        Blinking his eyes to adjust to the relative darkness of the control
center, Carey was surprised to see the portal still open. Harry appeared equally
puzzled. Apparently, both had been under the impression that whatever being was
there would have sealed off the portal to prevent them from using it.
        Aside from the missing statues, the satellite was relatively unchanged.
The screen before them still showed Rya, and footprints remained on the dusty
ground, unaltered.
        "The controls for the portal are here." Carey explained, moving to a far
right panel. "It seems unchanged. I don't like this."
        "Should we go through?"
        "I don't think so." Carey answered, shaking his head. "Call it instinct,
but I think that's a bad idea."
        Harry merely nodded in agreement. "I think these are communications." He
looked at the alien design, scanning the language with the tricorder. "The
technology is unbelievable." He stated as he meddled with it further, touching a
few diamond shaped controls. "With this much power and speed, Voyager would have
been able to cut through static from even within a pulsar!"  As his agile mind
worked, an idea formed. "Perhaps this can cut through the interference we've
been having?"
        "It's a worth a try," Carey encouraged, knowing full well that
communications was Harry's forte. "I'll investigate the portal and see whether
or not it's stable."

        As the two men worked busily, they did not notice the movement behind
them. The floor rippled, and a head emerged, a glass figurine whose eyeless
sockets gazed at the two Starfleet officers. The head's liquid 'skin' rippled,
sending distorted light shimmering around it. After a time, it retreated into
the floor again. Once more, the floor was still.


        B'Elanna gasped, expecting the lance to go through her chest-
        - but it landed in a tree trunk, nicely embedding itself through a snake-
like creature.  The snake hissed once, twice, then died, it's long, black body
going limp.
        Tom walked up to the trunk and wrenched the lance free. He watched the
body of the snake fall to the ground and kicked it rudely aside.
        [Its bite will kill you in seconds.] he signed. Without another sign, he
walked away from the spot, carrying the lance comfortably in his hand.
        B'Elanna could only watch as he retreated. Her heart was just beginning to
resume its normal speed. It took her a moment to realize that Ebran was beside
her, watching too.
        "Not very loving, is he?" Ebran said after a moment.
        Before she could deliver a sharp retort, Ebran had walked away, whistling
to himself as if he was going on a picnic.
        B'Elanna hissed in frustration and marched up the hill.

* * *

        She had shamefully retained a fantasy in the months that Tom had been
missing. In that fantasy, she had found Tom. And after scolding him for being so
careless and misguided, she had proceeded to love him between his protestations
and declarations of love.
        She had played that fantasy over and over again in her mind during that
time, secretly wishing that it would come true.
        B'Elanna now looked at part of that fantasy and wondered if anything would
be the same again.
        They had stopped to rest on top of a hilly expanse. From the hill, they
could see the Mirrors. It was huge, and its peaks were so tall that it towered
over the hill. Tom looked at the building in a strange, sullen silence, almost
as if he was communicating with the it...which seemed almost a possibility after
seeing what he could do.
        She didn't expect the hiss from her commbadge.
        B'Elanna jumped as the commbadge sputtered to life.
        "B'Elanna? Ebran?" it rasped. "Someone answer me."
        "Harry?" B'Elanna exclaimed. Tom still remained at his spot, staring
somberly at the Mirrors. "Yes, I can hear you!"
        "Thank God!" Harry replied. "I knew it would work!"
        B'Elanna smiled despite herself. "Can you transport us off the planet?"
        Tom was starting to notice the commotion behind him. He turned and looked
at Ebran and B'Elanna with a puzzled frown on his face.
        [It's Harry] she signed back.
        Tom's eyes widened with surprise, but otherwise, he stayed where he was.
        "No, but we think the portal could work." Harry said.
        "The portal seems stable." Carey's voice emerged this time. "Where are you
        "We're at the Mirrors!"
        "The what?"
        "Never mind, let's just say that the Portal is a stone's throw away."
B'Elanna said, too tired to explain. "Are you sure it's stable?" she shouted.
The din from the wind was increasing, so was the thunderstorm. As if on cue, Tom
looked up into the roiling heavens.
        "So far!" came the voice.
        "So far? That is not reassuring!" Ebran shouted back.
        "Maybe you can fly up to the satellite and come help me, eh?" Carey
retorted. Even from the tiny combadge, his voice sounded formidable.
        Ebran snorted. "Alright! We'll be there."
        The commbadge stopped sputtering and fell silent. Ebran cursed. He had
forgotten to ask about Yvette! Ah, no matter. She *should* be on Voyager. Where
else would she be?
        B'Elanna chuckled at Ebran's retort to Carey. In her heart, she knew they
would be home soon.
        She was never more mistaken.


The Sattelite
0820 hours

        "Yes!" Harry exclaimed, hitting a fist in the air.
        Joe merely grinned and returned to his controls, stabilizing the portal.
Not much work there. It seemed stable. Too stable. Maybe his 'gut feeling' was
off today. Although it did work wonders at other times.
        He heard Harry page Voyager and could hear the enthusiasm behind the
voice. Although Harry had changed from the naïve, fresh-faced ensign of earlier
years to an experienced Starfleet officer, his youth and enthusiasm always
emerged when it came to his friends.
        Joe was puzzled when the excitable chatter ceased. He turned, idly
wondering what had caught Harry's attention.
        He gasped.
        "Kim!" he called out.
        But Harry couldn't move. All he could do was stare at a pair of hands that
appeared out of the floor. Hands with long, slim fingers. Hands that were made
out of living flesh.
        He could see Harry trying to muster his Starfleet-trained bravery, but Joe
knew that it would take a while. It was the stuff of nightmares - the hands
appeared disembodied, and erupted from the solid floor like an abhorrent flower.
Like a ghost.
        "Stay still!" he cautioned.
        "Believe me, I'm trying my best." Harry managed to reply sarcastically.
"It's moving!" he cried out suddenly.
        Joe cursed and sprinted to Harry's side. Without a thought he grabbed the
hands, trying to yank them away from the ensign's hand. His eyes went round when
he touched soft, warm flesh. They were alive! He nearly let go at that moment,
but swallowing bile, he yanked harder.
        "What are you doing?"
        The female voice stopped him, and Joe stared at the head of a female
humanoid sticking out of the floor.
        The floor rippled, and Joe remembered a passage he had read in the Bible;
about the dead rising from their graves. This seemed to fulfill that passage
now. Slowly, heads appeared from the floor, slowly looking around, eyes blinking
as if just awakened. Hands waved slowly in the air as upper torsos emerged.
        So enraptured was he, Carey had forgotten about the hands that he had
tried to pull away from Kim.
        Until they started to burn.
        Carey cried out in agony and yanked his hands away from the disembodied
hands. He yelled louder when he saw that pieces of flesh were missing from his
        Ensign Kim was the first to act.
        "Voyager! Two to transport, NOW!!"
        As the two Starfleet officers slowly disappeared, a female voice could be
heard asking over and over again: "What are you doing?"


