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 Four

"Captain, we have a problem." Harry hurried into the ready room as the Captain and Chakotay looked up in surprise. "The Regallian First Minister has just refused Tomís request to see the Doc."

"Damn it! Why?"

"He says that the Docís technology is not known to them and so could be perceived as a threat."

The Captain jumped up from her desk and started to pace in agitation. "Our whole plan rests on the Doctor. We have to find some way to change the Ministerís mind."

Chakotay sat back thoughtfully. "Ambassador Persher told us that Tom could have anything he wanted, see anybody he wished, except Seven of Nine. Now theyíre going back on that. We could put in a formal complaint. They take all that sort of stuff very seriously. Theyíd be forced to hold an enquiry into the matter and who knows? We may be able to persuade them."

"I donít think theyíre allowed to do that," Harry replied slowly.

"What? Be persuaded to change their minds?"

"No Commander. Refuse Tomís request."

Janeway sighed. "Unfortunately, they are. Their laws state that they can refuse one request from an impending treatment patient. Obviously this will be their one refusal."

"Okay, so we can use that to our advantage," Chakotay said eagerly. "They canít refuse anything else Tom asks, so maybe we can find another way to get the emitters down there."

"They scan everything that we transport, so this was the only way since they donít understand holo-technology." Janeway sat back down dejectedly. "Besides, how do we get a message through to Tom? BíElannaís positive his room is being monitored."

"Neelix is about to go down to see him. Perhaps he can sneak something through."

The Captain shook her head. "We canít take the chance of letting Tom in on the plan. If the Regallians found out, all would be lost. Harry, contact the First Minister again. Iíll see if I can plead a case for the Doctor. Something along the lines of how cruel they are acting to stop Tom from seeing someone so important to him, just because they donít understand a certain technology. And if that doesnít work, weíll put in a formal complaint."

"Um, Captain - I must be missing something here," Harry said in confusion. "Didnít the Commander say that the Ambassador had refused to let Tom see Seven? If thatís the case, isnít this their second refusal?"

"Yes the Ambassador did say he couldnít see Seven. But Tom never actually asked to. The Ambassador didnít refuse an actual request."

The Captain leaned forward eagerly. "Chakotay, what exactly was said?"

"Let me think a minute. The Ambassador told me that Tom was allowed to have three of the people he felt closest to at the ceremony. He said to Tom that he could have anyone he wanted, except for the Borg creature."

"What did Tom say to that? This could be very important."

"He defended her. Told the Ambassador that she was no longer in the collective."

"Did he say anything else?"

"He said the Ambassador knew nothing about her. He was a little sarcastic to him actually."

"That doesnít surprise me."

"When the Ambassador made some remark about her being defective, thatís why Tom was defending her, Tom said the only thing defective was the Ambassadorís attitude."

"Thatís good. Really good. So the Ambassador acknowledged that Tom was defending Seven?"

Chakotay nodded. "What are you planning? I can see that gleam in your eye."

"Whatever it takes, Commander," she smiled. Getting up again, she headed out of the room. "Harry, well done." She clasped his arm as she passed him on her way to the bridge. "Hail the Regallians. Tell them I need to speak to the First Minister and Ambassador Persher immediately."

Harry trotted out behind her and quickly did as he was bid. "The Regallians have acknowledged your request Captain," he informed her soon afterwards. "Theyíve just gone to find the Ambassador."

"Fine," the Captain answered sitting in her chair.

Chakotay sat down as well. "Do you want to tell me what youíre going to do?"

Janeway sighed. "Lie probably. So no matter what I say, donít look surprised. That goes for all of you," she warned the bridge crew. The woosh of the turbolift doors opening made her turn around as BíElanna with Seven one step behind her entered. "Good. Itís probably better that youíre both here."

"Captain?" BíElanna looked slightly confused. "Everythingís set down in Engineering. Carey should be able to handle it from here. We just heard about the Regallians refusal to let us send the Doctor down."

"Iím about to address that. The two of you have to go along with whatever I say. Is that clear?"

"Yes Captain," BíElanna answered, the confusion still evident in her eyes. Seven merely nodded, her eyebrow raised slightly.

"Captain, the Regallian First Minister is hailing us," Harry told her.

"On screen. First Minister, thank you for answering my request so promptly."

"Captain, Iím sure you want to speak to me about my refusal to allow your holo-imagery Doctor to beam down here. As I have already explained - it is a technology unknown to us. It could be a weapon for all we know."

"Minister, I can assure you, the Doctor is no weapon. Iím quite happy to beam down some technical information about him, as long as I have your word you will not try to duplicate it yourself."

"We are not interested in this defective technology for ourselves," the Minister sneered. "We have no need for it. It is not real, and therefore imperfect."

"So, you are refusing one of Tomís last requests?"

