|DISCLAIMER: Paramount Pictures own all the characters in Star Trek Voyager. I‘m just borrowing them to tell a tale or two. This story is used only for entertainment I didn‘t get a cent.
NOTES : Thus ends Log 4: Tantamount of Memories. Keep yourself updated with my notification list – then you’ll know when Log 5: Xi’an is out. Tell me you’re reading this! I wanna know- email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ! Hope you enjoy the story!
Chapter 8…End Game
By Lanna and Sian
[Captain’s Log Stardate 52112.3
Voyager’s six day journey through the Gates had been uneventful. As planned, we had rendezvous with the Meerkat at Gate 0019. In celebration of our safe journey, we invited the Meerkat crew to join us in a small party at the Messhall.]
Neelix bustled around busily, obviously enjoying his role as ambassador. The Meerkat crew mixed easily with the Voyager crew, some laughing at shared jokes. Even Subjuvanal Tara appeared occupied with the Doctor and Seven.
"Legend has it that the Gates will lead people to great, abandoned arrays, huge armadas, lost in the countless maze gates-"
Janeway laughed. "Have you found any yet?"
Anshu, a renowned archaeologist in the Collaborate chuckled.
"Unfortunately, Captain. Nothing that valuable – although, we did stumble upon an abandoned mining operation on an asteroid. I estimate it was abandoned ten millenia ago. The level of technology, Captain- it astounds me! If this race was alive today…"
"Was it the Xyrons?" Janeway asked.
Anshu smiled. "You are familiar with the legend?"
"Legend? I thought it was historical fact."
Anshu chuckled again. "No, no, no. ‘Rain that eats’? ‘Silver plague from the skies’?"
Janeway grinned. "It does sound fanciful – but we met some people that took the Xyrons very seriously."
Anshu’s eyes brightened. "Oh? Who are they?"
Janeway considered before answering. "The Binoms."
Anshu blinked, his beady eyes reflected his disbelief. "The Binoms are another legend, Captain. They became extinct over ten thousand years ago."
"I assure you, they are real." Janeway couldn’t help but smile at Anshu’s befuddlement.
"Amazing!" Anshu whispered, letting the implications set in. "And you have records of this encounter?"
Janeway wondered if she had revealed too much. "All in good time, Dr. Anshu."
Anshu laughed wryly. "Forgive me, Captain – it would be an archaelogists’ dream – especially one from the Collaborate – to find the ruins of the Binom civilisation…they were an amazing civilisation Captain. Legend has it that they were incredibly reclusive, dealing with the outside world only through special emissaries called the ‘k’shanis’." Another chuckle. "The k’shanis were reputed to have special powers, the ability to manipulate minds, fly, what not."
Just then, Neelix came to them with a tray of entrees.
"Caviar?" Janeway asked, surprised.
"Well, at least an approximation of it." Neelix grinned sheepishly. "I used Tremalian frog eggs instead."
Janeway prevented a gag just in time. But she tentatively took one – so did Anshu, with less hesitation.
"May I commend the chef?" Anshu said after a bite. "These are excellent!"
Apparently, Anshu and Neelix shared the same tastebuds because Janeway had trouble swallowing it.
"I can’t help but overhear your conversation about the k’shanis? I remember hearing about the legend back on Space Station Merana. Fascinating tale, Captain!" Neelix beamed. "Apparently the k’shanis were humanoid, chosen to defend and uphold justice – it reminds me of an Earth legend: Knights of the Square table-"
"Round table, Neelix," someone corrected.
Janeway grinned at Chakotay, who looked dashing in his dress uniform. She introduced him to Anshu.
"And what about this I hear about the Xyron Armada?" Neelix continued.
"Another fanciful legend. The Xyrons were apparently defeated by the many races of the Mytis Sector in a secret place somewhere in the Rings. Their fleet of ships and incredible technology is out there some where, floating in space. Many have tried to find the bounty for aeons and failed." Anshu chuckled. "I’m no different from those Treasure Hunters, Captain. I am, after all – after the same treasure. But with a different reason."
"I’m sorry, Doctor," Chakotay interrupted suddenly. "But I may have to steal the Captain for a few moments."
The Doctor didn’t seem to mind. The moment they stepped away, he returned his attention to Neelix, explaining the legends of the distant past.
"It’s about Tom," Chakotay said when they were in a private corner.
Janeway frowned immediately. "B’Elanna told me that he has been having some setbacks. And she’s not the only one who noticed. Even Neelix and Harry commented about his reclusive tendencies."
Chakotay shook his head. "Not setbacks. I think it’s something more serious. Frankly, I feel he should return to counseling."
Janeway’s eyes widened. "What are you saying?"
Chakotay told her about the incident at the messhall.
"What does Tuvok say about his condition?"
"He said he couldn’t detect any abnormalities in him. Whatever it is – there’s still something wrong with him, and he’s not willing to tell us what."
Janeway sneaked a look around the messhall. B’Elanna and Harry sat in one corner, talking in hushed tones. It wouldn’t take her much to guess what they were talking about.
* * *
Rowena stared at her reflection, or rather, the simulated reflection of Ensign Dibbs, now a month dead.
"Is this how you look when you’re trapped and cornered, ensign?" she asked the reflection. It furrowed its brows in response.
She turned and regarded the group that he had gathered. Unlike Rowena, they had no control over their speech, their actions or their movements. It terrified her – the power he had over them. She did not envy them, nor did she want to look into their eyes. They told her that they were aware of everything that they were forced to do and it sickened her. Perhaps this ‘freedom’ she has is a form of warning from him. Or perhaps he could not control her the way he did with Tuvok and Vorik. But whatever the reason, she would not chance an attempt to test her theory.
