DEFECTIVE
By TíPam

Disclaimer: Voyager and its crew belong to Paramount. Iím only borrowing them for a while and will return them to their regularly scheduled program later. No profit will be made, as this is just for fun.

Part Three

Captain Janeway paced back and forth restlessly in her ready room. "So, what youíre saying is that weíre effectively blocked out," she concluded. BíElanna and Harry both nodded in unison. "We canít get through this force field at all? We canít transport in or out and we canít even contact our people. Why? What made the Regallians do this?"

"We didnít do anything Captain," BíElanna said quickly - angrily. "I told you. They started acting weird about Tomís injuries. Asking all sorts of questions - that were none of their business - and treating him as if he had done something he shouldnít have by recovering. That ambassador even told me that Tom was defective." She practically spat the last word out.

"I just donít understand this. They were so friendly and welcoming. It doesnít make any sense. Did they think Tom could infect them in some way?"

BíElanna shook her head. "No, I donít think so. It was like I said. They insisted on filling out this incident report and then practically accused him of doing the wrong thing by recovering. And the questions they were asking - they werenít just about his injuries and recovery. They wanted to know who he felt closest to on the ship. What sort of relationship he had with you Captain."

"Me?" the Captain interrupted. "Why?"

BíElanna shrugged. "They wouldnít really answer our queries properly. Just kept saying the report was very specific. They wanted to know all about his feelings as he was recovering. It was really weird. They asked all sorts of questions about the Doctor."

"Well, I can understand that," Harry said. "They donít have holographic technology. He would have been a real mystery to them. They probably wondered if he could work like a real doctor."

"No, they didnít ask anything like that. They wanted to know how he treated his patients? What sort of person he was? How Tom got along with him? Stuff like that."

Janeway looked up at the man, who was standing quietly by her side. "Do you have any ideas Tuvok?"

The Commander shook his head. "Unfortunately no, Captain. Considering that Mr. Parisís injuries occurred elsewhere, their actions are incomprehensive."

"Thatís what we tried to point out. I started to get a really bad feeling and thatís when I decided to contact the ship. The way the Ambassador was talking about Tom, about him being defective, it was like Tom was no longer a person or something."

"Thatís when you attempted to transport back to the ship?" Tuvok asked.

BíElanna nodded. "They had some sort of transporter lockout on Tom that they must have activated in the middle of our beam up. It was impossible to get a lock on him then and the communications went down before I could contact him or Chakotay or anyone. Then the force field was activated and we canít beam any one out or in."

"Can you break through it?" the Captain asked.

BíElanna nodded. "Eventually we will, Sevenís working on it right now, but it will take a while. I donít know how much time we have. I donít know if Tomís even in danger. They were acting so weird. Iím just hoping that Chakotay is there with him. He was in the gardens somewhere."

"We need to know why the Regallians are acting this way," Janeway stated briskly. "They have effectively kidnapped one of my crewmembers. I want answers. Harry, keep trying to contact them."

"Yes Maíam," Harry headed for the door and BíElanna followed him at a nod from the Captain.

As the two left the room, Janeway turned to Tuvok. "This is it, Tuvok. I want an official notation on Tomís files. He is not to leave the ship unless he has an armed escort of at least four guards. No, change that. He canít leave the ship without me as well." Tuvok raised his eyebrow at this. "Iíd rather be with him than sitting here worrying about him," she explained.

"Do you think he may be in immediate danger?"

Janeway sighed. "Of course. The way BíElanna was talking, it sounds like he broke one of their laws. No limping in the gardens perhaps."

"Indeed!"
 

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
 

Chell bounced up and down on the bed in delight, whistling a strange tune. "You know Tom, this would have to be the most comfortable bed Iíve ever been on. They sure donít do things by half, these people."

Tom shot him an irritated look. "Do you mind? I may have to sleep in that yet."

"Donít worry, Iíll tidy it up if you do."

"Thanks. Youíre all heart," Tom said sarcastically. He looked around the room in amazement. Chell was right. The Regallians didnít do things by half. This would have to be one of the most lavish rooms he had ever seen. It was on a par with the presidential suite in the best hotel on Earth. Under any other circumstances----.