"That is correct. Our laws allow us to do this - once. We do not do it very often, but in this case, believe it to be for the best."

"The Doctor means a great deal to Tom. They work together---"

Ambassador Persher interrupted her. "Captain, we are aware that Ensign Paris is the Doctorís assistant and I can understand how an attachment has been formed. However, as the Minister has explained, we have to protect ourselves."

"And this is your final word?" The Ambassador and First Minister both nodded. "Very well, you leave me no choice. I must register a formal complaint."

"That is of course your entitlement," the First Minister said stiffly. "I believe you will be wasting your time, however. There are no grounds for this."

"On the contrary. You have refused to let Tom see two of the people he is closet to. First Seven and now the Doctor."

"I do not understand. Seven? You are speaking of the Borg woman?"

"Thatís correct. The Ambassador refused to let Tom see her. I believe that now makes two refusals, not one."

"I can assure you First Minister, Ensign Paris made no formal request to see the Borg creature," Ambassador Persher sputtered indignantly.

"Of course he didnít. Youíd already told him he couldnít see her. He could have anybody he wanted except her, I think was the way you put it."

"But surely he would not have wanted to have her at his farewell ceremony?" The First Minister looked astounded.

"Well thatís where youíre wrong. Sheís his mate. Naturally he would want her there." Out of the corner of her eye she noticed BíElanna take a step forward.

"His mate? But we were under the impression that Lieutenant Torres is his mate." The Ambassador sounded shocked.

"Thatís right," the Captain nodded. "Sheís his first mate and Sevenís his second." Her eye caught the movement of BíElanna taking another step forward. She could also feel Sevenís eyes boring into her back.

"His second?" the First Minister repeated. "You people have more than one mate?"

"Ensign Paris does."

"Can this be true?" The First Minister turned to the Ambassador in astonishment.

The Ambassador shook his head. "He was very defensive of the Borg creature. I did not realize---" he broke off, not sure of himself.

The First Minister glanced around at the bridge crew. "I see you have the Ensignís two mates there with you. May I speak to them?"

"Of course."

"Lieutenant Torres, if this is true, why were you the only one down here with the Ensign? The Borg did not make a request to come as well."

"We take it in turns." BíElanna shrugged carelessly. "Today was my turn with him."

"You are happy to share Ensign Paris like this?"

"Iím kept fairly busy with my engines, so this is the perfect arrangement for all of us. Heís worth it, you see." A smothered cough from the communications console reminded BíElanna to tackle a certain Ensign later, when this was all over and Tom was safely back on board.

The First Minister turned to Seven. "And what about you Seven of Nine? You are Borg. I know you do not lie. This is all true? You are happy with this arrangement?"

"Happiness is irrelevant. The Ensign was one of the first people on board Voyager to treat me in a friendly manner. We have formed an attachment that is mutually beneficial and rewarding."

"I see." The First Minister turned back to the Ambassador. "Please give us a few moments. We need to discuss this. We will contact you as soon as possible." The screen went black.

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

"Okay, well done," Chakotay grinned. "I almost believed that myself."

BíElanna glared at him "You should have given me some warning Captain. I nearly ruined it."

"I also would have appreciated a little foreknowledge." Seven said coldly.

"I just hope it worked," the Captain sighed. "If they have to choose between the Doctor and Seven, I think theyíll choose the Doctor."

"So what happens if they decide to go and ask Tom to corroborate this story? Or even worse - Tuvok. Heís still down there with him," Harry asked in concern. "I can just imagine his reaction."

"Hopefully, heíll realize weíre working on a plan and will play along. Heís pretty quick on the uptake. BíElanna are the emitters ready to go?"

BíElanna nodded. "I still canít duplicate the Docís holo-emitter properly. The technology is just too advanced for our replicators. Weíll only get about ten minutes out of each of them. Fifteen at the most."

"That should be enough time. Howís the program coming along?"

"It should be ready shortly," Seven announced. "It is very realistic. As soon as Commander Tuvok returns we will be able to finish it."

"Good. Now itís your job Seven to keep a lock on Tom at all times. As soon as the transporter lockout is disengaged, get him back up here. Donít wait for us."

"Yes Captain."

They spent the next few minutes discussing their plan, going over anything they might have overlooked.

"Captain, Commander Tuvok has just beamed back on board," Harry said suddenly.

"Tell him to go straight to the holodeck. Seven, youíd better get back there too. Iíll meet you there as soon as the Regallians have contacted us again."

Seven nodded and hurried towards the turbolift.

"The Regallians are hailing us again," Harry announced a few minutes later.

"Here goes," the Captain said, crossing her fingers. "If they donít let the Doctor down there, then itís all been in vain. On screen Harry."

"Captain Janeway." It was Ambassador Persher. "I must offer you my sincere apologies. I have already apologized to Ensign Paris. We of course will have to honor the Ensigns latest request - with a few precautions, naturally."