        Tom sighed sadly to himself as he spotted the two huge statues that
flanked the entrance to the building they now called the Mirrors. Carved in
glass, the two august statues stared serenely ahead.
        He stopped suddenly when he noticed the creatures on the statue.
        There were perhaps twenty to thirty of them. Replicas of Xiri all of them
- except for an occasional spotted coat or two. They stared at him with jeweled
eyes; some blue, some green, some yellow. He knew he should feel something from
them like he did with Xiri, but he sensed nothing.
        It was as if they weren't there.
        He sent a greeting in the form of pictures, but it was almost as if he was
rebuffed. The greeting went nowhere.
        He saw B'Elanna staring at him quizzically and then at the creatures. She
appeared puzzled, but not alarmed.
        But he was.
        It was a sure sign *not* to go into the mirrors. He started to back away.
        Ebran stopped him.
        Ebran mouthed the word sorry and gave him a small shove forward. Tom
reacted violently to that, giving Ebran a backhand. Caught by surprise, Ebran's
head snapped aside. His hand reached reflexively to his cut lip, and when his
eyes returned to Tom's, they were *not* kind. He started to bunch his fist-
        "Stop it!" B'Elanna snapped, still shocked at what Tom had done. But
should she be, after seeing Tom throw that lance at her? She did not understand
Tom's mood right now, but it must have started when she supported Ebran and his
quest for the portal. But sulking was not like Tom. It wasn't him. She grabbed
Ebran's fist and used her grip to pull him forward. She also gave Tom a pointed
look, hoping to at least knock him off his mood.
        It didn't work. He merely scowled, then look puzzled. Letting out a sigh,
he took another step back and looked up.
        B'Elanna followed his gaze and realized his concern. It was the creatures,
of course. She did not think much of them at first, but now that Tom brought her
attention to them, they seemed to be staring rather rudely.
        "Come on." She urged, giving Tom a signal at the same time. "We have to
reach the portal. Kahless knows how long they can maintain the portal's
        She gave the animals a cautious glance and proceeded into the huge
        Tom stepped into the doorway nervously. From the corner of his eye, he saw
Ebran ready his phaser and B'Elanna assume a defensive pose. Both seemed to be
expecting the creature he had told them about. <Well he thought to himself, <At
least they're taking me seriously on that aspect.
        [Where is the room you spoke of?] he signed.
        Ebran took out his tricorder. 'Follow me' he mouthed, giving Tom a wave.
He didn't bother to look Tom in the eye. Tom didn't care.
        He followed cautiously behind the two, his eyes scanning the crystalline
walls. Occasionally, the glare of the light blinded him, and he had to move
quickly away for the glare to fade.
        He hated this place. Hated it so much.
        When B'Elanna cast him a curious look, he realized that he had bared his
teeth. Like an animal. He quickly shut his lips, disturbed again.
        They wound through the otherwise confusing maze of tunnels. With Ebran's
tricorder, they could quickly get to the room with as little confusion as they
could manage. However, Tom began to notice how familiar the surroundings were.
His brow furrowed and he found himself gripping his staff tighter.
        <No. Could it be?
        The cavern. The winding staircase. The corridor with a light at the end.
He stared at them all, his heart thudding frantically in his chest.
        He was here.
        <Join the Core, Tom Alucia had whispered.
        Sweat beaded on his brow.
        <Don't you want to stop the statues from moving? she screamed.
        His vision sharpened-
        <It doesn't matter, Tom said the Alucia in his memories. <I will find you
        Immediately he brought his lance forward, slashing it before Ebran. Ebran
must have let out a yelp because his mouth opened. He nearly tripped into
        [NO!] he signed furiously. [We must leave!]
        Ebran pointed to the corridor at the top of the stairs.
        We are near! He could see his lips say. It's just there.
        Tom bared his teeth and growled, driving his lance forward in a
threatening motion.
        [We are *not* going!] he pointed the lance at Ebran's chest.
        Ebran stared at the lance in puzzlement. Then, his brow drew into a frown,
and he swatted it aside. Tom started to hiss. B'Elanna stepped between them
immediately, her eyes angry.
        B'Elanna signed, [Tom, what is wrong?]
        Tom looked wildly at both of them, gesturing at the cavern. [Don't you
understand? The statues!]
        Both stared at him quizzically.
        Tom growled. He couldn't hear it, nor did he care if he sounded like an
animal. All he wanted was to leave!
        [The statues!] he signed again. [They are *gone!*]


USS Voyager
0834 hours

        "Interesting." The Doctor remarked.
        "Interesting?" Carey scowled in return.
        "Well," he said as he lifted up the tray containing a pair of female
hands. A finger twitched. Carey jumped, although he had seen it more than once.
"I would call a self-sustaining pair of limbs interesting. These hands are made
up of a billion cells, each independent of each other. So, if you cut off a
finger, the finger will survive. Better, they seem to-"
        As if on cue, the hands lost their shape. From their soft female shape,
they changed into a pair of hands - hands that were muscular, callused. A man's
hands. Carey's hands.
        Joe winced and stared at his just healed hands.
        "-replicate the DNA that it had consumed. Interesting."
        Janeway stood a foot from the tray her face a mixture of emotions. As a
scientist, she was curious of the new life form. As a captain, she had the urge
to throw it out the nearest airlock - it was a threat. An unexpected threat.
        "As much as I would like to linger, I need to return to Engineering. We're
working on the transporters full time. Kim has found a way to replicate some of
our dilithium to power up the transporters. It's an expensive procedure, but I
think it's warranted." Janeway said.
        Carey could not agree more. On the western hemisphere, it was a nightmare.
Tsunamis raged, volcanoes erupted, land masses were thrown into dissarray by
earthquakes. Carey just prayed that the relative 'calm' of the Southern
hemisphere would stay 'calm' for at least an hour more. Their teammate's lives
depended on it. "I'll join you, Captain!" he swung his legs over the bed.
        The Doctor opened his mouth to protest, but then shrugged. "Go ahead, get
yourself injured again. Oh, not that I care. No, I'm just a hologram." He
returned to the pair of hands, humming pleasantly to himself.
        Carey, on his way out, could only blink at the Doctor's change of bedside
manner before the doors slid closed behind him.
        "How about the portal, Captain? B'Elanna and Ebran are already heading
there!" Carey had to fight hard to keep up with the Captain.
        The Captain's shoulder length hair bobbed as she marched quickly. "Harry
has tried hailing them. The static is too thick. We need the satellite, but it
is filled with those life forms. I do not want to risk another away team there.
Our only options are the transporters. We have two more hours to act. I suggest
you think of ways to boost the transporters, Lieutenant."
        "Aye, Captain!" he agreed.