Ayalla went over and pulled Chell off the bed - no mean feat considering the size of the Bolian - and Chell landed on the floor with a loud bump. "Get up," he told him. "This isnít funny you know. We have a serious situation here."

Chell looked over at Tom contritely. "Sorry Tom." He went and sat on the couch next to him and put his arm around his shoulders in a friendly gesture. "Donít you worry. The Commander will talk them out of this. I just know it."

Tom shook his head. "These Regallians are pretty thick headed. Iím not getting my hopes up."

"Well I have faith in the Commander. If anyone can talk them around, he can."

"Thatís the problem. I donít think anyone can talk them around." Tom ran his hands through his hair. "How do I get in these messes?"

"I think we should start thinking of an escape plan," Ayalla said quietly. "Just in case the Commander doesnít have any luck."

Tom got up and limped over to the window. Looking down at the streets below he sighed heavily. They were on the seventh floor of the delegates building and it was a long way down to the ground. "You two can walk out anytime you like, but those guards on the other side of the door, wonít let me. How about if you go down to the street below and Iíll jump out this window and you can catch me," he said flippantly.

"Good idea," Ayalla smiled. "Thereís only one problem with that. Iím not a very good catcher."

"Damn!" Tom snapped his fingers. "Another great idea shot down in flames."

Chell hurried over to the bed. "We could tie these sheets and blankets together and you could lower yourself down."

"I donít think thereís enough bedclothes to cover seven floors. Besides, I think one of the thousand people down below just might see me."

Chell frowned. "Maybe you could just go down a couple of floors and if a windowís open sneak in and then sneak out the building. Ayalla and I could keep the guards distracted."

"And what if a window isnít open? Heíll hang out there until he falls."

"Well since Iím about to be killed anyway---." Tom gave a shrug.

Ayalla ignored him. "Besides, he wouldnít be able to move around a lot. They took his walking stick remember?"

"He could crawl."

"And where would he crawl to? The Regallians have a complete communications block out on at the moment and we canít contact the ship. Even if we could, theyíve still got some sort of transporter lockout on him. They must be able to lock onto him somehow. Iím quite sure as soon as they find him gone they can trace him and bring him back."

"Well youíre a ray of sunshine," Chell sulked. "You think of something then."

"Iím thinking, okay? Iím thinking."

Tom, who had been staring unseeingly out of the window, turned around. "We need to find out if they can trace my movements, cause if they canít Iím sneaking out of here. Iím quite sure Voyagerís working on getting this block out thing lifted and finding a way of locking onto me. All I have to do is hide somewhere and wait it out."

"Tom, Chellís idea had a lot of flaws."

Tom smiled. "Itís something to work on at least. Letís hope the Commanderís silver tongue works and we donít have to worry about it."

Ayalla nodded. He thought working on a plan would at least keep Tomís mind occupied. "All right, so how do we find out if they can trace you?"

"Leave that to me," Chell decided. "The guards outside have been very friendly to me. Must be because theyíre blue like me. Iíll go out and have a little talk with them. Act slightly stupid, you know - the usual, and somehow work it into the conversation."

Tom smiled. "Well be careful. Make sure youíre the one getting the information and not the other way around."

Chell looked slightly affronted. "I do know what Iím doing, you know. I have done this before."

"I know. Itís just---"

"People underestimate me because of my looks. Remind me to beat the pants off you the next time we play Tongle Rush, Paris."

Tom laughed good-naturedly. "The only way youíll beat me at that game is if I give you a five minute head start. Iím still faster than you, even in this condition."

"Themís fighting words Paris. Your going down," Chell grinned evilly back at him. He opened the door and stepped out. "Friends, hello. Itís a little boring in there, it would be even worse out here Iím sure. I thought Iíd come out and keep you company. Itís time we had a nice long chat - get to know each other better."
 

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
 

"Tuvok, please tell me you have good news," Janeway greeted the security chief as he entered her Ready Room.