"If you would be so kind as to beam down as much technical information about the holographic system as you can, our technicians will look over it as quickly as possible."

"Very well. Weíll start the information transfer immediately." She nodded to Chakotay who proceeded to download the data that BíElanna had doctored.

"If this all checks out, the holo-image can be transported down as soon as we contact you again. Your Ambassador Neelix is with Ensign Paris now, and will stay with him until a decision is made. It has become apparent that the treatment will have to be rescheduled. It will be held thirty minutes after our next contact."

"Thank you Ambassador," Janeway said as the transmission ceased. She jumped up from her chair. "Chakotay, you have the bridge. Iíll be on the holodeck. When they contact us again, tell them Iím getting ready for the ceremony."

She rushed for the turbolift and impatiently waited for it to take her to her destination. They didnít have much time to make this as realistic as possible. As soon as the lift doors opened, she was out and running.

"Tuvok," she panted as she reached the holodeck, "I take it Sevenís filled you in?"

"Yes Captain."

"We have just been deciding the most strategic placements for the emitters," Seven told her.

"Captain, I think I should inform you that Ensign Paris and myself almost ruined any chance of the Doctor transporting to the planet," Tuvok confessed.

"Oh? We were hoping that if they asked you about our little story, you would realize that we were planning something and play along."

"We did Captain, only we misinterpreted your intentions. We assumed you wanted Seven of Nine down on the planet for some reason and so proceeded to persuade them of this."

"I see."

"Mr. Paris made a very impassioned plea, I must say."

"I can imagine. Well it was lucky they didnít listen. They must really hate the Borg."

"That is one reason I believe this idea may work. They become totally illogical at the mention of the Borg. The Ambassador was quite scathing in his attack on Mr. Parisís morals. Unfortunately, Mr. Paris is of the belief that whatever you were attempting to set into motion has been prevented. He was quite dispirited when I left him."

"I wish we could let him know what weíre planning, but we canít take the chance. The Regallians mustnít be allowed to suspect anything. Now, send the Doctor the information on where you want the emitters to be placed and then weíll run through the program and see if we can find any flaws."

Two run-throughs later Chakotay contacted them. "Itís a go Captain. Theyíve said the Doctor can come down as soon as heís ready. The ceremony is set to start at exactly twenty-one hours, which is only thirty- three minutes away."

"Okay, everyone knows what they have to do."

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

Janeway, BíElanna and Harry glanced around as they rematerialized. They were wearing their dress-uniforms and BíElanna tugged uncomfortably at her collar. Ambassador Persher stepped forward to meet them. "Captain, Lieutenant, Ensign," he greeted. "If youíll please follow me, Iíll take you to Ensign Paris."

"Thank you Ambassador."

As they followed him along the never ending hallways the Ambassador chatted away. "Your holo-image is still with the Ensign. A remarkable piece of technology. If I didnít know any better, Iíd think he was real," he said in a condescending tone of voice. "Of course, all that fading in and out is terribly unsettling. Not to mention the flickering. No wonder he needs an assistant."

The Captain exchanged looks with the others. The Doctor seemed to be playing his part very well. Their plan was to let the Regallians believe that Holoprojections were easily identifiable, playing up to their beliefs that it was imperfect technology. They didnít want them to realize that you couldnít tell the difference between a holoprogram and the real thing, therefore BíElanna had programmed the Doctor to have all sorts of technical difficulties.

"Our technicians believe that with a bit of work - a lot of work actually - the holoimage could be improved. We are not interested in doing this; donít worry. The fact that you have to have at least fifteen emitters to create one being is just not practical. The holodeck schematics sound a little more practical, but we have no need for them. We have everything we could possibly dream of doing, right here already."

"Of course, if we lived on such a beautiful planet as this, we would have no need of them either," Janeway laughed.

The Ambassador laughed also. "Too true, Captain."

They finally stopped in front of a door and the Ambassador pressed the chime. "Come in," the Doctorís voice called out. As they stepped in, there was a loud zapping sound and the Doctor disappeared, only to reappear a second later.

"Hey," Tom stood up slowly and smiled at them. He gave the Doctor a worried glance. "BíElanna, I think you should check out the Docís holoemitter. He wonít let me near it."

"Which one?" BíElanna quickly improvised. "Iíve been working on them all afternoon and this is as clear as I can get them."

"Theyíre better than usual," Harry said quickly, before Tom could open his mouth again. "Donít you think? His face is definitely more in focus than usual."

"Definitely," the Captain agreed, while Tom stood looking slightly bemused.

The Ambassador sniffed. "A highly defective program."

"Well really," the Doctor huffed. "I think Iíve just been insulted."

"I think itís time for you to go back to the ship Doctor," Janeway told him.

