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 Four

"Where are you taking him?" Quilla ran anxiously after her big sister. Father had said that the little one had to stay in the kitchen.

"Iím taking him to the bathroom."

"Mallee animals donít use the bathroom."

"Yes, but heís not an animal is he? And heís not a baby either. Quilla, go and get the garments he was wearing when we found him. I have cleaned and folded them and put them in the basket."

She sat Tom down on the floor and started running a bath. Tom sat where he was placed, dread filling him. He considered making a run for it. He was definitely feeling stronger, but didnít feel ready for a seven-yard dash yet. Anyway, whereís the kid? Probably on the other side of the door. I could probably take her if I had to. A quick kick to the midsections might do it, but Iíd have to take her by surprise. Ah, who am I kidding? Even if I could, which I seriously doubt, what do I do about Mount Olympia here? Headbutt her thigh? The situation seemed hopeless. Well, he wasnít going down without a fight.

Everything that had been drummed into him as a child came back to taunt him. You donít hit girls. Ever! No matter what the provocation. No matter if they were bigger than you and you were just defending yourself. His father had lectured him over and over again on the subject. His two older sisters had delighted in teasing him unmercifully. Pinching him and pulling his hair when their parents werenít looking and generally making his life a living hell. Whenever he retaliated it seemed he got caught. Up until the age of five he had been particularly close to them both. They were older than him, Moira almost five years older, Kathleen eight, and delighted in having a baby brother to coddle. They were his world, as his parents were away a lot.

All of that changed though, when he made the mistake at the tender age of five, to ask his father to let him fly a shuttle. Years later he came to realize that was the turning point in his life. At the time all he was thinking about was showing off for his father. He had watched him fly many times and knew exactly what to do. It felt like heíd been born knowing. His father had been so proud of him that day and had even showed him off to some other admirals. Everyone made a huge fuss of him for days after.

He came to realize slowly that his sisters werenít so thrilled with him. They had been very proud of him at first, but when the attention didnít die down they soon started resenting the time their father spent with him. By the time he had started full time school his father was obsessed with him, his grades, his friends, his hobbies - everything. His sisters started picking fights with him, trying to upset him and some of their teasing was downright cruel. As the years went by and the girls grew older and saw the pressure building on Tomís shoulders, they let up - but the damage had been done. Although he got on well with them both the old closeness never returned. He sighed heavily returning to the present.

Mallee turned back to him smiling. She looked him up and down consideringly. He wasnít that much smaller than Quilla. His frame was much smaller, almost half her sister, but he was only about a head shorter. She looked around the bathroom. He should be able to reach everything. Quilla coped in here by herself these days. How was she going to make him understand though?

She walked around the room pointing to everything and then pointing back to him. Quilla returned with his clothes, and Mallee put them on the stool next to the bath. She had made sure it wasnít very full, taking Tomís size into consideration. Tom just sat looking at her, his eyes huge in his face. Mallee knelt down next to him and undid the safety pin on the nappy. She patted his arm and pointed to the bath again and then patted a towel and then his clothes. She then pointed to him again, smiling all the time.

"Okay Quilla. Letís leave him alone and see what he does." Come on little one prove me right. Please! "Iíll come back and check on him in a minute."

"Oh Mallee, I hope you know what youíre doing."

"So do I. So do I."

Tom watched them leave in amazement. Did this mean what he thought it did? He stood up slowly, hanging onto the stool for support. Pulling the nappy off he tested the water.

When Mallee and Quilla checked on him a few minutes later he was happily sitting in the bath soaping himself up. Mallee clapped her hands in delight and firmly shut the door. "Heís fine. Letís give him some privacy."

"I donít think Father will be very pleased that heís in our bath."

"Iíll clean it up after heís finished. Leave Father alone. Heís still asleep."

Mallee led her little sister back to the kitchen. "Come and have some porridge. After heís finished in the bathroom Iím going to see if he can draw."
 

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It was decided that the away team would attempt to cross over into the other phase, approximately one kilometer from the co-ordinates of the human lifesign. They didnít want to create a panic among the local inhabitants. Harry was doing some fine-tuning to the armbands and BíElanna was adjusting Sevenís eye implant. "I still donít see why I canít go," the engineer muttered under her breath.

"You are needed here, in case we have difficulty returning. The Commander has explained this all to you, Lieutenant."

