By Sirap

Part One: Caught in a Lie

     The figure walked slowly down the gray corridor, praying no one would emerge from the shadows. She reached her destination and ran her fingers reverently across the name on the door. Paris. She pressed the chime and the door quickly opened. 

Lieutenant Tom Paris grabbed the arm of the visitor and pulled her inside. “Did anybody see you?”
She was shaking her head, “No one.”

He smiled “Good, I’d hate for anyone to find out about us.”
Ensign Alexandra Monroe smiled back. Her and Tom had been having secret meetings since Voyager had become stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Monroe had been in the Marqui, serving on Chakotay’s ship. The two kept a low profile, they didn’t want anyone to become suspicious; to find out the truth about them.

Alex rubbed her back and Tom quickly noticed. “Is that bothering you again?” he asked.

Alex gave him a rueful smile. “It’s been bothering me since the surgery."

Tom flinched “I suppose I should be glad they banned that by the time I graduated from Starfleet.” He said taking a tricorder out of his medkit. “Take off your shirt.”

Monroe blinked. “Excuse me?”

“I need to examine you. Come on, Alex, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Take it off.”

Rolling her eyes Alex took off her green science tunic and pulled the turtleneck over her head. Tom sat behind her so he was facing her bare back. Running a quick scan he glanced at the results. They were the same as always. Running his hands up her spine he tried to relax the muscles and ease the pain. 

* * * *   

B’Elanna Torres and Harry Kim walked down the corridor to their best friends quarters.   

“I’m telling you, B’Elanna, Tom said he was busy tonight, he already told me he couldn’t come with us to the Holodeck.”

“I know.” B’Elanna said with narrowed eyes. “He’s up to something Harry, since when does Tom Paris stay in when he has the night off?” 
“Maybe you're right,” Harry allowed. “But it really isn’t any of our business… ” Harry trailed off as the beautiful engineer opened the door, without ever pressing the announcer. Harry’s mouth dropped open. B’Elanna quickly turned to see why and felt like she’d been struck. Tom was on the floor with a half naked crewman. Tom jumped up and Alex grabbed her tunic to cover herself up.

“Harry, B’Elanna, I didn’t hear you.” Tom said uncomfortably
B’Elanna abruptly turned and bolted down the hall. Tom took a step forward but didn’t follow. “Well, that was awkward.” Tom said with a faint smile.

Harry laughed nervously. “Yea,…um…I should go, too.” Harry hastily left and the door closed behind him.

Tom turned to Alex who had already put her shirt back on. “That went well,” the young pilot said under his breath.
“I'm guessing they think we’re a couple?”

Tom sat beside her. “Or they think womanizer Paris has struck again.”
“Tom, this is serious.”

He sighed. “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to them tomorrow, they aren’t gossips, I’m sure they won’t tell anyone.”

Alex smiled and kissed Tom on his cheek. “I’m sure you’re right.” Alex agreed. “But I’ve got to go now.”

“What!” Tom exclaimed “We haven’t even begun our meeting.”
“Sorry, Tom.” She called as she headed to the door “I have the late shift.”

Jannie Martin and Kurt Claser watched as Alexandra Monroe snuck out of their Chief Helmsman’s quarters looking more that a little disheveled. The two snickered and headed back on their way.
“Did you see that?” exclaimed Jannie.

“Wait’ll we tell Mahoney!”

* * * *

When Tom walked onto the bridge the next morning he immediately realized something was amiss. He made a side trip to Harry’s station. Leaning across the console, acutely aware of the eyes on him, he whispered “You didn’t tell anyone about last night, did you?”
“Of course not.” Harry replied softly.

“Then why is everyone staring at me?”

Harry only shrugged and the Captain and Chakotay had exited the ready room so Tom had no choice but to head to the conn. Janeway and Chakotay shared a look after Tom was no longer facing them and Harry wondered what was going on. He certainly hadn’t told anyone about Tom and Alex and he knew B’Elanna was never one to gossip.
Tom wasn’t nearly as oblivious as Harry. He figured someone else must have seen Alex when she had exited his quarters that night. Alex wasn’t in the best of conditions when she had left. So now everyone believed they were a couple. Suddenly, Tom smiled, maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It sure would make things a lot easier.

* * * *

The unlucky engineering crew worked as quickly and as efficiently as possible. B’Elanna wasn't in the best of moods. They all worked with their heads down trying not to make eye contact with her, afraid to become her next victim. Most of them could guess why B’Elanna was on the rampage. They'd all heard about Tom and Alex Monroe. 
Apparently, B’Elanna had as well. B’Elanna often claimed she had no romantic interest in Tom but they all remembered her breakdown when Tom broke the warp 10 threshold and the Captain announced he had died due to complications. They could see her feelings for the dashing pilot ran deeper than friendship. And now she was taking her jealousy out on them.