"Iíll escort you back to the transporter room," the Ambassador said.

"Thank you." The Doctor turned back to Tom. "Itís been a pleasure to have known you Mr. Paris," he said and then pulled Tom into a tight embrace. "Hang on," he whispered fiercely before letting go and walking out of the room.

The Ambassador quickly followed as the others watched the Doctor appear to stumble as he entered the hallway. "Whoops," he said, grabbing onto the wall for support. His program flickered off for a moment and Tom thought he was seeing things when it appeared that one of the emitters the Doctor was wearing was stuck on the wall, before it disappeared quickly.

He looked over at BíElanna who was watching him closely. "Seven sends her love," she tried to explain.

"Iím sorry they wouldnít let her be here," Tom answered slowly, looking back at the hallway, trying to work out what was going on.

"Oh my! How clumsy of me," the Doctorís voice came from further along the hall.

"Well, I must say, that robe is certainly stunning," Harry turned Tomís attention away from the hallway.

"Huh? What? This old thing?" he answered with a smile.

A crash followed by a muffled, "Oh dear! My apologies" was soon heard.

"I think perhaps weíll shut this door," Janeway said, closing it as she spoke.

"What the hell?" was all Tom managed to get out before BíElanna launched herself at him and started to kiss him passionately. Tom felt a little shocked - after all, the Captain was standing right there and she was very strict about public displays of affection. Perhaps it didnít matter any more - since he was going to be dead in a few minutes anyway.

He returned the kiss with fervor before they pulled breathlessly apart.

"I wondered when you two were going to come up for air," Harry said lightly before throwing himself down on the couch. "Some room hey?" he commented waving his arm around.

"It certainly is," Janeway answered. "It reminds me of the time I stayed on Risa." The Captain then launched into a rather complicated reminisce of her stay on the planet of pleasure. It must have been funny by all accounts, the way Harry and BíElanna were laughing.

Tom didnít hear a word. He watched the three people he felt closest to in the entire universe and worried about how they were coping. This wasnít the way heíd pictured his last few minutes alone with them. He hadnít wanted some big gloomy scene, but he did want to tell them how he felt, how much they meant to him.

"Hey," he said, frowning at them. "Weíve only got a couple of minutes before they come and get me. I need to tell you some things. I want you to know how much it meant to me to have your friendship and support. I would never have turned my life around without you."

Janeway patted his leg. "Itís all right Tom. We know how you feel. You donít have to say anything."

"But I want to."

The door chime sounded and Ambassador Persher entered the room. "Come along everyone. Itís time for the ceremony to start."

Swallowing heavily, Tom stood up. "May I have my walking stick back? I donít think Iíll get too far otherwise."

"Thatís all right Ensign. The security officers can carry you."

"I donít think so," Tom said coldly.

"Donít worry, weíll help him," Harry said quickly. "Here Tom, lean on me."

They shuffled out of the room and slowly made their way down the hallway.

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

Janeway looked to both sides, searching for any signs of the replicated mobile emitters, as they headed towards the ceremony. The shielding that Seven had provided was working perfectly. The Captain felt a small smile of satisfaction steal around the corners of her mouth and quickly suppressed it. The action should start at any moment as Chakotay had been told to set everything in motion as soon as the Doctor returned to the ship.

The Ambassador was leading the way, with Tom - supported between BíElanna and Harry -behind him. She was walking directly behind Tom, with the two security officers bringing up the rear. Nobody spoke.

A sudden blaring of alarms and red lights flashing shattered the quiet. The group stopped in alarm. "What is it? Whatís happening?" Janeway yelled above the din.

"A security breach," one of the officers shouted, before racing back along the hallway.

Without warning, voices came from all around them. "We are the Borg. Existence as you know it, is over." There was shrieking coming from all sections of the building, while the voices continued. "You will be assimilated. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile."

"NO, NO, NO, NO, NO," the Ambassador wailed. There were screams and panicked voices everywhere.

The security officer still with them, turned ashen. "How can this be? Our tracking sensors should have picked them up light years away."

The Captain held onto his arm. "The Borg have been working on a way to disguise their ships. We found out about it, the last time we engaged them. They call it a cloaking device." She saw Tomís puzzled frown as she spoke.

"This canít be happening," the Ambassador cried. "We have to stop them."

Harry clutched at his arm. "Please Ambassador, we have to get out of here." His voice sounded panicky. "You have to let us beam back to our ship. Please? I donít want to be assimilated."

The Ambassador started to whimper in fright. "Theyíll put the force field up. The Borg wonít be able to get in."

"Iím scared. Please!" Harry continued. "I couldnít bear to be assimilated."

"Me neither," the Ambassador wailed loudly. His whimpering turned into loud sobs.

