CONFUSING THE MEMORIES
Disclaimer: Voyager, Tommy, Kath and the rest of the crew belong to Paramount. Iím just having fun, - honest. No profit will be made from this story.
Tom walked briskly out of the turbolift and down to his post at the conn. It had been four weeks since heíd first started his counseling sessions with Chakotay and he felt a lot better for it. Heíd been back at the helm for a week now and wondered now how he could have ever not cared if he took the conn again.
It felt wonderful to have all the power and beauty of the sleek little ship under his fingers again - under his control. His fingers fairly flew over his console as he checked to see what lay ahead. They had passed through a fairly hazardous area of space over the past few days, and he had had to be at his best. Swerving the ship around all sorts of obstacles and having to pass through the narrowest of spaces had brought back his complete love of flying. He couldnít wait to get behind the controls of the Delta Flyer again. That would be even better.
Everything was quiet now. Nothing ahead for days. Tomís thoughts began to wander. He frowned a little as he remembered about last night. If it werenít for the strange dreams he was having, everything would be all right. As all right as it ever could be, without Kathryn. The night before had been the fourth night in a row that heíd had the same dream. It wasnít a nightmare. Heíd had plenty of experience with them over the years, and this was nothing like that.
There was a woman in his dreams. Calling to him. Although he couldnít see her, he knew instinctively that it wasnít Kathryn. The voice was soft and ethereal and vaguely familiar, and it was telling him to wake up. Open his eyes and look at her. Each time he managed to rouse himself awake to look around, there was no one there.
It was weird. There was nothing frightening or threatening about the dream, and Tom always felt comforted and at peace. The first two nights, there had only been the voice, but then two nights ago he had felt a hand caressing his face and lips kissing his forehead. Last night, the voice had been much more insistent. Pleading with him to listen. She had something important to tell him.
When heíd awoken, it had been the same as all the other times. There was no one there. Heíd even had the computer check his quarters to make sure. The feel of her hands on his face had been so real. He could have sworn she had kissed his lips. Although it had not been a sexual kiss, Tom still felt guilty that he was having these sorts of dreams about another woman, while he was still grieving for Kathryn. It made him ashamed somehow.
Heíd told Chakotay about the dreams after the second one, at their regular counseling session. That was before there had been any touching or kissing involved. Chakotay had told him it was his subconscious still worrying over Kathryn and heíd wanted to believe him. Even though heíd thought that it wasnít her in the dream. Now he was convinced that it wasnít.
He wondered what to do. Should he speak to Chakotay about it? Chakotay was in the ready room at the moment. He had told him he would only have to go to counseling once a week now but he would be available, if Tom needed him, anytime. Tom knew that he could trust him. He knew that he wouldnít judge him. He decided to speak to him after shift.
He felt some one at his shoulder and looked up expecting to see one of the other pilots, or more probably Chakotay himself. He was surprised to see that nobody was there. Shaking his head he looked down at his console. That had been weird. Almost immediately he felt a breathe on the back of his neck. He jumped and turned around quickly. No one. Gods! He was really letting his imagination run away with him.
"Is everything all right, Ensign?" Tuvok queried. He turned quickly around again to see both Tuvok and Harry looking at him. Harry had a worried frown on his face. "I think so," he answered. "I just thought I felt something."
"Something? Can you be more specific?"
"No," Tom answered shortly. As Tuvok continued to gaze at him unwaveringly, Tom felt the need to explain. "It felt like some one was standing next to me."
"There is no one there, Mr. Paris," Tuvok stated - rather unnecessarily - in Tomís opinion.
"No kidding?" Tom answered. Just for a brief moment that little demon of mischief that was a part of Tomís character, rose up to the surface, but it died down again almost at once. "Sorry, it was just my imagination." He turned back to his controls and concentrated on the readouts.
The urge to look up was unbearable. He would swear that someone was standing on the left side of him. He could see out of the corner of his eye that there was no one there but the feeling was very intense. Gritting his teeth he focused on the console in front of him.
When a hand came down on his shoulder a few moments later, Tom yelled out in surprise.
"Jeez, sorry Tom." Hamilton took a step back. "I just wanted to see if youíd like to go to lunch a little early. Iíll take over for you, if you want."