It frustrated her. It frightened her. She was used to being in control.
But how can you control something you don’t understand?
<How can you indeed?
Rowena jumped. Somehow, he could always take her unawares.
And he never speaks. It’s almost as if he found the act of speech disdainful and troublesome.
He walked towards her, his blue eyes studying her. She couldn’t read what lay behind those eyes. But she knew he wasn’t the type to be trifled with.
"Tuvok has completed what he needs to do. Vorik has built what you needed. What else do you want?" Rowena hated how the question turned into a plea.
<May I remind you that you should understand that I have your fate in my hands. A blonde eyebrow lifted. <I know what you’re planning. I know you desire escape. Perhaps I can rig an escape for you…the way you gave Ensign Dibbs an ‘escape’?
A sardonic smile.
Rowena shivered. "I know what you can do. I’m not stupid. I know you wiped Tom’s memory of me. So I’m not ungrateful." Her lips thinned. "I know I am in your debt," she spat.
<Good. So we will proceed as planned.
He gave Tuvok and Vorik one look. They returned his look with pained eyes. Eyes Rowena have fought not to look into since this nightmare began.
* * *
Two hours have passed since the last envoy from the Collaborate had left.
However, the mostly darkened messhall was still peopled by a few late hangers.
Carey counted four…there was Freddie Bristow, trying to charm up Megan Delaney, who was unsuccessfully trying to maintain an interest in the conversation. Then there was Baytart with Henley…interesting. Henley didn’t look happy either, emphasizing her dissatisfaction with violent arm motions. Baytart however, was trying his best to appear sanguine about what she was saying, but Carey could see the pilot’s feet fidgeting nervously under the table. Then there was Sarah Delaine sitting by herself as usual, studying her PADD attentively while sipping her coffee. Carey had tried to encourage her to go for a lunch date with a certain Ensign in Astrometrics who was interested in her, but his kind suggestions were only returned with a glare. Sometimes Delaine reminded him of B’Elanna. B’Elanna in a permanent bad mood that is. She made Seven look friendly. And then, right at the far end of the messhall, where the lights were dim was-
"Tom," he remarked, smiling. Tom was sitting at his table alone, downing a glass of what appeared to be synthehol.
He hadn’t had time to catch up with Tom after his recovery. He did visit him once in a while when he was recuperating, but didn’t engage him in much heavy conversation because Tom tired easily. After his release from sickbay, Carey lost contact with him. Tom’s reclusive tendencies didn’t make it easier for socialising with him either. He had changed from a man who could hardly get enough of people’s company, to a person who would rather not have company at all. <Now that’s another sign that should make people worried, Carey thought as he noticed two empty bottles on Paris’ table. Two empty bottles of synthehol always meant depression or celebration, and judging from Tom’s isolation in the corner, Carey guessed that it was the former.
Usually he wasn’t the type to butt in, but... Sighing, Carey made his way to Tom’s table, vaguely wondering if he was making a mistake.
Tom did not even look up when he approached the table. Instead, he reached mechanically to a bottle and poured another glass of gold tinged synthehol.
Carey frowned when he caught a whiff of alcohol and then eyed the liquid in Tom’s glass.
"Tom…is that scotch you’re drinking?"
Tom did not even glance his way. He merely lifted his glass and drank. Not sip. It took almost half a minute for Tom to finish the glass, and he didn’t even pause in his efforts to consume the liquor. Carey couldn’t help but wince. Scotch was one of Earth’s more potent liquors.
"Tom?" he asked tentatively when the lieutenant finally finished his drink. This time, Tom spared him a glance.
"Are you alright?"
Tom did not answer. He merely gave Carey a look that said he wasn’t welcomed.
Carey shifted his gaze to the bottles. "Frankly, two bottles is an overkill, Paris. Mind if I take a seat?"
Tom did not answer. Instead he merely turned away and poured himself another.
Shrugging, Carey took that as a yes and watched uncomfortably as Tom downed the next glass. Some of the amber liquid dribbled down his chin. Tom didn’t seem to notice. He wondered if it was time to call the Doctor. Or Security.
Tom shifted his eyes abruptly to him, his blue eyes cold. It didn’t take much for Carey to guess that Tom had read his mind. Carey shuddered. Tom’s mental abilities…sometimes Carey wondered if Tom’s isolation was self-imposed or merely the crew’s reaction to his newfound mental abilities? But no, Voyager was not a home of narrow-minded cretins.
"What do you want, Carey?" he said gruffly.
Carey merely met the pilot’s glare steadily. If Tom thought that Joe Carey was easily intimidated, he was sadly mistaken.
"I’m doing this as a friend, Tom." At that, he quickly reached out and grabbed the bottle. Tom glared at him, his blue eyes narrowing into slits. For a moment, Carey almost lost his nerve (and even considered giving the bottle back, imagine that!). But he reminded himself that this was Tom. Drunk or not, Tom was still his friend. "Tom, I think you’ve had enough," he said as firmly as possible.
"I suggest you return the bottle to me. I paid good rations for it."
Tom said, his voice low and soft.
"I’m sure you did. Especially since there’s a liquor ban on all replicators. Mind telling me how you managed bypassing the protocols?" The look on Tom’s face after his comment was enough to make him pause. Frankly, Carey had never seen Tom …drunk before. If that was what you could call it. No…Tom was more menacing than drunk.
"Damn it Carey! If I want to be depressed, I have a right to be!"
The blinding pain in his head caught him by surprise, and he nearly dropped the bottle. Grunting in pain, he grabbed the table for support as his world spun around him. Tom’s face flashed before his eyes, and he could not believe what he saw-
As suddenly as it came, the pain disappeared. When he dared to open his eyes, Tom’s shocked expression greeted him.