Tom grabbed hold of Harryís arm and frowned fiercely at him. "Get a grip. Youíre upsetting the Ambassador. Youíve come up against the Borg before. Pull yourself together." He looked at the Captain out of the corner of his eye. It was obvious he didnít understand how she could let Harry carry on like that.

Janeway stared hard at BíElanna. Tom was going to spoil everything. Their whole plan rested on the Regallians panicking and therefore not studying their readouts too closely. She didnít want him to calm everybody down.

She watched as his eyes nearly fell out of his head, when BíElanna screamed at the top of her lungs. "Weíre doomed! Weíre doomed! Please Ambassador, tell us what to do."

The Ambassador started to scream as well, and held onto the security officer for dear life. The Regallian First Minister suddenly appeared around the corner of the hallway. "Donít panic everybody. Weíll stop them."

"Put the force field up," Janeway yelled, knowing full well that Seven had managed to disable it. She had warned that the Regallians would have it back on line within twenty minutes however. The Captain crossed her fingers hoping it would be enough time.

"We canít. The Borg have done something to it, somehow. Just as they managed to get here undetected." The First Minister started to sound quite panicky himself.

"They have a cloaking device," the security officer screamed. "What are we going to do?" Panic was obviously contagious. "Thereís nothing stopping the Borg from transporting down here."

Screaming could be heard from further down the corridor. The second security officer came running towards them. "Borg," he panted. "Theyíre headed this way."

"How many?" The First Minister was definitely panicking now.

"Dozens - maybe hundreds." This came as a surprise to the Captain. They only had fourteen emitters.

"We managed to stop five of them before they adapted. Our weapons are now useless." Harry gave a small scream at this, which set the Ambassador off as well. BíElanna threw her arms around one of the security officers, wailing loudly.

The Captain thought they might have been overacting - just a little. Fortunately, the Regallians didnít seem to think they were reacting abnormally. Tom, however, was staring at them in complete disbelief. Luckily, the Regallians were too busy to notice. Chaos surrounded them. People were running everywhere screaming and crying.

"Captain Janeway," the First Minister pleaded. "What should we do? Youíve defeated the Borg before. Please help us."

"Thereís nothing we can do. Itís too late," Janeway shrieked, rather hysterically. She had to turn away from Tomís incredulous look.

The Ambassador collapsed back against the wall. "Panicking is not going to help," Tom shouted, obviously deciding someone had to take charge. "We have to keep calm. Do you have any other weapons?"

The two security officers seemed to calm down a little. "No sir. Weíve never really needed them."

"No-oneís been able to penetrate our shields before," the other security officer offered. It was obvious that the Regallians had no experience in this type of situation. They had always relied on their superior technology to keep them out of trouble. Janeway thought that this might be a good lesson for them, as sooner or later the Borg really would be coming.

"Keep your weapons on a rotating band frequency. Itís harder for them to adapt," Tom ordered.

"Yes sir," the two officers nodded. They seemed almost calm, now that someone had taken charge. Janeway looked at BíElanna warningly. Tom was going to ruin everything.

"We have to get out of here," BíElanna suddenly yelled as the Borg could be seen at the end of the hallway. "Run, everybody." The Ambassador and First Minister let out little shrieks and scurried away.

"Hide everyone," Harry screamed, running right behind them.

The security officers dropped to one knee and started firing - to no avail, as the Borg advanced.

Janeway was just in time to see BíElanna pick up a startled Tom and throw him over her shoulder, before she too ran after the retreating figures.

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

"In here. Quickly," the First Minister hissed, as BíElanna started to run past an open doorway. She saw that Harry, Persher and the Captain were already in the room. As BíElanna hurried inside, the First Minister slid the door closed and locked it.

"If we all stay quiet, they may go straight past."

"I donít think thatís very likely, First Minister," Janeway said quietly.

BíElanna put Tom down on the floor and then helped him to stand up again. He brushed her hand away angrily. "I donít know what the hellís wrong with you, but----"

Damn! BíElanna thought. Well, it worked the first time. She threw herself at him again and kissed him thoroughly.

"As I was saying," she heard the Captain say. "I believe the Borg will be coming for you. You are after all, the First Minister. If they can assimilate you, they would believe the rest of the populace would surrender."

Tom managed to push BíElanna away from him. He took a few steps back, regarding her warily, as the First Minister rushed over to a communications console.

"The force field will be up in five minutes."

"Thatís wonderful news," the Captain declared, while BíElanna ran her hands through her hair in frustration. Five minutes! We only have five minutes to get the Regallians to take the lockout off of Tom.

"What are you going to do about the Borg that are already down here though?" the Captain continued.

"Weíll transport them off the planet, just before the force field is reactivated. Donít worry itís all under control again."

"I donít think we have five minutes First Minister," Harry said worriedly.