"Yeah, well it sounded like a load of rubbish then, and it still does. It would make more sense for me to be there with you if you have trouble. Iím not going to know whatís going on back here."

"I am quite able to handle any crisis, should they arise. However if you are still concerned, you should speak to the Commander and not burden me with this needless prattle. He is the leader of the away team, do not forget."

"Oh, sorry to be a burden." BíElanna gave the implant an extra hard tug.

"That is quite alright Lieutenant. I realize that you are being emotional. A word of advice. The more emotional you become the less likelihood there is of your accompanying us."

B"Elanna turned away angrily. Honestly, the former Borg was absolutely infuriating. And right! Chakotay had already told her one of the reasons she was not going was because she was too personally involved. He needed clear heads. Hadnít she already proven she was one of the most clear-headed crewmembers in a crisis? She walked over to Harry.

"I think this proves I was right"

"Huh?"

"Look at the three of them over there. They think weíre stupid. As if we donít know about their little conspiracy."

Harry looked over to the three senior officers. He shrugged. "They know what theyíre doing."

"Harry, it makes absolutely no sense to leave us both behind. Theyíre jeopardizing the mission by keeping us out of the loop."

Harry personally thought that, given the way she had been acting, it was probably a good thing that she wasnít going. He refrained from saying so, however. "BíElanna, if - and Iím only saying if - Tomís a lot worse off than we thought, then it might be better if you werenít there to see it. Theyíll be in a tough situation. Theyíve got to somehow sneak in and grab him without being seen and then sneak out again. If you lost it in there, it would just make it harder to get out without being caught."

"And no one is giving me enough credit. Not even you. I can be completely professional when I have to be."

Harry sighed. "I know you can. But someone has to monitor all this from this end, and you really are the best for the job."

BíElanna snorted. "You can handle it, and so can the Captain."

The three senior officers joined them. "Are we all set?" Chakotay asked.

"Yes," BíElanna answered shortly. She handed him the Doctorís mobile emitter. "All you have to do is initialize him when you need him. The variance is all set."

Harry helped him with his armband, while the Captain adjusted Tuvokís. Seven carried the spare one for Tom. "Good luck," he said quietly looking up at the Commander.

"Donít worry, Harry. Weíll have him back in no time." He smiled reassuringly at the Captain and BíElanna.

"Donít forget, I want hourly reports, Commander," Janeway reminded him. "One of you will have to shift back to our phase to report in each time. The commbadges wonít work through the variance."

"Aye, Captain." He looked toward Tuvok and Seven, "Ready?" At their nods, he ordered. "Letís do it."

Both Tuvok and he touched their armbands, while Seven touched her eyepiece, and then the three of them disappeared.

As soon as the Captain, BíElanna and Harry, along with all the monitoring equipment disappeared from around them, Chakotay took out his tricorder to scan for Tom. "Damn it, itís not working."

"Commander, mine also seems to be malfunctioning," Tuvok said. "Fortunately, I memorized the sensor readings. I believe that Mr. Paris is this way." He started out in the lead, the other two following.

They had only taken a few steps, when Seven stumbled and fell to her knees. She cried out in pain. "Something is wrong."

Chakotay and Tuvok knelt down beside her. "Whatís wrong?" Chakotay asked.

"I am not sure. My implants are not working. I can not see properly and my arm will not move." She gasped. "My body feels like it is shutting down."

"Initializing the EMH." Chakotay quickly turned to the emitter in his hand. Nothing happened. "What the hell is going on here?"

"It appears that none of our equipment will work," Tuvok guessed.

"Damn it! Weíd better go back. Hold on Seven." He quickly adjusted her eye implant with the normal phase variance and then pressed it. He then nodded to Tuvok and they both did the same to their armbands. As the Captain, Harry and BíElanna appeared before them, Chakotay again tried the EMH.

The Doctor shimmered into existence and hurried over to Seven. "Chakotay, what happened?" the Captain asked.

"Damn it all! Weíve got problems. Neither the EMH or our tricorders would work, and it looks like Sevenís implants wonít either."

"Is she all right?" The Captain turned to the Doctor.

"Her body is regulating itself. She should be fine."

"Harry, youíd better rig up a couple more of those armbands. It looks like youíll be joining us."