Tuvok looked at her closely. Her hair was in complete disarray, she had obviously been running her fingers through it, and her eyes and mouth had tight little lines of frustration around them. "Unless you consider proving your assumptions correct Ďgood newsí, then I must disappoint you."

"I see, I take it that means youíve found out that I have good reason to worry about Tom?"

"Iím afraid so Captain," Tuvok told her regrettably. "I have been reading through the Regallianís history, as I could find no law that would explain what Mr. Paris has done wrong."

"Go on."

"It would appear that they have some rather unusual practices regarding their ill and infirm."

"Really? In what way?"

"They believe that if somebody is injured or sick and can not be cured immediately then they are deemed defective. They are no longer perfect. They put great stock in perfection."

"Yes, I had noticed that. Everything is so beautiful down there - perfect. I had no idea they took it this far though. What happens if someone is severely injured or ill?"

"If their doctors can not heal them within a very short length of time or if their illness can not be cured within a day or two, they are classed as untreatable."

"Why thatís ridiculous. There are a lot of injuries that still need recuperation time and quite a few different illnesses and diseases, even with our advanced medical technology."

"It is their belief that to be sick or in pain for more than two or three days is tantamount to torture. It can not be tolerated."

"But with modern medicines there really isnít a lot of pain involved. There is still some of course, depending on the illness or injury, but itís more discomfort than anything else."

"They still believe it to be cruel Captain."

"But Tuvok, weíre talking about something temporary here."

"I realize that Captain. To the Regallians though, if you have an illness or injury for more than a few days, you are flawed - no longer perfect. They believe it is their Gods way of telling them that it is their time to die."

"Time to die? What are you saying?"

Tuvok paused. "They practice Euthanasia, Captain. Only on a much larger scale than anything we have ever encountered before."

"But, these things are all curable. Theyíre killing people for no reason."

"Yes Captain. However, I must point out, the Regallians believe they are performing a kindness. Saving their inhabitants from suffering."

"And you think theyíll try to perform Euthanasia on Tom? Heís not even one of them."

"That will make no difference, Captain. Anybody on the planet is subject to these beliefs, regardless."

"Damn it! I should have guessed it was too good to be true. How many of the crew are down there at the moment?"

"Forty-eight, including Mr. Paris."

"We have to get them back up here." The Captainís commbadge beeped. "Torres to Janeway."

"Yes, BíElanna - go ahead"

"The force field is down."

"Good work."

"It wasnít us Captain. The Regallians shut it off."

"I see. Can you pick up the crew?"

"Yes Captain."

"What about Tom?"

"Thereís no sign of him. We canít find Chakotay, Saunders, Ayalla or Chell either, but thereís a force field around the delegates building still. Iím assuming that theyíre all in there."

"Thatís good news anyway. At least Tom has others with him. Can we beam down to the surface?"

"No Captain, we can only beam out."

"Okay. I want you to start transporting the rest of the crew back up to the ship. As quickly as possible. Do we have communications?"

"Not yet Captain. Harryís still working on it."

The Captain groaned audibly. "If anybody beaming up can tell us whatís going on down there, send them to me immediately."

"Yes Captain."
 

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Chell entered the room quietly and sat down with a sigh on the couch. Tom, who had been lying on the bed - Ayalla had insisted that he rest, sat up quickly. "Well?"

"I think I just set back Regallian - Federation relations by about a hundred years."

"That bad, heh?" Ayalla asked sympathetically.

Chell nodded. "I did manage to find out what we needed to know though."

"Which is?" Tom sat forward eagerly.

"Iím sorry Tom. They know where you are at all times. They know where we all are, for that matter."

"I thought as much," Tom said disgusted. "They wouldnít be able to keep the transporter lockout on me otherwise. Damn it! Even if I can manage to get out of this room, theyíll be able to find me anyway. What are they using to lock on to us with, I wonder? Our commbadges? Cause if thatís all it is----"

"Our DNA apparently," Chell answered. "Whenever anybody beams down, they get a record of our patterns and then they can trace us whenever they want to."