"Carey I’m-" Tom stuttered.
"Never mind, Paris, I’ll do what you say." Carey snapped, turning on his heel and leaving him alone. But he shivered. All he could see was the slight smile curving Tom’s lips when his head had exploded in pain.
* * *
"I’m pretty sure, Sam."
Samantha Wildman shook her head, quickening her steps to Astrometrics.
"Joe, this is Tom we’re talking about."
He huffed, unconvinced.
"Then explain that smile."
Samantha sighed and stopped. This time she faced the engineer with her arm crossed. Naomi had a bout of stomach flu and had to be taken to sickbay last night. Her reports were overdue, and Seven of Nine demanded her help in Astrometrics. Today was a fresh new day. Couldn’t it begin trouble free for once?
"He has been under a lot of stress-"
"Stress doesn’t make you attack someone like that," Joe Carey snapped.
"That smile, Sam. It was pure malice. I know Tom did that to my head."
"Come on, Joe. Not you too!"
"What do you mean ‘not you too?’" Carey said defensively.
Fearing she was making things worse, Samantha said quietly: "People have been talking."
"Talking? About Tom, you mean?"
"Yeah, that he is…dangerous."
Carey snorted. "I can’t blame them for thinking that way."
"Joe Carey. I can’t believe you said that." Samantha fixed her blue eyes sternly on him.
In spite of his beliefs, Carey blushed. "Sam-" "You of all people know what he went through."
"Sure. But remember that time when he took control of Neelix so that he could beam down onto Merana?"
"That was a rumour," she said pointedly.
"No, that wasn’t," he said just as firmly. "I heard Neelix talking about
it to Tuvok. Don’t look at me that way Sam. I wasn’t eavesdropping, I happened to walk past them in the corridor-"
Samantha didn’t look convinced.
"Look, Sam. Tom is my friend. I care for him. But despite all that, I can’t ignore the fact that Tom is acting weird. He’s avoiding people. He is drinking. He looks edgy. He needs help! And unless he gets it, he is a danger to the ship and its crew!"
"Is that right?"
Carey and Samantha froze, then looked tentatively behind.
B’Elanna stood stiffly in the doorway. Carey couldn’t read her expression. He couldn’t tell whether she was upset or angry. Maybe both. Most certainly angry. "What’s this I hear about him drinking?" B’Elanna demanded.
"B’Elanna-" Samantha began feebly.
"Quiet, Samantha! I want to hear it from Carey. Well?" she demanded brusquely.
Swallowing, Carey told her. "I saw Tom- after the party. He was working on a couple bottles of scotch. Not sythehol. The real thing. I actually took a bottle away from him and he was none too happy. Let’s just say he gave me instant migraine." Tried as he might, he couldn’t keep sarcasm from his voice.
"Not a word about this gets out of this hall, got it?" B’Elanna trained her dark eyes on Carey’s.
Carey glowered. "Look B’Elanna, I understand you want to protect Tom, but he needs-"
"Help? I know. Damn it, I know more than you think!" she snapped.
"And you’re not doing anything about it?" he demanded.
"Joe!" Samantha hissed.
"Just do what I say, Joe," B’Elanna said, her voice low. "Please," she whispered a moment later. "I…Tom and I can handle this. I don’t need people interfering with this to make things worse, got that?" she gave Carey a steely glare.
"Aye sir," he replied sardonically.
She barely acknowledged his slight. With that, she turned and walked out of the mess hall.
Sighing, Samantha Wildman got out of her seat. Giving Carey an annoyed look, she ran after the half-Klingon.
"B’Elanna!" Samantha called.
"Leave me alone," she growled.
"Whatever Joe said - he was just exaggerating," Samantha said sympathetically.
B’Elanna paused, looking at Samantha. She gave her a weak smile. "You don’t know how many times I told myself that."
"B’Elanna…" Samantha sighed, frankly at loss for words.
"I don’t know what to think, Sam. Tom was alright at his party two weeks ago. Then he suddenly changed. He’s become more edgy. More anxious. And he’s avoiding people like Joe said. He’s going through a lot of adjustments, Sam. He can’t be Mr. Popular overnight! But hurting people?" B’Elanna snorted. "Tom would never hurt anyone!"
"I know that, B’Elanna," Samantha assured her.
B’Elanna was quiet for a while. "But that doesn’t change anything."
"That something is bothering Tom. And he is not telling me. Nor does he plan to. And I know the Voyager rumour-mill will help make his problems shipwide knowledge now," she said bitterly.
Samantha placed her arm around B’Elanna’s shoulders. "Like you said, he’s going through some adjustments. Give him some time."
"I hope so, Sam. I hope time is all he needs."
* * *
<They’re talking about me
The messhall was crowded with the breakfast crowd. Neelix moved from table
to table, carrying a tray of green, worm-like vegetables, eagerly scooping some onto every plate he could find. Most did not share his enthusiasm. "Good Morning with Neelix" droned in the background. From somewhere, Naomi Wildman’s piping laughter could be heard.
Tom found the noise unbearable.
He sat alone at a darkened corner of the messhall, scrupulously avoiding the crowd, hoping no one would notice him because he was not much for conversation that morning. Harry, Chakotay, Janeway and Tuvok, all notoriously regular patrons of the messhall at this hour, were suspiciously missing.
He lifted his mug of coffee with a shaking hand.
They were obviously in conference. About what? Something, he, a fellow senior officer was not privy to, that’s what.
<You obviously need help, Tom. Get help Strangely, his sister’s voice spoke to him.
<That’s the sorriest reason, I’ve heard, son came Admiral Paris.