"Us Captain?" Tuvok inquired. "Does this mean that you will be joining us as well?"

"Iím going to have to replace the Doctor. Harry here will replace Seven."

"Captain, let me go." BíElanna pushed forward. "I promise I wonít get out of control."

The Captain shook her head. "We need you here. Harryís the expert on the armbands, so it makes more sense for him to come. Doctor Iím going to need you to tell me what signs I should be looking for where Tomís concerned. If it was just a matter of running a tricorder over him any of us could do it, but since they wonít be working Iím going to have to do things the old fashioned way. I do have some experience with emergency medicine, but youíre going to have to bring me up to speed. Harry, how long will it take you with the armbands?"

"At least an hour, Captain"

"Thatís all right. Iíll need a good hour with the Doctor."
 

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Mallee paced up and down in frustration. "I donít know what heís trying to tell us Quilla. I think weíve learned all we can from him like this."

Tom ran his hands through his hair in frustration also. He had never been very good at drawing. When Mallee had first given him the paper and pencils and drawn the picture of the three of them, heíd been pretty quick to catch on. Heíd even managed to draw a reasonable picture of Voyager and he thought sheíd understood about flying in space and everything.

Mallee, in turn had managed to show him how they had found him on the beach and helped him. He understood that she had thought he was by himself. For some reason she hadnít seen the Voyager crew, just like the others hadnít been able to see her, he remembered.

Heíd tried to explain to her that he had to get back to the beach to try to find Voyager, but sheíd shaken her head at him. Heíd tried to tell her how important it was, but how do you draw something like that? He wasnít even sure if she was shaking her head at him because she understood but wouldnít help him, or because she didnít know what he was trying to convey.

The girlís father laughed when he entered the kitchen just then. Mallee had Quilla and the Little One sitting at the table pretending to write. It was a sweet scene. The Little One was dressed in the clothes theyíd found him in and was sitting in one of Quillaís booster seats, so that he could reach the table. All three faces turned to him. "What have we here?"

Tom felt himself flinch at the sound of the manís voice. Oh No! Not him again. If he comes near me, Iíll scream. Deep down he knew that he wouldnít even be alive if it wasnít for the giant man, who was now walking towards them. Keep calm! Heís trying to be kind. He didnít mean to humiliate me like that last night GODS! Iím not supposed to think about that. Remember? The girls started chirping but Tom kept his eyes fixed firmly on the giant.

They were telling their father about what had happened in the bathroom. "I donít believe this," he interrupted. "He used all the bathroom facilities?"

Mallee nodded, her eyes shining. "He didnít understand how the flusher worked, but other than that----"

"Mallee," her fatherís voice was shocked. "Thatís our bathroom. We have to use that. I just used it. How could you?"

"I cleaned up after him. Heís not dirty, you know."

"I know that," he conceded. "Itís just the thought of it."

"Forget about that. Donít you understand? He could do all that by himself and he dressed himself too. He understood what I was trying to tell him. Donít you see what that means?"

"It means that heís very well trained, which we already knew."

"Father," Mallee said in exasperation. "Look. Heís been communicating with us. Heís not just following simple training. He can think for himself and make decisions. Come and see." She held out the drawings.

As her father came and sat down at the table, he noticed the Little One shrinking away. "I see he still hasnít forgiven me," he said thoughtfully.

"He likes us best," Quilla put in smugly. "And guess what I did? I lifted him up and put him in his chair, and I didn't even drop him." She gave her sister a dark look. "Mallee told me off, but I told her I could do it. Heís not even heavy."

"He doesnít like being picked up. I explained it all to you. At the moment he canít walk very far, because heís still weak, so I have to carry him around - but only when I have to. You just want to pick him up and cuddle him like heís some sort of toy." Mallee gave her little sister a stern look. "Youíre just lucky that you took him by surprise and he didnít have time to wriggle."

Quilla poked her tongue out. "Father, youíll let me carry him, wonít you? Iíve proved I can."

Her father was looking at the drawings, trying to comprehend what they meant. "Maybe later," he answered distractedly. "Mallee, what is all this?"

"This is the picture he drew after Iíd drawn the one of us and the house and the village. Itís his home I think."

"What is it? Itís not a house."