"Vorik!" she cried. If he hadn't been Vulcan, the crew would have sworn he'd shuddered when she called his name. "Have you finished running those diagnostics on the plasma injectors?"

"Not as of ye…"
"Then finish them, we have a schedule to keep. We can…" B’Elanna trailed off and all of Engineering went dead silent as Tom entered. 
He noticed the attention he was getting and smiled "Can I make an entrance, or what?" The crew smiled timidly and went back to work. B’Elanna left Vorik without finishing the sentence and went to the warp core. 

Tom sighed and followed her. "Aren't you even going to say 'hello?'" Tom asked.

B’Elanna turned around smiling widely, falsely. "Hello Tom." Pushing past him she moved to another console. Tom followed her again. 
"About last night…"he began but B’Elanna interrupted "It was entirely my fault, I should have rang the chime, I wanted to surprise you, I suppose I did that, didn’t I? I shouldn't have barged in, and what you do on your night off is your own business, I…"

Tom cleared his throat. "B’Elanna, you're rambling."

She smiled sheepishly and turned away from him. "So you and Ensign Monroe?" she asked vaguely.

"Alex, yes." He hated lying to her, but he could never tell her the truth about what she had walked in on.

"How long?"
"Not long."

"You aren’t being very forthcoming."

Tom smiled "Sorry, but it's weird talking to you, about this."
"Why?" B’Elanna asked honestly. "We're friends, aren't we?"
"Well, yes, but you're a woman."

B’Elanna let out an involuntary giggle, "So I am."
"Look, I came to see you on my lunch break and I really should be getting back to the bridge."

"Of course, we'll talk later."
Tom nodded and left Engineering. The moment the doors shut, B’Elanna's eyes darkened. "Vorik!"

* * * *
Tom had just gotten off duty after working a double shift. Harry had also worked a double shift and was exhausted. Tom didn't even think Harry noticed when he got off on the wrong floor. Monroe was just entering her access code as he reached her quarters. They both entered without a word. Alex took off her jacket and let it drop unceremoniously to the floor before sitting down on her bed to take off her boots.

"We need to talk." Tom began but his combadge chirped, interrupting them.

"Torres to Paris."

Alex smiled and pulled off his badge. She tossed it behind her and it fell somewhere between her bed and the wall.

"Yes, we do." She agreed as she put her short brown hair into a ponytail. "What have you been telling people?"

"I've let them think what they already believe they know."
Monroe nodded. "Me too… so we're a couple now?"

"Looks that way."
Monroe looked Tom up and down. "I could do worse."
He laughed. "You want to come get a drink with me at Sandrines? Make it official?"

Sighing Monroe sat back down and put her boots back on. "It's a date." She agreed, holding out her hand for Tom to help her up. He smiled and as their fingers touched the room exploded with a flash of green light. In an instant it swallowed Tom and Alex, leaving the fading ghost of a shadow in their wake.

* * * *

Tom and Monroe looked around in confusion. One moment they'd been having a conversation in Alex's room and now they were somewhere unfamiliar. A glittering white forcefield sparkled in front of them. The rest of the small cell consisted of bright white walls and floors. Not one crack or scuff mark in existence. There was a white bench protruding from one of the walls and Tom guessed it served as a bed. Turning back around, Tom squinted through the force field. Hundreds of other cells identical to his own were lined up in neat rows, floors and floors of them in an undefinite amount.

"Tom, where are we?" Monroe asked.

"I have no idea." He whispered.

* * * *

Harry Kim wanted to scream. One year on this ship and he hadn't been late once, today, however, he was becoming dangerously close. He knew Tom was probably mad at him for missing breakfast, it was strange that he hadn't commed him yet. Harry rushed off the lift with thirty seconds to spare. To his surprise Ensign Culhane was at the helm instead of Tom. Frowning he went to his station. Despite Tom's laid-back demeanor, Harry knew he'd never been late either.
Chakotay and Janeway chose this time to enter the bridge. Janeway seemed just as surprised as Harry to see Tom wasn't at the helm.
"Mister Kim, where's Lieutenant Paris?" she asked.

"I don't know, Captain. I haven't seen him since yesterday."

"Janeway to Paris…Paris respond." Her frown increased "Computer locate Lt.Paris."

"Lieutenant Paris is in Ensign Monroe's quarters."
Harry's eyes widened and not a few of the bridge officers gave a surprised laugh. Janeway didn't look amused.

"Commander." She said as she headed for the lift, he swiftly followed.
Janeway didn't say a word and Chakotay followed her example. He could see that she was angry.