"I - I - Thanks," Tom stuttered, flushing. "Iím a little jumpy." He stood up and Hamilton slipped into his place.
"I noticed," Hamilton answered dryly. He looked up at him. "Take your time Tom. Iíve got it covered."
"Thanks," Tom said again and headed for the turbolift. Harry, with a questioning look at Tuvok joined him. "Itís all right Har. I donít need you to hold my hand. Iím fine."
"Yeah right," Harry snorted. "And if I want to hold your hand - I will," he said with a grin, grabbing hold of Tomís hand and pulling him into the lift with him. He let go as the doors closed and looked at Tom expectantly. "So, do you want to tell me what just happened?"
Tom shrugged and smiled slightly. "You just held my hand in public and now everyoneís going to start making up steamy stories about us."
"Tom," Harry warned. "Even though Iím glad to see your sense of humor returning, I really think you should tell me what happened on the bridge."
Tomís smile faded. "I donít know. I just kept on feeling that someone was there. Maybe Iíve gone crazy after all."
"You havenít gone crazy Tom," Harry assured him as they stepped out of the turbolift and headed for the mess hall. "Youíre still a little overwrought, thatís all."
Tom snorted. "Thatís just a nice way of saying Iím crazy."
Harry shook his head at him as they entered the mess hall. After Neelix had greeted them effusively and talked them into trying a new type of pie he had made, they sat down.
Tom poked the pie with his fork. "What was in this again?"
Harry shrugged. "I donít think he actually said." They both studied the pie for a few moments in silence. It looked like - well Tom didnít want to think about what it looked like. Harry took a bite and screwed up his face. "Itís quite good actually," he said shuddering and taking a huge gulp of water. He took another fork full and popped it into his mouth.
Shuddering again he swallowed, and took some more. "Come on Tom - try it. Itís delicious," he coaxed, swallowing a huge mouthful. Tom watched in amazement as Harry popped another huge fork full into his mouth and shuddered as he chewed and swallowed.
"Are you kidding me? That tastes delicious?" Tomís eyes opened wide as Harry shoveled in even more.
"Hmmmm!!" Harry answered, his mouth so full that he was finding it difficult to swallow. "Ffmmmph! Try it Tom," Harry managed to say shuddering and shaking.
Tom threw back his head and started to laugh. Watching Harryís face as he shuddered and swallowed increased his laughter. Soon he was holding his sides. Harry grinned back at him and finished swallowing. He started to laugh as well. "It feels kind of funny going down, thatís all. All shivery or something," he explained. "Squirmy," he added. "But it tastes nice."
"Squirmy?" Tom managed to gasp out. "What is it? Gagh pie?"
Harry laughed again. "No. It doesnít taste like Gagh. Itís absolutely delicious. I told you."
"Oh, youíve had Gagh have you?" Tom asked him pointedly, managing to stop laughing.
"No," Harry said sobering a little. "But it wouldnít be Gagh would it? I mean Neelix wouldnít use something like that, would he?" He was starting to look worried now and he poked at the pie in front of him nervously.
Tom tried to keep a straight face. "Who knows with him?"
Harry inspected the pie closely. Now that he had eaten half of it, he could see inside of it. "Tom, thereís - thereís - thereís something m-m-moving in here," his voice ended in a squeal. Tom meanwhile had cut his pie in quarters and was examining the contents closely.
"Um, Harry - keep calm," he warned. "Thereís something alive in here."
"Oh my god!" Harry said turning as white as a sheet. He gripped the tabletop hard.
Tom stabbed viscously with his fork. Holding it up to the light he announced. "Itís a worm of some sort."
"NEELIX!!!!!" Harry screamed.
Neelix came racing over. "What is it Harry? Whatís wrong?"
Harry was now a sickly green. "There are worms in this pie." He swallowed a mouthful of water and then took a few gulps of air.
Neelix nodded, clearly puzzled. "Itís Baldorian Tapeworm Pie. Thereís supposed to be worms in it. Theyíre the main ingredients."
Harry made a small squeaking sound and rushed for the bathroom at the end of the room. Neelix called after him. "Whatís the matter? Donít you like it? Every one said itís delicious." He turned to Tom. "I donít understand. I told you what it was."
Tom shook his head and then chuckled. "You said it was Baldorian Pie. You missed out the bit about the tapeworms."