"It flyís, I think. Look at this picture. It flies through the sky right up to the stars. His home is in the stars, just like I thought. Look at these pictures. I think this one means that there were others with him. I couldnít understand what he was trying to tell us after that. Do you think that the others left him on purpose? Because he was sick?"

Her father shook his head. "Iím not sure if I believe any of this. The Little One really drew all this?" At Malleeís nod, he looked at Tom closely. Tom glared back at him defiantly. He wasnít sure what was going on, but it looked like the girls were explaining to their father all that they had learned.

"You are quite sure you heard him speak on the beach? When you first found him?"

"I thought so, yes. Iím not so sure now. If he could talk, he would have by now. Why wouldnít he? Heís trying to tell us things and it would certainly help if we could understand each other. He obviously canít understand us, or he wouldnít be so frightened."

"And you believe that the Little One is proof that there are other peoples besides ourselves?"

"Yes father. I truly do. Donít you believe? Even a little?"

"I donít know what to believe. There has to be some explanation for all this."

"Father, Iíll stay home again today and see if I can find out any more."

"No Mallee. You missed your lessons yesterday. You mustnít do it again. Your learning is too important."

"But Father-----"

"No. I mean it. Go to the learning center, Iíll look after him. However, donít tell your friends about our visitor for now. Letís keep it quiet until we know more."

"You think they wonít believe me? Youíre wrong Father. Iím sure they will. They hold the same beliefs I do."

"Perhaps Mallee, but do as I say. Please. People can react strangely."

"Oh Father. My friends will be just as thrilled as I am. Wait and see."

"Mallee, please! Do not argue with me about this. Let us wait until we know more about him. Trust me."
 

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"Please follow me. Mr. Parisís last readings were this way."

"Lead on Tuvok," Janeway said briskly. They had phase shifted with no problems, but still had serious troubles. Although Tuvok could lead them in the general direction, without their tricorders they had to rely on he and Chakotayís memories to find the house that Tom was in. If they were able to do this, the plan was to sneak in, find Tom, put the armband on him and then quickly phase shift back. The villagers wouldnít be able to see them then and depending on Tomís condition they would then beam straight back to the ship. It all depended on them finding the right house, but they had to be prepared for things to go wrong.

"It will take us approximately 5.4 minutes to reach the outer edges of the village from here," Tuvok informed them. They set off in single file through the forest.
 

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Mallee set off reluctantly for the learning center. Her father had promised her that the Little One would be fine, but she was still worried. He was still a little jittery around her father and she hoped he would be all right.

She also felt a little angry that her father had such little faith in her friends. After all, didnít she know them much better than he did? She knew what their reaction would be to finding out that she could prove all their theories. They would be just as excited as she was.

She didnít notice her little sister watching her through the window, giggling softly. Now I can have some fun. She turned around and looked at Tom, who was sleeping peacefully. Iíll let you sleep for now Little One but soon Iíll show everyone that I can look after you just as good as Mallee. Then we can play while Father does his surgery.
 

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The away team looked at the village in the distance. It was huge. There seemed to be people everywhere and they were huge as well.

"Where do we start?" Harry whispered.

"First thing we do, is make sure weíre not seen," the Captain answered. "Chakotay, you said the house was on the outskirts of the village. Do any of those first houses look familiar?"

Chakotay shook his head. "Itís hard to tell. In my visions I was floating above them. It all looks different from down here. Tuvok, is anything familiar to you?"

"I remember the color white, around the house. I assume it was a fence, although I too am slightly disorientated. The sensors showed Mr. Paris to be approximately three hundred meters northwest from the edge of the forest. I believe that to be over there."

"Thereís three houses with white fences over there. Which one do you think it is?" Harry asked.

Chakotay shrugged. "Iíd know the kitchen anywhere, but Iím not remembering any of the outside details."

"It looks like weíll have to search all three," the Captain decided. "I just hope that the house weíre looking for is one of these three. This could take an awfully long time. If we donít find him here, one of us had better shift back and try and get more accurate readings of Tomís position." She stopped, looking around.

"We have a more immediate problem however people. Thereís a huge open space between that first fence and us. If it was night Iíd risk making a dash for it, but Iím not willing to wait until the sun goes down. Weíre going to have to wait our chance and make a run for it. Once we get past the fence, no one should be able to see us."
 