Tom buried his face in his hands and sighed heavily. He drank too much yesterday, and as a result he lost control and did something he thought he would never do – he lashed out in anger. He winced at the memory of Carey’s pained expression and the look of betrayal etched on the engineer’s face.
"Good morning, Tom! Care for some urtuku?"
Tom winced at Neelix’s cheery voice. It grated on his nerves like a laser scalpel on bare bone.
"I don’t think so, Neelix," Tom answered, hoping he would go away.
But he should have known better. "No" never stopped the Talaxian before.
"Just try some, Tom. You obviously need some vitamins in your body, and urtuku is rich with them. " Neelix frowned and studied Tom’s face. "You don’t look very well, Tom-"
"Leave me alone, Neelix," he pleaded.
"Just leave me alone!" he snapped.
Naomi Wildman screamed. Tom jumped, blinking furiously. He saw the doors to the messhall slide open and Security personnel enter. Seven of Nine watched him with a frown on her beautiful face, her blue eyes sharp with tension. Megan Delaney stood a few feet away, her mouth open in shock. Tom’s hand felt cool, wet.
And someone else was screaming.
He froze as realisation hit.
Neelix. Neelix was screaming. In agony.
Tom jerked his hand away from the knife, and stared at it in shock.
It was covered in blood.
He looked up. He tried to tell Neelix that he was sorry, that it was not him, that he did not mean it...
The Security team trained their phasers on him.
"Come with us, Lieutenant."
Tom could only stare at Neelix as they escorted him from the messhall. For a moment, his control over his mental barriers slipped, and Tom could feel the full force of Neelix’ horror wash over him.
* * *
[Personal Log. Stardate 53115.9.
How’re you doin’?
Guess what? I’m in prison again. Can I say the word ‘again’ once more?
I guess Tuvok didn’t take my recommendation to paint the walls pink seriously. But at least I have the token security guard to look at once in a while.I’m scared.
I blacked out again today. This time...I had buried my bread knife in his palm. Through his palm and the table, to be exact. I had pinned his hand to the table with a bread knife! And I don’t remember a single thing about it.
I’m trapped, Dad. Trapped. My mind is running in circles. It’s scattered. I know that I have something in that, and me something is taking over me. Either that, or I’m going crazy. I’m not surprised if I’m crazy, what with an extra lobe and all that. But I’m losing myself, and one day I’ll sleep and I’ll never wake up. I’ll just cease to exist, just like that. And I can’t tell anyone. He’ll hurt me. He’ll hurt everyone.
I don’t know what went wrong between us dad. Maybe it was me. But somewhere inside me, I wish you were here. Crazy isn’t it? At least I know how you’d react.
Please forgive me dad, for everything I’ve done. And for everything I would do. ]
Tom looked up from his PADD and tucked it away self-consciously. He got to his feet and placed his hands stiffly at his sides, feeling strangely awkward.
Janeway looked exhausted. Between triple shifts, Gate jumping and trying to keep morale high enough at the prospect of facing yet another failure in reaching the Alpha Quadrant, Tom couldn’t blame her.
"Would you mind explaining to me what happened?"
Her tone was casual, almost concerned.
How was he supposed to answer? Wish I could Ma’am, but I don’t remember? How was that going to sound?
"How’s Neelix?" he tried instead.
"Recovering. His hand needed surgery to repair some damaged nerves. But he’ll regain full use of it."
If that was supposed to make him feel guilty, it worked.
"You haven’t answered my question." Janeway looked pointedly at him.
"I got angry," Tom answered without thinking.
Janeway raised an eyebrow. It was a rare thing to see on her. When she did that, it usually meant utter, complete surprise. "So you decided to skewer his hand to the table?" Now she looked disappointed.
Tom didn’t answer. Instead, he looked away and sat down, keeping his eyes to the wall.
"Tom, I know that you’ve been through a terrible ordeal. I understand the emotional scars that you have. The Doctor told me that you have had severe mood swings, and at times you have been violent. He believes it was the side effect of your ‘mental’ abilities. But he told me you had recovered, and his reports even stated that you were back to normal. When you injure a member of this crew, it’s a serious offence, and I do not have the liberty to let you off because of your history." Janeway paused, then continued. "Is there something you want to tell us, Lieutenant?"
Tom closed his eyes. <Well, Ma’am, Voyager is in danger, but the entity that’s controlling me threatens to harm someone if I tell. No Biggie.
"There’s nothing to tell." It was the most difficult sentence he had ever uttered. Inside, he ached desperately to tell her – but if he had tried, like he had tried with Chakotay – the results would’ve been the same. He would’ve been stopped.
"I see." Like the Doctor, she was unconvinced. "I have seen with my own eyes how tired you have been. There were concerns raised about your health."
"The meeting this morning?"
Janeway stiffened. But she didn’t attempt to lie to him. She merely nodded. "The Doctor will come down to perform a medical check up on you soon," she said, her voice surprisingly gentle. "I know this isn’t like you, Tom, and it would be easier if you would tell us what is wrong," she stressed on the last three words, her voice a plea. "Don’t make me order you to tell the truth, Lieutenant," she said after Tom didn’t answer.
Tom wanted to laugh. He threw Janeway a glance. "What makes you think I will obey?"
Tom could see her forehead wrinkle in suppressed anger, and he felt immediately mortified. What in the world made him say that? Like his blackouts, he seemed to be losing control over his vocal chords too.
"I’m sorry," he whispered, returning his gaze to the wall. He was just too tired to reason out his behavior. "Just keep me here for a few days. I deserve it."
Silence. Then, Janeway spoke. "Tom, you’ll spend two days in the brig, no more, no less. And that is only if the Doctor cannot find anything medically wrong with you. After you’re released, you’ll be taken off duty and you’re going back to counseling, understood?"