Neelix looked crestfallen. "But the last time I made it, every one liked it."
Tom patted his arm. "If itís any consolation, Harry liked it too. He said it was delicious."
Neelix sniffed a little, in a good imitation of the Doctor. "He certainly didnít act like he liked it."
Tom chuckled as Neelix went back to his kitchen. God it felt good to laugh again! A flash of guilt passed over him. He shouldnít be happy, laughing as if he didnít have a care in the world. He quickly stood up and made his way to the bathroom, to check on Harry.
Tom turned around abruptly but there was no one behind him. There was hardly anybody in the mess hall yet and he couldnít see anybody that would have called out to him. He cautiously stepped toward the bathroom again.
Tom turned around again and swallowed nervously. What the hell was going on?
Chakotay swallowed his dismay as he watched Tom pacing up and down in front of him. There were often setbacks in counseling but Tom had been doing so well. When Tom had come rushing to him - clearly panicked - saying that he could hear a woman calling to him, and could feel her presence next to him - Chakotay had been concerned. Now he was even more so. Tom insisted that it wasnít Kathryn and whatís more the dreams he had first told him about had now intensified.
Tom stopped his pacing abruptly. "So, oh great and wise counsel, whatís the verdict? Iím crazy? Or completely insane?"
Chakotay shook his head. Heíd gotten to know Tom fairly well over the years, but never more so than in the last few weeks. He knew that Tom was frightened and was trying to use humor to cover the fact. He had been surprised to learn just how vulnerable Tom was under that smart aleck, devil-may-care exterior. Just how passionately Tom felt things. How deep the emotional scares were that he carried around with him. "Neither," he answered quietly. "The voice and the presence that you feel near you is a projection. I think this may be your guilt, manifesting itself on you."
Chakotay nodded. "You said yourself that you feel guilty about dreaming of another woman touching you, kissing you. You were thinking about that this morning just before you felt the presence, werenít you?"
At Tomís nod, he continued. "And in the mess hall. Werenít you feeling guilty about laughing and enjoying yourself? And then suddenly you hear the voice calling to you?"
Tom nodded again, but he looked puzzled. "What about the dreams? Theyíre so real."
"Do you go to bed feeling guilty about Kathryn? Like you used to?"
"Sometimes," Tom admitted. "I try not to. I try to tell myself everything youíve told me."
"It seems as if youíre subconscious is causing this."
"But why Chakotay? Why now?" Tom ran his hands through his hair in agitation. "Everything was starting to get better. You were helping me to cope with this. Why now?"
"You just said it yourself Tom. You were starting to cope. You subconsciously started feeling guilty about coping. Itís a viscous circle, Iím afraid."
Tom looked at him, despair in his eyes. "What am I going to do?"
"Be patient. It will take time. Be prepared for your mind to play some tricks on you. Talk to me. Tell me everything youíre thinking. I want you to come and see me every day, just until we can get you past this small stumbling block. And thatís all it is Tom. Youíve made great progress, so far. Perhaps the Doctor can prescribe something to help you sleep a little better."
Tom nodded. "Iíll go and see him. Thanks Chakotay. I feel a little calmer already."
Chakotay smiled. "All part of the service."
Tuvokís voice filled the room. "Commander Chakotay. Please report to the bridge."
"There are three ships approaching us," Tuvok told them quickly as soon as they entered the bridge. "They are on a direct intercept course."
"Weapons?" Chakotay asked, as he took his seat. Tom hurried down to the helm and took over from Hamilton.
"They have not fired them up so far Commander."
"Letís hope they donít then."
"Tom, slow to half impulse. Harry, open a channel. Letís see if theyíll answer our hails."
"Hailing them," Harry reported. "Commander, theyíre answering."
"Good. On screen." Chakotay stood up and stepped forward. "I am Commander Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager."
"I am First Commander Targa of the Balto. You are about to enter our sector of space, Starship Voyager. What are your intentions?"
"We come in peace. We are simply trying to make our way home. We have a long way to go."
"I see. Then welcome to the Balto. Can we be of assistance?"
"We are interested in trading with you, if you are so inclined."
First Commander Targa smiled in delight. "We would be delighted. Please follow us back to our home planet, where we can give you a proper welcome."