Janeway only rang the chime twice before ordering the computer to open the door.

When it complied she didn't see what she'd expected. The quarters were empty. The bed was made, the room was spotless, the only thing out of place was the jacket thrown carelessly on the floor. Janeway looked in the bathroom only to find it was empty, as well.
"Chakotay to Paris."

Janeway had looked at him confused but when his voice was echoed a moment later she realized what he was doing. They found Tom's combadge wedged behind the bed.

Janeway was getting worried. She braced herself to ask the question she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know the answer to. "

Computer, how many life forms on board?"

"140 life forms."

Janeway pressed her eyes shut. There were two people missing. She guessed it was Tom Paris and Alexandra Monroe.

"At what time did the number of life forms on the ship change?" Chakotay asked.

"22:00 hours, yesterday."

Janeway made her way to the door, slapping her combadge she got back into command mode. "Janeway to Torres. I need you to run a check on all the internal sensors for 22:00 hours, yesterday."

* * * *

Alex stepped up beside Tom and she too became enthralled with the view. 

"This ship must be massive." Alex mused.

Tom nodded "Which brings up the question: Why didn't we detect it?"
"Maybe it was cloaked."

"Even a cloak on something this vast would have left some kind of signature. I was on the bridge for two shifts yesterday. There was nothing."

Alex nodded. "Then how are we here now?"

Tom began to pace "It must be out of our sensor range."
"Impossible! A transporter could never work at such long range!"
Tom turned to her "We have no idea what these people are capable of." He contradicted.

Tom and Monroe heard clapping. Turning to the forcefield they saw one of their captors. A striking alien woman stood before them. She had long black hair slicked into a ponytail that fell to her waist and ears that ended above her head. She was wearing some kind of jumpsuit. Skin tight and dark violet that began below both shoulders.
"Well done," she said musically. "You're right, we are 300,000 light years from your ship, Agents."

"Agents?" Monroe blurted.

The woman smiled mischievously. "I’m Malesint, and I know all of your secrets." 

"We don't have any secrets." Tom proclaimed.
"I'd almost believe you, you lie so well, but I am a telepath. You cannot deceive me. I know your truth."

"Why have you brought us here?" Alex asked.
"I travel from one galaxy to the next and I take two specimens from each species as I see fit. The best of the best, you might say."
"To what end?" Tom asked stonily.

Malesint smiled. "So serious, I only want to play."
"That word's meaning varies with each species that speaks it. Ranging anywhere from a game of Kadis-Cot to torture, so if you wouldn't mind clarifying." Tom asked pleasantly.

"It's somewhere in between. I have three tests for you."
"And what happens when we finish these tests?" Monroe asked
Malesint frowned, "I don't know, nobody has ever survived all three."
"We will." Tom announced.

"You may be right, and I suppose if you do complete all three tests that your reward will be one wish. Anything you want. But only one, you will need to agree on what it is that you want."
"And if we don't want to take these tests?" Monroe asked.
Malesint gave her a look that clearly said, "you don't have a choice."
"Right." Monroe said "I didn't think that would make a difference."
"Alright then," Malesint smirked, "Let the games begin."

Part Two: Three Tests

Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres felt like she had searched the whole database. "People don't just disappear!" she cried.
Unfortunately, according to internal sensors that was exactly what had happened, one minute Tom and Alex's life signs were present, the next they were gone. B’Elanna only prayed that Tom was all right. She had been devastated when the Captain had told her of his disappearance. Hogan had put his hand on her shoulder and said, "At least they're together." Strangely enough, this hadn't comforted the surly engineer. She'd spent the last two days thinking of ways to keep them apart. Scanning again she looked for any sign of… well anything. A transporter signature or something resembling it. She found nothing. Whatever they were dealing with, it was far outside their realm of knowledge.

* * * * 

Tom and Monroe examined their small cell, Malesint had left without telling them anymore about the tests that they would be forced to take. Now that the two were once again alone, they were searching for an escape.

"She didn't even tell us what our first test was." Monroe said miserably.

"Well, lets hope we aren't here long enough to find out what it is." Tom snapped back.

Tom pried off a piece of the wall. It was the partition opposite the forcefield controls and Tom could see all the wires powering their biggest obstacle, the forcefield.
Monroe looked over briefly as she paced by the jumble of cables. " Cut the purple wire."

Tom smiled and sliced it with a piece of jagged metal from the wall. The forcefield flickered away. He turned to Alex she was smiling smugly.

“You think you’re smart, don’t you?”

“Shouldn’t we be departing?”
“After you,” he said motioning to the egress with his hand.