"Ensign Kimís right," Ambassador Persher wailed. "The Borg will be here at any moment."

"Is there any way you can shield this room?" BíElanna asked suddenly. "Like you did Tomís room before?"

The Minister nodded. "It will take a lot of energy. Most of it is being used to get the force field back up."

"Take all other systems off line. That should do it." BíElanna was starting to worry that the transporter lockout on Tom had been overlooked. How could she bring it up, without it looking suspicious? The Regallians were supposed to be so panicked that they diverted all power immediately.

"Iím trying to," the First Minister answered. "Any second now."

A sudden banging at the door, made them all look up in surprise. "Oh no," the Ambassador collapsed to the floor. "Weíre too late. Itís the Borg."

The Minister worked feverishly at the console as the Borg burst through the doorway. There were three of them. BíElanna was surprised to see Tom hobbling towards them. "Tom! What are you doing?"

"Holding them off," Tom called over his shoulder.

Damn! BíElanna reached out to grab hold of him. "You canít hold off a Borg."

"I can try," Tom yelled out over the sounds of bedlam. He launched himself at the first Borg and was thrown off immediately. Groggily he struggled back to his feet. BíElanna held onto his arm.

"One more minute, thatís all I need," the Minister called out. "Just one more minute for the shield around the room to be in place."

BíElanna looked around in panic. They still had the lockout on Tom. She couldnít believe it. What would it take? He managed to pull out of her grasp and threw himself at the first Borg again, only to land heavily on the floor.

Janeway suddenly yelled out. "BíElanna, Harry - plan B them."

BíElanna tackled the second Borg as it came towards her. She climbed up on its back and tried to pull some of its implants out, yelling like a banshee as they whirled around the room.

Harry raced over to the third Borg and tried a flying tackle. The Borg was caught off guard and thrown backwards. Unfortunately, the first Borg - who had been advancing towards Tom, still lying on the floor -stepped up and hit Harry over the back of the neck. He crumpled to the ground as the Borg extended the tubules on the back of its hand and injected them into Harryís neck.

"NO!" Tom screamed. He crawled frantically over towards them, while the Ambassadorís screams rose to a new level.

The Minister looked up from his console in horror.

"Divert all power," Janeway yelled. "From everywhere. Itís the only way."

Tom threw himself on the Borg that was in the process of assimilating Harry, as BíElanna rushed towards them.

"Harry!" Tom cried, and then the transporter beam engulfed him.

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

Tom looked around in confusion, as he rematerialized on the transporter padd. Neelix rushed over to support him as he attempted to stand up, and then helped him step down. The Doctor stepped forward, brandishing his medical tricorder.

"Doc, we have to get the others." Tom choked out. He looked frantically over towards Vorik, who was attending the transporter controls. "The Borg. They got Harry. Maybe even BíElanna."

"Energizing," Vorikís calm voice announced.

Tom looked back at the transporter padds, fear filling him. The last time heíd seen BíElanna, she was throwing herself at a Borg, and Harry - poor Harry. He didnít even notice the tears streaming down his face.

As the three figures rematerialized in the room, Tom was amazed to see, both Harry and BíElanna jump up from their prone positions on the floor. Janeway stepped down and grabbed Tomís arm, squeezing it tightly. She tapped her commbadge. "Commander, weíre all here. Youíd better get us out of here, before the Regallians wake up to what happened."

"Aye Captain. Gladly," Chakotay acknowledged.

Janeway turned towards the Doctor. "Iím glad to see youíre running smoothly again," she said with a smile, as BíElanna stepped down and looked at Tom with concern.

"Ensign Vorik here, fixed my program. I take it everything went off without a hitch?" the Doctor asked.

"They took a lot longer than we anticipated to take the lockout off of Tom. But things went according to plan."

"You should have seen me Doc," Harry jumped down from the transporter padd, gleefully. "I was brilliant. I so love that I got to be assimilated."

"I think you overplayed your part just a little," the Captain said dryly.

Harry chuckled. "It sure fooled the Regallians. I even had Tom here going, didnít I?" He nudged Tom lightly in the ribs, but when BíElanna elbowed him - not so lightly - he stopped and took a proper look at Tom. "Tom? Are you all right?"

"It was all a simulation. You know that now, donít you Tom?" BíElanna hugged him as she asked.

When Tom still didnít answer, Janeway touched his arm. "It was all done with holo-emitters," she explained. "None of it was real. Iím sorry. We didnít think about what effect all that would have on you."

Tom stepped back from BíElanna, realizing that his face was wet. Scrubbing his eyes with the sleeve of the golden robe he was still wearing, he growled. "I knew it all along."

"Yeah, right!" Harry snorted, only to receive another - even harder - elbow in the ribs from BíElanna. "Ow! That hurt."

