DISCLAIMER: I don‘t own the characters on Star Trek:Voyager. I‘m just borrowing them to sent them on yet another adventure. This story is meant for entertainment only, and nothing else.

NOTE: This story is dedicated to Sian, for her strength and being just Sian :)

By Lanna (liztai@hotmail.com)

Chapter 4...Rowena

Perhaps he had ventured too far.

The mud was sticky on his face and as black as the night sky above him.
And it had character too - malevolent, stubborn and smug.

He blinked away the crust that was drying on his eyelids and tried his best to ignore the slithering noises around him. The swamps were unnaturally alive tonight - as if they sensed his presence and was nearing for the kill. His boot made a sloshing noise as he took one step, then another.

Deep breaths frosted the unnaturally cold air. The swamp should have been frozen, but by some strange property it wasn‘t. Stubborn, Tom concluded. As stubborn as the creatures that dwelled in it: for the struggle to survive is a persistent one. There were no midway compromises. You either survived, or you didn‘t.
And that applied to him, unfortunately.

His breath caught.

There was a sharp noise to his right.

He brushed the tangle of unruly blonde hair from his eyes and held his spear in a death grip.
Another slither of wet mud in the darkness.

Two weeks ago, he had watched as a bird was snatched from the air by black tentacles that whipped from out from nowhere. The bird did not have time to struggle as it was pulled beneath the brackish water.
He could turn back and run to the safety of his cave.
But he was hungry. So hungry.

And all it took to ease his hunger was to reach his goal - the island just two hundred yards away.
He smiled unconsciously - a feral, almost crazed smile.

It was like a fairy tale from ancient Earth - the one he liked to recite to Naomi on days when Neelix was occupied with his duties as chef and ‚morale officer‘. He couldn‘t remember the specifics of the tale, but there was always a treasure at the end of the road - it could be a road or it could be an island. But there would be treasure.

His treasure was a tree, and it was filled with golden fruits that hung like heavy sacks of coins.
<I‘m going to get you he sang in his mind.

He felt something slither around his ankles.

The unexpected sensation made him stumble, and he couldn‘t have done it at a worst time - he tripped over a rock that was lodged in the stubborn, sticky mud and fell with a muted splash.

Upon contact with the sticky ground, he felt a dozen snake-like shapes slithering eagerly around his body.He screamed frantically, clawing his way to his feet, slipping more than a dozen times - but he made it to his feet. When he made it, he was filled with an unexplainable rage. He felt himself lifting his spear and plunging into the ground again, and again, and again.
<Get away ! Get away! Get away!!

Slosh. Slosh. Slosh.

Someone was coming his way.
He looked up.

"Hello, Tom. Do you want me to help?"
Tom shivered, and then the tremors became worse. He could do nothing but clutch at his spear, staring with wild terror at the man...

It wore his face. The red and black uniform was immaculate and unstained. It grinned at his surprise. "I‘m here to stay, Tom. Don‘t worry, you‘ll like me." The man smiled. Then he laughed, the high-pitched laughter of a delighted child.

He heard his sharp cry as if from far away.

His first conscious sensation was the feel of his damp clothes. Then the sound of his heavy breathing.

Tom blinked away sweat from his eyes and pushed himself roughly off the bed.
"Tuvok to Paris."

He jumped violently at the abrupt disruption to the silence. Trembling hands covered his lips, trying to stop the ragged breaths coming from it.
"Tuvok to Lieutenant Paris." More insistent this time.

Tom closed his eyes and took a deep breath.


A pause. "I detected a disturbance in your cabin. Do you require assistance?"

He took another deep breath. Damn the surveillance! Since taking him off the psilosynine three days ago, the Doctor and Lieutenant Tuvok had been keeping an eye on him 24 hours a day. It was torture. Torture because of the hundreds of emotions that threatened to burst through the fragile mental walls he had constructed, and torture because he hated being so vulnerable.
"No!" he snapped, feeling his anger rise.

