Phase Shift
By TíPam
 

Standard disclaimer: All of Voyager and its crew, Star Trek and all itís incarnations - probably space itself - belongs to Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended. No money will be made from this story. It is just for fun.
 

Part Two

"Report!" Captain Janeway barked.

"Captain," Chakotay shrugged his shoulders. "BíElanna and Harry are still trying to come up with some answers. I donít know how to explain it. One minute he was here and then he disappeared."

"Was it a transport of some kind?"

The Commander shook his head. "Not as far as we can tell. There was no beam and thereís no transporter signature of any kind. He really seemed to just vanish."

"I canít accept that, Chakotay. People donít just disappear. It must have been some sort of transporter, but a lot more advanced than we are. We have to find him, and soon. The Doctor is really worried, and I think that speaks for itself."

"Yes," Chakotay agreed. "BíElannaís frantic and Harryís not much better. I was going to send them back up to the ship, but theyíre the best hope weíve got of finding out what happened."

The Captain shook her head. "They probably would have disobeyed you anyway. They wonít rest until weíve got Tom back. Is there any evidence of temporal displacement, alternate dimensions, or alien interference of any kind?"

Chakotay sighed. "Nothing like that. Tuvokís run sweep after sweep and come up with nothing. BíElannaís got practically the whole of engineering down here, running diagnostics but so far everythingís checked out. The only clue we have is that Tomís life signs were fluctuating according to the tricorder, although we canít work out why. Harryís still investigating all the readings the Doctor did."

"Captain," Harry was hurrying towards her. "Iíve found something. The medical tricorder that the Doc was using to scan Tom wasnít malfunctioning. Tom was causing it, due to some sort of phase variance that he was creating."

"How is that possible?" Chakotay was stunned.

"I donít know Commander. Itís almost as if he shifted out of phase with us, but I donít know how or why."

"Out of phase with us?"

Harry nodded. "Itís happened before, but thereís no real explanation for it. I remember quite a few years ago now, reading about some sort of disaster on a planet, and when the rescue teams arrived they thought there were no survivors. Only there was, but they couldnít see them because they were .00000001 of a second or something, in front of them in time. It was like a whole different reality."

"Are you saying that Tom could be lying here right now, just as we left him, only we canít see him?"

"Yes sir, only who knows if heís lying on the beach? How do we know what this planet is like where he is?" Harryís voice shook. "Where weíre standing could be covered with water. Everything could be entirely different."

The Captain put her hand on his shoulder. "Letís not borrow any more trouble than we have already Harry. Get BíElanna over here and see if you can find the right variance."

Harry took a deep breath. "Yes Captain. That could be almost impossible though, as there are an infinite number of possibilities."

Janeway sighed unhappily. "Maybe BíElanna can come up with something."

However, BíElanna could only agree with Harry. "Iíve got the computer working on it, but it could take days, even weeks." She slumped over dejectedly.

"May I remind you all, that Tom doesnít have days - and certainly not weeks," the Doctor said curtly. "He has, at the most, two hours before he will most certainly die."

"What are we supposed to do?" BíElanna turned on him angrily. She was shouting now, in front of the Captain too, but didnít care. "You should have operated on him straight away, at least then he would have had a chance."

"BíElanna, youíre talking as if his fate is already sealed," Chakotay chided softly, putting his arm around her. "None of us are giving up on him yet."

"Neither am I," BíElanna snarled, pushing him away from her. "Iíll find a way to quicken the computer search. Just leave me alone." She marched off, adjusting her tricorder as she went.

Harry hurried after her. "Iíll give you a hand. Iíve got a few ideas."

"Carry on," Janeway said softly, as Chakotay squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.
 

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

Mallee paced up and down outside their home, nervously.

"Do you think Father can save it?" Quilla asked. She was perched on the stone fence watching her sister.

"Iím not sure Quilla, but I know heíll do the best that he can."

"Then he will," Quilla said triumphantly. "Fatherís the best animal doctor in the whole world."

Mallee smiled. "Iím not sure that it is an animal, Quilla. You heard what Father guessed. Itís probably some sort of genetic mutation from the mountain people. I donít think heíll let you keep it, weíll have to take it back."

"Thatís not fair. They left it to die Mallee. So they didnít want it and I do. Father said I could have anything I wanted for my birthday."

Mallee sighed patiently. "I suppose youíve picked out a name already?"

The little girl shook her head. "Not yet. I want to wait and see if itís a boy or girl. I think itís a boy, even though it doesnít have any scales on its neck and has hair on its head, donít you?"

"Hmm," Mallee said thoughtfully. "Youíre probably right. It has smooth skin like a girl and five fingers on its hand instead of three, but it doesnít have any ridges like us. It also has hair on its chest and no girls have hair growing there."

"Animals have though," Quilla said triumphantly.