Monroe checked both ways then stepped into the corridor. On their way many of the roaring prisoners banged on the walls and yelled out in languages they didn’t understand. Without their combadges there was nothing to translate the prisoners words.

“Maybe we should set them free, it would create a diversion,” Tom suggested.

“This isn’t the time and they could be dangerous,” Monroe pointed out. “We worry about us now, them later.”

Tom nodded and they continued on their way. Eventually they came across a colossal doorway, Tom pulled Monroe inside.

“This looks like some kind of control room.” Alex observed. The room consisted of numerous bright white consoles with flashing gray, yellow and orange lights.

Tom sat down at one of the terminals and examined the buttons. ”I’m running a check on our position relative to the Voyagers last known coordinates.” Tom grimaced when he saw the results.

“How bad?” Monroe asked.

“326,027 light years away, Malesint had been telling the truth. There’s no point in sending a message.”

“And if we take a shuttle we’ll never catch up to Voyager.”

“It’s our best bet in any case,” Tom reminded.

“Not necessarily,” Alex mused. “We could return to our cell.”

Tom was silent for a beat, “Excuse me?”

“If we pass all of Malesint’s tests she would grant us one wish. She would be forced to return us home. It’s our only chance, Tom. We’d never get anywhere in some shuttle, if we even made it off the ship alive.”

“And how do we even know Malesint will even keep her word?” Tom queried. 
“What other choice do we have but to hope that she will?”

Tom reluctantly conceded and they headed back to their cell. When they stepped across the threshold Malesint was laying across the single bed and had a wicked grin plastered on her face. The wall Tom had torn apart had been fixed. 

“Congratulations,” she greeted. “You’ve passed the first test.”

“What?” Monroe gasped, “How?”

“You realized escape was futile. If you had stolen a shuttle it would have exploded the moment you left my ship. Most believe that they can escape anything.” Malesint turned her attention to Tom, “They are too cocky. Young and brash.” With a grin she turned her gaze back to Monroe, “You make a good team. I chose well with you.” Stepping out of the cell she reactivated the forcefield.

“You should rest now, the next test shall not be so easy.”

* * * *

Harry sighed and fell back in his chair. Looking at the flashing lights in front of him, he almost got dizzy. He had come down to Engineering to help B’Elanna. Of course their wasn’t much to do considering that there was no record of anything ever happening. Harry was really starting to become worried about Tom and Alex. The whole situation was bazaar, he was even starting to believe not even Tom Paris would be able to handle it.

“KIM!” an angry voice roared.

Harry looked up to see B’Elanna standing before him, her hands on her hips.

“Sleeping on the job?” she asked harshly.

Harry paled, “No sir,” he responded quickly. “I’ll get right back to work.” He said hurriedly. He thought he detected a ghost of a smile on the hot-tempered engineer’s face as she watched him scramble to get back to work, but immediately dismissed the idea.

* * * *

When Tom and Monroe woke up the next day they were no longer in their cell. They were back in Alex’s quarters on Voyager.

“How did we get here?” Tom asked after they shared a long look.

Alex shrugged, “Maybe we never left.”

“Not likely,” Tom said skeptically. “What about Malesint? You remember everything, don’t you?” Monroe nodded. “Then don’t you think it is strange we would both have the same dream? It had to have been real.”

“Anything could have happened. Malesint was telepathic, maybe she has only been testing us in our own minds,” Monroe suggested.

“Perhaps,” he conceded. “But we need to go see the Captain.”

* * * *

Tom and Monroe burst out of the turbolift onto the bridge. Chakotay and Janeway turned and looked at them only slightly amused.

“Mister Paris, you’re late. I was just about to com you.”

“Captain,” Tom said suddenly. “We need to talk, it’s urgent.”

Janeway was quickly on her feet. “Lets go to my ready room,” she said.

The duo obediently followed her through the door.

“What is this about?” Janeway asked, her brow furrowed in concern.

“We’ve been in contact with a telepathic alien, we aren’t sure how.” Alex told her, straight forward as ever.

Janeway wasn’t fazed, she’d seen a lot in her day and it would take more than some telepath communicating with her crew to surprise her. “Was this alien hostile?”

“She sure wasn’t real friendly,” Tom quipped.

“Janeway to Chakotay, bring the ship to yellow alert.”

“Understood,” Chakotay answered confused.

“I want to know exactly what happened.”

Tom and Alex told her everything that may or may not have happened. Janeway listened intently the whole time, her eyes drilling into the two younger officers. “I don’t know what to think.” Janeway said with a sigh. “If it’s true that Malesint is 300,000 light years away the ship shouldn’t be in any danger.”

“Red alert,” Chakotay’s voice rang over the com. “All hands to battle stations.”

“Knock on wood,” Tom mumbled as he followed the two women from the room.