"So, unless I can change my DNA somehow, thereís no point in trying to escape."

"It probably wonít be necessary anyway. Chakotay will talk them around," Chell said optimistically.

Just then the door opened and the Commander and Melanie Saunders entered the room. "That was a complete waste of time," Chakotay ground out, making his way over to Tom. "These people bring new meaning to the term - close-minded."

"Damn it! Why arenít I surprised?"

"Donít worry, weíll think of something." Chakotay sat on the bed next to him. "How are you doing anyway?"

Tom shot him an irritated look. "Great. Weíve been working on an escape plan. Only, itís not going to work."

Chakotay squeezed his shoulder lightly and Tomís irritation increased. The Commander smiled around at everyone before delivering some better news. "The Regallians have lifted the force field and Voyagerís started beaming people back up. They wonít let anyone beam down at the moment and thereís still no communications, but at least itís something."

Melanie sat down on the couch, between Chell and Ayalla. "Do you think theyíve contacted them, to tell them whatís happened?"

Chakotay shook his head. "Not yet."

"Maybe Voyager will beam some of you out, so that they can find out whatís going on," Tom suggested.

Tom had to swallow his growing aggravation as Chakotay smiled at him in sympathy. "Thereís still a force field around this building, unfortunately."

"Do you know how long Iíve got, till they come to do the nasty deed?" Tom asked quietly.

"No I donít, and I donít want you to think about that anyway. Iím confident the Captain is working on a plan." He patted Tomís arm and was concerned to see him frowning darkly at him. "Itíll be all right, Tom."

Tomís frown only deepened and he muttered something, the Commander couldnít catch, under his breath.

"The Regallians wonít do anything for a while yet," Chakotay reassured him. "Thereís some sort of farewell ceremony to go through first and they have to organize it all." He patted Tomís leg this time. "Why donít you lay down and try to get some rest?"

"Iím not tired. Iíd rather try and work out some way out of this mess."

"Let us worry about that. You rest." Chakotay went to pat Tomís leg again, but he jerked quickly away.

"Gods," he yelled suddenly, jumping up abruptly. The movement was too abrupt and Tom had to grab the bed head for support. The Commander leaned over to help him regain his balance, but Tom pushed him away.

"Will you quit being so nice? Itís driving me crazy. I canít stand it anymore." He crashed to the floor. "Donít! Donít help me. I mean it."

Chakotay watched as Tom pulled himself up, using the bedside cupboard for support, and motioned to the others to stay back. A smile started to spread across his face, which soon turned into a small chuckle. As his chuckles increased Tomís glare did also.

"Iím sorry Tom, but you should have seen your face. And the way you landed on the floor. Graceful, that was not. I know I shouldnít laugh, I should be helping you, but----"

Tom turned back to the other three, a smile on his face. "There. Thatís much better."
 

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Janeway paced back and forth across the bridge, her agitation increasing with each step. They had managed to transport most of the crew back now, but there had still been no contact from the Regallians.

Nobody coming back on board knew what was going on either. A few had been in the gardens when Tom, Chakotay and the others had been escorted away, but they had been too far away to hear what had happened. The Regallians wouldnít tell them anything except that it was perfectly routine and not to worry.

"Captain," Harryís voice held a note of excitement. "The force field around the delegate building has just come down."

"Good, can you get a lock on them?"

BíElanna growled. "Everyone but Tom."

"Damn! Iím assuming that the Regallians are now saying that we can take them as well, but I donít like the idea of leaving Tom alone."

Harry looked up. "Should we just beam back the Commander?"

"No. Iíd rather leave him with Tom at the moment, but we need to know whatís happening. Lock onto Saunders. Sheís the next in command. Beam her straight to the bridge."

"Yes Maíam."

"Captain," Melanie stepped toward her as soon as she rematerialized.

"Lieutenant, is everyone all right down there?"

Melanie nodded. "Theyíre fine. The Regallians are being very," she hesitated on the last word, "thoughtful." She looked over towards BíElanna. "Tomís holding up very well, considering the circumstances."