"Come along Mr. Paris," the Doctor said, holding out a walking stick to Tom. "I know I said that you could return to your quarters, but that was before all the traumatic events of today took place. Iíd like you to spend one more night in sickbay, under observation, just to be safe."

Tom really couldnít be bothered arguing, so he simply took the walking stick and started to limp from the room. He didnít notice everyoneís startled gazes behind him. As he entered the turbolift alongside the Doc, he noticed that Harry and BíElanna were coming too.

As the lift took them to deck five, where sickbay was located, Tom studiously avoided looking at anybody. He was no longer upset and confused. In fact, he was mad, and getting madder, by the second. He knew that Harry and BíElanna were sending him concerned looks, before looking at each other - bewilderment on their faces.

The Doctor attempted to start a conversation by asking questions about what had happened during the fake Borg invasion, but as no one answered him, he soon lapsed into silence as well.

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

Tom was out of the turbolift as soon as the doors opened, and hobbled purposefully towards sickbay. He could feel his anger mounting with each step until he thought he was going to explode.

"Please take that robe off and get up on a biobed," the Doctor told him as soon as they entered the sickbay. "I just want to make sure you didnít suffer any more damage."

Tom silently did as he was told and the Doctor began his examination.

"T-o-m?í" Harry began nervously. "You are all right, arenít you?"

Tom nodded. "Fine," he managed to grind out.

"To be honest, you donít look fine. And youíre not acting - fine."

"Really Harry?" Tom said through gritted teeth.

Harry bobbed his head up and down. "Yes really. Donít you think so BíElanna?"

"I think Tomís mad at us. Arenít you Tom?"

"What gives you that idea?" Tomís voice was a growl.

"The look on your face," BíElanna answered simply.

Tom shut his eyes and mentally counted to ten - breaking a new speed record as he did so. "Iím not mad," he ground out.

"Yes you are," BíElanna argued. "I think you should let it out. Youíll probably feel better afterwards."

"Why would I be mad at you?" Tom heard himself practically shout.

BíElanna shrugged. "Youíll have to tell us that. You shouldnít keep things bottled up, you know."

Tom clenched his teeth together and shook his head refusing to let her bait him.

"You know, Iím kind of surprised at you Tom," Harry said suddenly. "After all, we did just save your life. And you havenít even said thank you." He turned to BíElanna and winked.

"Harryís right," BíElanna taunted. "We went to a lot of trouble you know."

"Not to mention risking life and limb," Harry added.

Tom could practically feel the steam coming out of his ears. How can they joke about it? They put me through hell. "THATíS - NOT - FUNNY," he roared.

BíElanna and Harry exchanged looks. "See, I told you he was mad," BíElanna said.

"I - AM - NOT - MAD."

"Well now, let me see." The Doctor decided to get into the act. "Hmmn! According to these readings both your pulse and heart rate are at unusually high levels. Your breathing is rapid and your----"

"Argh!" Tom yelled in fury, interrupting the Doctorís diagnosis. He picked up the ceremonial robe that heíd put at the end of the bed and threw it at the EMH. Everyone watched in amazement as the robe sailed high into the air and then landed gracefully over the Doctorís head.

The EMH made a slight harrumphing sound and then peered out from under the garment.

"Nice catch," Harry told him admiringly, before dissolving into chuckles.

"No, nice throw," BíElanna giggled helplessly next to him.

The Doctor sniffed. "I see weíre back to playing dodge the missile again." He pulled the robe off of his head and proceeded to fold it up neatly.

"Iím not playing anything," Tom said furiously. "How could you? How could you do that to me?" He leaned forward, glaring at BíElanna and Harry as he yelled. "You made me think - you didnít even care that I might - I canít believe that you would -." He knew that he wasnít making much sense, but didnít really care.

Both BíElanna and Harry sobered immediately. "Tom, we had to. It was the only way we could get you out of there," BíElanna tried to explain.

"You should have told me," Tom shouted. "Gods, I thought youíd both been assimilated."

"Weíre sorry," Harry said quietly. "We couldnít let you in on the plan. We couldnít take the chance."

"The Regallians had your room monitored," BíElanna told him. "Everything that was said in there was recorded. We couldnít even try to pass you a message or signal you somehow. They could probably see us as well. We couldnít let the Regallians suspect anything. It was too important."

She sat on the bed next to him and took his hand in hers. "The Captain was right though. We were so focused on making sure it would work and that it looked realistic that we didnít stop to think how it would make you feel. Please try to understand. We really didnít have any other choice."

"I thought youíd all gone crazy," Tom said quietly. "I couldnít believe the way you were acting."

"We did overact just a little, didnít we?" Harry said with a smile.

Tom smiled back. "Just a little. You know, I really did think something wasnít quite right when we were in the hallway, but then I just got caught up in everything." He shook his head in wonder. "I canít believe I fell for it."