Tuvok did not acknowledge his outburst, but he informed Tom that he would be there if Tom needed him.

And emotions. He barely had any control over them any more. One minute he‘d be laughing, the next moment he would shatter a PADD against the wall in a rage. Just yesterday, he had thrown a chair at the Doctor in fury during one of their vocal exercises.

The Doctor had coolly regarded the chair as it sailed two feet off its intended mark to crash against the doors. "Remind me to check on your eye sight again, Mr. Paris - that chair missed me by a mile," the hologram had dryly commented.
He snorted.

<I know what they‘re thinking now. Tom Paris is a lunatic. Tom Paris is crazy. Tom Paris will never be normal again.

He burst out of his room, ignoring the startled crewmen that happened to pass by.
That tune again. A woman‘s voice, hauntingly beautiful. He could almost hear the words...and the violin. He could almost touch the strings-

"Get out!" Tom closed his ears with his hands, but the woman continued to sing.

He made his way to the Holodeck without much incident. Not many people were about so early in the morning.

Tom rubbed chilly hands together. No, he was deceiving himself. They weren‘t chilly - they were shaking. Shaking from nervousness. Shaking from the press of hundreds of emotions.

"Computer...a-a-activate..." his mouth clamped shut as it always did when he was distressed.
"Please restate the question."

"Activate programme Paris25!" he managed.


Immediately, the bare walls of the holodeck rippled and transformed into a semblance of a room. A warm fire crackled in a rustic stone fireplace, and his footsteps echoed hollowly across wooden planks, grey with age.

Tom made his way to the window. Outside, a cold and chilly wind rattled snow off the pines. A branch scratched impatiently against a windowpane.
<What is this place? Why is it haunting my dreams? Why do I feel as if I want to pick that up?

His gaze settled on a violin on a rickety table beside the fireplace. It gleamed a rich brown in the bright light of the fireplace.

He had created this programme from memory around four days ago. But the problem was, he did not have any memories of this place - oh, he knew what this place was. This was Uncle Yanosh‘s cabin up in the Balkan mountains. He liked staying here for months on end, alone and at peace with his solitude. Uncle Yanosh liked to whittle away with his carving tools. Uncle Yanosh was a quiet man. Uncle Yanosh was not his uncle.

The Paris family was a small one. Owen Paris‘ father was an orphan and had no relatives. Owen was the only child, so that ruled out uncles in the Balkan mountains.

He couldn‘t deny it now. These memories were not his. And the violin? IT called him eagerly, and he felt the familiar thrill run up his spine when he thought of caressing the strings...
"No! I don‘t play...don‘t know how."

But what were the notes that leapt from his head as if he had played that score so often that they were stamped into his memory?
Taking a deep breath, he picked up the violin.

He had to know.
* * *

Holodeck 2
0409 hours

Harry Kim was a little surprised to see the Holodeck reserved - it was an unearthly hour for anyone to be having fun, and he thought he was the only nut who did that.

His eyebrows rose when he saw who had reserved it - Lt. Tom Paris. He entered without a thought.

The first thing that hit him was the most beautiful strain of note he could hear from a violin. The melody followed soon after, and it was poignant and yet violent at the same time. He recognized the piece - 4th Movement from Piano Trio in E Minor by Shostokovitch; and this tune was about Death, Mortality and Finality.
"It‘s beautiful," he said automatically.

Startled, the musician dropped the violin. Something broke when it hit the ground. He turned slowly.

"Harry?" Tom said. He looked pale and nervous. Self-consciously, he retrieved the broken violin from the floor.

"Sorry for startling you, but...damn, it‘s beautiful. How did you learn how to play like that?" Harry took note of his surroundings for the first time. It appeared to be a cabin somewhere in the mountains. A rustic fire crackled at a fireplace. The floorboards creaked from his footsteps.

Tom visibly blanched at the question. He turned away and balanced himself on the table.

"Hey, you alright?" Harry went to his side immediately. Tom shook his head and waved away Harry‘s helping hands.
"I‘m fine. No, maybe I‘m not," his lower lip quivered.