"We need to discuss these circumstances. Please come into the briefing room." The Captain indicated to Tuvok, Harry and BíElanna to join them. "Rawlins you have the bridge. Keep trying to hail the Regallians."

"Yes Captain."
 

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Ayalla looked over at Chakotay as Melanie dematerialized next to him. "I take it this means that either Voyagerís managed to break through their shielding or the force fieldís down."

"I think the Regallians must have dropped the field. If Voyager had broken through, the first person they would have taken was Tom. The Captain would have beamed Melanie back to find out whatís going on."

"The Regallians will still have that transporter lockout on me," Tom said frustrated. "Damn it! My skinís starting to crawl. I donít think Iíve got much time left."

There was a discreet tap at the door and Ambassador Persher and two officials entered. The Ambassador was carrying a long flowing golden robe, which he held out to Tom. "Ensign, would you like to change into our ceremonial robe?"

"Itís your ceremony - not mine," Tom growled at him, taking the robe and throwing it carelessly on the bed behind him.

The Ambassador sighed. "Iím sorry you are finding this so difficult. Your people have conditioned you to believe that suffering is a normal way of life and this is wrong."

Chakotay stood up angrily. "Who are you to tell us our beliefs are wrong? They are different than yours that is all. Most peoples heal their sick and wounded, no matter how long it takes."

"Just because most people do it, it does not mean they are right," the Ambassador lectured. "We have been through all this before. Please, letís not waste each otherís time."

"Hey! You can waste as much time as you like, I donít care."

"Iím sorry Ensign. Enough time has been wasted as it is. Each minute brings more suffering to you that is unnecessary."

"Thatís your opinion. Anyway, I am not suffering, as you put it. If Iíd beamed down here in a few more days, you would never have even known Iíd had an accident."

"Your body would always have been defective. Injuries to the extent that you suffered, can never be completely healed."

"They can with our medical technology. Perhaps you should have spent more of your time and resources on medical advancements instead of developing all these weapons and shields and worrying about having the most beautiful buildings and gardens."

"You are upset Ensign, so I will forgive that remark."

"Who cares if you donít? What will you do to me? Kill me?"

"You are making this much more difficult than it needs to be."

"Tough!"

The Ambassador looked back at the two officials behind him. "Perhaps we should forgo the farewell ceremony. As you can see, he will be uncooperative."

"Forgo one of your beliefs?" Tom sneered sarcastically. "Surely thatís not allowed?"

"Tom," Chakotay said softly. "Thatís enough." He turned to the Ambassador. "Leave us alone for a little while. Iíll talk to him."

"Thank you Commander. We will allow three of the people he feels closest to, to beam down for the ceremony. Anyone you want Ensign, except of course for that Borg creature."

"Seven of Nine? Sheís no longer with the collective."

"We realize that. We would never have let your people come down to the planet otherwise. Thankfully, she did not ask to come down here, so we did not have to be rude and refuse her."

"That was lucky. We wouldnít want you to be rude. You know nothing about Seven."

The Ambassador gave Tom a condescending look. "We know that she is defective. That is probably why you find it necessary to defend her."

"The only thing defective around here is your attitude."

The Ambassador shook his head. "Commander, Iíll leave you to try and talk some sense into him. Please, let us know when you are ready."

"Chakotay," Tom hissed as soon as the three Regallians had left the room. "If you think you can talk me into cooperating, then forget it."

"The longer we can drag this out the better. It gives Voyager more time to break through that transporter lockout on you."

"You know what Chakotay? I donít think they can break through it. And even if they could, whatís to stop the Regallians from beaming me straight back down here again? With their advanced technology, Iím quite sure theyíll be able to break through our shields without any effort."

"Iím sure Seven will have a few tricks up her sleeve." Chakotay sat down on the bed, next to him again, and tentatively patted his shoulder. "At the risk of being nice again - try to stay positive."

Tom bit back the remark he was going to make to that. "All right already. Letís see how long we can drag this out. Now, how do I get this stupid gown on? And nobody had better make any wisecracks. After all, blue is really my color."