She was stern, yet he could detect an edge of concern in her voice. She was a good Captain. In many ways, he didn’t deserve her kindness. "Understood."
He listened to her footsteps fade away. He forced tears of frustration from his eyes and buried his face in his hands.
* * *
Tom paced restlessly in his cell. Left to Right. Right to Left. The security personnel weren’t much to talk to. He had tried wheedling out the latest gossip from the both of them, but they only returned stares.
Tom sighed. He couldn’t sleep. He didn’t dare to. <What if I sleep and never wake up? Just cease to exist, just like that? He sat on his bunk, resting his aching legs. <I need to warn Janeway. I need to warn Voyager. Somehow! He turned his gaze to the grey ceiling.
<Can’t think. What I need are stimulants. Maybe I can page Doc for some, he thought wryly.
He looked up, startled to see Harry standing at the doorway.
"You look terrible."
"Why, thanks Harry."
Harry sighed. "You’re lucky the Captain is allowing visitors. I think you’d be bored out of your mind by now if she hadn’t given you this liberty."
"Yep, your visits are the highlight of my life, Harry," he said sarcastically.
He could see that Harry was dying to ask him something. And he did not have to be given a million bars of latinum to guess what it was. He wasn’t prepared to lie though. He didn’t even know the answer to the question himself.
"I’m going to sleep," he said brusquely.
Harry sighed. He looked as if he wanted to pursue the matter further, but decided not to. "Yeah, it’ll do you good. You look like hell."
"Oh? Must be the grey walls. They don’t complement my skin tone very well," he quipped.
"Be serious, Tom!" Harry snapped. Harry’s seemingly infinite patience had apparently died. "If the walls were painted bright pink you will still look grey! You’re sick. You’re depressed. And you have been acting erratically for the past few days. Let’s not mention today’s incident. And frankly, not telling us why is driving everyone up the wall. Especially B’Elanna."
Tom felt a twinge of guilt at the mention of her name.
"I’m fine." How many times had he lied to people today? "And I’m now going to catch up on my beauty sleep, if you don’t mind."
"You can lie to me. But don’t do that to B’Elanna. She…loves you, Tom."
"Do you think I don’t know that?!" he snapped.
Harry’s back stiffened at his tone, but he refused to back down. "Then tell us what’s wrong with you!" his voice rose.
"I’m a nurse, Harry. Not a psychiatrist, he growled. Without another word, he settled on the bed, his back to Harry. How he wanted to warn Harry – stay back, don’t come near, I’m dangerous – but he remembered B’Elanna’s severed head and shivered.
He heard Harry sigh then footsteps moving away from him.
He got up after a while and sat on the bunk, watching the security personnel change shifts, but that was about the most exciting thing that happened that night. He spent his night on the first day of his sentence staring at the grey walls of the brig.
* * *
Hey, Dad. This is Day 2, 34 hours into my sentence.
I feel really sick suddenly.
[Pause, heavy breathing]
Remember the time I ate a normet peach and had a really bad allergic reaction to it? Well, I feel like that now. Magnify it twenty times and you’ll know what I’m feeling. I started feeling sick about an hour ago, but I’m a trooper. I won’t complain. Besides, it’s probably the prison rations they’re giving me. Neelix is probably overdoing his leola root stew just for revenge.
Ugh, thinking about it makes me dizzier.
I just want to tell you something, Dad. Janeway. She’s one heck of a Captain. I want to thank you for suggesting to her that she should be a Captain. I don’t know where I’d be if she wasn’t Captain of Voyager. Probably still on Earth, bumming my life away.]
The PADD clattered on the floor.
Tom cursed as his vision swam dangerously.
"Are you alright in there?"
Who was it calling him this time?
"I’m fine," he answered automatically. "Neelix overdid his Leola root stew."
In his hazy vision, he saw the security personnel nod.
He managed to stumble to the basin and wash his face.
"Hey." He managed to say.
But she just stood there, her hands stiffly at her sides, her expression unreadable.
"Let me guess, you’re mad at me too?"
B’Elanna looked away: her knee-jerk reaction to uncertainty. "I don’t know," she admitted.
Tom shrugged and sat down on the bunk.
"That’s all you’re going to do? Shrug? Don’t you feel anything about what you’ve done?"
Tom looked up. There wasn’t what you would call anger in her eyes, but she looked confused and anxious at the same time. Then with unexpected suddenness, her eyes filled up with tears. She blinked them away furiously.
"Kahless, don’t you know how worried I am about you? How worried others are about you? I refuse to believe that you’ve become a monster that would harm his friends if his soup wasn’t hot enough!"
Tom fell silent. He could only look at the tips of his boots.
"Tom. Damn it, talk to me just this once!"
"Is that what happened?"
"What?" B’Elanna looked more confused now.
"Did I ... hurt Neelix because my soup was cold?"
"What are you saying? That you can’t remember?"
Tom closed his eyes when another wave of dizziness hit him.
"Tom? Are you alright?"
"Fine," he lied, opening his eyes. "Well, was that what he told you?"
"Yes," she answered, but she still looked worried.
He looked at her, his eyes suddenly tearing. He looked away abrubtly, trying to reign in his fear and desperation.
And he hoped somehow, this time he will not be stopped. He turned and faced her, transforming his emotions into messages the way Xiri had. He had no hope that B’Elanna would understand, but he had to warn her somehow!
And his head exploded in pain.
He found himself kneeling on the ground, blood streaming down from his nose. He heard a strange buzz around him- somewhere, there was B’Elanna saying something and then the Doctor.
And he realised that they were beside him. B’Elanna holding him up, the Doctor scanning him.