"Tom...what‘s wrong?" Harry frowned.

"I.." the pilot paused. "I swear - I don‘t know how to play the violin."
Confusion settled in Harry‘s features. "I just saw-"

"I know," Tom nodded. Agitated, he began to sign again. [I can tell you who‘s the composer, I know every note, every necessary inflection needed to evoke the correct pathos, emotion- I even remember rehearsing it a thousand times before I got it perfect. But...I did not do all this!] Tom threw up his hands. He spoke hesitantly after a while: "I never bothered with music, Harry! It was a pretty thing my sisters did when they had guests over - I never took a music lesson."

It was a moment before Harry answered. "So what are you saying? That these...the ability to play music...is someone else‘s?"

Tom looked at Harry as if that thought had never occurred to him. "Yes," he answered uncertainly. "And I think I know who." He settled himself into the chair by the fire. "Yvette," he said after a moment, looking at Harry seriously.
"I have Yvette‘s memories."

Harry thought back to that fateful day when they had beamed back B‘Elanna, Ebran, Tom and Yvette. The Doctor had said something about the plants having neurological functions. It was possible that her memories were somehow given to Tom - they had encountered stranger things before.
A pause, then Tom looked up, his eyes blank-"I have to go."

"Tom-" Harry began, but Tom had already left, leaving the ensign to stare after him in confusion.

* * *
B‘Elanna Torres was confused.

She sat alone in the darkened messhall, nursing a cup of cappucino. The coffee had long gone cold, but she continued to stare ahead - seemingly at nothing. Her early morning rituals had become more than a habit - it had become routine.
In truth, B‘Elanna was lost in the past.
She should be ecstatic, overjoyed even - now that Tom was back on his feet. But since that perfect day almost sixteen days ago when they made love, they had not spoken to each other.

They did meet though - but there were awkward silences between them. A quiet so deep and strained it made it impossible for B‘Elanna to stay around him for long. And he never did protest when she left.

She lay in bed for many sleepless nights trying to figure out what the problem was, and she finally concluded one thing.
Tom did not love her anymore.

Not that he ever did tell her that he did. There was an unspoken understanding between them - neither believed in saying the ‚L‘ word. Both had the unstated phobia that the declaration of ‚love‘ meant the end of the simple joys they had shared and the beginning of a deeper, more complicating commitment. Something both of them were not ready for.

How could she, in all her arrogance, think that Tom wanted her back after the way she broke off with him? After all that had happened? "B‘Elanna?"

Startled, the engineer nearly dropped her cup. Blue dilated eyes watched her curiously before taking the cup from her hands and settling it safely from harm. "You have been jumpy lately, haven‘t you?"

"Oh?" B‘Elanna replied curiously. Then, she gave Ebran Tonay a smile.

"Tonay, I could say the same for you. Morning," she greeted.

"Morning. You‘ve always been a spoil sport," he accused.

"Give me some credit," she sipped at her coffee. "At least I don‘t break the arms of people that best me."
"Your only saving grace, I‘m afraid."

B‘Elanna let out a laugh, watching the half Betazoid with a mixture of relief and gladness. A week ago, he had been a nervous wreck, rumoured to have skirted the edges of sanity. But now...
"How are you, Tonay?"

Ebran settled himself in his seat before replying. When he did, pain flashed in his eyes for a brief moment, then as if mentally shaking himself from whatever emotion that held him captive, he shook his head.

"I don‘t know," he answered in a small voice. "I suppose I‘m okay." He looked about uncertainly. "But...something is different. I...I was a quivering mess for so long, I forgot what I was," he said earnestly, throwing B‘Elanna a nervous grin. "I am arranging a memorial service for Yvette in a few days. Would you like to attend?"

"Tonay, don‘t be silly. Of course I‘ll come." B‘Elanna lay a gentle hand on his.
Ebran closed his eyes, forcing the disjointed noises in his mind to stop.