"Who us?" Chell looked over at Ayalla. "We wouldnít say anything would we?"

Ayalla shook his head. "Not me. I say nothing."
 

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As soon as Lieutenant Saunders had finished her report, the Captain motioned to Tuvok. "Unfortunately, the Commander had already found out about their beliefs by going through their history. I had been hoping they werenít still practicing ritual Euthanasia."

BíElanna, who Harry had had to hold on to, to stop her from jumping out of her chair, growled angrily. "As if he hasnít been through enough already. We have to get him out of there."

The Captain sighed. "I agree. I just donít know how."

Seven entered the room. "You wished to see me Captain?"

"Yes. I need an update on how youíre coming along with the shield surrounding Tom."

"Unfortunately, not good Captain. As soon as I believe that I am making headway, the frequency shifts and I have to start all over again. Species 6453 are very resourceful."

"Oh? I take it the Borg have met the Regallians?"

"Yes Captain. In two separate encounters. They have so far managed to elude assimilation."

"I see. Well good for them. Why didnít you tell us this before?"

"I did not believe it necessary. The Borg did not learn a great deal about them, except that they were highly advanced technically. I have noticed that the crew become uncomfortable when I mention Borg encounters with different species, so since I could add nothing more to your information about them, I refrained."

"Itís not like the Borg to give up on a species so easily," BíElanna remarked dryly.

"I can assure you, they did not give up. They will return when they are more certain of victory. The Regallians would be aware of this."

"Hmmn!" the Captain mused. "Iím starting to understand why the they put so much energy into their technology. Of course this information doesnít help us get Tom back." Her commbadge suddenly chirped. "Captain, the Regallians are hailing us."

"At last! Thank you Rawlins, Iíll be right out."

"This will probably mean that theyíre ready for the farewell ceremony Captain," Melanie told her.

"Weíll soon see about that." The Captain pulled herself to her full height and strode quickly onto the bridge. "On screen," she barked.

"Captain," the Regallian First Minister smiled at her. "It is a pleasure to speak to you again."

"I wish I could say the same, First Minister. Why have you kidnapped one of my crew?"

The Ministerís smile faded a little. "Unfortunately that was necessary. He would not come along willingly. We regret the inconvenience our shields must have caused you. Everything is back to normal again though and you may complete your shore leave if you wish."

Janeway shook her head in disbelief. "What about Tom?"

"The investigation into Ensign Parisís welfare is complete. The farewell ceremony is scheduled to begin in one hourís time. You are cordially invited. The Ensign was allowed to choose three friends to be with him and he chose his mate, Lieutenant Torres, Ensign Harry Kim and you Captain. Will the three of you be attending?"

"Of course." The Captain couldnít believe this was happening. "However, I must warn you. I can not allow you to continue with this."

Surprise registered on the First Ministerís face. "I do not understand."

"I canít let you kill Tom like this. He hasnít done anything wrong."

The First Minister frowned. "We do not use the term Ďkillí, Captain. Why are you all determined to be so difficult about this? It is our way."

"Well itís not ours. And before you say, we agreed to your rules, Iíd just like to say that we should have been told about this little doozy."

"Doozy? Ignorance is no excuse Captain. If we came on board your ship, we would abide by your rules. No matter how terrible they would seem to us. If we were injured and your Doctor could not heal us quickly, we would agree to suffer quietly and hopefully, with a little dignity."

"But Tom wasnít injured on your planet."

"That makes no difference. Please Captain, I do not want to argue with you. You have upset me now. If it was my decision, I would not let you come down for the farewell ceremony, but it is the Ensignís wish and we must abide by it. He has suffered enough as it is."

Janeway gritted her teeth. "What about the rest of my crew? Are they free to come and go wherever they please?"

"Yes of course. We do not wish to disturb your shore leave any more than is necessary."

"You donít think having Tom Ďterminatedí will disturb them?"