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Tom was not happy. First of all, Quilla had woken him up from his nap and since he still needed a lot of rest, he wasnít feeling all that well. Sheíd picked him up and heíd struggled, not knowing what was happening. Well at least it hadnít been too far to fall. The bump had made him yell out though, and Quilla had kissed him all over, before picking him up again and carrying him to the bathroom. All right, that had probably been a good idea, he conceded. But sheíd kept poking her head around the door and that had put him off.

On the way back to the kitchen heíd clung to her, as sheíd been able to hoist him up a lot higher this time. The father had appeared and didnít seem too pleased. Heíd taken him off of Quilla and put him down on the floor in the kitchen. Heíd proceeded to show them that he could walk, thank you very much. All right, not too far, and still a little wobbly, but he could do it.

Heíd even shown them that he could feed himself. Quilla had sat him up at the table and started feeding him some of the stew from the night before, for his lunch. Heíd promptly taken the spoon from her and done it himself. The father had watched him, with a strange look on his face, the whole time, while Quilla had clapped delightedly as if he was doing something amazing.

After they had finished eating and the father was busy cleaning up, Quilla had walked him over to the other side of the room and sat down, bringing out what looked like her doll collection to play with. He couldnít believe it, she was obviously expecting him to play too. The father didnít seem to think that there was anything wrong with this, so Tom had sighed and sat down too.

All right, the kidís not too bad, I suppose. Sheís kinda cute in her own way. I guess Iíd better humor her, but as soon as Iím stronger, Iím outta here.

Now, after all his kind thoughts he was sitting on the floor, wearing a huge pink bonnet thing and every time he tried to take it off, Quilla slapped his hands away - hard. The father had left the room a few minutes ago and Quilla had grabbed the bonnet immediately.

Tom scowled up at her and shook his head. "No," he tried to tell her, managing to tug it off at last. Quilla reached over and slapped him across the face. The blow sent him backward in a somersault.

"You naughty, naughty little boy," she shrilled at him. "Father will be back any moment and I want to show him how cute you look." Tom lay on the floor in a daze. "Sit back up and keep this on," she said crossly, pulling him back up.

Tom rubbed his face, eyeing her warily. Why that little monster!! He stood up, glaring down at her. She stood up too, hands on her hips.

"Sit down," she ordered, pointing to the floor.

Tom shook his head, stubbornly crossing his arms. He turned around and started walking away, only to find himself sprawled on the floor. Quilla had grabbed his leg and sent him flying.

The wrench in his stomach made him cry out. She still had hold of his leg and so he kicked out with his free one. He felt it connect with something and Quilla yelled and let go. Before he could jump up and try to get away, the little girl grabbed him again, and smacked him across the back of the legs - hard.

Tom managed to struggle free again and kicked out harder. Quilla squealed and launched herself at him and started spanking him, in a frenzy of anger. Tom realized he was in real danger and turned over trying to get her to stop. The blows kept coming but he was able to get hold of her shoulders and pushed as hard as he could.

Quilla fell back breathing heavily and Tom stumbled to his feet. Bent over double, clutching his stomach, he watched the girl approach him, her dark eyes glittering.
 

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Meanwhile the away team had been able to make a quick dash to the first house, without being seen. "Does this look familiar at all?" Janeway asked hopefully.

Chakotay sighed. "I remember two steps, but for all we know, all the houses may have two steps. Who knows?"

"Thatís the spirit Commander. Keep on looking on the bright side," Harry murmured, a little louder than he had intended. Tuvok gave him a strange look and Harry flushed.

"It would appear that we have another problem Captain," Tuvok announced.

"Another one Commander?"

"The door seems to open inward, using a handle mechanism. The handle however, is too high for us to reach."

"Thatís one problem easily fixed. Chakotay, kneel down. If Harry stands on your back, he should be able to pull the handle down. Tuvok, get ready to push on the door."

"Um, Captain. What if some one comes out?"

"Let me ease your mind Ensign," Tuvok replied instead. "I can hear no movement whatsoever from behind the door."

"Good," Harry said climbing onto Chakotay. He resisted the urge to call out ĎGiddy-upí and stood up slowly. He wasnít very good at balancing and didnít want to fall off. He laughed nervously.

"Something amusing Harry?" Janeway asked, letting him use her shoulder to steady himself.

"I couldnít help thinking, itís lucky the Docís not here with his Ďholographic imagerí. What a picture!" He chuckled again.