"Thank you. We would be honored."
"Well, they seem friendly enough," Harry commented as soon as the link was terminated.
Chakotay smiled. "Itís nice to find welcoming people. We were getting pretty desperate for food supplies."
Tom looked back at Harry and winked. "I wonder if they have any worms to spare?"
"Tom, Tom. Please wake up. I have to talk to you. I have so much to tell you. Tom, please." Tom mumbled and turned over. The medication the Doctor had given him had made it impossible to open his eyes. The woman was very insistent tonight and he could feel her shaking him. He couldnít climb up out of the depths of sleep though, no matter how hard he tried.
"Oh Tom," the voice said again. "Itís so hard to stay here. I havenít got much time." He could feel her hands on his face, gently caressing his cheeks and forehead. It felt so real. ĎGo awayí, he wanted to say - but he couldnít. He couldnít do or say anything. He wanted to wake up to see if she were really here. It all felt so real.
"Youíre in danger Tom. Youíre all in danger. Please listen to me. I canít stay much longer. Tom, please!"
Tom struggled harder to open his eyes. This was real. There really was some one here with him. It wasnít a dream! Moaning softly he finally managed to open his eyes. He could make out the outline of a woman sitting on the bed next to him. "Computer - lights," he croaked out, struggling to sit up.
He just caught the faint glimpse of long blond hair before the figure disappeared. "Tom," the voice echoed all around him.
Tom jumped out of bed, breathing heavily. "Computer, who was just here?"
ĎPlease restate the question,í the computer instructed.
"Was there anyone else in this room besides me?"
"Damn it!! Check for any residual residue. Check for any anomalous readings."
ĎThere has only been one occupant of these quarters. Ensign Thomas Eugene Paris.í
Tom sank back down on his bed. That had been no dream. He was sure of it. He picked up his commbadge and activated it. "Paris to Torres."
"Tom?" BíElannaís sleepy voice came over the comm channel. "Do you know what time it is?"
"Iím sorry. I - I need your help. Something happened. I - I need you."
"Iíll be right there," BíElanna said quickly and he could hear a rustling as she jumped out of bed.
"Hang on Tom. Iím coming."
"Can you bring your scanning equipment?"
There was a pause. "My what?"
"I need you to scan my room."
The silence was longer. "Iím on my way," she finally answered.
Tom sighed with relief. BíElanna would be able to find out what was going on. If there really had been someone in his quarters. He stood up from the bed and paced around in agitation until there was a beep at his door.
"Okay, so whatís going on?" BíElanna asked as soon as she entered.
Tom told her what he wanted her to do and she quickly started scanning the quarters, watching Tom out of the corner of her eye, the whole time. "Nothing," she finally announced, coming out of the bathroom. "Thereís nothing here but you and me, and thereís been nobody or thing or whatever here except you for the past twenty-four hours. Can I just say though that unless you clean up in there youíre going to have all sorts of nasties growing in the bathroom. Canít you at least hang up your towel?"
Tom couldnít even summon up a smile. Sighing, BíElanna sat on the bed next to him. "Now, will you tell me whatís going on?"
"Sheís here right now, you know." Tom said instead.
"I can feel her. Sheís right there by the bathroom door."
"Well, if sheís got any sense, she wonít go in there."
Tom put his head in his hands. "Iím going crazy," he said, his voice muffled.
"Have you spoken to Chakotay about this?"
Tom nodded. "He thinks itís my guilt manifesting itself." He jumped up from the bed and started pacing in agitation again. "What am I going to do? Chakotay will pull me from the conn for sure, and Iíve just gotten back there."
"The first thing youíre going to do is go and put your robe on," BíElanna said firmly. Her heart gave a little wrench as she realized just how much weight Tom had lost. He was positively thin. "Not that Iím seeing anything I havenít seen before or the sight of you in those skimpy little shorts isnít very - um - nice, but itís a little distracting."
Tom looked down at himself in surprise. Heíd forgotten that he was only wearing the bottoms of his pajamas. He quickly grabbed his robe and pulled it on. "Youíre not exactly dressed yourself, BíElanna," he said with a small grin.
"Yeah well, my pajamas are long and they cover me and - um - shut up." She walked over to the replicator and got them both a cup of coffee. Sitting down at the table she motioned for Tom to join her. "Now, I want you to tell me exactly whatís been going on. Everything."