        "I did not see any statues when I walked down the stairs," Ebran argued,
convinced that Tom was seriously deranged by now.
        Tom scowled. He apparently picked up that line of thought. A determined
look came into those blue eyes, and his lips thinned.
        Ebran was immediately buffeted by an array of images. He saw the cavern,
filled with twenty or so statues in various positions. A woman running down the
corridor, screaming. Silver rain. Screams again. The Core...The Core...
        "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!" he screamed, throwing a punch.
        Tom caught it and yanked him forward so that their eyes met.
        A blaze of images raced unrelentingly through his mind. A monster with
gaping maws, Alucia...The Core, Xiri; Emotions, anger, fury, confusion-
        <STOP IT!! Ebran sent. Dimly, he saw Tom recoil and his eyes dim with
pain. The images stopped.
        B'Elanna looked at the two men in both fury and fear. A hand was poised on
the phaser that she had picked up when Ebran let it go.
        "What the hell is wrong with you two?" her voice shook. "Can't you put
your bloody egos aside for just this one mission?!" she snapped.
        Ebran was breathing hard, staring at Tom. He hated what Tom had done. He
hated it beyond-
        He stopped that line of thought.
        "Do that again *Tom*, and you won't live!" he snapped. "And we will go to
that portal- I don't care what delusions you have conjured up!"
        [I am not delusional! If you're an empath, open up your mind! Can't you
hear their screams?] Tom signed, his expression furious.
        Ebran instinctively closed his ears with his palms as his mind opened
reflexively. He shut his eyes as the screams assailed him. Running, so many
people are running.  Silver rain, biting rain, rain that eats, rain that-
        <Control, the counselor had told him in the hospital. <You need more
        With energy that he did not have, Ebran forced his eyes open and his hands
away from his head. "I see what you see." Ebran whispered, his eyes narrow. "But
they are dead. Dead!"
        He could see alarm cross B'Elanna's face. She was not one for telepathy or
empathy. And the talk of dead people-
        Tom's eyes narrowed further. Then he paled and dropped his lance. His gaze
was riveted to the top of the stairs.
        Shocked, Ebran turned.
        "You!" he cried out.

        It was a nightmare. He was still asleep. It was the only explanation. But
the ground was prickly beneath his soft boots and the air was cold. He could
still feel the distant whisper of the wind, and hear the howls of the gale from
        <I knew you would come
        Tom shook his head, inching back.
        Alucia descended the stairs, her purple gaze on his.
        <The Core awaits you.
        <No! he returned. <I will not join you. Quickly, he bent down to retake
his lance. He pointed it at her. <Get away
        <Where can you go?
        Suddenly, the ground beneath him rippled. He gasped in horror as he saw a
head emerging from the floor. He jumped back, but stumbled on a hand. The hand
gripped his boot.
        <They are alive again! Alucia cried. But her expression did not change
nor move. <Join the Core! We must stop them!
        <NO!! the cry exploded in his head. Tom flinched, but knew instinctively
who it was.
        <XIRI! he cried. Xiri flew from the tunnels to circle him, avoiding the
hands that emerged from the ground.
        <RUN! Xiri cried. <RUN!!
        Tom saw Ebran tripping over the hands in blind panic and B'Elanna crying
out in horror.
        He must get to them!
        He jumped over the emerging bodies, horrified that some had escaped their
imprisonment from the floor to walk towards him. A crystaline gaze appeared
before him. He cleaved away the face with his lance. The headless body melted to
the floor, a shapeless mass, but regained its form again almost instantly. A
hand brushed against his cheek and he felt a stinging pain.
        Revulsion leapt into his mind as he felt the creature's cold touch.
        <Get away! he cried, slicing a hand from his boot. It melted away to
rejoin its body.
        Xiri frantically flapped his wings to avoid the masses of crystal
humanoids. Some ignored him while others reached slowly to the creature,
extending their arms beyond normal length to reach him.
        He saw B'Elanna fighting bravely against the crystal entities. He saw a
child-like form touching B'Elanna's arm. B'Elanna threw back her head and
        <B'Elanna! Panic tore through him and he cared nothing for his own
safety. But the number of the alien beings was increasing, and, soon, B'Elanna
disappeared from his view.
        <B'Elanna! he reached out frantically with his mind. He could sense her
        <Run! Run! Xiri called out.
        It happened too fast for him to react. A silver form burst out from the
floor to tower above him. A ridged forehead began to form, and pale green eyes
stared at him. A Ryan. Shock jolted through him. He turned to run away, but a
hand suddenly clutched at his boot and he fell backwards, landing on his back.
The wind was knocked out from him for a moment and his vision darkened. When it
returned, the Ryan stared at him with blank green eyes and reached for him. Tom
shielded his face instinctively.
        A blur of motion appeared from his right-
        <Tom mourned the voice. <Tom!
        In slow motion, he saw the small creature come between them. He opened his
mouth to scream, but it was too late. Silver tentacles exploded from the Ryan's
chest and enveloped Xiri. Xiri struggled violently in the creature's grasp,
blood dripping from his dissolving flesh.
        <Goodbye This time Xiri did not speak to him. It was an emotion of regret
and pain. Goodbye.
        Tears pooled in Tom's eyes and he blinked them away, knowing he had to
escape to make Xiri's sacrifice worthwhile.
        Tom hacked the silver hand off his boot and cleaved off the head of the
Ryan that took Xiri.
        Momentarily distracted, the Ryan fell to the floor in a puddled form.
Xiri's body dropped into the puddle, quickly dissolving. He wasn't moving any
longer. Green, sightless eyes stared out of a face once so animated with life.
        <Goodbye Grief grasped his chest in a painful vise. Blinking back tears,
he turned to cleave another creature from his path. And another. And another.
But he could not see B'Elanna or Ebran.
        <So close. Oh God I was so close to going home!
        He was trapped now. Around him, the crystal humanoids slithered towards
him, eager to take him like they did Xiri. A Ryan child gazed at him, its
sightless eyes on him.