Mallee laughed. "Have it your own way."

Their father appeared shortly afterwards, a worried frown on his face. "I have done all I can," he told his daughters. "The creatures insides were full of poison. I have given him an antitoxin but was not sure of the appropriate dosage. Weíll just have to wait and see if it was enough."

"Is it a boy then?" Quilla asked excitedly.

"Yes," her father answered. "Although unlike any male creature I have ever seen. He seems to be fully grown, which is amazing enough, but he only has one heart. All of his internal organs are in strange places and quite frankly, Iím not sure what all of them are for. One of them was completely rotten and that is what was poisoning the rest of him. I have taken it out, as I couldnít find any useful purpose for it. I just hope I have done the right thing."

"Thank you Father. Can I help to nurse him?" Mallee asked eagerly.

"I donít see why not. You have a very gentle bedside manner."

"I want to help too!"

"Not right now Quilla, maybe later," her father told her.

"But I want to keep him for my very own. Itís my birthday, and you said I could pick anything."

"He will have to be tested first. To see if he is dangerous,í her father warned her. "I do not believe that he is, but we have to make sure that he is domesticated. However, I do not think it is a good idea for you to have any more petsí young lady. You were very cruel to that Teeka bird you had, and also the Binda cat."

"Oh, but they were so naughty all the time. They wouldnít do what they were told. And I didnít mean to be cruel Father."

"You pulled the Teeka birdís head off, Quilla!" Mallee scolded. "And that poor cat!" she shuddered. "Iím just glad that Father found a home for her, before you killed her too."

"But, she scratched me."

"Only because you were pulling her tail all the time."

"She kept trying to run away. I had to stop her."

"Thatís because you were always being mean to her."

"Enough girls," their father scolded. "Quilla, Mallee is right. Until you are older and can understand how to treat animals better, you will have no more pets." He held up his hand as Quilla let out a shriek. "That doesnít mean that you canít help your sister look after this one. But you must be gentle and caring. The problem is, that you donít know your own strength."

He turned to his eldest daughter. "And Mallee, you must be patient with your little sister. She is only four rotations of the sun. I seem to remember some terribly cruel doings of yours, when you were that age."

Mallee nodded her head, a little embarrassed. "What are we going to do with him, when he gets better then Father? Should we return him to the mountains?"

Her father shook his head. "Somebody obviously couldnít be bothered with the poor thing and so they abandoned him. It was a very cruel thing to do. I think we should keep him, at least for now. He will have a good home with us and will be good company for you both. But remember Quilla, he is not yours to do with as you want."

"Yes sir. Iíll be gentle this time. I promise."

Mallee still looked anxious. "I was just a little worried that he might not want to stay when heís all better, thatís all."

"Iíll tie him up then," Quilla said determinedly. "Iíll make him stay with us, you just watch."

"Quilla!" her father said sharply. "What have we just been saying? I wouldnít worry about that anyway girls. Most animals, if you show them kindness, will want to stay. We will be offering it a far better home than what it must have had with the mountain people."
 

"So, you think he really is an animal then, do you Father?"

"No, not really, but it sounds better than calling him a genetic mutant all the time Mallee. I do not believe that he can talk as you claim to have heard, not a proper conversation anyway. I do not miscount the possibility of him being able to mimic though. I will have quite a few tests to run, when heís better."
 

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

"Damn it!!" BíElanna yelled, banging her fist on the table. "Itís impossible!"

"BíElanna, calm down. This isnít helping."

"Nothing is helping Chakotay! You heard what the Doctor said. Itís been two hours. You know whatís probably happening right now." She choked, unable to continue.

They had all gathered in the briefing room back on Voyager to discuss their progress, - or lack of it. The Captainís face was pinched and drawn. "Weíre not giving up. Weíll keep on trying. Maybe weíre going about this the wrong way. What made Tom phase shift anyway? Has anyone been able to determine a reason?"

"No Captain." Harry ran his hands through his hair. "Thereís a slight variance in the atmosphere of the planet that our scans didnít pick up at first, but it shouldnít effect anything or anyone. Itís so minute that I just canít see how that could be a contributing factor."

"Minute or not Ensign, it is logical to pursue this line of enquiry. Since Mr. Paris has definitely phase shifted and the atmosphere has, however small, a phase variance -----,"

"Tuvokís right," the Captain interrupted. "This is too much of a coincidence."

"I know," Harry said dejectedly. "Iíve tried everything I can think of. Iím sorry, but I just donít know what to do next. Even if the atmosphere is to blame somehow, I canít work out how or why. And more importantly - why only Tom? I mean, we were all down there. We were all standing, right with him. Why didnít we all disappear?"

The Captain sighed heavily. "Anybody got any ideas?"