"Please Captain. Your sarcasm is unwarranted. If you are unhappy with the fact that we are treating the Ensign, you only have yourself to blame. If we had been made aware of his condition we would not have let him beam down. After all, we do not knowingly let defectives onto our world. Your crew are quite welcome to come down and visit with Ensign Paris to say their goodbyes if they so wish. The ceremony is limited to three people, but up until then he may see anybody he wishes."

"I see," the Captain said slowly.

"Captain, if you are thinking of some way to attempt a beam out of Ensign Paris, I can assure you our transporter lockout is impenetrable. Iím sure your Borg creature has already discovered this."

"I didnít realize you had a problem with the Borg. You should have said something sooner. You must have known Seven was on board."

"We concluded she was no threat. If she had requested to come down here, we would have refused. The Borg species as a whole is defective. The suffering that the poor creatures must have endured," he shuddered visibly. "Please tell your crew that if they wish to see Ensign Paris to contact Ambassador Persher. He is seeing to the Ensignís last requests. I will see you at the farewell ceremony."

The First Minister disappeared from the view screen. "Captain, what are we going to do?" Harryís voice sounded scared. A sudden beep returned his attention to his console. "Captain, communications are back on line."

"Good, is the channel secure?"

"I doubt it."

She tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Chakotay. Can you hear me?"

"Captain," the relief in the Commanders voice was plain. "Are we glad to hear you."

"The feelings mutual Commander. We are fully aware of whatís happening down there. Howís Tom?"

"Iím fine Captain," Tomís voice came clearly over the line. "Please tell me youíre going to get me out of this."

"I wish I could Tom. Weíve been trying, I can assure you. Commander, Iím going to beam you back up here. We need to talk."

"Very well Captain, just give me a few moments."

"Iíd like to beam Chell and Ayalla up too. Tom, is there anyone youíd like to see? BíElanna, Harry and I will be down there shortly."

"How about the whole crew?"

"Sorry, I donít think theyíd all fit."

"You havenít seen the size of this room," Tom joked. There was a small silence. "Could Tuvok come down here? Then maybe Neelix and the Doc?"

"Of course," Janeway said softly. "Theyíll be right there. Janeway out." She turned back towards Tuvok, who had his eyebrow raised slightly. "Youíd better get down to Transporter Room Two."

"Yes Captain."

"Oh and Tuvok? I want full reconnaissance of the delegates building."

Tuvokís eyebrow rose once again. "Captain?"

"Itís just a little idea Iím working on."

"Of course."

"Harry, beam Ayalla and Chell up and then wait for the Commanders signal."

"Yes Maíam."
 

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Chell rushed over and gave Tom a hard hug. "Donít worry, I know the Captain will save you," he sniffed.

"Hey, I know that." Tom grimaced until the Bolian let him go. "Sheís known for her last minute rescues."

"Thatís right," Ayalla said, holding out his hand to shake Tomís. "Itís been an honor working with you Paris."

"Thanks," Tom said shakily. He watched as the two of them stepped back and the transporter beam engulfed them. Swallowing he looked over at Chakotay. "Well, I was never very good at saying goodbye."

"Thatís good, because neither am I," Chakotay said brusquely. "Anyway, this isnít goodbye. There is no way that the Captain and I will let the Regallians do this. You have my solemn word Tom, that somehow weíll get you out of this."

"Thanks Commander. I believe you."

"Tom, I donít know if Iíve let you know just how much I respect what youíve managed to achieve with your life over the past few years. Youíve redeemed yourself in the eyes of us all and I admire that greatly."

"I couldnít have done it without the Captain," Tom protested softly.

"She gave you the chance, but you took it with both hands. Youíre the one that pulled yourself up out of the mud and I feel privileged to have been here to see it."

"That means a lot to me, Chakotay. I always wanted your respect."

"Well, youíve got it. Iím sorry Tom, I should have told you sooner."

"Yeah, you should have." Tom grinned mischievously at him. "Now, quit talking as if this is the last time youíre going to see me. You wouldnít be that lucky."

Chakotay chuckled, shaking his head. "Youíll never change, will you?"

"I donít intend to."

"Iíll see you back on the ship," Chakotay promised before tapping his commbadge. "Harry, energize."

End Part Three