Disclaimer and summary: See part 1

Part Twenty-Three


Tom was standing by the helm console in Engineering, retracing
the path Voyager had flown from the planet the rest of the crew
was stranded on. He also kept an eye on the two alien ships,
which were following Voyager, but hadn't yet attacked them for
some reason. The doctor had told him and Chakotay that they
had GenA to thank for that.

Chakotay. Tom cast a quick glance at the first officer who lay by
the wall on the cot that the doctor had gotten for them. Out of
necessity, Tom and Chakotay had agreed to take turns sleeping.
Even at warp eight, it would take them a couple of days to reach
the planet and they knew that they couldn't stay awake for that
long. And although the doctor didn't need any sleep, he wasn't a

Tom knew that it was essential that they took turns piloting, but
he missed the sound of his lover's voice and his presence. It
amazed him how that he and Chakotay had worked together for
years and yet, not once in all that time had he missed Chakotay's
company when the other man wasn't there.

However, now that they had become lovers, Tom keenly felt the
absence of Chakotay.

Checking Voyager's course and the status of the alien ships, Tom
puzzled over why it would make such a difference. He thought
back over the years and remembered all the times Chakotay had
been away from the bridge during alpha shift and how he felt
about that. He frowned slightly as he recalled the way he
instantly repressed his reactions to Chakotay's absence.

Probing deeper into his subconscious, Tom suddenly realized the
truth and acknowledged what he had always denied in the past.
He didn't just *miss* Chakotay when the other man wasn't on
the bridge with him, he was downright uncomfortable not having
Chakotay sitting behind him.

In spite of his and Chakotay's differences and the animosity
between them early on, Tom knew that the commander would
never let that interfere on their working relationship. It had
always made Tom feel safe to have Chakotay sitting behind him
because he knew that the other man would watch his back if

Tom was brought out of his musings when he received an order
from SicA through the device implanted in the base of his skull.

#Tom Paris. I want you to come to the "Yuzla" now.#

Tom grimaced at the command. He had *no* intentions of
obeying the alien. He didn't care *how* badly she was going to
punish him for defying her. He was not leaving Voyager under
any circumstances.

Knowing that he didn't have much time before SicA discovered
that he was still on Voyager, Tom made a decision. He turned his
head and looked at the EMH. Seeing what appeared to be
boredom on the hologram's face, Tom called to get his attention.

The doctor abandoned his extremely boring task of keeping an
eye on the imprisoned aliens and turned to Tom. "Yes, Mr.
Paris?" he asked as he approached the pilot.

Tom kept silent until the doctor was standing beside him, then
spoke in a low voice. "There's something you should know," he
started. He ran a hand through his hair to gather his thoughts,
then added, "I should've told you before now, but truthfully, I
didn't want you and Chakotay to know. Now, I don't have a
choice. You need to know."

"What do you need to tell me about?" the doctor asked with a
slight frown.

Tom took a deep breath before he answered. "While SicA held
me prisoner on her ship, she had the doctor put a device in my
head," he said quietly.

"What kind of device? Why didn't I discover it when I scanned
you after you were returned to Voyager?" the doctor asked.

"It allows SicA to give me orders mentally, and it also enables
her to punish me if I disobey her. Or if she feels like it." Tom
paused for an instant, then answered the doctor's second
question. "As to why you didn't find it. Well, I was informed
that the device isn't easily found unless someone's looking for it.
A regular medical scan won't reveal it."

"I'll have to get a medical tricorder and give you a thorough
examination to locate this device and, if possible, remove it," the
doctor remarked. Then it occurred to him that Tom hadn't
wanted him and Chakotay to know about his implant, which
begged the question. "What has made it necessary for me to
know about it *now*? You could just have waited until this
whole mess with the aliens was over and then come to sickbay
and have it removed."

Tom grimaced, then sighed and answered, "SicA just ordered me
to get over on her ship. When I don't arrive, she'll punish me."
Anticipating the doctor's next question, the pilot held up a hand
and continued. "I have a gut feeling that it'll be worse than
anything I can imagine." {And after being held prisoner on the
"Yuzla", I can imagine a *lot*} he thought and ran a hand
through his hair. Then he shook off that unpleasant thought and
added, "I'm pretty sure it'll make me unfit for duty, at least for

The doctor nodded in agreement, then frowned as he thought of
something. "You'll have to tell Commander Chakotay as well,"
he said. Seeing the protest on Tom's face, he added, "If I am
unable to remove the implant, he will need to know in case
you're incapable of concealing the effects of the punishment."

Tom sighed softly, knowing that the doctor was right, but not
liking it. Chakotay would only be concerned and Tom had never
liked worrying the other man. "All right, Doc. I'll put the ship on
automatic pilot and wake Chakotay while you beam to sickbay to
get whatever you need to examine me," he said.