The Doctor said hesitantly. "Iím not sure what this means, but I have gone over Mr. Parisís tricorder readings again and there was a strange substance in his system that he seems to have digested."

"He ate the same as the rest of us Doc," Harry said. "Neelixís picnic basket. Although he did eat a lot more than the rest of us." And that was my fault because of the stupid joke I played on him regarding his weight. If it werenít for me Neelix would never have insisted on fattening him up, he thought guiltily.

Neelix sat up startled. "Oh my! This is all my fault." He started to hyperventilate at the thought.

"Neelix, calm down," Janeway held up her hand. "If this is anyoneís fault it is mine. I noticed how ill he was looking and instead of insisting he come back up to the ship, I left him down there. So donít blame yourself."

"You should take your own advice, Captain," the Doctor said sadly. "Mr. Paris should have known enough by now, to come up himself."

"Donít start that again," BíElanna growled.

"I am merely pointing out that the Captain should not blame herself. She is not a trained medical assistant," the Doctor said snippily. "May I suggest that I take a few readings of all the people that ate from Mr. Neelixís picnic basket."

A few minutes later the Doctor was able to confirm that no one else was registering the strange substance.

"Maybe Tomís readings are wrong, due to all those fluctuations, Doc," Harry suggested.

The Doctor shook his head. "No, thatís not it. I am quite certain that Tom ate something the rest of you did not. That combined with his high temperature and the strange readings in the atmosphere are most likely what caused this, but Iím afraid I donít know how."

Neelix suddenly jumped up. "Tom did eat something that no-one else did. I just remembered. He ate everything on his plate including the plate."

BíElanna jumped up to face him. "Pítahk! This is no time to joke."

Chakotay grabbed her and pushed her back into her chair.

"Explain!" Seven of Nine demanded her brow arched up slightly.

Neelix flushed. "I used some of the leaves that were down on the planet to eat off of instead of plates. Tom had forgotten to bring them you see. They were his responsibility, but he was in such a hurry he forgot. I didnít want to see he and BíElanna get into another argument so I came up with the idea of using some of the leaves instead. There were these huge purple ones that were really quite lovely and I made sure they werenít poisonous or harmful in any way. The tricorder said that they had no nutritional value whatsoever." He shrugged.

"I know all that," BíElanna said impatiently. "But I can assure you that Tom didnít eat one. I would have noticed, thatís for sure."

"Yes, he did," the Talaxian argued. "He was using the - um - bathroom facilities when I was explaining about the leaves and didnít hear me. When he came back, I handed him a Ďplate of delicaciesí and he rolled it all together and took at least three big bites before I noticed. We were all looking at poor Ensign Turner at the time. If youíll remember, his swimming trunks had----"

"Oh yes, - of course" the Captain interrupted. How could anyone forget? What a sight!!!

"It seems we missed out on something, Seven," Chakotay couldnít help smiling despite the serious situation and his worry over Tom.

"Indeed!" Seven answered dryly.

"Yes, well, anyway," Neelix continued. "As I turned back towards Tom I saw what he was eating and told him about the leaves. You were all still talking about poor Ensign Turner and probably didnít notice. Tom said he thought that it was an open sandwich, whatever that is, and the leaf improved the taste, so he ate it all. I didnít see any harm in it as the leaves had checked out."

"Why didnít you say something before?" BíElanna snapped at him.

"I didnít realize-----. I mean, this is the first time the Doctor has mentioned anything about something Tom ate being one of the reasons---."

"Well, we donít know that for sure," the Captain interrupted. "But itís certainly a place to start. Neelix, get some of these leaves beamed up straight away for the Doctor to examine. Harry, BíElanna, keep on working on the variance calculations. Seven, perhaps you could give them a hand?"

"Of course!" the former Borg consented. "So, it is agreed that we are working on the Doctorís assumption that Ensign Paris phase shifted to another reality, due to atmospheric and certain physical conditions of his?"

"For now. Itís the only lead we have."

"Unfortunately, there are certain matters that need to be clarified," Tuvok felt he had to say.

"All of it needs to be explained Tuvok. We just donít have the answers."

"No Captain, that is not what I meant. Doctor, if your hypothesis is correct, as soon as you administered the medication to Mr. Paris, to decrease his body temperature, he should have come back fully to us, as you would have taken one of the factors out of the equation. I also do not understand why his body was not fluctuating the same as his readings."

"Tuvokís right," Harry agreed. "We were all with Tom, and his body was there the whole time. It should have been disappearing on and off."

"Well, I didnít say I had all the answers," the Doctor said huffily. "The only thing I can assume is that he was existing in both places at once. And as for why he didnít come back to us. Do you remember how Mr. Paris kept on insisting that there was another girl with us?"

"He was delusional," BíElanna put in.

