Phase Shift
By T’Pam

Standard disclaimer: All of Voyager and its crew, Star Trek and all it’s 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 Six

Mallee pushed her way through the forest, as fast as she could. She’d been walking half the night and felt exhausted. Can’t stop just yet. The rule enforcers could be anywhere. She hitched her bag further over her shoulders and picked up her pace. I need to keep going until I can find somewhere safe to hide. I wish I knew how much head start Quilla managed to give us.

She glanced down to see how the Little One was doing. He was still awake, looking all around as if he were keeping watch for something. His head kept jerking from side to side as he searched the bushes on either side of them. She sighed, wondering if he even understood what had happened. He hadn’t been very happy when she’d put him in the sling, but she’d had no choice. He was still too weak to have kept up with her all night.

She thought back to the scene in the kitchen, when she’d carried Quilla back in instead of the Little One. Her father had nearly ruined everything, when he exclaimed how much bigger the Little One looked all bundled up. Teacher Farndah had come over and tried to take Quilla out of her arms, but the little girl had started making the strange noises that the Little One made. Mallee had been surprised. Quilla had told her she could pretend to be him, but she hadn’t realized how well she could mimic.

The teacher had stepped back telling her father to take him. The look of surprise on his face, when he took the Little One from her arms, would have made her laugh if the situation hadn’t been so serious. He had started to say something and then stopped. Quilla was a lot heavier than the Little One and she thought her father might have guessed what they had done. If he had, he hadn’t said anything. She hoped he hadn’t, because she wanted him to stay completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

When teacher Gamdel had asked if it was necessary to wrap the Little One up so well, she had explained that he needed to be kept warm, as he seemed to feel the cold more than they did. They had believed her and hurried her father out of the room. She only hoped her sister had been able to keep the pretense up all the way to the learning center. It would have given them a huge head start. Well, there was no way to know, so she just had to keep going, as fast as she could.

Tom, for his part, was keeping an eye out for those wild feline creatures. He couldn’t believe that Mallee had come into the forest without a weapon of any sort, not even a stick to shoo them off. He kept his eyes peeled to the undergrowth and at the slightest rustle, tensed. He was sure they were there, stalking them. He’d tried to warn her a few times, but she hadn’t understood. He wondered if Mallee was taking him back to the beach so that he could try and find out what had happened to Voyager and the crew. He certainly hoped so.

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

Harry turned uncomfortably onto his side. This ground was as hard as rocks. There was no way he could get comfortable enough to sleep. Chakotay had nodded off practically as soon as he’d lain down and Tuvok not much later. The Captain had lain awake for quite a bit longer but had eventually drifted off. Not so he. They’d decided not to bother to have some one keep guard. There was really no point. There was nothing to guard against.

He sighed heavily, sitting up. Of course, he’d slept on the ground before. He’d had to on his survival courses at the academy and he could think of quite a few times since then. This was different though. He was worried sick about Tom. How can the others sleep anyway? And Chakotay is snoring. Okay, they’re only soft little ones, but still. Now, there’s a guy with no worries. Blissfully snoring his head off, while God only knows what’s happening to Tom and if we’ll even be able to be rescued.

Harry stood up and quietly walked over to the edge of the clearing. He wished the Captain had never told him about Chakotay’s vision. He couldn’t think of anything else. They might have been able to talk themselves into believing that it was probably all a misinterpretation of some sort, but he couldn’t. Oh, he was quite sure that Tom wasn’t being tortured, but he knew something really bad was going on.

He’d been with Tom through some really tough times and he’d never seen the pilot crack. When he’d turned into that salamander thing after breaking the threshold, he’d been terrified. He'd had nightmares for weeks after, but Harry hadn’t seen him cry.

And Akreteria. Harry shuddered. That had been bad. Real bad. Tom had believed that he was going to die, and he’d thought so too. He’d had many sleepless nights after that, crying his eyes out and Tom had been there to comfort him, a little awkwardly perhaps he smiled, but he’d never shed a tear himself.