        Colours rippled unevenly on the crystal bodies, as if undecided of what
colour to chose. Hair sometimes turned purple, black or blue. Skin shifted from
transparent crystal to brown.

        "Anae? Anae?"
        He blinked.
        "Anae? For goodness sakes-"
        He shook his head to clear the cobwebs.
        "I'm sorry Alucia." He apologized, feeling like a fool. "I have no idea
what came over me." He looked uncertainly at his surroundings. Sighing, he
clasped his hands together. "When you grow old, you feel rather addled at times,
you know." He gave the young girl a reassuring smile.
        Alucia smiled. "You're nervous about the Joining, aren't you?" she
grinned. "Well, so am I! I have no idea what it is like...Joining..." Alucia looked
to him for clues.
        He tried to push away the nagging doubts in his mind. Somehow, something
told him that it was not right. This was not right.
        Seeing that she was not answered, Alucia took his hand, a hand that was
aged with working in the crystal rooms, hands that have seen 199 years.
Grinning, he wondered how often his thoughts became morbid as he approached his
two hundredth year. Alucia guided him up the stairs, taking the hand in his. As
usual, the crystal that was the Mirrors sparkled brightly. It made him feel safe
and reassured. He was used to it.
        Anae. No, not my name...
        "I don't feel well." He said, placing a hand on his head. As he did so, he
caught his reflection on a crystal wall. Lilac eyes stared out from an earnest
face. His gentle ridges accentuated his natural beauty, the pale white of his
hair curled at his nape. He was, in all appearance, normal.
        Then why did he feel so alien in his body?
        "Are you alright? Should we call off the Joining?"
        "No, my child." He patted the girl's hand. "I'm sorry to disturb you so.
The Joining is a wondrous feeling. It's an incredible feeling." Immediately he
remembered the Joining with his Chosen one. Her name was Wind, and her gossamer
wings were an unusual colour...
        "Anae! Look!" Alucia cried suddenly. Immediately he felt shock waves of
panic from his fellow Ryans. They were alone in the hall of the Mirrors, but he
could feel millions of shocked and bewildered voices, all a chorus. Alucia,
untrained as she was, cowered at the force.
        Startled, he opened his mind. <Wind! he Sent. <What is the matter?
        <Rain! she Sent. <Silver Rain that bites!
        Before he could process the confusing bit of information, another
shockwave hit. This time of fear. Screams filled his mind - screams of pain and
        "ANAE!" Alucia screamed. She sank to her knees, trembling violently.
"What's happening? What's happening?!"
        A scream tore through the hall. Anae gasped when he saw Terrana, the
Scribe, the one that filled his children's evenings with fanciful tales, run
towards him, her eyes filled with terror.
        He ran to her without a thought. "Terrana! What is wrong!" He had her in
his arms immediately.  She trembled violently and started to sink to her knees.
Her mouth quivered violently, her eyes tearing with pain.
        "Terrana! What is-"
        Then he saw it. She had no knees.
        She was melting. Silver liquid crept up where her knees once were, then up
her thighs.
        "Help me!" she gasped.

        "TOM! Help me!"
        Tom blinked, and the world shimmered and faded, and he saw B'Elanna
fending off a silver statue. For a moment he wondered what happened to Terrana and
Alucia, then reality sank in.
        <B'Elanna! Tom gasped and ran to her, cleaving the creature's head neatly
off its head. It fell to the floor, shapeless once more.
        B'Elanna ran to him and hugged him. "I thought you were-" she mouthed, but
she did not finish her sentence. She didn't have to. Tom could sense her
        [Ebran?] he signed.
        B'Elanna shook her head. "They took him. They took him." She mouthed, her
face reflected her anguish.
        Shaken, Tom could only nod. [Run. We have to leave]
        [Where to?] B'Elanna signed, edging away with Tom. There was a wall behind
their backs. They were pinned. The creatures came, purple eyes impassive. Silver
rippled with colours.
        Suddenly, the air was filled with gossamer wings. Hundreds, perhaps
thousands of Xiri's kin flew into the cavern, attacking the creatures.
        Distracted, the horde threw their attention to the creatures, quickly
finishing them off.
        He knew where to go.
        Tom turned to see the Corridor. Gathering his courage, he clutched
B'Elanna's hand, running for the stairs.
        If he had spared a second glance behind him, he would have seen the
creatures freeze in momentary confusion as more of Xiri's relatives swarmed over
the hoarde, sacrificing themselves for a mysterious cause.
        Somehow he made it to the last stair.


        They were screaming around him. Blood dripped from the walls and he
slipped in the gory mess. Terror engulfed him, and he thought of his daughter -
Anya! She was to go to the Capital today!
        He knew deep inside that he would not see her again.
        A burst of pain at his right leg.
        Nuri looked down and saw another hand emerge from the floor to clutch his
right leg. His flesh sizzled and burned.
        Nuri screamed.


        Tom stumbled and fell at the last step, nearly toppling down the stairs.
He thanked B'Elanna wordlessly for her Klingon strength, for without it, he
would have toppled down to the madness below. He managed to heave himself up
with shaky legs, offering B'Elanna a half-hearted nod of assurance. He left the
stairs and started to run for the corridor, but it was only a few steps before-


        She could feel her body dissolving around her. Her lungs were gone; only
her brain was alive to comprehend the stark horror of what was being done to
her. Her eyes remained open to see the silver liquid making its way up her neck,
        Tonira screamed.


        Tom screamed in anguish and collapsed to his knees, hugging himself.
        "Tom!" B'Elanna cried, desperate now. She did not know what was wrong with
him, but she was not going to leave him behind now. She pulled him up, using her
full Klingon strength. He got up with the jerky motion of a puppet and took a
few steps before his eyes glazed again. He was in agony.
        An agony she could not possibly comprehend.
        Suddenly, B'Elanna felt something snake around her ankles-


        Her friends were gone now! She did not understand what had happened to
them. Shuria only knew that they were screaming and in pain and she ran and
ran...her short legs could not carry her far enough - they were closing in now.
Soon she would become one of Them. Shuria clutched her doll and huddled in the
corner, watching with glazed eyes as the children in the once peaceful garden
were consumed alive by...