The Doctor shook his head. "I donít think so. Remember that I told you at the time he shouldnít have been. I believe that she was in the other reality, in contact with him in some way. Thus, his comment about her touching him. As long as she had hold of him in some way, it would have been enough to keep him there, as well as here."

"Okay Doc, I follow you so far, but why did he suddenly disappear into her reality?" Harry asked. "We were holding onto him here too. I had his shoulders and the Commander had his legs, if you recall."

"I am not sure," the Doctor admitted, as BíElanna growled in frustration. "Somehow, she managed to pull him across the barrier between our two worlds."

"Perhaps the girl had help," Harry quickly put in. "Remember what Tom said just before he disappeared? We thought he was hallucinating at the time."

"He gasped out Ďgiantsí. Wouldnít that mean there were more?" BíElanna said eagerly.

The Doctor nodded. "I have no idea how they managed to do it though."

"Which means," Harry said miserably, "we still canít get him back."

"At least we now have a sound hypothesis of what happened," the captain said heartily.

"But weíve run out of time," BíElanna reminded her angrily.

"I would like to believe that these people have helped Tom, BíElanna. Surely, they have doctors too," the Captain said reassuringly. She looked her straight in the eye with conviction. "Until it is proven otherwise that is what we will all believe. That is an order everyone."

"Yes Captain," everyone chorused.

"Now, everyone, back to work. Keep each other informed at all times. Iíll help the Doctor."

"Captain," Tuvok spoke up. "May I just remind everyone, that this is all merely conjecture at this point? There is no corroborating evidence to support this theory at the present time."

"No, you may not Commander," everyone chorused again.
 

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

Tom slowly came back to consciousness. Something cool was pressed against his forehead. He could hear soft, cooing noises. Thank gods; the painís gone he thought to himself. Everything was fuzzy as he looked around. This didnít look like sickbay, though it was hard to tell. "BíElanna?" he ventured.

"Shh! Shh!" a voice said. It then continued in a babble of strange whistles and chirpings that Tom couldnít understand. He struggled to sit up and clear his head. "Ow!" He felt like his stomach was going to explode. Gods, the painís still here. Why isnít somebody helping me?

The voice continued to babble at him and then he was pushed back down again. The pain subsided and he drifted back into an anxious sleep.
 

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

"I would like to volunteer my services," Seven of Nine announced to the group around the conference table. "It seems to be the logical conclusion."

"How so?" The Captain wasnít the only one with a look of astonishment on her face. Even Tuvokís eyebrow was raised at an alarming level.

"My Borg implant," Seven answered, as if that explained everything. The blank looks she was receiving in return caused her to sigh inwardly. "To be more precise, the implant around my eye could be altered to the precise phase variance that we need. I would then be able to see Ensign Paris myself and bring him back."

"Well, if it comes to that, my mobile emitter could be altered so that I can be the one to go. Actually, it would make more sense if I went so that I can give medical treatment straight away as we are still not sure how to bring him back."

"Youíre emitter is fragile and if it were damaged you would be lost. My idea is superior."

"Really!" the doctor said icily. "I beg to differ---."

The Captain cleared her throat. "Harry, BíElanna - have you found the correct variance?"

At Harryís shake of the head she said, "I didnít think so. Until we do, it would be rather pointless sending either of you anywhere. However, thank you for the offer, Iíll keep it in mind."

"It would have been a lot easier if Tom had been wearing his commbadge," Harry said morosely. "As it is weíve got nothing to lock on. All we can do is look for human lifesigns. Itís a real needle in a haystack."

BíElanna sat back dejectedly. Itís too late!! Too late!!! kept running through her mind.

"I believe that our next course of action should be, to re-create the exact circumstances of Mr. Parisís disappearance," Tuvok suggested.

"I donít want to lose anybody else," Janeway said quickly.

"If you monitor my vital signs closely, we should be able to ascertain the correct variance."

"You, Tuvok?"

"Yes Commander. I am the logical choice."

"Hmph!" the Doctor snorted. "That was Sevenís argument. I can assure you Commander that there is a lot more to it than just eating a purple leaf and falling asleep on the beach."

"I am aware of that. However, I have the ability to regulate my body temperature to a given degree. I am also able to control my sleep. I am confident that I can stop myself from crossing over, but will still be able to see what is happening around me. I should be able to confirm if Mr. Paris is still there at least."

"Captain, if Tuvok can get to the same phase variance as Tom, BíElanna and I should be able to rig up some sort of device for an away team to wear as an armband or something, to go to the same variance to bring him back." Harry was starting to feel enthusiastic about the idea.

"Are you sure about this Tuvok?"

"Yes Captain. I would not have suggested it otherwise."

"Well what are we waiting for?" Harry jumped up eagerly.

"The sun will be rising down on the planet in approximately two point four hours. I suggest we have everything ready by then." Seven said efficiently.