"Very well," the doctor began. Before he could say anything
else, Tom's face twisted in an expression of agony. The
hologram reacted instantly, reaching under the console and
getting out the med kit there. He opened the kit and grabbed the
tricorder, then turned back to Tom in time to see the pilot
removing his hands from the helm. A quick glance at the controls
told the doctor that Tom had put the ship back on automatic pilot.

As he flipped open the medical device and started scanning the
young man, the doctor smiled in approval. "Good thinking,
Lieutenant." When Tom looked at him quizzically, he nodded to
the helm. "Putting Voyager back on automatic pilot."

#End flashback#


A hand on his shoulder startled Tom out of his memories.
Turning his head, he saw the doctor, looking slightly concerned.
"What is it, Doc?"

"You seemed distracted, Mr. Paris," the EMH said. "Are you all

Tom nodded. "Yeah, Doc, I'm fine." He gave a half-smile. "I
was just remembering back a few days."

Having a pretty good idea what the pilot was talking about, the
doctor said, "I'm sorry that I can't remove your implant yet."

Tom shrugged. "Don't worry about it, Doc. I'll manage," he said.
"Remember, we all agreed that Chakotay can't do without the
two of us for the time it'll take to operate on me. If it was just
you *or* me, it wouldn't be a problem, but we can't both be

"I know," the doctor said with the holographic equivalent of a
sigh. After a brief moment's of silence, he changed the subject
completely. "Anyway, the reason I came over is that I checked
the long range sensors and noticed some odd readings that you
might want to take a look at."

Tom turned his attention to his console and checked the sensors.
Seeing what the doctor was talking about, he frowned. "You're
right, this *is* weird." He brought Voyager to a stop, then
looked at the doctor again. "You better go wake up Chakotay. I
think he should see this."

The doctor nodded in agreement, then went over to awaken the


"Kim to Torres."

"What is it, Harry?"

"Voyager's stopped," Harry reported in a puzzled tone of voice.

B'Elanna was silent for a moment, wondering about the reason
for this. She was about to shrug it off when a thought occurred to
her. "Do you think they've discovered us?" she asked.

Harry frowned slightly. "I don't see how they could have. I
mean, we're cloaked," he answered.

"What about our ion trails?" B'Elanna asked. "They could've
spotted those."

Harry considered it for a moment, then said, "The aliens would
only find our ion trails if they knew what to look for, and I doubt
that they are aware of that. You know the ion trails are very faint
and not something you'd look for unless you have reason to
believe it's there."

There was a brief silence on the other end as B'Elanna mulled
over Harry's words. "You're right," she finally said. "All right,
we'll suppose that the aliens hasn't discovered our presence, but
let's keep the possibility in the back of our minds, just in case,"
she added. "How long until we reach Voyager?"

Harry glanced at his console. "Two minutes," he answered.

"All right, tell your people to be ready to board," B'Elanna
ordered. "Then establish contact with Voyager's computer and
be ready to lower her shields so we can beam on board. I'll
inform Tuvok. Torres out."

Harry closed his end of the comm line, then looked at his
companions. "We'll reach Voyager in one minute, thirty
seconds," he said, getting everyone's attention. "The Chief said
to be ready to board the ship." As the others nodded their
acknowledgements of the order, Harry turned back to his
console. With a few commands, he contacted Voyager's
computer. When he tried to access tactical, though, the result was

As the three shuttles neared Voyager, Harry tried to gain further
access to her computer in any way he could think of, with no
success. Finally, when the shuttles reached the starship, he
realized that his attempts were futile and commed B'Elanna
again. "Kim to Torres."

"Yes, Harry?"

"I can't access Voyager's computer," Harry said.

"What do you mean, you can't access the computer?" B'Elanna

"Just what I said. I've established a link to it, but that's all,"
Harry answered. "When I try to do *anything* else, all I get is
'access denied'."

"Security lockouts?" B'Elanna asked in surprise.


"Damn! We can't get on board the ship when the shields are
raised. Got any ideas how to disable those locks, Harry?"

"No," Harry started, then did a double-take. During the
conversation, he had been trying his own access code. He still
hadn't gotten past the lock, but something else had appeared on
his screen. A single sentence. To anyone else, it wouldn't hold
any meaning, but Harry remembered who had said it and when.
{Yes, you did,} he thought as though Tom could actually hear
him. "B'Elanna, I think we can hail Voyager."

"Harry, we don't want to announce our presence to the aliens,"
B'Elanna answered in exasperation.

"I know, Chief, but *Tom* is the one who put these security
locks in place," Harry told her. "I'd say that Tom and the
Commander have somehow managed to regain control of

"What makes you think that?" B'Elanna asked curiously.

"He left a message for me," Harry answered with a smile, never
once taking his eyes off of the words on his screen.