It didn‘t work, of course, but they diminished a little. He forced himself to think about something else, like Tuvok taught him - Chakotay promised to put him back on duty soon: a week or two from now. Meanwhile, he could fix that Chevy he‘d been meaning to fix-

After a moment, Ebran looked up from his preoccupation. "How is Paris?" he found himself asking.

B‘Elanna was a little startled by his question, and found herself uncertain at how to answer it. "Fine," she said stiffly. "The Doctor said he is progressing well with his treatment. I‘m sure you‘ve heard that they‘ve taken him off psilosynine."
Ebran nodded. "Sure. But he‘s not fine."
B‘Elanna gave him a sharp glance. "What do you mean by that?" she asked defensively, her muscles tensing.

Ebran looked away guiltily. "Sorry."

"No." B‘Elanna sighed, then said with a gentler tone. "Tonay, you‘re driving me crazy. Tell me, what do you mean?"

The half-Betazoid sighed and leaned back on his seat. " I remember a field on the prison moon Arakis where I grew up. After the moon rises above the hills the field would erupt in jets of steaming water." Ebran leaned forward. "That‘s what I sense in Tom. I can‘t explain it, but there‘s a geyser in Tom, and it‘s bursting to get out. I don‘t think Tom can control it, B‘Elanna. That‘s why when it erupts, everything will collapse."

B‘Elanna‘s mouth went dry. Then her brows furrowed with confusion. "Is that why you attacked him that day?"

Baffled, Ebran sat up straighter. "I was going through a difficult time then. There were a lot of things I did that I cannot remember now. I...suppose I just knew he was wrong somehow."

"Okay, stop it, Tonay. Just stop it. Tom is fine. He is getting better. He went through six months of hell, and he‘s going to get well because he is a strong man, and because he has me, the Doctor - the whole ship in fact!"

B‘Elanna took a deep breath, then shook her head. "I‘m sorry, Tonay. I shouldn‘t have snapped at you."

"Hey, you do it all the time, remember?" Ebran smiled, a little bit of his old self returning in the mischievous grin he sent her.

Ebran indulged in idle talk with B‘Elanna for a while after that. But in truth he was aching with questions. What happened on Rya? Why couldn‘t he remember? And why, of all things, did he have the strange desire to pilot Voyager? He was barely a decent pilot...

* * *

Space Station Merana
Sector 004
Yokle‘s Bar

"Psst! I wanna talk to you."

Rol squinted at the upstart who interrupted his meal. With a bit of Morellian worm hanging from his fangs, Rol growled.
"What the heck do you want?" he muttered, his black fur bristling.

The upstart looked around self-consciously and edged closer to Rol. Not too close however. Rol glared at him when he reached two steps.

Trying to appear an expert, the creature, a mercenary Rol decided, placed his gloved hands on his hips.
"I hear you can get something for me."

"Oh?" Rol snorted, unimpressed. "And who could I get this for?"

"Name‘s Druxza."

Rol snorted again and got a good look at this Druxza for the first time in the dim light. The mercenary had stark, white hair and his skin had a faint blue tinge. Rol curled his lips to a sneer. "You‘re a Tremalian! What business do I have talking to a slave of the Collaborate?"

Something akin to fury sparked in the Druxza‘s eyes. For a moment, the legendary ruthlessness of Druxza‘s race shone in those ebony eyes.

"It doesn‘t matter what race I am - what matters is what you could gain from our deal."

"Our deal?" Rol tried not to sound interested, but Tremalians were well known for their mercenary ways, and that lifestyle usually required weapons. Usually expensive.

"30 siskas, for the shapeshifter."

Rol stiffened. "What?!" he snapped, then growled, throwing away his plate full of worms. It crashed against a sleeping Bora dog. It awoke with a jerk, and then sniffed at the worms with interest.

"For your information, Druxza, or whatever your actual name is, I‘m a respectable businessman, not a messenger!" He removed his massive bulk from his seat. "Want to get the shapeshifter? Go get a communicator."
Druxza raised a hand. "100 siskas."