Chakotay grunted. "Just hurry up. Youíre no light weight, you know."

"Sorry Commander." Harry couldnít help another laugh, as he grabbed the handle and pulled down. At the same time Tuvok pushed at the door, and it opened inwardly, to reveal a dark hallway. Harry jumped off of the Commanderís back, who then stood up carefully. The four then entered the house with caution.

"Can you hear anything Tuvok?"

"No Captain," he answered. "I suggest we search each room thoroughly."

"Damn it!" Chakotay exclaimed. "Every door in this hallway has handles, and theyíre all shut."
 

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"You are very bad. Very bad," Quilla chanted, approaching Tom dangerously. He backed away slowly, not liking the look on her face. Where was Mallee? She had abandoned him. And the father? Surely he wasnít alone in the house with this sadistic holy terror?

His stomach was killing him, it felt like something had ripped open, not to mention the rest of his body. He felt like heíd been in a shuttle crash. He was bruised all over, and his legs felt like they were going to give out at any moment.

Sheíd backed him into a corner, and he had nowhere to go. The blow, when it came, was to the side of his head, and it sent him reeling. He could feel Quilla pulling him up off the floor by his hair and hitting him repeatedly. She then pushed him back into the cot, putting up the side.

"Iím going to tell Father on you," she screamed running out of the room.

Tom shook his head to clear it and swallowed deeply. He didnít know where sheíd gone but he wasnít waiting around for her to come back. He was getting out of here - now.

Fear kept him moving, and with strength he didnít know he had, he managed to climb over the rails and jump heavily to the floor. He lay stunned for a few seconds and then crawled over to the doorway. The coast was clear. He could hear Quilla squealing and the fatherís deep chirping from somewhere further in the house. He shuddered, imaging what they would do to him when they came back.

Using the doorframe for support, he managed to pull himself up to a standing position and then half dragged himself down the hallway to the door he thought led outside. He almost sobbed in despair. The handle on it was too high for him to reach. How was he going to get out?

Limping further down the hallway he found an open door. It was a bedroom. Looking around, he realized the window was open. Could he climb up to the sill and jump out? The sound of somebody running down the hallway decided him. Gritting his teeth, he pulled himself up and practically fell out of the window.

With a loud groan, he lay where he had landed, trying to get his breath back. The sound of the father chirping loudly set him in motion again. Scrambling madly to stand up, not even looking where he was going, he stumbled across an open expanse and into the forest. If only he had looked across to the house next door before making his mad dash he would have seen the amazing sight of four of his shipmates, sneaking quietly out of the front door.
 

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BíElanna paced back and forth in the clearing. "I wish theyíd hurry up and report in. Ironsides Janeway didnít say when she would. Iím worried sick." She glared over at Seven, who appeared to be about to speak. "Donít bother saying it. Worry is irrelevant, or illogical or whatever."

Seven merely arched her eyebrow at her. "I was not going to say any of those things Lieutenant. I too am worried."

"You are?"

Seven nodded. "The away team should have remained in contact with us every hour, just as the original plan stated. Because the Captain is now leading them, she felt this was not necessary. I disagree."

"You do?"

"Yes, Lieutenant, I do. You find it difficult to believe that the Captain and I are in discord? Now I am the one finding something difficult to believe."

BíElanna laughed. "You know, I really have a hard time figuring you out."

"Perhaps you should not try so hard, Lieutenant. Perhaps you should just accept me for who I am."

BíElanna flushed uncomfortably at this. Hadnít she said almost the exact same thing, countless times to different people? Before she could say anything though, her commbadge chirped.

"Rawlins to Torres."

"Go ahead."

"Weíre picking up some strange readings in the atmosphere Lieutenant. There seems to be an increase in the intensity of the variance in the upper atmosphere. It looks like a severe storm is heading your way."

BíElanna raced over to their monitoring equipment. "Okay, thanks Rawlins. Seven and I will check out the readings from here and get back to you."
 

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A flash of something at the edge of the forest, caught Harryís eye as they stood on the doorstep. "Hey," he cried out. "Thatís my tee-shirt. Tom! Tom!"

Chakotay quickly put his hand over Harryís mouth. "Quiet! Do you want to bring the whole village down on us?"

"But that was Tom," Harry spluttered. Just then the door of the house next to them opened and they jumped off the steps quickly to hide behind the fence between the two houses.