"Letís go," Janeway led them all out.

Harry turned around as he realized that BíElanna was still sitting in her chair. "Hey," he said softly. "Arenít you coming?"

"Itís been twelve hours Harry. Itís too late. Weíre too late." Tears were pooling in her eyes.

Harry knelt down beside her. "Do you want me to report you to the Captain for refusing to obey a direct order?" he teased quietly. "The Captain ordered us to believe that there were people on that planet who would help Tom. You have to believe that. I do."

BíElanna took a deep breath. "Youíre right. Sorry! My human side took over there for a little while. Come-on. This is going to work, I just know it."

Chakotay, who had been standing in the doorway, sighed heavily. If this idea of Tuvokís didnít work, he had one of his own. It might not bring Tom back, but at least it would put a few minds at rest.
 

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

"Captain, I would like to volunteer my services." Ensign Vorik stepped forward to greet the Captain as she entered the transporter room.

"Seven, heís stealing your lines," the Doctor whispered in a loud aside. She, in turn, raised her eyebrow in an excellent imitation of Tuvok. The Doctor was going to continue, but noticed the Captain was giving him Ďthe lookí.

She turned her attention back to the Vulcan. "How so?" she asked, feeling like she was stuck in some sort of time loop.

"Commander Tuvok has been explaining his intent. I believe it would be desirable for me to accompany you. Although my mental discipline is not as advanced as the Commanders it would be beneficial to have somebody there that can understand exactly what he is trying to accomplish. Just in case a difficulty arises, of course."

"Of course," the Captain echoed. She felt herself smiling. This was the sixth person to stop her to offer assistance, discounting the senior staff. There had been many more offers relayed via Chakotay. Chakotay himself had come to her with the idea of trying to reach Tom through The Spirit World. Although he wouldnít be able to bring him back, he may be able to see if he was all right. It was heartwarming. Tom was obviously very popular. Most of the crew had sat up through the night Ďbrainstormingí. If only Tom could see it.

"Thank you Ensign." She cleared her throat. "Are you ready Tuvok?"

The Commander nodded, his gaze fixed firmly on the Ďopen sandwichí Neelix was holding. "The Commander is down on the surface helping Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim set up."

"Good, weíd better join them then."
 

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

"Taste is irrelevant!"

"Indeed!"

"Come on Commander, it canít be that bad."

"You are mistaken Ensign. It can be. I am finding it extremely difficult to digest."

"Oh dear! Oh dear! Tom said it was delicious."

"It appears that Ensign Paris has abnormal taste buds, even for a Human."

"Commander, enough! I am extremely disappointed in your rather recalcitrant behavior."

"Indeed!"

"Indeed," Seven repeated. "Taste is irrelevant. This must be done."

"I am Vulcan. I can do this."

"Then do it." As far as she was concerned that was the end of the matter.

Harry shuddered. How had Tom managed to eat that ĎThingí?

"These foods really are quite delicious eaten separately," Neelix was saying. "Of course, they are not meant to be eaten together like this. And I can only imagine what the leaf is doing to the taste."

"Ensign Paris digested this and so Commander Tuvok must do the same. We are trying to duplicate the exact circumstances of the incident."

"Does that mean that Tuvok will have to eat all the other junk that Tom stuffed in?"

"Junk???" Neelix was offended. He glared at Harry.

"We do not believe that will be necessary." Seven walked over to where the Captain was standing with BíElanna and Chakotay. "We are ready."

Tuvok sat down in the sand next to the place Tom had last been seen. He closed his eyes and concentrated. It wasnít long before he was in a trance, regulating his body temperature to the required 103.2 degrees.

Ensign Vorik sat down across from him and closed his eyes as well.
 

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

"Howís he doing?" Mallee asked her father.

"Much better. His temperature has come down, although, of course I donít know what it should be normally. I think heís got rid of all the toxins from his body now. If youíll take over, Iíve got some paying customers to attend to," he smiled.

"You should rest, Father. Youíve been up all night with him."

"Iíve done it before Mallee, and Iíll probably have to do it again. Iíll be fine."

"Has he said anything?"

"No. Just a few strange animal sounds, thatís all."

"Oh!" Mallee was disappointed. "When I was looking after him before, he kept on making this strange noise - sort of like," she hesitated. "Blannneee - I thought it might mean something."

Her father patted her arm. "Donít get your hopes up my love. I know that you would like to prove your theory of us not being the only people, but I donít think youíll be able to with this one."

"I just wish that you, at least, would take me seriously Father. Itís impossible to believe that we are the only sentient creatures anywhere."

"And if there are others, where do they live? This whole world has been explored - many, many times. It is a proven fact that there are only the mountain people and us. Your ideas about people living in the stars are wonderful stories, but not very believable."