<Now, that‘s better Rol smiled inwardly. "Hmph. I don‘t-"

"And no less," Druxza hissed, his ebony eyes gleaming. "Look, Rol," he said his name with a sneer. "This ‚deal‘ is more than you get a week, so what do you say?"

Rol considered it, then shrugged.

"Sure, but she‘s...temperamental, if you know what I mean."

"I don‘t care what the Abyzz she is like, just get her. 30 siskas now, and the rest when she‘s standing in my ship‘s cargobay."
Rol snorted, but grinned in triumph when Druxza was out of sight.

Rowena came as promised. She, in all appearances, was a Menorite, one of the Merana Colloborate‘s strongest allies. Her violet eyes studied the empty cargobay while her booted feet tapped with impatience.
<Rol better have meant what he said. If this is some kind of ruse... "Welcome!"

Rowena frowned unpleasantly, glaring at the figures behind her. If she was moody enough, she wouldn‘t have bothered turning. She would‘ve shifted her eyes to the back of her head, just to remind them who they were dealing with.
"5000 siskas. No less," she said without further ado.

The man frowned. His companion, a Tremalian, appeared nervous at her demand.

"A steep price," the man said after a moment, continuing his walk. "But I‘m sure we can accommodate your expertise."

Rowena studied her employer carefully. He was a tall Killarite, the core race of the Collaborate, the founders, to be exact. His white eyes with its tiny pupils studied her intently.

"It concerns a zoo my employer would like to build."

Rowena glared at the man, warning him of any further jokes.

"It‘s not a joke, Rowena. My...partner loves to collect exotic species
from all around the galaxy, and I‘m more than willing to provide for him. We are close friends, he and I," he said - as if she would understand.

Rowena had worked dangerous assignments. Treacherous ones at times. She was nearly killed once, and barely escaped with her life. She stole secrets right from under the noses of the Colloborate, and even assassinated a top Killarite official, but a zoo? She, Rowena Alkril, was being hired out as a specimen collector?

"Before you voice your outrage, let me remind you that we take your assignments as a challenge. Not a burden," the Killarite interrupted smoothly.

Rowena snorted. "And what challenges will I face in this assignment? A rabid Bora dog?" she sneered.
"Don‘t be too quick in your judgement, Rowena. I hear you would like to visit the Gamma Quadrant one day? Well, I have something near that, not that close of course-"

Rowena, if she had blood vessels at all, would have paled at his words. How did he know? From her first conscience thought, all she could think of was the Gamma Quadrant. The urge to go there had become stronger just recently. It had become an obsession, and she worked double assignments to get enough siskas to get her own ship. She was close. Very close.
How did he know about this?

Rowena‘s suspicion rose. Who was this creature?

"What are you talking about?" she snapped.

"I‘m talking about a ship," the Killarite grinned. "From the Alpha Quadrant. You could easily take the place of one of its crewmembers, and you will have a free ride to your...dream destination."

Yes, to the Gamma Quadrant. That‘s where she would finally know who she was...*what* she was!
"Tell me about your...*specimen*."

The Killarite smiled.

* * *

0900 hours

"Now, let‘s start with sentence 234."

Tom frowned in annoyance. [NO.] he signed harshly and tossed the PADDS aside.

The Doctor managed to catch them before they fell off the table. He frowned, his expression stern. "If you want to say something, I prefer it if you say it verbally. Isn‘t that the aim of our vocal exercises?"

[What if I don‘t want to?] he returned, his eyes rebellious. Tom clenched his jaws stubbornly, as if determined to keep them shut.

"Okay, have it your way. I‘ll be happy to make the recommendation to Commander Chakotay to keep you from duty," he said smugly, trying to look non-committal as he put aside the PADDs.
Tom responded by making a rude gesture.

"I beg your pardon!" the Doctor said, shocked. "Need I remind you that I understand sign-language perfectly - even if they aren‘t proper words in the dictionary to begin with!"
[I want to get out of this place. The ship! It‘s making me claustrophobic. I feel like a rat in a cage! Let me out.] He made a pleading face.