        <The Xyrons. Tom gasped, his eyes lucid again. He immediately sensed
B'Elanna's surprise and looked down at her ankles. Thick, grey, vines curled
rapidly around her feet. With shock, he realized that they were around his legs
too. He reached down to tear them away-


        Shuria whimpered, clutching her doll tighter to her chest as she watched
Belor walk towards her.
        Only it wasn't her brother that walked to her. She knew it. She had
scanned his mind to find only a repulsive cold that belonged to the dead. No,
that was not Belor.
        What had happened to Belor?
        The Belor/Thing reached out to her, the small hands identical in everyway
to her twin, but they were cold, so cold. Belor sat down next to her and hugged
her, as if to offer comfort. Her brother...the thing, placed its head on her
shoulders as he had a hundred times before.
        Shuria sobbed and sobbed.
        And Belor dissolved her slowly.


        <So many lives destroyed.
        The thought woke him up immediately. Tom blinked away the remnants of that
horrific vision and tried to open his eyes, but they wouldn't obey him.
        <So quick, so merciless.
        He finally cracked open an eye.
        Glaring whiteness greeted him.
        And the stench of decay.
        He immediately gagged, moving away from the source of the smell.
        <We sacrificed our existence to save others. Why? Why? the voices mourned
in his mind.
        <We are the Core. Soon you will be the Core
        His eyes flew open at that, but his blurry vision would not obey him. He
saw a mass of grey before him, but nothing else. Tom felt arms encircle him
almost immediately, helping him to sit up. At the contact, he felt B'Elanna's
terror. He blinked furiously, trying to clear his vision.
        He wish he hadn't.
        A face, mottled by centuries of decay stared back at him. One eye was
missing, the other stared at him. A purple eye long clouded with death. The lips
were black, the face...a mottled green. Of the body, there was none. The only
thing that kept the head upright was a mass of grey vines that crept up the wall
and around the floor, wriggling with an almost eternal life.
        What was worse, there were other corpses that hung from the mass of vines.
Four others hung beside the head, all putrefying in their death. But their
sightless eyes seemed to gaze at him. A woman with purple hair long dry and
matted from death, a man whose head hung in an angle that did not ensure
surival, a boy with no limbs...a girl.
        He gasped.
        He knew that gaze.
        She stared at him, perhaps the most alive of the lot. The purple hair that
was vibrant in his dreams hung limply around her face. A jaw bone stuck out from
pieces of flesh that still clung stubbornly to the skull. The purple eyes that
held so much life were cloudy, yet alive with an unnatural presence.
        Tom cried out in horror and clutched at B'Elanna, never in his whole life
more petrified. He felt her arms clutch him tighter, as much to offer him
support as to obtain comfort. Her terror came in waves and he felt his eyes burn
with helpless tears as he gazed upon the object of their greatest fears.
        Hung suspended above the corpses were Ebran and Yvette Parr.
        Small, miniscule vines surrounded the two in a viselike grip. Some tiny
shoots penetrated their skin, curling around their bodies like a vile parasite.
Tiny rivulets of blood ran down their terror-glazed eyes.
        And they were looking at him.
        <They're alive. I can feel their terror. I can feel-
        He jerked away when he touched their minds.
        <Oh, God. he trembled. <They cannot survive this. They musn't. They
should die. They should die
        Somehow, B'Elanna found the strength to nudge him away from the dead eyes
to something behind the mass of limbs and corpses.
        Behind the abomination was a portal. The gate revealed an interior of an
alien space ship...or station. He gasped, and hope burned in him, but he returned
his gaze to the abhorrence and swallowed. <I'm not brave enough to even stand
he thought to himself. <But they're dead. They're just corpses-
        <We're not dead
        His eyes shot back to the Core.
        <We are the Core. We are one Mind. One Soul. One Thought
        The lips moved in unison, including Ebran and Yvette's. B'Elanna clutched
his hand, her body trembling. The sight of her friend trussed up like a puppet
and manipulated like one...
        "What do you want with us?" she found herself asking. "Let Ebran and
Yvette go!"
        <You must join the Core. Only with your added strength shall we become
strong enough to defeat the Xyrons. They cannot be allowed to leave
        B'Elanna trembled when she heard Ebran and Yvette's pain filled voice say
those words.
        "Damn you! Let them go! Let them go!" she pleaded, illogical in her
terror. The unreasoning terror that she felt was greater than the most risky
Maquis operation she had run single-handedly.
        The ground rippled before them suddenly, taking the form of a woman.
Alucia appeared, perfect in form unlike the abomination behind her.
        "Tom," she smiled. "I'm so glad to see you."
        Tom only stared at Alucia in disbelief.
        "Please help us." She reached for him with a slim hand. "I've watched over
you for months, sending Xiri to heal you of your illnesses and making sure that
you had enough to eat. I even made sure the animals did not dare attack you.
Now, it's your turn to help us. Please help us." Purple eyes turned pleading.
        As if struck by a sudden interference, her body shimmered and turned
crystaline, momentarily loosing form.
        <You're one of them! he realized with horror.
        "No," Alucia gestured at her body. "When I died an aeon ago, I was
absorbed by a Xyron. Over time, I regained control of this body with the help of
the Core."
She looked at him pleadingly, trying to get him to understand. "Please
help us, Tom. Please."
Tom edged away, shaking his head.
        <The Core, once the heart of our planet, has been defiled to preserve the
Universe from the Xyrons. It was once a giver of life. Now it is a Torturer. Our
Torturer. the voices filled Tom's head, making him wince.
   "No sacrifice was greater than that of the Ryans. We must not let the
sacrifice of our civilization go to waste. You must join the Core." Alucia
         Her body rippled suddenly and changed form, wavering into a shapeless
crystaline mass then back to Alucia again.
        <We are loosing control of the Xyron host. We must act. The Core
responded somewhere in the background. The Alucia/Xyron continued to talk as its
body shimmered wildly. It didn't seem to notice its lost of control.
        "For centuries, we have been trapped in our decaying bodies to keep the
Xyrons in their prison. But once we were twelve. Now we are four. We need both
of you to help us reestablish the control over the Xyrons." Alucia stated from
her rapidly shifting body.
        <What makes you think that we will help you?! Tom sent, suddenly furious
at their audacity.
        <It is illogical to fight what is obviously the only solution to save the
galaxy. The Core responded.
        "We fight your reasoning! We don't want any part in this!" B'Elanna
        <You have no choice. Just as we had no choice.
        Vines curled around their legs. B'Elanna heard Tom cry out in horror.
Instinctively, she pulled out the phaser she had taken from Ebran and fired. It
ate the vines away neatly. The cut vine jerked, almost in pain. She felt a
bubble of satisfaction amid her terror and continued to fire at the vines around
Tom's ankles. Tom kicked furiously-
        Pictures flashed in her mind suddenly. Both of them running to the portal.
Jump. Run. Now.
        <Tom, trying to communicate with me she reasoned, nodding. She helped him
        "Do not fight us Tom Paris. We will use force if necessary." Alucia said.
B'Elanna looked at the alien woman defiantly and hauled Tom to his feet.
        B'Elanna gasped when Alucia held her shirt front with an iron fist. The
figure shimmered again, turning totally crystalline.