He wiped his bleeding nose with shaky hands, trying to refocus his running vision. He thought he said something like ‘I’m alright’ to one of them, and from their continued fussing around him, he doubted they believed him.
He felt, rather than heard the presence of the invader in his mind. It was menacing and watching. It didn’t miss his aborted attempt, and like promised, he had paid for his foolish actions.
"Lieutenant Torres, do you mind if you leave us both alone for a moment?"
B’Elanna hesitated, their eyes met, and he saw something in her eyes that made hope flare in his chest. Her dark eyes were confused and frightened yes, but it was lighted with a glimmer of understanding. She was looking at him with a question in her eyes, no longer with accusation.
<Please, B’Elanna, he begged. <Please understand what I tried to say! he knew that his desperate emotions were seeping into her when she blinked back tears.
"Lieutenant, please," the Doctor reminded her firmly.
She nodded brusquely and gave Tom a last look that seemed to say: ‘I’ll be
back’ and left the brig. The Doctor guided him to his bunk and forced him to sit.
"I’m bringing you back to sickbay," the Doctor said quietly.
Tom didn’t answer.
"Do you still have a headache?"
Tom shook his head in denial. He felt something being pressed into his hands. Tissues.
"Thanks," he muttered as he wiped his bloody nose. He winced when the Doctor inspected his neural implant with a probe. The Doctor sighed in bewilderment.
"I believe stress has worsened your condition. And I think part of the stress comes from the secret you’re concealing, am I right Lieutenant?"
"Doctor…I-" he began.
<Don’t be afraid Tom.
"Afraid?" he said out loud, his lips curving into a cynical smile. "Why should I be afraid of you?"
It didn’t surprise him that the brig had disappeared. It didn’t surprise him to see his evil twin either.
<Come now, Tom. You think too ill of me.
"You hurt Neelix. You promised me that you would not hurt anyone!"
* * *
"Tom?" the Doctor asked when the pilot didn’t reply. Tom had stopped abruptly in mid-sentence, his blue eyes fixed on the Doctor, his body stiff. Worried, the Doctor waved a hand before Tom’s face. Nothing. The blue eyes stared vacantly past him.
<Could I be right? the Doctor thought. <Could it be brain damage after all? Have I somehow overlooked a buried injury? If I have, could the damage be irreparable after all?
He took out his medical tricorder, fearing what he would find.
"Did I wander off somewhere?"
The Doctor nearly jumped – if he had nerves, he would’ve yelped in shock.
Tom was looking at him enquiringly, his forehead wrinkled in a frown. Then a slow smile curved his lips.
It made him uncomfortable for some reason.
* * *
<I did not hurt him. You did.
Tom grew cold. He began to shiver and for the first time, he felt truly terrified.
"You’re lying," he protested feebly.
Tom jerked away when he felt cold fingers touch his face.
<I will take care of her, Tom. I will take care of her very well.
That snapped him out of his daze. "You leave B’Elanna alone!" he yelled, taking a step back. "And you’re not going to get this body. Over my dead body!"
<Death is far worse than what I have put aside for you. And I assure you,
you will be taken care of very well.
"The Captain will never let you off for this. You know that, don’t you?" <She is weak. Like you are. Like everything on this ship "Then you underestimate them," Tom backed away once more.
<My kind was the most powerful force in this sector ten thousand years ago. Noone could resist us. What makes you think you could?
Cold fingers touched his face. Tom tried to pull away, but they held him in a vice grip.
<Do not resist me Tom. Or not it will be difficult. And painful.
* * *
"You were…unresponsive for a while." The Doctor began uncertainly.
Tom shrugged. Then winced and made a show of rubbing his forehead.
"Although I have a slight headache."
The Doctor scanned him and frowned. "Your neural readings are up by 20%."
The Doctor sighed, putting away his tricorder. "You need to go to sickbay now. But I would have to recommend security around at all times."
Tom shrugged and smiled. "As you wish."
The Doctor frowned when he felt a presence behind him.
It was Tuvok.
"I must bring Lt. Paris to the Captain now."
"The Captain? I’ve not heard such order. Besides, Lt. Paris is in need of
Tuvok interrupted his tirade.
"Computer, security override Tuvok alpha one."
The Doctor shimmered out of existence.
Tom stepped out, his gaze gradually settling on an unconscious security officer at the far entrance of the brig. He walked casually to the guard, bent down and picked up a fallen phaser.
"What will you do now?" Tuvok asked. His voice was strained, unhappy. He shook visibly, his face contorted with struggle.
Tom merely looked up.
<We must find the Bajoran. And kill him of course. And he smiled.
* * *
Ebran stared at the map in wonder.
"So you found it. So what has that to do with Paris?"
Ebran looked sheepishly at Delaine. "I have no idea, by the Prophets."
"When you go religious on me, I know there’s something bothering you."
"I won’t call it a bother. More like a gut feeling."
"Other than the fact that he’s obviously lost it-"
"It’s more than that," Ebran said quietly. "Eversince that incident with Rya…I don’t know, Delaine, but I just feel that he’s…evil."
This time Delaine couldn’t help but lift her eyebrows. "Excuse me?"
Ebran scowled. "Are you listening or not?"
Delaine lifted her hands up in surrender.
"I feel that he’s harboring something. Like Seska. A Cardassian behind a
"And you’re saying he’s Cardassian?"
"Delaine, weren’t you listening? No, I think he’s something more than
Suddenly, Delaine frowned.
"A forcefield has just been erected around this room," she said in a low, suspicious voice.
Ebran frowned. She was right. He couldn’t go any further from the chair.
<He’s coming for you Tonay.
Startled, he looked around, expecting to see the boy from his dreams by his side. But he only saw Delaine’s puzzled face as she received no response from the comm as she hailed the bridge.