The Doctor sighed. "I know what you mean, Lieutenant. After all, I was trapped in Sickbay for almost two years before we found the mobile emitter. But you know I simply cannot allow it. The impact of all those alien minds will send you into shock."

[Give me the drug, please.] Tom knew he was begging, but he could no longer take the pressure of so many emotions on his mind. But before the Doctor could answer, he turned away, biting down on his knuckles to keep from crying out in frustration. The emotions were so loud suddenly, clouding out everything.
"Lieutenant?" A hand on his shoulder. "Shall I call Lieutenant Tuvok?"

Tom growled and shrugged off the Doctor‘s hand. "No. Leave me alone!" he stalked out of sickbay, the emotions around him like a wild tide in a storm-swept sea.

The faces of crewmembers were a blur around him. He barely registered their greetings or apologies when they didn‘t make it out of his way in time. They stared at his back curiously until he disappeared from sight.

* * *

Rowena watched in satisfaction as the body vaporized in the plasma stream.

Smiling, she tossed her auburn hair and dusted her red and black uniform.

"Lieutenant Elaine Dibbs. Welcome to Voyager." She sighed in pleasure, looking at her new body in the reflection with quiet admiration. Elaine was an attractive woman - in a humanoid way. Her turquoise eyes were a little difficult to perfect. At times the colour slipped to grey - it was difficult to concentrate on such a small area, and it was a dangerous error to make for someone in her position. She had discovered a long time ago that mistaking the colour of a humanoid‘s eyes would blow her cover.

As she walked along the neat corridors of Voyager, she recited the information she acquired from the database of the ship. Remembering complex details such as personal crew history or habits was second nature to her.

Perhaps her excellent photographic memory was an in built mechanism - after all mimicry was everything she did. It helped to remember all things about the person you replaced.

"Hey, Dibbs, don‘t forget poker tonight!" a blue uniformed crewmember informed her as he stepped out from a room.

<Ensign Jacobs. Astroyphysics. Likes French food. she recited. Rowena flashed him an engaging smile. "Why, I didn‘t know you were up to losing tonight, Jacobs?"

Dobbs threw her a grin as he walked down the corridor. "Not tonight, Dibbs! Not tonight!"

Rowena smiled in satisfaction. OF course he was completely fooled. No reason he shouldn‘t be. It was not everyday that you met shape changers who spoke and acted like a person you used to know. Used to know. Rowena laughed shortly.

Finally, she had found a way home!

"Now, all I have to do is find you, Tom Paris," she smiled maliciously.

* * *

1356 hours
Space Station Merana

Neelix studied the map he bought with interest. Maps always held him like a good novel by Pochak. They are like secrets waiting to be exposed, and it always fascinated him how those little dots on it were whole civilisations, waiting to be explored.

"Could I interest you in a map to the Armada?" asked the vendor. Neelix tried to ignore him, but the vendor, a rather insistent (and sleazy looking) Killarite cornered him with a grin.
"No thanks," Neelix started to move away.

"At least think of it as a souvenir! After all the hunt for the Armada is starting in just a week!"

That got his attention. Neelix looked up, perplexed. "The ‚hunt for the Armada‘?"

"They do it every year!" the vendor said (rather exuberantly.) "It‘s why millions of Collaborate Citizens flock to this space station every year around this time! To enter the chase."
"Hmm, fascinating," Neelix commented. "But isn‘t the Armada just a legend, I mean-"

"A legend? Oh, I wouldn‘t demean it like that if I were you! After all, most legends were based on facts! I heard that they detected a fleet of ships - not moving of course - in Ring 219! They wanted to get it then, but they were running low on deuridium. They are going back this year."
"Fascinating," Neelix smiled, "But I have to go now."

After fending off a few protests, Neelix walked towards Voyager‘s Docking Ring, thinking nothing of the incident.

____________March 1999