        Tom cried out in horror when Alucia flung B'Elanna across the room. She
hit the wall violently and sank to the floor, dazed, but fighting to stay awake.
        He must have been insane, but he instinctively slugged Alucia in the face.
The face snapped aside, but returned back to gaze at him impassively. A hand
reached for his-
        He tried to jerk away his hand, but it burnt-
        He screamed-

        <We are loosing control of the host the Core echoed.

        B'Elanna heard Tom scream and immediately came alert. She forced herself
up on shaky legs. Horror clouded her reason when she saw Tom's hand dripping
        "TOM!" she screamed. <No. No! No! Had he endured the past six months of
horror to die here?
        "NO!" she screamed, flinging herself against Alucia. Mindlessly, she
slugged the head with the phaser, afraid that if she fired, it would go through
Alucia's Xyron body to hit Tom.
The crystalline head rotated immediately to look at B'Elanna. And in slow
motion, B'Elanna saw her death. The long, delicate fingers disappeared into her
chest...and she felt her heart dissolve.
        B'Elanna gasped.
        <Tom. she looked at him wordlessly, glad that she died with her eyes on

        <NO!! Tom screamed as he saw the hand dissolve into B'Elanna's chest.
B'Elanna jerked once, twice, then became still. She hung limply on the hand, her
eyes opened and glazed.
        <B'Elanna! NO!

<Control reestablished.

The figure solidified once more, colours returning rapidly to the once
crystalline form. Alucia removed her hand from B'Elanna's chest. B'Elanna's body
dropped limply to the ground.
        Tom crawled to her body, and gathered B'Elanna into his arms. Her brown
eyes were slowly clouding over with death, but they seemed peaceful...almost
happy. An illusion? Or truth. He shuddered with grief, closing his eyes from the
vision of her glazed eyes, sobbing as he buried his face in her hair.
        <B'Elanna...no...why has it come to this?
"Please help us." Alucia pleaded, looking down at him. Tom could only look
up with tear-blinded eyes, uncomprehending.
        Vines wrapped around his legs.
        Terror engulfed him, but he held B'Elanna's body close, burying his face
in her hair. If he died, at least he would die holding her in his arms.
        He remembered the first day he saw her, an angry Maquis torn abruptly from
her way of life, uncomfortable in her new gold engineering uniform. And the
passion that burned in her eyes as she lay in his arms after they made love...the
first kiss they shared in the corridor, the feel of her arms around him as he
lay with her in the vinyl seats of the Chevy.
         Tears ran down his face.
        <Could anything hurt more than remembrance? But I have you in my arms.
Please let me die holding her
        The thin transparent vines encircled his wrist, crawled up his neck in a
slimy journey to his face.
        Tom gasped in fear when the thousands of shoots surrounded his body,
charting it like a vile map. Thicker vines wrapped around his feet and neck,
starting to pull.
        He clutched B'Elanna to his chest, trying hard to keep her, but his hands
was fast loosing feeling. Horror clouded his mind as he felt tiny pricks across
his arms.
        His hands released B'Elanna's body.
        <No...please - B'Elanna!
        Alucia wrapped her cold arms around him.
<It will be over faster than you can imagine. Alucia responded. <I
promise you that
There was a blinding pain, the sensation of being dragged and everything
went dark.


        "Captain! The planet is breaking up!"
        "Scanners report eruptions in the planet's core. The source of the
eruptions are unknown." Tuvok said from his station.
        The captain whipped her face away from the screen, her mind rapidly
conjuring equations to do what she must.
        "If we must do a near-warp transport, we will do it!" she snapped, wincing
in pity for the away team, knowing that it wouldn't be a comfortable ride home.
        "Harry, how are the pattern enhancers coming along?"
        Harry had modified the pattern enhancers to work long-range. It was
tricky, experimental at best, but what had they to lose?
        An explosion jerked Janeway from her reverie. She gazed with horror as a
huge spout of flame danced from the planet's west hemisphere. They had to go to
warp -
        "Lieutenant Tuvok, how long till the planet is destroyed?"
        "Two minutes, fifty seven seconds." He answered cooly, his face betraying
no emotion.

        *"People of Voyager. Leave now."*

        Another surprise. Janeway turned around, expecting to see the supposed
'master' of Rya on the screen, but only the planet greeted her.

        "Who is this? Where's the away team?" she asked furiously.

        *"We are the Core. They are with Us. We do not want to harm you. Leave
before we complete our duty."*

        "And your duty includes destroying a planet? *Your* planet?"

        *"It is only logical to sacrifice the lives on this planet to save
thousands more like this one. Leave now."*

        "I am not going to leave until I have my crew back! What have you done to
them?" she snapped, stress turning her patience to dust. "Give me their
locations now!" she demanded. She knew it was a futile battle, reasoning with a
life form that thinks that destroying its home planet was a good idea.
        "Captain! I think I have their signals!" Carey nearly screamed from her
        "Then what are you waiting for?" Suprisingly, her voice was quite level.
 Voyager rocked again.
        "Captain." Tuvok this time. "I am afraid that the planet's destruction
seems to have accelerated. We have only 1 minute 22 seconds to leave before the
planet destroys itself."
        She saw Chakotay look at her mutely, his expression pained and torn...he
knew what must be done. Lord knows, he had done it before in his Maquis days.
        "Carey. We will do a near-warp transport. You have 1 minute." She nodded
brusquely at Bateheart at the helm. "Engage. Maximum warp." Her voice broke a little
in the end. She had never left her crew behind before...never.
        Chakotay appeared at her side to give a reassuring squeeze to her hand.
        Years before this, before the Delta Quadrant, she would not have permitted
it, but Janeway nodded her thanks and gazed into the eyes of her First Officer,
not knowing what to say.
        The ship lurched into warp.