“Report,” Janeway snapped.

“We’re under attack.” Chakotay told her. “It’s the Kazon.”

Tom sighed and headed to the helm. Just what they needed.
The Kazon. 

Monroe went to the science station and relieved the crewman at the post. Janeway sat in her chair. “Tom evasive maneuvers.”

Tom immediately began to avoid the two Kazon warships.

“Harry, try hailing them, Mister Tuvok charge weapons.”

The two Kazon warships swung around Voyager, circling like vultures and managed to trap the Starfleet ship between them. Tom quickly pulled them out, watching their strategy. Their tactics were high above normal. Their techniques were too intellectually complex for the Kazon to have created. Flying the ship with one hand, Tom quickly checked to see if all the life signs were Kazon, they were and his confusion grew. Turning his attention back to the helm he soon learned a feel for the Kazon’s new methods and was then predicting their next moves.

“Still not answering hails,” Harry reported.

Janeway nodded coolly, “Return fire.”

Tom’s mind was still reeling to figure out what was going on. He stole a glance at Monroe she saw him and shrugged. She realized something was wrong too but was as clueless as he was.  

Janeway eventually stood and began to pace, to hyped up to sit. “Tom, I want you to find us an out and jump to warp.”

Tom nodded and resisted the urge to reply with “no problem” he said “Aye, sir,” instead.

However, just as he was about to make the jump Voyager was completely surrounded by a fleet of ships. They were of a design that none of them had seen before.

Janeway fought to keep her jaw from dropping, “Harry, hail them.”

“No answer,” he responded.

“Captain, we need to get out of here,” Chakotay said softly.

“Tom, can you find us a way out?” she asked.

“The nebula,” Tom mused, his eyes becoming brighter.

“What about it?” Janeway snapped.

“We can hit it with phasers and it will cause an explosion…” Monroe burst out from her station catching onto his plan. 

Tom smiled, “It will break a hole in this circle they’ve formed and we’ll be able to get out.”

The ship was rocked again and Janeway almost fell. “Do it,” she ordered.

Tom and Alex both smiled, the same smile as they put their plan into action. They pulled it off as easily as they had explained it. But just as Tom jumped to warp, Voyager was engulfed by a familiar green light and Tom fell down onto cold metal, painfully raising his head he saw Alex beside him.

“Well played.”

Tom knew it was Malesint even before he pulled himself onto his knees. 

“What did you think of my simulation? Realistic, no?”

“Simulation?” Tom echoed.

“You’ve past my second test. The third and final is next. It’s a test of physical endurance, cunning, and fighting skills. Tomorrow, you will face the undefeated Whyley beast. Rest up.” 

Part Three: The Whyley Beast

Janeway sat down at her desk and wrapped her hands around her fourth cup of coffee that morning. Two days and they were no closer to unraveling the mysterious disappearance of her Chief Helmsman and Ensign Monroe.

She was beginning to lose hope.

With all of the trials and puzzles Voyager had been forced to endure and decipher this was the first time Janeway had felt helpless.

Utterly clueless.

She couldn’t charge in guns blazing to rescue her crew because she didn’t know where they were. She couldn’t try diplomacy, try to negotiate because she didn’t know how to contact the abductors.

For the first time in as long as she could remember, she was considering giving up.

Sipping the last drop of savory coffee she stood. She headed to the recycler. Letting the mug slip from her fingers she watched it disappear. Vanish.

Maybe she was being impatient. Probably, the solution to her latest predicament would come to her in time. Tom Paris was a talented young man. Alex Monroe had spent time in the Marqui. Both were capable officers.

She just hoped they were all right.  

* * * *

Monroe and Tom woke up the next morning fatigued and tired. Hearing the forcefield crackle they looked up. It began to glow, forming a wall of blinding light and they quickly shielded their eyes. When the brightness once again dimmed down they saw the forcefield was gone. Where it had been lay an entrance to another world. A jungle. Vines wove their way into the cell, covering the immaculate white walls with greenery and blossoming flowers. 
An inhuman roar sounded through the vastness of green foliage. It was a predatory cry and a shiver ran up Alex’s spine.

“I’m guessing that’s our Whyley beast.” Tom quipped. 

Alex’s green eyes were wide with terror. “We can’t do this Tom,” she whispered. “We won’t be able to defeat it.”

Tom glanced over at her. Together they had seen many things, she’d never before had that look of fear in her eyes.

“Alex, we have to, it’s our only chance to return home.”

“I’m scared,” she whispered, her voice cracking. “We need to escape. We have to get away from here.”

“We can’t.”

“Why not!” she cried. 

“Malesint already told us there is no escape. This is our only chance. I can’t do this without you.”