"Can you override it?" he asked Delaine.
Delaine nodded shortly. "It’ll take a while, but it’s not impossible."
"Do it quick, Delaine. We have to get out of here- Tom found me out."
* * *
FIRST OFFICER’S QUARTERS
Chakotay sighed, leaning back on his sofa.
Aside from an impossibly busy day with crew reports and problems, Paris’ unprovoked attack had made an unpleasant break from the monotony of the day. He remembered the secret meeting they had in the morning and how B’Elanna had pleaded for the Captain to do something, anything. They couldn’t come up with a solution then. And then came the attack…perhaps Tom’s troubles are deeper and more worrisome than he thought. Perhaps it’s not even psychological but physical.
Brain damage. Chakotay shuddered.
The Doctor did not refute the theory. Instead he nodded and said, "It’s a likely possibility. Despite my vast medical knowledge, his brain has been altered beyond my comprehension."
B’Elanna had crumpled into her seat, her dark eyes clouded and unreadable.
Janeway had sighed, massaging her forehead – the way she does when she’s up against an impossible problem. He sighed once more and closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep despite the troubling memories. And he was unaware of the slight hissing sound coming from the air vent.
* * *
THE WILDMANS QUARTERS
"And so, the Princess lived happily ever after with the Prince."
"You know, I don’t think that’s possible," Naomi said, lifting herself up in bed.
"What’s not possible is you sleeping. This is the fourth story I’ve read for you tonight!"
"Just one more, Neelix! Please!"
The door to her room opened. Samantha Wildman stood there, her arms folded. "Naomi Wildman, this is way past your bedtime."
"But I’m not tired!" she protested.
"Alright, Naomi," Neelix agreed feebly.
"Neelix, you’re spoiling her," Samantha scolded. But her lips curved into a little smile.
"Neelix, why did Tom hurt you?" Naomi asked suddenly.
Neelix paused, exchanged a look with a startled Sam and then returned a sad glance to Naomi. "Tom…Tom is just not well, Naomi."
"You mean he’s crazy?"
"Naomi, who told you that?" Neelix tried to muster enough shock to cover the agreement he felt inside.
"I heard Freddie Bristow commenting that to Megan Delaney. She wasn’t happy either. So is he crazy?" she asked in a small voice.
Puzzled, both Naomi and Neelix turned to their gaze to the direction of the hall.
"Samantha?" Neelix called out, walking towards the hall.
"Naomi, stay in!"
Startled, Naomi did the opposite. She flung back the covers and ran towards the door. "Neelix, what’s going on?!"
"Stay inside-" then choking noises.
"Neelix!" She ran out. The door swooshed open. She paled when she saw her mom and Neelix sprawled on the floor.
Then she screamed when she saw a white nebulous fog fill the room.
* * *
The red alert flashed dizzily in his swimming vision, the blare of the siren an unbearable cacophony. Gasping, Carey stumbled over the fallen body of a crewman to reach the main controls.
"Computer!" he gasped. "Lock all air vents!"
"Unable to comply. Security authorization required," the computer answered politely.
Security authorization…he had one didn’t he? What was it? A confusing jumble of numbers and words came to his mind.
<I cannot think!
"Carey!" someone called.
"You’re here!" he gasped, hope flared. "We’re under attack –we…must stop-" He didn’t finish the sentence.
The phaser blast caught him straight in the chest. He went down without a sound.
Vorik looked at her from behind his mask. Unlike him, she didn’t need one.
"What shall we do next?" he asked in a strained voice.
Ensign Elaine Dibbs, disguised shapeshifter merely shrugged. "We wait for our next orders."
* * *
THE DELTA FLYER
SHUTTLE BAY 3
"What are you doing here?"
B’Elanna did not have to turn to recognize the imperious tone.
"I’m spending the night here, what does it look like?"
The door slid shut behind her.
"It is not appropriate nor functional. You have your quarters."
"They don’t serve me very well right now," she growled – meaning, get off my case. Now.
Seven didn’t seem to hear that note of warning. Then again she never bothered to heed any in the past.
"I would advice you to move now. I am conducting repairs."
B’Elanna got up, fury simmering within. The incident at the brig had terrified her. The blast of emotions, and how it was viciously cut off by Tom’s attack…it all had a ‘feeling’ of danger written all over it. And then she had looked into Tom’s pained eyes and she almost saw a confirmation to what she thought. Tom was warning her. But about what? She came to the Flyer to think and sort out her conflicting emotions (shaken askew by Tom’s empathic intrusion) and Seven is in her way.
B’Elanna faced the former drone and was about to give her what she thought of her ‘advice’ when the Doctor shimmered between them.
"Doctor?" B’Elanna frowned, her hackles rising in irritation. Doesn’t anyone respect the word ‘privacy’ anymore?
"We have to get out. Now." He stumbled to the controls, activating the Flyer. A faint hum began as the lights of the Flyer came on.
"Get out?" Seven echoed, a pale brow curved in puzzlement.
"I don’t have time to explain I-"
[Doctor. B’Elanna. Seven of Nine. I know you are in the shuttlebay. You will surrender now.]
The voice came over the main comm systems. B’Elanna shivered at the coldness of his voice. And she realised then, that she was right. They were in danger.
* * *
They would not stop shooting.
But Ebran fixed his ears on the invisible boy as he whispered instructions to him.
<In the shuttlebay. The Flyer. Go there now! Escape!
"Where are we going?" Delaine gasped, her hand tightening on the wound on her left arm.
A phaser blast tore out a chunk from the wall behind them.
Delaine tripped and fell. Ebran picked her up brusquely, wincing at her cry of pain as he tugged on her wound.