        His skin bled when a vine punctured it to gain access to his brain.
Rivulets of blood ran down his face, his hands, his body.
        It should have hurt-
        If his body had belonged to him.
        But it wasn't his anymore.
        The shared memories of the Core danced in his brain, and he for the first
time, understood the need for this sacrifice. At the back of his mind, he could
feel Yvette and Ebran. He could feel their terror, but at the same time he
discovered that they understood, that this had to be done.
        Of course they have to die. They must.
        "We must say goodbye to life, my children," he found his lips saying. It
did not occur to him that he should not be able to speak. "For tommorow, our
souls will finally be reborn in a better place."
        For centuries, the shared will of these Ryans had run the planet that was
the prison of the Xyrons. Their powerful minds awoke the planet to fight, and he
could see how the Xyrons were laid to sleep, a temporary sleep. But the Ryans
understood that someday they would awaken. That their efforts were merely to
stall them, not kill them. The Xyrons could not be destroyed. Unless the Ryans
destroyed themselves along with them.
        Which they were doing now.
        Ebran and Yvette gibbered in terror and Tom thought that he must appear
that way too, but he was numb to terror now. He felt their memories flood him
and he tried to reach out to them for comfort and assurance...and for a brief
moment, their terrified minds connected.
        Vines crawled across his eyes. Some entered his ear.
        <We must die he thought suddenly. And he was glad when he saw the fire
that suddenly burst around his feet. The planet was finally dying.
        Their minds, Ryan, Human, Bajoran, united for one final time. They
prepared to give their souls to rest.

        Then the planet blew apart.


        Janeway watched in numbed horror as a million volcanoes erupted on the
planet, turning the once-blue planet a molten red. For a few eerie seconds, the
molten red of Rya was snuffed out, turning the planet into a black orb.
        Voyager shot forward, trying vainly to escape the gravitional pull that
was sure to come. The ship shuddered violently as the engines strained-
        Then the planet blew apart.
They were too late.
        The explosion took out Rya's two moons and the artificial satellite that
orbited around it. They gave in to the red tide quietly, their demise mute in
the dead of space.
        They were too late.
        The thought haunted her even when the ship shuddered, lurching violently
in the tide. She acted instinctively, yelling for Engineering to increase power
to the thrusters. Somehow found herself at the science station when Ensign
Wildman was knocked unconscious by a blasted console. She read the readings
mechanically whilst she ordered Vorik to steer them away from the asteroids that
were disturbed from their orbits; now shooting missiles.
        But her mind chanted this mantra over and over again.
        <I have failed
        Then the ship lurched violently, again.
        Janeway found herself dazed on her back. In the distance she heard
Chakotay barking others, then-
        "We've got them! Oh...oh, my GOD!!"
        Who was it? Lieutenant Carey. Janeway forced herself upright, willing
herself to stay awake, for the ship, for the crew-
        A console blew apart suddenly, lifting Chakotay off his feet and smacking
him hard against a wall.
        Janeway looked anxiously at the First Officer, but she could not spare one
moment for him.
        Dimly Janeway remembered Captain Sulu's experience after the Klingon
moon,Praxis blew up. He told them that the wave of energy he saw hurtling
towards the Excelsior was perhaps the most frightening thing he had ever
witnessed. "It looked like the wrath of God." He had said to her during a
luncheon a long time ago, perhaps when she was an ensign.
        She was staring at 'the wrath of God' now.
        It hurtled towards her, a wall of red flame.
        "Brace for impact!!" she shouted.


        "Carey. We will do a near-warp transport. You have 1 minute." The
Captain barked through his commbadge.
        "What?!" he bellowed to himself. From the corner of his eye, he saw a
frantic Ensign Rowan calibrating the complex pattern buffers to compensate for
the near-warp transport.
        "We can do it! I think I've got their signals! The transporters are near
overloading, but, by God, I think we can do it!" Ensign Kim shouted from his
position at the isolinear chips panel.
        "Sure we can! After we take ourselves with it!" But Carey did not care,
truthfully. He would gladly risk his neck for the crew stuck down there.
        "Energize!" he barked.
        Ensign Rowan nodded, her eyes glistening with determination, her brow damp
with sweat. "The pattern is weak-" she began.
        "Increasing power to the pattern enhancers." Carey said as calmly as
possible and looked up.
        Dim shadows danced on the transporter platform.
        "Come on," he urged. "Come on..." his fingers skipped over the buttons with
lightning speed.
        He could see it now, dim shapes of four...what? Six?! People? And what was-
        <No time to think, it's still too unstable.
        Frowning, he told Harry to increase power to the pattern buffers. Ensign
Kim looked up, and Carey understood that grim look too well. <If this doesn't
work, the only thing that is left of us is a blackened spot. He nodded
        Harry did the same. "Adding 10% to the pattern buffers."
        Somewhere, he heard the transporters cry out in pain.
        "We've got them!" he cried out with joy when the first figure solidified.
Then he paled, blood draining away from his head so fast he saw spots dancing
before his eyes.  "Oh...oh, my GOD!!"
        Ensign Rowan screamed.
        Then the world exploded around them.


        Janeway heard the scream from her commbadge just as Voyager was thrown
like a rag doll by the wave. But she shoved it aside. Voyager needed her now.
She noted with gladness that Chakotay was merely unconscious, his head injured
in the violent fall.
        She got up from her fall that the energy wave had delivered her and noted with despair that her forehead was bleeding feely.
        "Ensign Bateheart, how are we doing at the helm?!" she managed to scream
over the din of the red alert sirens.
        "Captain, the gravity pull was not as high as expected. The energy wave
literally pushed us out of harm's way. We managed to escape in time." He said,
his voice shaky because of the violent movements of the ship.
        Janeway shook her head brusquely.
        "It pushed us out of harm's way and into an asteroid field! Bateheard,
evasive maneuvers!"
        An asteroid the size of a shuttlecraft loomed before them.
        Ensign Bateheart paled when he saw the asteroid field. Once static, the
asteroids were now disturbed from their orbits by the energy wave. They hurtled
at Voyager from behind.
        The ship shuddered violently as the massive asteroid grazed the side,
bouncing off its shields.
        <Tom could have easily avoided that Bateheart thought instinctively. At
the thought of Tom, Bateheard winced, realizing that the pilot should be spoken
for in the past tense. <Hope my months of practice paid off! His fingertips
danced across the helm controls. He had activated the rear scanners to gauge
where the asteroids were going to hit. Not an easy task.
        He managed to avoid a number, but suddenly, an asteroid hurtled at his
left with blinding speed. Bateheart found his mouth going dry.
        "Brace for impact!" he shouted as he expertly, albeit clumsily, dip
Voyager before it could be hit by the meteor. It managed to only graze Voyager's shield.
        It seemed like hours before he cleared the debris field. When Voyager
emerged triumphantly into empty space, he immediately engaged the warp engines
at maximum warp. As he did so, he let out a convulsive breath to take another
nervous one. His heart drummed like a wild animal. Bateheart wiped sweat off his
But his efforts was not enough to spare Voyager a few cuts and bruises. The ship
suffered some hull damage, and there was a hull breach on deck 5, he noted with
        After ten long, agonizing minutes, they were free.