Monroe nodded shakily, “You’re right, but this won’t be a fair fight, Tom. We don’t even have weapons.”

Tom’s eyes strayed to the circuitry that had created the forcefield.

“We’ll just have to improvise.”

Tom kneeled in front of the wall and once again pried part of it off. He pulled various circuits and conduits and placed them on the floor, he then began to piece them together.

Monroe moved to sit behind him but as she lowered herself to the ground she cried out in pain and grabbed her back. Tom’s head shot up and he left the circuitry on the floor as he went to help her.

“Is it the implant acting up again?” he asked.

Monroe could only nod, her eyes were creased in pain.

Tom lifted up her shirt to examine her back. The skin was angry and swollen.

“I’m cold, Tom,” Monroe whispered.

Tom cursed and tried to push down the panic welling up within him. The implant in her back had been inserted after she had graduated from Starfleet. It was made to increase response time and stimulate the brain. It could make you both react and solve problems quicker. It had been mandatory for everyone in Monroe’s section of the Academy to get the implants but it was banned when side affects began to arise.

Tom took off his jacket and put it on Monroe. Tom knew this might happen someday. The implant was malfunctioning and causing all of Alex’s internal systems to shut down. The only way to stop the degradation would be to remove the implant. The surgery was extremely risky with only a 50% success rate (which is why they had put it off). 

Regardless, Tom knew he needed to get her back to Voyager so the Doctor could perform the surgery. It was Alex’s only hope. Trying to focus his mind, he helped Alex lay down and turned his attention back to the circuitry. He expertly placed the circuits together to form a makeshift phaser.

“What are you doing?” Alex croaked. 

Tom knelt beside her. “I’m going to get us home,” he whispered.

“Don’t leave me,” Alex pleaded softly, grasping his hand. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“I’ll only be gone a moment,” Tom promised. “I need to take care of something, then we can go home. I just need you to hang on for a little while, okay?”

Alex nodded, “I’ll be alright, but don’t be gone too long, I don’t like it here.”

Tom waited for Alex to fall asleep then headed into the jungle, his fingers clenched around the phaser in his hand. He wasn’t sure if it worked, he couldn’t test it either, it might only have enough power for one shot.

He followed a worn dirt path, he could see footprints imbedded in the dark black ground and imagined all those who had walked this road before him. All those aliens who had been brought here against their will and forced into a fight. A fight that they all lost.
Tom covered his nose against the stench as the first signs of destruction began to appear. He came upon half of a blood stained bat’leth, and half of a Klingon skeleton beside it.

Tom trekked on, ignoring the carnage around him. He cautiously stepped out into a clearing and immediately tensed. He was facing a vast forest. About twenty meters away plumage began to get tossed up through the canopy. Something was coming towards him. He raised his phaser. The creature was on the edge of the trees, now. All Tom could see of it was its two red eyes. They were speckled with black and a black slit was slashed down the middle. The eyes were primal and ruthless, suiting of their owner. The beast ripped one of the trees up by the roots and tossed it effortlessly somewhere over Tom’s head, the he stepped into the light…

Tom used all his self-control to keep his phaser and his jaw from dropping to the ground. It stood a good 25 meters and was covered in a layer of matted fur so dark it was almost purple. Its teeth and claws were razor sharp and stained with blood. Even at a distance Tom could see the plaque and cavities in the grotesque yellow canines. Its back and tail were covered with spikes, the same color as his teeth and claws. It threw back its head and let out a guttural cry before turning his blood red eyes back to Tom.

Its tail swung wildly around, its sharp spikes aiming for the pilot. He reaimed his phaser at the ogre. Pressing the button a green ray of energy shot out, hitting the creature in the shoulder. Its pupils seemed to dilate and he let out another roar, it was more predatory than a cry of pain. The beast swung one of his clawed paws at Tom, Tom cried out in pain as the claws ripped through his shoulder. He was knocked to the ground and the phaser slipped from his grasp. The beast made another swipe for Tom but he moved out of the way just in time, rolling across the soft dirt Tom grabbed the phaser. He was on his stomach the phaser clutched in front of him with both hands. 

He was eye to eye with the enormous monster. He pressed the button on the phaser without hesitation. Tom heard it click and a bead of sweat trickled down his forehead.

It didn’t fire.  