A giant man rushed out followed by a young girl.

"Thatís them, Captain," Chakotay whispered.

Janeway nodded and motioned for them to keep down.

"Little One! Where are you?" The giant was searching the grounds around the house. "Quilla, help me look for him."

The little girl, sobbing loudly, trailed around behind him. "Iím sorry Father. I really am. Please donít be cross with me."

"By all the stars, young lady, if youíve hurt him in any way, youíll be spending the rest of your life in your room."

Quilla wailed loudly at this. "I didnít mean to. He kicked me Father and I lost my temper. Please, please forgive me."

"He canít have gone far. Not in the condition heís in. Iím amazed he even got out of the house. We have to find him and see what damage youíve done."

The four away team members looked at each other in concern. "We have to make a break for it and go after Tom," Chakotay whispered.

"Why donít we just tell the giants who we are and get their help? Our commbadges are working, so we can communicate. The manís obviously trying to help Tom and even if they are pre-warp they must be wondering where he came from in the first place. I know you donít want to compromise the prime directive Captain, but I think it wouldnít really matter now."

"Harryís got a point," Chakotay agreed. "I mean, they must have all sorts of questions regarding Tom and it would be much easier to enlist their help."

"Gentlemen, now is not the time to debate the prime directive. These people are pre-warp. Very pre-warp, in my opinion. Who knows what finding out about Ďaliensí and space travel could do to their culture? I wonít be held responsible for that."

" Captain, theyíre not even in the same phase variance as us."

"And that makes a difference Ensign?" Her voice was cold.

Harry sighed in frustration. He knew how important the prime directive was to her. After all, sheíd busted Tom for breaking it. Still, Tom was getting further and further away and they were stuck here, hiding. "No, of course not Captain."

"We stay hidden for now, and as soon as the chance comes, we follow Tom into the forest."

"Quilla, perhaps we had better check next door. I donít think he could have climbed the fence but you never know." The away team held their breath. All he had to do was peek over the fence and he would see them. Janeway signaled to the others to get ready to phase shift.

"Branwe, have you lost something?" A voice halted the giant, before he reached them. "Whatís wrong young Quilla? Why are you crying?"

"He ran away," Quilla sniffed. "Itís all my fault."

"Oh Adolan, good afternoon," Branwe said hurriedly. "Please donít concern yourself with Quilla. My careless daughter has lost her latest pet and we are trying to find him."

"Would you like some help? There seems to be a storm brewing, so you may need to find the poor thing in a hurry. My eyes are very sharp."

"Hmm. You may be right. The sky does look rather dark. Thank you for your offer, but Iím sure itís not necessary. Youíve got more important things to do."

"Nothing that canít wait. We mustnít have such a lovely little girl like this crying. Now what sort of pet have you got this time child? Is it a Feema wolf? I saw a flash of blue entering the forest not too long ago. It could have been him."

"Why thank you, Adolan. You have been a great help. Iím sure heíll come back when heís hungry."

"Thatís if the Wild Meeanders donít get him first, Branwe. Frankly Iím a little surprised that you have allowed young Quilla to have another pet after what she did to that poor Teeka bird. Was this little Feema wolf another one of her strays?"

Branwe nodded, laughing nervously. "It is probably for the best that he has left. Please excuse us now Adolan, I have some sick animals to attend to. Thank you for your help." He grabbed hold of Quillaís hand and marched her back into the house shutting the door.

As soon as the other giant had moved away, Chakotay whispered, "what was that all about?"

"Obviously the giant is keeping Tom a secret for some reason," Janeway said perplexed. "Weíd better get back into the forest. It does look like a stormís coming. We need to get Tom back to the ship. Who knows how severe their storms are here? Tuvok is the coast clear?"

"No Captain. Somebody is about to come out of the house again."

Harry whispered nervously, "whatís a Wild Meeander? It sounds dangerous."

At that moment the giant appeared at the door again. "Quilla, stay here and search the house. If you find him, put him back in the cot and blow the whistle for me. Iím going to search the forest in case that was the Little One that Adolan saw. I wonít go too far in, as I donít believe heíd be able to."

"Yes Father," Quilla answered meekly. Mallee was going to be so angry with her. She started crying louder. She was in big trouble.

End Part Four