Tom did and by the time he was finished, BíElanna was shaking her head and frowning. "You never do anything easy do you? Youíre not crazy Tom. Iíve seen a few crazy people in my time and youíre nothing like them."
"Well, after that expert medical opinion, Iíve got nothing to worry about."
"Youíve been spending too much time with the Doc."
"Hey, I could have told you that."
"Seriously Tom. Iím going to run some more intensive scans in here, just to make sure."
"Thereís no point. Itís my imagination."
"Can you still feel her now?"
"No. Sheís gone."
"Tom, you say she seems familiar to you. Do you have any idea who it may be?"
Tom shook his head. "Her voice is familiar, but itís a whisper. Itís too hard to tell. And I only caught a glimpse of long blond hair. I donít know who sheís supposed to represent."
"Long blond hair? Your mother maybe?"
Tom shook his head vehemently. "No way."
"Why not? You said yourself that she makes you feel cared for. Loved."
"Itís not a motherís love. Anyway, sheís too small."
"Small? I thought you said you didnít see her properly."
"I didnít. I just got the impression that she was tiny. Gods, this is hopeless. Why donít we just agree that Iím stark raving mad and be done with it?"
Chakotay watched Tom carefully as he went about his duties at the helm. He didnít know if heíd made the right decision or not letting him remain on duty, but after all, all they were doing was following the Balto to their home planet. Tom had been devastated at the thought of being taken off of the conn again. Chakotay didnít want to do that unless it became absolutely necessary.
"Commander, hereís that list you wanted." Neelix handed him a data padd. "Iíve put all the essential items we need to purchase at the top."
"Thanks Neelix." Chakotay studied the padd. "I donít know whether weíll be able to get all of this, but Iíll try."
Tom called out from the front of the bridge. "Commander, we have to get out of here." His voice was panicked. "Itís a trap."
Chakotay turned to him in surprise. "What are you talking about Tom? Whatís a trap?"
"The Balto. They want the ship. If we donít get away now itíll be too late."
"How do you know this?"
"She told me. Thatís what sheís been trying to warn me against."
Chakotay turned to Harry. "Is there anything showing on the scanners?"
Harry shook his head. "Nothing sir."
Tuvok went up to the security console and looked over Ayallaís shoulder. "All is as it should be Commander."
"Damn it!! Iím not imagining this. I believe her."
"Tom, weíll go into the ready room and discuss this," Chakotay said.
"No. We havenít got time. We have to turn around - now!"
"Tom the Balto are friendly. We need to trade with them. Weíll take all the necessary security precautions before we go into orbit around their planet."
"Itíll be too late by then. Damn it!!! Why wonít you listen to me?" Tom turned back to the console and proceeded to set into motion an abrupt change of course.
Chakotay made a lunge for Tom and managed to drag him away from the console. "Jones, take the conn," he ordered harshly as Tom struggled to break free. Tuvok quickly descended the steps down to them and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch to Tomís neck. Tom sank to the ground. "Damn it!" Chakotay said bitterly, as he knelt down beside Tom. "I should have seen this coming. So much for my great counseling abilities."
"Do not blame yourself, Commander. I too was unsuccessful in helping Ensign Paris," Tuvok said.
"Well, Iím not giving up. This is just a minor setback." He signaled to two other crewmen. "Help me get him to sickbay. Tuvok, you have the bridge. Let me know when we reach the planet."
"Tom, Iím sorry to have caused you so much trouble. They wonít listen though. Theyíre still headed into the danger."
Tom opened his eyes and sat up. Standing, he looked around. Where the hell was he? It certainly wasnít sickbay. There was a white mist all around him, as far as the eye could see. A shrouded figure was emerging from the mist, coming towards him. "Please donít be afraid Tom," she said as she approached.
And Tom knew, even before she pulled the hood back from her face. "Kes?"
"Yes, Tom. Itís me."
"But how? Where?" Tom couldnít believe his eyes. "Is it really you?"
Kes nodded, smiling up at him. "Iíve been trying for so long to reach you. Itís very, very hard to come back to your plane of existence. Iím sorry if I frightened you."