Part Four: Promised Wish

Neither of them moved for a moment, then Tom swore and jumped up leaving the useless phaser on the cold ground. He could feel the thing’s piercing eyes burning into him as he ran. Retreating to the trees he picked up a huge branch and held it like a baseball bat. He knew it would cause little damage but wasn’t about to die without a fight. Charging back into the clearing he swung the branch at one of the creature’s furry legs. It was like hitting a stone wall. The Whyley beast never flinched. Tom threw the stick to the ground and avoided another swing of the creatures tail, grimacing at the pain in his shoulder. Picking up a fairly large rock, he launched it at the overgrown rat. The rock slammed straight into its left eye. Before Tom could even congratulate himself at his aim the beast let out a growl fiercer than all the others. It was a blood-curdling scream. A mix of pain and madness. A chill ran down Tom’s spine as he watched the creature charge at him.

Tom’s mind scrambled for an out. He had no more weapons and running would be a useless endeavor, the thing’s legs alone were twice his height. Bending down to pick up another rock, he felt electricity shriek above him. A green phaser blast flew over his, mere inches away, and hit the creature square in the chest. Tom twirled around to see Alex. She was pale and trembling, the phaser was clutched in her hand, hanging limply at her side. She fell to her knees and Tom started towards her stumbling briefly when the ground beneath him shook. He turned slightly towards the beast. It was on its back, its eyes staring unseeing at Tom. He felt a pang of guilt at the death of the creature, he had only been fighting on instincts, Malesint was the true villain. However he turned his attention away from the three tons of monster behind him in favor of a more pressing matter. Alex.

“Are you alright?” Tom asked soothingly.

She nodded, almost imperceptibly. “Your shoulder,” she croaked. Her eyes widening upon seeing the huge claw marks.

“I’m fine,” he assured.
“Yes, you are,” a now familiar voice purred. “Congratulations.”

Tom and Alex both looked up as Malesint entered the clearing, the jungle’s green slowly began to fade, disappearing completely as Malesint reached them. Another barren white room left in its place. Another simulation.

“Now, for your wish? What is it you’d like?”

“To…go…home.” Alex said between coughing fits.

“Ah, but to which home?” Malesint asked slyly. “Do you want me to send you to the Alpha Quadrant or do you wish to return to Voyager?”

Tom and Alex shared a long look, communicating without words.

“Voyager.” They said simultaneously.

In an instant they were back in Alex’s quarters on Voyager. Brought by the mysterious green light. Alex collapsed unconscious into Tom’s arms. Tom grabbed her jacket off the floor, where Alex had left it days ago and hit the combadge.

“Emergency Medical Transport.”

* * * *

Kes’s round blue eyes widened as the two missing crewman materialized at her feet.

“Doctor!” she cried. Quickly getting into action, she helped Tom lift Alex onto one of the biobeds.

The Doctor rushed over to them. “What’s happened?” he questioned, scanning Alex with a tricorder.

“Alex’s implant is malfunctioning, you need to remove it.” Tom cried urgently.

The Doctor nodded, remembering discovering the mysterious device during one of the Ensign’s physicals. The Doctor got to work and Kes pried Tom away from Alex’s bedside so she could heal his shoulder.
* * * *

“Doctor to Janeway.”

“Janeway here.”

“Our missing crewman have returned, Captain,” he announced. “They are with me in sickbay.”

“Their status?” Janeway asked, nervously.

“Both will recover.”

Janeway smiled, “I’ll be right down. Janeway out.”

A flash of light hit Janeways ready room and she was knocked to the floor. Raising her head she saw an unfamiliar alien woman blocking her way out. 

“You aren’t going anywhere yet, Captain. I have much I want to tell you. All the secrets that have been haunting your ship.”

“Who are you?” Janeway demanded.

“My name’s Malesint…”

“You took my crew,” Janeway growled. 

“They were intriguing, I wished to test them. You should be grateful.”

Pulling herself to her feet, Janeway glowered at the woman before her. “Why would I be grateful?” she snapped.

“As I said, I was testing them, Captain. I thought you might want to see the results.”

“I want nothing to do with you.”

“Are you sure? Don’t you want to know all there is to know about your crew? All their secrets? Tom and Alex have many secrets.” Janeway just glared at her. “They scored higher on my tests than anyone else ever has. And they actually lived to be able to tell about it.”

“Humans are resilient,” Janeway said angrily. 
The woman laughed, “Oh, it wasn’t because they were human that they did so well. None of the rest of your crew could have passed all my tests, Captain, yourself included.” Setting down a small data chip, Malesint smiled and disappeared. 

Janeway sighed with relief before turning her attention to the small, orange chip. After staring at it for a long moment, Janeway decided to have a look. Picking it up, she placed it in her console and braced herself…

Part 5: A Secret Best Kept

Alex and Tom appeared on Janeway’s console. They were in a small cell. She could see that they were talking but she couldn’t hear them, Malesint’s voice began to narrate, and continued to as Tom and Alex’s imprisonment played out on the screen.