"Others believe it, besides me," Mallee pointed out.

"A very small minority, my love. Iím proud that you will stand up for your convictions, but please donít expect me to blindly follow you."

Mallee sighed. They had had many arguments like this before. "Iím just saying that the possibility is there, thatís all."

Her father sighed also. "If this is a creature from the stars, how did he get here? Did he jump off of his star?"

"Of course not," Mallee said quietly. It hurt when her beloved father made fun of her ideas.

Just then Tom started to thrash about, groaning loudly. "Time for his pain medication. You know what to do. Thereís porridge on the cooker for your breakfast and Iíve made something up for our guest. Call me if you need me." With those words her father left, as she rushed over to Tomís side.
 

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

The Doctor ran a tricorder over Tuvok. "His readings are fluctuating the same as Mr. Parisís. This seems to be working."

Tuvok had been in his trance for almost an hour and the Captain was starting to worry. She signaled to Harry to start recording. Hopefully theyíd have some answers soon.

Tuvok looked all around. He seemed to be in the same place as before, but something felt different. He could still see the away team standing over him. The doctor seemed to be taking his readings. He sighed. Ensign Paris was certainly not here. He searched the ground for some clues. Were there any footprints around the area to support their belief that some one had taken the pilot away? The sand was a mess, but he couldnít be sure what reality he was looking in.

It was a curious sensation - to be in two places at once. He wondered if he was. Everything looked the same. Which reality was he in? He decided to find out. "Captain."

The Captain continued to look at him, but didnít seem to register that he was speaking to her. He decided to try again. "Captain, can you hear me?" The captain didnít even blink. It would seem that I am conscious in the other realm. I wonder if I can move around? It would be logical to see if I can find out where Mr. Paris was taken. The away teams voices were a distant noise that he could hardly hear. He stood up slowly.

BíElanna gasped. Vorik reached out to grab onto Tuvokís arm, as he seemed to disappear. Tuvok reappeared in a slightly crouched position, with a puzzled look on his face. "What happened? Can you hear me?"

"Yes Tuvok. Youíre back with us again. You were just about to disappear when Ensign Vorik managed to grab hold of you. Can you tell us what you remember?"

"Interesting. All I did was attempt to stand up. I tried to speak to you, but you did not seem able to hear. Everything was the same as it is here. I could still see you all, but it was difficult to hear you. As I started to stand you all seemed to disappear."

"Did you see any sign of Tom?" The Captain held her breath.

Tuvok shook his head. "The beach sand was very scuffed, but I was unable to ascertain what has happened to him. I believe the possibility that somebody moved him, is very strong. I was attempting to start a search in the immediate vicinity when I was brought back to you. There is no sign of any one else here at the moment, so I thought I should start looking for a village."

"But as soon as you moved, you shifted into the other reality. If we can set our armbands at the same frequency that you were just in, we can send in a proper search party."

Harry, who had been going over the recordings from Tuvok, looked up. "Um! We have a problem Captain." He did not want to give this news. "The variance that we recorded Tuvok in has already been selected by the computer and discarded, as there were no human lifesigns on the planet at that frequency."

BíElanna dropped down into the sand with a moan. She had been so hopeful. So sure that this would work. What could they do now?

"Damn it!" the Captain said in frustration. "What does that mean? Each time you phase shift you go into a different reality than the time before?"

"Possibly." Chakotay ran his hands through his hair and squatted down next to BíElanna. "I suggest we do some more scans of the planet at that frequency, just in case the computer missed something the first time."

"Yes youíre right. Weíll still keep the ship running the random search as well. Weíve hit a bump everyone. Thatís all it is. Weíre still on the right track, Iím sure of it." She looked down at BíElanna, who seemed to have crumpled. "Weíll find him. Donít give up. Everyoneís exhausted at the moment. We all need some sleep."

"Captain, with your permission Iíd like to carry on with my idea." Chakotay looked up at her grimly.

Janeway nodded. "Go ahead," she said softly.
 

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

*Breep Brop* Janeway looked up from the padd she was reading at the sound. "Come in."

Chakotay entered her ready room looking more exhausted than she felt. "Captain."

"I take it you just got back from the planet?"

Chakotay nodded tiredly.

"I saw Tom." He practically fell into the chair opposite her.

"How did he look? Was he all right?"

"He was sleeping at the time so Iím not really sure, but he was being looked after by a giant girl. I know it was in the Spirit World so it might have been meant as a representation, but it means Tom is still alive. Iím sure of it."

"Seven would probably dispute that, but I have come to respect your beliefs."

Chakotay smiled. "Iím absolutely certain that my spirit guide would not have taken me to him unless he was still alive. Sheís never led me astray before."

"What else did you see?"