"I thought I was going crazy. Unless - unless - I am crazy and youíre really not here and Iím imagining all this as well."
Kes reached out and took his hand. "Iím here Tom. Itís really me. I donít know how I can convince you. Youíll just have to believe me."
Tom looked around again. "Where are we anyway? And how did I get here?"
"Youíre not really here Tom. Weíre inside your mind. It seems to be the only way I can talk to you properly."
"Oh my god. You mean Iím unconscious or something?"
Kes nodded. "Tuvok nerve pinched you. At the moment youíre lying on a biobed in sickbay and the Doctor and Commander are fussing over you."
"Oh god. Iíve got to let them know Iím all right." Kes started to fade in front of him.
"No Tom," she said frantically, clutching at his hand. "Concentrate on me. We havenít got long. I donít think Iíll be able to contact you again."
Tom turned his attention back to her and she became solid again. "I donít understand Kes. You were trying to warn us against the Balto. Whyíd you pick me to come to? No one would listen to me at the moment. They all think Iím crazy."
"Youíre the only one I could contact. As I told you, itís very, very hard to come here, and even harder to stay for any length of time. It only works at all with someone you felt extremely close to. And they have to be receptive as well. I might have been able to contact the Captain, but that wouldnít have done any good. Sheís no longer on the ship. Youíre the ones that are in danger - not her."
"The Balto," Tom said and as Kes nodded he frowned. "How do you know this?"
"I saw it Tom. I saw them kill you all. Even little Naomi. It was your direct future and I knew I had to stop it." She tried to explain. "Where I exist is another level of awareness, but sometimes, if I concentrate real hard, I can feel you. A few months ago, in your time, I tried to feel how you all were. I was about to move onto another plane again and wanted to feel you one last time, for once I cross that line I can never return. The utter despair I felt coming from both you and the Captain was overwhelming. I could also feel the worry about you from the crew."
"You could feel all that?"
Kes nodded. "I didnít know what had happened and it took me a while to find out. I then looked into your future to see if you would be all right and thatís when I saw what the Balto were planning. Iíve been desperate to try and warn you ever since. Itís been so hard. Many times I almost gave up. The pull of the next plane is becoming stronger. Itís getting harder and harder to resist."
"And itís all been for nothing. They wouldnít listen to me and now weíll be trapped."
"Iím so sorry Tom."
"If I tell them what youíve just told me, they might believe me," Tom said urgently. "Iíve got to try."
"Itís too late Tom," Kes said sadly. "The Balto have already caught Voyager in its net. Thereís no way out."
"God - no," Tom said in despair.
"Why isnít he awake yet?" Chakotay demanded.
"I have no idea," the Doctor answered. He ran the tricorder over Tom, one more time. "Thereís plenty of brain activity there. I donít understand it. He should be awake by now. Just how hard did Tuvok pinch him anyway?"
"It just looked like his normal neck pinch to me."
The Doctor sniffed. "Well, I donít approve of all this Vulcan nerve pinching and mind melding. Iíve made my views on the subject quite plain previously."
"We didnít have a lot of options at the time. Apart from wrestling Tom to the ground and sitting on him until he calmed down - which I would have needed help doing; heís a lot stronger than he looks - this seemed the best choice."
The Doctor sniffed again. "If there is permanent damage, Iíll know who to blame."
"Iím sure you will Doctor." Chakotayís commbadge beeped. "Please report to the bridge, Commander. We are under attack," Tuvokís calm voice announced.
"What? Iím on my way." Chakotay ran from the room and the Doctor sniffing once more turned back to Tom. A few minutes later, he blinked out of existence.
"We are caught in some sort of webbing," Tuvok reported as soon as Chakotay stepped off the turbolift.
"Webbing? Canít we break free?"
"No Commander. Unfortunately we cannot. We have tried. Our weapons are off-line and our shields are not working. The Balto request our unconditional surrender."
Chakotay sank down in his chair in dismay. He couldnít believe that they had been defeated so easily. "Obviously the webbing has some sort of affect on our systems. Have you tried going to warp? It might break us free."
"Our engines are off-line also."
"Life supportís just gone off line," Harry said obviously panicked. "We have fifteen minutes of air at the most. Our back up systems are off line as well."
"Chakotay to engineering. Is there anything you can do, BíElanna?"