“I suppose for you to fully understand their secrets, I will need to start at the beginning… 

The three cadets who died at Caldik Prime were not cadets at all. They were thieves, granted they were more than common. The three expert hackers had gotten themselves posted at Caldik Prime under the cover of aliases. Jonathan McLain, Greg Moss, and Julia Cane. They had been sent by someone unknown to kidnap Tom Paris.

It didn’t work out that way, of course, Tom was no ordinary cadet and he caused a few kinks in their flawless plans. Tom had freed himself from the restraints they’d tied him with and he tried to take control of the ship. During the struggle the ship crashed into an asteroid.

Tom was the only survivor.

And what was Caldik Prime? Really? Well, it had some normal classes with oblivious teachers and cadets but the majority of the facility had been dedicated to the Starfleet Special Forces Unit. A secret unit that only a few chosen Admirals know about and everyone else just speculate on.

This is why Tom Paris and Alex Monroe had been at Caldik Prime. Both were placed in the unit because they fit some special ‘criteria’. Alex and Tom were partnered. Alex had been four years older and instructed to help and guide Tom in his training. Tom hadn’t needed much help, he was caught up to Alex’s ability in less than a year. 

So by the time the unsuspecting thieves had come to kidnap the Admiral’s son and hold him for ransom, he was more than prepared to defend himself.”

Janeway’s eyes had gone wide with disbelief, both at Malesint’s words and from watching her pilot battle with a giant rat-like creature.

“If you are wondering why I’ve told you all this,” Malesint’s voice continued. “There is no black and white reason. I suppose I dislike secrets. I like to stir things up. Give my best to Alex and Tom and do what you will with the information I’ve given you.

Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Monroe are highly trained Special Forces operatives.

I just thought you should know.”

The screen went blank. The console clicked as the chip was ejected. Janeway didn’t move. She didn’t blink. She was frozen with shock and disbelief. Plagued with unanswered questions and uncertainty. What would she do with what she had learned?

It was information only privileged to a handful of Admirals. Which brought about another question, did Admiral Paris know? Had he really disowned his son or had it been an act? If it was an act then to what end?

“Doctor to Janeway,” rang the Doctor’s naturally annoyed voice.

Almost unconsciously she replied, “Janeway here.”

“I thought you were on your way to sickbay. According to the computer you’re still in your ready room.”

Janeway pressed her eyes shut, “You’re right, of course, I’ll be right there.”

“That’s what you said last time,” he said with a snort.

“Janeway out,” she said, choosing to ignore his last comment.

Getting shakily to her feet, she tried to compose herself. She exited the ready room and gave Chakotay a slight smile as she made her way to the lift.

“They’re back,” she announced to the bridge.

The turbolift doors began to shut and Janeway heard the bridge irrupt with cheers as they closed. 

* * * *

When the sickbay doors opened Janeway first saw Ensign Monroe. She was unconscious on one of the biobeds but looked well enough. Two beds down, Tom and Kes were talking quietly, they hadn’t seen her come in. She watched them for a moment. Tom looked as he always did, laid back and carefree. Enjoying time with a friend, away from his secret life in the Alpha Quadrant. 

Secrets. Were they really so horrible? Or were they what kept them all sane?

Both Alex and Tom had worked hard to fit in with the crew. What would happen if everyone were to learn the truth?

“Ah, Captain, you’re here,” The Doctor said exiting his office.

“How are they?” Janeway asked.

“They’ll be back to work in a couple days,” he told her.

Janeway gave a small smile, “You did an excellent job, Doctor, thank you.” 

Janeway swallowed and began to approach Tom. Kes saw her coming and gave her an understanding smile and joined the Doctor in his office, leaving them alone.

“How are you, Tom?” she asked softly.

He smiled, “I’m fine, thanks, and so is Alex.”

Completely normal.

A special agent.

“Where have you been?” Janeway asked, not letting on that she already knew.

“We were abducted by someone who called herself Malesint, I can’t be sure of our position.”

Janeway nodded stiffly, “I’ll need you and Alex to write up a full report on everything that happened.”

Tom nodded, still smiling, “Of course.”

Finding his unwavering grin contagious, she couldn’t help but smile back.

“It’s good to have you back, Tom.”

“It’s great to be back,” he sighed. “I commed Harry and B’Elanna, they came to see me. Harry smiled and said he’d missed me, B’Elanna chewed me out for making her worry,” he said the last part with a laugh. 

Tom lay back down with another sigh and said sleepily, “Sometimes I think I take this place for granted.”

Janeway had patted Tom on the shoulder then left without looking back. Had she done the right thing, not revealing what she knew? Keeping their secret? Maybe some day it would come out for all to know, but not yet, not by her.

Some secrets are best kept.