"Come on, we’ve got to go to the Flyer-"
"You cannot escape, Ebran!" a voice called from behind the cloud of dust in the corridor. "He wouldn’t let you anyway."
"What have I done to you, Dibbs?" Delaine yelled. "Or better yet, how much did he offer you for this little coup of yours?"
Elaine Dibbs appeared. Beside her was Vorik, pointing a phaser at them.
Dibbs smiled. "A trip home."
Then her figure shimmered and melted. With abrupt swiftness, the thing that was Elaine Dibbs changed into a spear and hurled itself towards them- A phaser blast caught it in the air.
A startled shriek filled their ears. The spear lost its shape and fell into a messy puddle on the floor.
It began to form a shape once more.
"Go," Janeway ordered firmly. She was a mess. A tear in her uniform revealed a wound on her shoulder. Her face was grimy and sweaty. "You heard me!" she barked.
"Captain, we can take them together," Delaine said, her eyes hard.
"No, I need you to secure the Flyer and get help!" Janeway snapped. "Now go!" She didn’t have time to explain that the entire crew is unconscious and that she had been locked out from every security protocol by her most trusted advisor Tuvok. And how the warp core is rigged to explode if she tried to take the ship offline. The mutiny had been swift and efficient. <A mutiny? her mind raged. <Why Tuvok? Why?!
<Go, Tonay. She’s right. You cannot fight him. the little boy whispered in his ears.
Ebran pulled Delaine, not giving her a chance to say another word.
Alone in the corridor with Vorik, Janeway stared as the shapeshifter began to take form once more.
"I should’ve placed it on maximum, but I didn’t want to dirty the carpet," Janeway said dryly.
‘Elaine Dibbs’ scowled, but she looked shaken. "He will punish you, you know." She said in a strangely sympathetic tone. "Just like he did with me. And Vorik. And Tuvok. When we refused to obey him."
"What do you mean? Who is behind this?"
"I am, Captain."
Janeway’s grip on the phaser wavered.
"Tom?" she gasped in disbelief, watching the pilot walk casually to her, his blue eyes cold and hard.
Vorik and Dibbs moved aside, placing as much space between them and Tom as
possible. <They fear him. she realised. <Why are you doing this Tom?
<No, not Tom. Not anymore. Tom’s voice echoed in her mind.
And she found herself unable to move, and like a puppet on strings, her hand dropped the phaser. She gasped, trying to wrestle for control over her hand, but it remained stubbornly in the air.
‘Tom’ ran a finger down her face, his blue eyes studying her.
<Thanks to you, the Xyrons will live again. echoed the voice in her head. And she saw images of silver rain. Silver rain that eats.
* * *
<This way! the boy cried desperately.
"I know where the Flyer is!" he snapped at him.
"Who are you talking to?!" Delaine yelled.
"Never mind. It’s too complicating to explain right now-" he stopped in
mid sentence. They were now in the cargo bay – and the Flyer stood there waiting for them.
<We have to warn them, Tonay! Please warn them! the boy cried desperately in his head. He tried to bat the voice away. No time to think- they were now here-
"Come on, Tonay! We have to go now!" Delaine pulled at his arm. But he couldn’t feel it. All he could see was-
She stood there beside the flyer, as real as flesh. But he knew she was not alive. But yet-
"Why did you betray me, Tonay? I thought you loved me?" Yvette asked petulantly, flicking her hair aside the way she did when she was mad.
<Don’t listen to her, Tonay! the boy begged.
"I’m cold Tonay. Where I am, it’s always cold. And dark. And lonely."
Yvette walked to him slowly and then her arms were around his neck, her cold fingers playing with his hair. Then she began to cry, her tears trailing a path down her pale cheeks. "I’m so lonely, Tonay! It hurts me to see you with her. Have you forgotten about me so quickly? Am I so easily forgotten?"
"I’m…I’m sorry Yvette…I-"
"It’s alright, Tonay," and he could smell the decay in her breath. "We can be together at last-"
"-am I not right, Tonay?" said Tom Paris.
Yvette’s face crumbled into dust. Ebran cried out in shock, stumbling back. And reality began to reassert itself once more. He saw Delaine struggling in Tuvok’s grip. B’Elanna and Seven were unconscious on the floor.
Tom Paris approached him, only, Ebran knew that this was the evil that he had suspected all along.
Cold fingers gripped his chin. He tried to pull away, but to his shock, he couldn’t. His body was paralysed.
<You have been spying on me. I could feel your eyes on me, probing me, seeking me out. But you did not do it alone. the voice echoed in his head. Tom frowned, his blue eyes turning predatory. <Who is it?
The image of the boy came unbidden in his mind. Too late, he tried to pull it back.
<A boy. Impressive. By using his subconscious, he attempted to warn you without my knowledge. But it wasn’t enough. If only Tom had more control over his k’shani abilities…things would’ve turned out differently then, don’t you think?
Ebran paled. ‘Tom’s’ voice rang in his mind and failure had never weighed more heavily in his heart until then.
The boy was Tom.
The realisation brought relief and horror at the same time. Relief in knowing that he was not crazy, horror that he had heeded Tom’s desperate warning too late.
<Come now. It wasn’t your fault. After all, Tom had no control over his abilities. But you have.
Ebran realised what it wanted from him, and he recoiled from the thought. He wanted to beg and scream, but the Bajoran pride that saw through countless Cardassian atrocities would not let him.
"I won’t let you use me like you did Tuvok and Vorik!" he hissed, trying vainly to move away.
It only looked at him sadly.
<Alas, then you must suffer like Tuvok and Vorik.
End of Log 4. Next: Log 5- The Xyron Armada.