"He was in a house, on the outskirts of a huge village. Everything seemed to be enormous. I couldnít really get any more details than that as we zoomed in on him quickly. He was lying on some straw, I think, and seemed a little restless. The girl seemed to be singing to him. I tried to reach out to him but was immediately pulled back. I wish I could have got some more details but it all happened so fast."

"Thatís better than anything weíve been able to come up with so far. Itís a huge relief to know that heís still alive. Youíd better get some rest. Iíll go tell BíElanna. Sheíll be thrilled."

"No need. She was with me on the planet the whole time. Wouldnít leave. Iíve sent her to her quarters and ordered her to sleep."

"How was she?"

"A lot better now, after my vision. She believes in the Spirit World too, so is more at ease now."

"Thatís good. I didnít want her ending up in Sickbay."

"Can I ask if youíve had any sleep, yourself?"

"Not much. Couldnít relax. Iíll try again."

"Iíll leave you to it then," Chakotay smiled getting up slowly. "Let me know if the computer finds anything."
 

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

This time when Tom awoke he was aware of the strange babbling noises straight away. Sickness enveloped him as he turned over and opened his eyes. He had vague recollections of vomiting off and on for hours. Things were a lot clearer now. He looked up at the ceiling. Nope, definitely not Voyager.

He could hear the strange noises coming from the left of him, so he turned over quickly. Ow! His stomach still hurt, but not as bad. As long as he didnít make any sudden moves it was bearable. He could see the two girls from the beach standing on the other side of the room. They seemed to be talking, thatís what the strange noise was, but he couldnít understand any of it. Damn it! Without a commbadge it was going to be pretty difficult for them to understand each other.

Tom suddenly realized that he was looking at the girls through something. His head swiveled around. Gods! Bars! They surrounded him. He was in a cage of some sort. It was open at the top, but enclosed him on four sides, like a rectangle. He started to panic. "Let me out of here," he intended to yell, but it came out as a mere croak.

The girls turned around at the sound. "Look heís awake. Can I feed him now? Father said we have to make him eat something to keep up his strength."

"Youíd better let me do it the first time, Quilla. Iím not sure how heís going to react. We donít even know what he eats, so Father made up some formulae in those bottles in the cooler. Itís full of all the basic nutrients. You can get me one if you want. Meanwhile, Iíll give him another shot to help with the vomiting." She headed over towards him smiling.

Tom, of course, didnít understand any of this. All he could see was Mallee coming towards him with some sort of weapon in her hand. She was smiling too. And he was too weak to move! As she got closer, she started making little shushing noises. Tom peered closer at the weapon. It looked vaguely familiar. It had a sharp pointy end on it and he was quite convinced that she meant to stab him with it.

He tried to shrink back into the straw mattress. Mallee put down the side of the cot and tried to gently roll him over. He tried to resist. All of a sudden he remembered what it was, she was holding. A syringe! The Doc had made him study old-fashioned medicine on Earth, and he recalled they used these things to inject medication into patients. They called them needles.

No!!! That sharp pointy end looked like it would hurt. He struggled harder, but Mallee had a death grip on him. The next thing he knew, there was a sharp pain in his backside. Ow!! Mallee rolled him back over and gently patted his head babbling to him all the while. He didnít need the universal translator in his commbadge to tell him that she was probably saying - ĎThere now, that didnít hurt now did it? What was all that fuss about?í or words to that effect.

The nausea abated and he carefully sat up holding his stomach. He looked around the room getting his bearings. He was in a cot of some sort, wearing a gown that was open at the back, he suddenly realized, flushing with embarrassment. The smaller girl, Quilla, was now walking towards him, carrying a babyís bottle. Okay, that was it. Iím out of here. Now!!!! Pity my legs donít agree with me. He gritted his teeth - hard. The battle was about to begin.
 

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

"Weíve run every scan, twice over and thereís definitely no human lifesigns anywhere on the planet at that frequency." Harry sighed deeply. He'd managed to get a good four hours of sleep, but still felt bone-weary. He handed over his data padd to the Captain and waited. The Captain looked terrible. She was an awful gray color, and looked like she hadnít slept in a week.

The Captain quietly read the data without saying anything, while Harry looked around the ready room. By the look of all the coffee mugs on her desk, it looked like sheíd been trying to keep herself awake. She sighed, bringing his attention back to her face. "It was worth a shot. Weíll just have to hope the computer comes up with something from the random search. Thank you Harry. I suppose youíve heard the good news? Tomís definitely still alive according to Chakotayís spirit guide."

"Yes Captain. BíElanna told me. Itís a huge weight off of her shoulders. I went to check on her a while ago and sheís still sleeping."

"Thatís good. You look like you need a bit more yourself."

"I couldnít really settle Captain. Um, if you donít mind my saying so, you look like you could do with some too."