"The Captainís plan was brilliant," Harry gloated.

Tom nodded. "One thing I donít understand, is how you got so many mobile emitters. I thought you couldnít reproduce any more that worked properly?"

"I canít," BíElanna said in exasperation. "I replicated the Doctors and managed to get them to work for about fifteen minutes each. I set them to self-destruct when they malfunctioned."

"If weíre lucky, the Regallians will never know what happened," Harry told him. "Theyíll think that they managed to hold off the Borg until their force field was up again and the Borg simply gave up. Theyíll probably spend the next few years strengthening their shields and looking into cloaking technology."

"Hopefully, theyíll believe that Voyager beamed us all up and took off to get away from the Borg," BíElanna finished.

"Theyíll probably keep their force field up the entire time and not let anyone visit ever again," Tom commented. "Just in case the Borg come back."

"That could be a good thing, considering their weird beliefs," BíElanna said coldly.

Tom all of a sudden started to chuckle. "Iím just remembering you screaming Harry. And the Captain!" His laughter grew louder and Harry and BíElanna joined in. "I still canít believe you BíElanna. Clinging to that guardís neck. And throwing yourself into my arms like that, to shut me up. And the Captain pretending that that was perfectly normal." Soon he had to hold his sides. "Ow! It hurts," he managed to gasp between breaths.

The Doctor shook his head reproachfully at the three friends laughing hysterically, clutching their stomachs. "This is a sickbay - not a circus and Iím a Doctor - not a ringmaster. Itís time for Mr. Paris to get some much-needed sleep. Iíll have to ask you both to leave."

"Sure Doc," Harry said trying hard to stop his chuckles. "Hey! I donít know about you Maquis, but Iím starving. I havenít had anything to eat since breakfast."

"Hey, youíre right Starfleet. We were too busy trying to save Helmboy hereís butt, to think of eating."

"I resent that," Tom protested. "I havenít eaten anything since breakfast either."

"Are you hungry Mr. Paris?"

Tom nodded. "A little."

"I know just the thing." The Doctor walked over to the replicator. "A glass of warm milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

"I donít know about the milk Doc, but the sandwich will go down nicely."

Harry grinned at him. "Well, now that youíre all fixed up. Coming Maquis?" He held out his arm and dipped an imaginary hat. "May I have the honor of escorting you to the messhall?"

"Why, Harry! I donít know what to say. Are you asking me out on a date?"

Harry opened and shut his mouth. "A date?"

"I canít believe you did that. Tomís sitting right over there." She pointed her finger.

"I didnít ask you out on a date Torres," Harry growled.

"Yes you did. Poor Tom! Youíre supposed to be his best friend. Iím shocked Harry."

"This isnít funny Torres." Tom thought it was, and he grinned in delight.

"I agree. What are people going to say?" BíElanna answered. She eyed him up and down, critically. "Hmmn! You are rather cute. Iím sure lotís of girls think so."

"Cut it out BíElanna. Itís not funny."

"Weíll have to be careful. Try and avoid the gossips. It will look like we ditched Tom and then rushed off to continue our wild passionate fling."

"Donít let me stop you," Tom called out merrily.

Harry snorted. "I donít know how you two can joke about it."

"My advice to you Har is, if theyíre going to talk about you at least make it exciting," Tom told him.

"Iíll keep that in mind. Now are you coming or not?" he hissed at BíElanna.

"Well, after such a poetic request, how can I refuse?"

"Well, come on then. I can hear the mould growing on the food."

"Harry! I think I just lost my appetite."

"Suit yourself, but Iím going - now."

"Okay. Okay." BíElanna leaned down and kissed Tom soundly, as the EMH watched interestedly and Harry stood at the sickbay doors, tapping his foot impatiently.

"Hurry up, already. Iím not standing here while you give Tom a Tonsillectomy with your tongue," he snapped.

BíElanna stood up slowly and turned around to glare at Harry. Tomís eyes opened wide. "Boy, someone around here sure canít take a joke."

"Yes Harry," BíElanna said slowly. "That wasnít very nice."

Harryís face suddenly broke out in a huge grin. "Payback," he cried out. "See ya Tom. I gotta go." He ran out of the room.

"Why, that little---" BíElanna tore off after him. Tom and the Doctor could hear their shouts echoing down the hallway.

"Hmmn!" the Doctor said thoughtfully. "Remind me to check their medical files afterwards. It seems I must have their ages incorrectly noted."

Tom just smiled at him, his mind already busy elsewhere. He had to come up with a plan. Of course, heíd have to be careful. He didnít want the Captain to come down too heavily on him. Sheíd have to be included though, that much was certain. Tom smiled dreamily. Lookout Janeway, Torres and Kim - payback was coming, and it would be sweet - oh - so - sweet.

The End

TíPam August 1999
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