He could hear his chief engineer cursing and banging things in the background. "Nothing, damn it Chakotay. Iíve tried everything. I canít get the systems back on line."
"Keep trying," he ordered.
"Sir? The Balto are hailing us," Harry reported.
"Ah, Commander Chakotay of the Starship Voyager. Are you ready to surrender yet?"
"What do you want?" Chakotay ground out.
"Your ship. It is very unique. The shielding is interesting. We can learn a lot from your ships database, I am sure. We can become the greatest warriors in the quadrant with a little help from you. We acquired this webbing from a rather naive race a few months ago and this is its first real test. It also is rather unique. It drains all the power from you and holds you steady while it does it. It works wonderfully, wouldnít you agree?"
"I donít think we have many choices here." Chakotay took a deep breath. "You have our unconditional surrender."
"Wonderful," Targa laughed. "Itís been a pleasure." The viewscreen blinked off.
Chakotay looked around at everyone in surprise. "What just happened?"
"They cut the transmission," Harry answered.
"I donít understand," Chakotay said confused. "Hail them."
"What do you want now?" Targa asked, feigning a yawn. "I thought weíd already said our fond farewells."
"We surrendered. I donít understand. Donít you want to make arrangements for boarding?"
"Not particularly," Targa said carelessly.
Chakotay was at a loss for words. "What do you want us to do?" he finally asked.
"Die. Now that wonít be too hard, will it?"
"Youíre not taking us prisoner?"
"Prisoner? Now why would we want to do that? Very uneconomical. Much better to leave you all there to suffocate. Weíll come aboard, once youíre all dead and then just dispose of all your bodies. Much better, donít you think? Now donít bother us again. Go and lie down somewhere and die quietly. It shouldnít take more than a few more minutes." The viewscreen went black and then the lights went out.
Somebody screamed and someone else started sobbing. Chakotay swallowed hard. Spirits!!!!!
"You should have gone to Neelix," Tom said suddenly. "Chakotay might have listened to him. Neelix would probably have recognized you too. I was so messed up, I thought it was my imagination."
"I couldnít go to Neelix," Kes said sadly. "I wasnít close enough to him."
"What are you saying? Of course you were. You were closer to him than anyone else on this ship. You loved him."
"Thatís true. I will always love him. But I wasnít in love with him Tom. We had drifted apart. I was in love with you."
"You were? No you werenít."
"Believe me, I was Tom. I was too naïve to realize it at first, but I was. I realized that after I had the problem with jumping back in time that we were destined to be together. BíElanna and you were meant to be together first, but then it would be our turn. I changed the future by giving you all foreknowledge of the Kremin, and the Captain and BíElanna - who were both supposed to die - never did."
"The Kremin? I vaguely remember meeting them, but we didnít engage in a battle or anything."
"You were thrown into another timeline. It is too hard to explain and not important now. The point is that I sat back and waited for you. I could see that BíElanna and you were not meant to be together as life long companions. You are too similar. I thought that when you eventually realized this for yourselves that you would then turn to me, as you did before I changed the future. I knew that we would be happy together. We were married with a daughter and grandson in that timeline."
Tom shook his head. "This is unbelievable. But then we met species 8472 and everything changed for you."
Kes nodded. "I discovered that my destiny lay elsewhere entirely. Away from Voyager - away from you. I am being pulled back there now. I canít stay much longer. And this was all for nothing. I feel so bad about that. Your body is dying, even as we speak. Everyone on Voyager is dying."
"Oh gods, no."
"I am sorry Tom. So, so sorry. You and Katherine are meant to be together too. You are soul mates."
Tom was finding it difficult to breathe now, and Kes started to fade in front of him. "Kes!" he called frantically. "Canít you do something?"
"Iím sorry Tom," she whispered. She was almost gone now. "Wait," she cried out suddenly. "I can. I have the power. All of a sudden I have enough energy. I once gave you all a gift. Behold, this is my second one. Take advantage of it and be happy Tom. You deserve it."
Kes disappeared and Tom was suddenly surrounded by black. Little colors started to dance before his eyes and they got faster and faster. He felt dizzy, disorientated.
The colors stopped and he was surrounded by light. He could see that he was sitting in sickbay and the Doctor suddenly winked into life next to him.