Janeway smiled. "Youíre right. I thought Iíd let Chakotay sleep first. Once heís awake Iíll try again. It just seems like one of us should keep the fires burning, so to speak."

Harry nodded. "I know what you mean. I thought I might rest once BíElannaís up and about."

The Captain laughed. "Weíre a real pair, arenít we?"

"Um, Captain. Can I ask you something personal?"

"Depends on how personal, Ensign."

"Um, do you believe in all that spirit world stuff that Chakotay talks about? I mean, I donít mean to sound disrespectful of his beliefs or anything, but itís just a little hard to swallow. I mean, I really want to believe that he saw Tom and heís still alive, but I just donít know."

"Youíve been talking to Seven."

"Yes maíam."

Janeway sighed, looking at Harry over the top of her steepled fingers. "Yes Harry, I do believe in the spirit world. Chakotay introduced me to my animal guide not long after we were first stranded out here. Although I donít visit regularly with mine the way Chakotay does, it really helps when I do." She paused. "Sometimes I donít understand what the message is, but there always is one. BíElanna believes in it all and I think that says a lot." She smiled reassuringly. "If Chakotayís guide showed him Tom alive then I truly believe that he is."

"I hope so Captain."

"Harry, the Commander and his people believe that the spirit world is just another plane of existence. In a way, Tom is on another plane of existence too. I donít think it takes too much of a leap to believe that Chakotayís animal guide could reassure him, by showing him a vision of Tom. Even if it was just for a few seconds."

"Then why canít he be shown exactly where Tom is? I mean, itís a little inconclusive."

"Thatís just the way it works. You think his guide should be able to tell him the exact phase variance and co-ordinates?"

"Well, when you put it like that ---."

"Harry, your guide is just that - a guide. It can help you to relax and seek comfort. If you are as in tune with it as the Commander is, you may even have visions, but itís not all knowing, all seeing. And even if it could give us the frequency, it wouldnít. They canít interfere in that way."

"A little like the prime directive."

Janeway laughed. "I hadnít thought about it like that. Harry; go back to your quarters and try and rest. If the computer finds something weíll soon be told. Iíve just decided that Iím going to. We need to be fully functional if it does."

"Yes Maíam." Harry couldnít help feeling reassured.
 

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

Mallee was listening to her sister read when their father entered the room. "Hello there you two. How is everything? Has our patient woken up yet?" He walked over to the cot and peered down at Tom. "He seems to be much better. Sleeping quite peacefully by the looks of it. I see youíve cleaned him up. The little thing looks rather sweet really."

"Hmph! You should have been here at lunch time Father."

"Oh Mallee, my love. Iím truly sorry. I should have let you know that I wouldnít be here. I thought that if I worked through I could leave early. As I have been able to. I hope you didnít go to too much trouble."

"No Father, we just had some soup. Itís not that. Your sweet little patient over there gave us some problems."

"You should have called me."

"No. It was all right. We managed." She paused. "Just." She added darkly.

"He was really naughty, Father. Threw his bottle right across the room and the top came off. Mallee took ages cleaning up the mess. There was milk everywhere, all over him too. He kept pushing the bottle away when Mallee was trying to feed him and an awful lot of it went on him."

"He was just frustrated I think. You said he was fully grown Father, so I think heís past the formulae stage. The amazing thing is, he asked me for some of the soup."

Her father looked at her in astonishment. "He asked you?"

"Well he kept pointing to the pot on the cooker, so I assumed he wanted some soup. When I fed him that he ate it all. Off the spoon as well. Just like people do."

Her father smiled. "He is obviously well trained."

"No, heís naughty. Mallee tried to give him a bath after lunch because he was all messy and he was very bad. I told Mallee to smack him, but she wouldnít."

"He was frightened. He kept on struggling all the time and I nearly drowned him Father. That was a bit scary actually. I ended up having to give him some more painkillers, as he must have hurt his stomach again. He kept on holding it and making funny whimpering sounds."

"Iím not surprised. He shouldnít be moving about very much at all at the moment."

"Iím sorry. Itís all my fault. I just didnít expect him to react like that. Normally baths are very soothing. I didnít make him worse did I?"

Her father was bending over Tom, feeling his stomach. "There doesnít seem to be any damage, but Iíd better get my instruments and examine him properly. How long has he been asleep?"

"Since just after lunch. He wore himself out. I feel really bad about this."

Her father straightened up with a sigh. "Donít blame yourself Mallee. It couldnít be helped."

"Itís not your fault Mallee. He was just naughty. You should have smacked him. That would have made him behave and then he wouldnít have hurt his tummy."

"Quilla, how many times do I have to tell you that we donít hit people or animals or whatever," Mallee scolded distractedly. She followed her father out to get his medical kit.

Quilla looked over at Tom and scowled. "You are a very naughty little boy. You had better behave or else!"
 

End Part Two