        The quiet of the Mytis Sector greeted them as Voyager sped by at Warp 9.
        "Captain?! Captain?!" Carey's frantic call.
        "Go ahead, Lieutenant!" God, she thought. Let it be good news!
        "Captain, we've got them!"
        Janeway felt dizzy with relief, but supressed a smile when she heard fear
in the normally stout lieutenant's voice. She shot Tuvok a puzzled look.
        Tuvok could only stare back in puzzlement.


        The doors slid open.
        "B'Elanna? B'Elanna? Please answer me?" Harry's voice. Anguished.
        "The transporters are not working! We must get them there ourselves!"
Ensign Rowan shouted in a panicked voice.
        Smoke and fire everywhere. Emergency lights were on, blinking a deep,
bloody red in the darkness.
        Janeway paled when he saw the room. Even Tuvok visibly startled a serious
lapse of his usual excellent Vulcan control.
        On the transporter platform lay about eight bodies. Four of them were
rotting, filling the room with the stench of decay. Thin, transparent vines
wriggled up the transporter modules like living maggots; but some were dropping
off as they reached the ceiling, to lie limp and motionless on the ground.
        In the middle of the mess was Ensign Kim, cradling B'Elanna...
        "B'Elanna." He gasped, the word suddenly choking in his throat.
        Her eyes were open, blood flowing freely from her mouth. Blood caked her
shirt front. She was dead.
        "No." Kim mourned, closing his eyes, rocking the body. "All that effort-"
he whispered brokenly as he lay a quivering hand to his forehead.
        Carey lay a shaky hand on the Ensign's shoulder. His face was pained as he
moved a tricorder above Ebran and Yvette Parr's bodies.
        "They are dead." Carey told Chakotay, his eyes narrow with pain. "Yvette
and Ebran...are dead. B'Elanna..." he took a deep breath. "B'Elanna, too."
        Janeway blinked away tears, her heart constricting. How could this have
happened? Why? Disbelief robbed her ability to think straight, and for a long
while, she could only stare blindly at B'Elanna's open eyes...then Ebran's...then
        She had lost friends before. Comrades. Lovers. A father. She steeled
herself, tapping his commbadge. "Security to Transporter Room 3. We need able
men here now." Mechanically, she began planning of ways to dispose of the bodies
of those...aliens in a proper manner. Then there were repairs to be done for that
Hull Breach. B'Elanna...no, Carey would have to coordinate the teams at 0830
hours, never mind that they had not slept-
        "Commander." Came Tuvok's soft, modulated voice.
        Janeway found herself facing Tuvok. The Vulcan security officer was
cradling a limp form in his arms. It was covered with those vile vines, and it
was bloody - even the blonde matted hair was wet with red blood and the eyes-
        "Tom?!"she gasped, kneeling beside the Lieutenant. She took his frail
hand, slippery from blood.
        "He is alive." Tuvok said, his voice careful.
        Janeway knelt beside Tom and touched his face, hoping to get a response
from those eyes.
        And she did.
        The blue eyes, once brimming with humour and life, were fading, growing
dull. But they turned to her mutely.
        "You're home, Tom. Hang on." She found herself pleading. But she knew
death when she saw it.
        The grey lips moved and said just two words.
        "They live."
        Tom suddenly shuddered violently, his body arching up in Tuvok's arms. A
spout of blood erupted from his lips and he suddenly grew still. His blue eyes
widened in pain for a convulsive second, then slowly closed. A manner of peace
seemed to return to his face.
        "He is dead." Tuvok murmured quietly.
        Janeway brushed a hand down the bloody face. It was a moment before she
realized that there were tears flowing down her cheeks.

Captain's Ready Room
0450 hours
10.9 Light Years away from Ryan space

        Janeway found herself chewing on a finger, a nervous habit that
disappeared in her teens. She stared at the moving stars from her office trying
to force herself *not* to look at the PADD that listed the medical records of
her crew members.
        Sighing, the Captain gave up and turned to look at the PADD. It showed the
face of a vibrant young man with blue eyes and a cocky smile. Below that face,
was a list of medical reports the Doctor had made on that Lieutenant; a certain
Lieutenant called Paris, Thomas Eugene.
Janeway felt a tired smile creep up her face as she remembered the
Doctor's complains about Tom's frequent visitations to the sickbay...and his
rather extensive medical file.
Her eyes inadvertently settled on the last entry, made 2 days ago.
        Janeway frowned.
        The medical records that bore the name 'Thomas Eugene Paris, Lieutenant
JG' seemed so...final.
        She tapped the PADD, and the smiling face of Voyager's pilot disappeared.
        There was a chime.
        "Come in."
        Chakotay came in, fully recovered from his injuries. He looked strangely
subdued - even for him.
        "What can I do for you, Commander?"
        Chakotay shrugged. "I was about to ask *you* the same question."
        The Captain afforded him a lift to an eyebrow.
        "The Captain needs to be strong. But not superhuman." He stated, giving
her a small smile.
        "You mean she needs a shoulder to cry on?"
        "If there's a need for that." He replied.
        The Captain suppressed a cynical smile, knowing full well that it was the
lot of most Starfleet Captains to grieve alone. Most of the time.
       "The repairs are on the way. Carey has carried out the repairs well, but
he states that we need to find some raw materials to fully repair Voyager."
        Janeway nodded distractedly and reached out for her cup of coffee, now
lying cold on the table.
        "There are some things even a Starfleet Captain cannot prevent." He said
after a moment of awkward silence.
        Janeway started at that. Chakotay had an uncanny ability to know what she
was thinking about. "We were drilled about that in the Academy. I don't know how
many countless times." She assured him.
        "But sometimes a captain needs to be reminded about that."
        The Captain smiled. Chakotay always had a point.
        "But the important fact remains. They're alive." He stated.
        Janeway looked at the First Officer. "Yes, they're alive." She then turned
to look at the stars beyond the small slit that was her window. "But at what

_____________END, c1998 Lanna.