"Ah, Mr. Paris - youíre awake." The Doctor stopped. "What just happened? I believe that my program just suffered a power shortage." The Doctor commed the bridge. "EMH to ops. My program seemed to malfunction for a moment."
A loud cheering came over the line. "Hmmph!" the Doctor said to Tom. "It seems theyíre having a party on the bridge."
"Itís all right Doc," Harryís voice finally said. "We were in a tight jam. Itís all right now. Weíre - Oh my god. Commander. Weíre nearly ten thousand light years from our previous co-ordinates. Oh god - Chakotay - weíre inside Taman space."
"WHAT?" Both Tom and Chakotay spoke at the same time. Tom scrambled off of the biobed and took off at a run for the bridge.
"Mr. Paris - wait," the Doctor called to his retreating figure. "I didnít say that you could leave." Grabbing up his portable emitter he jogged after Tom. There was no way that he was going to be left out of this.
"Are you sure, Harry?" Chakotay asked.
Harry nodded excitedly. "The Tamans gave us a pretty detailed map and I loaded it into the database. And yes - Iím sure."
"Spirits!!!" Chakotay looked over at the viewscreen. He couldnít believe it. One minute they were suffocating to death and then all of a sudden, they seemed to be wrenched out from the giant webbing and moving faster and faster. But to find that they were in the other sector of Taman space was unbelievable.
"Harry, scan to see if there are any ships nearby."
"Nothing on short range sensors," Harry reported. "Iíll try long range."
"Engineering to bridge."
"Go ahead BíElanna."
"I donít know what you just did, but power is fully restored. Everythingís back on line."
"I wish I could take credit for it. I donít know what happened. What do you think Tuvok?" Chakotay asked quietly. "How did this happen? I donít understand any of it."
"I too am perplexed." They both looked over to the turbolift as the doors wooshed open and Tom burst out onto the bridge.
"Is it true?" he asked looking around.
"Yes Tom. It seems to be." Chakotay told him., a puzzled frown on his face. "We just donít understand how it happened. Who our kind benefactor is."
"Kes," Tom said softly.
Harryís console beeped as everyone gazed at Tom in amazement. Harry quickly glanced at his readings. "Thereís nothing on long range sensors, but there is a planet close by." He gulped. "Itís the planet that the Tamans prison farm is on. Sarran III. Where the Captain is."
"Oh Kes! You did it." Tom wiped the tears from his eyes.
"Tom, this is really Kesís doing?" Chakotay didnít know whether to believe it or not. Tom merely nodded. "Itís not a trick is it?"
Tom shook his head. "Itís her gift to us. Her second gift. It was her all along. Sheíd been trying to contact me for days. She was finally able to speak to me properly after Tuvok nerve pinched me." Tom raced down the steps and stopped in front of Chakotay, just as the Doctor arrived on the bridge. "Kes said for us to take advantage of it. So I guess that means we donít have a lot of time. The Tamans will realize that someone is here soon. Weíve got to hurry."
"Iím worried. This seems too easy."
"It was Kes. Please believe me Chakotay. Iíll explain it all to you after weíve rescued Kath."
"I believe him," the Doctor assured. "Itís just the sort of thing that Kes would do." Chakotay shook his head at the Doctor and turned back to Tom. Chakotay regarded him steadily. "All right. Take the helm Tom. Move us into transporter range. Harry, scan for human life signs. Doctor get back to sickbay. Just in case youíre needed." Tom rushed for the conn and the Doctor rushed for the turbolift. "As long as everyone realizes that we have to get out of here yet. That could take some doing."
They were within transporter range in five minutes. "Iím picking up human life signs," Harry announced.
"Okay. Lock on and energize."
"Transporter room two to the bridge." Vorikís voice was calm.
"Go ahead." Chakotay held his breath.
"Captain Janeway has beamed aboard." The statement was rather anticlimactic.
"Thank you Vorik. Is she all right?"
"She appears unharmed."
"Iím fine everyone." The voice was rich and vibrant, ringing across the bridge.
"Welcome back Captain," Chakotay said softly.
"Itís good to be back. Youíll never know how good."
"Commander, Iím picking up four Taman battleships heading this way," Harry warned.
"Get us out of here, Tom."
End Part Three