And then there had been the demotion. Tom had been deeply upset, but he hadn’t cried in front of him. Harry knew that his father had drummed into Tom as a child that crying was a sign of weakness. Although Tom hadn’t believed this, he still kept his tears to himself until he was in the solitude of his bedroom. For him to have been huddled up in a little ball sobbing like that, well it just didn’t bear thinking about. Harry sighed, bending down to pick up a stone. He threw it into the bushes, unhappily.

"Ow! What the hell? Who’s throwing rocks?" a fierce voice growled.



"Yeah, it’s me," he called out. "Where are you? How’d you get here?" He could make out two shapes walking towards him. The Captain and the others had woken up at the sound of the voices, and they quickly joined him. B’Elanna and Seven were soon with them. "Boy, are we glad to see you."

B’Elanna looked past them towards the fire. "Where’s Tom? Isn’t he here with you?"

They all shook their heads. "He’s still in the other phase, but we know exactly where he is now. All we have to do is grab him." Chakotay told her.

"Is he all right?"

"As far as we could tell."

"Oh Thank Kahless!"

"What happened?" the Captain asked. "We were in a tight spot with some rather unfriendly animals of some sort and shifted back to get away from them, but we ended up here."

Seven explained about the planet shifting and their idea of leaving the transponder behind to help find them. "The sensors have only just picked up its signal and Seven and I beamed down and shifted here straight away," B’Elanna added.

"It seems the commbadges are not working, as we tried to contact you when we first arrived," Seven said.

"It’s lucky you had that campfire, or we might never have found you," B’Elanna smiled.

"That’s funny," Harry said puzzled. "They were working in the other phase, because the universal translator helped us understand everything the villagers were saying."

"I’ve given up trying to understand any of this," B’Elanna remarked. "It’s all too weird."

"Seven, I do not understand how you can be here," Tuvok stated. "The last time you phase shifted your Borg implants shut down."

"That is correct Commander," Seven answered. "The Doctor and I have been able to program my nanoprobes to adjust to each variance."

"That was a lot of trouble to go to," Chakotay remarked.

"Also, rather a risk," the Captain said dryly. "I’m surprised at Rawlins for letting you take it."

"The Lieutenant had to be persuaded," Seven admitted.

"Well, it wasn’t necessary. If I had been in my chair, I wouldn’t have let you."

"But you were not," Seven said, looking the Captain straight in the eye. "I believe the risk was minimal and it was logical for me to chance it. I felt it necessary to be here, in case of a problem, which since Mr. Paris is not here, would seem to be a correct assumption."

"Whoopee! Seven’s here to save the day - again," B’Elanna muttered darkly.

The Captain gave her the look. "I still think I’ll have a little talk with Lieutenant Rawlins when we get back."

"Oh Captain, don’t blame him," B’Elanna said. She didn’t want him to see the lieutenant get into trouble. He was starfleet through and through, but right from the start, he had always treated them with the greatest respect. Even Tom, who had had most people eyeing him with distrust back in the early days of their voyage. "You know what Seven can be like," she continued. "I tried to talk her out of it, but she was determined. Chakotay’s right. It was a lot of trouble."

"I felt I needed to be here. Mr. Paris is my----" Seven hesitated, "friend."

The Captain patted her arm. "As he is to all of us. We’ll get him back."

B’Elanna looked at the former Borg suspiciously. She’d started to suspect over the last few weeks, that Seven was attracted to Tom, and now she wondered if it was true. She remembered the conversation she’d had with Tom in the messhall, only a week ago.

They had been having breakfast together when Seven had suddenly appeared at their side. "Good morning Ensign. Lieutenant."

B’Elanna had merely nodded, but Tom had been his usual friendly self. "Hey, hi Seven. How’s it going?"

"It is going - well," Seven had answered. "Did you sleep well?"

"Like a baby," Tom had answered, smiling brightly. "Do you want to join us?" He’d patted the seat next to him. "I promise, the food’s not that bad this morning. Sit down and take a load off."

"A load off?"

"Yeah. It means to take the weight off your feet."

"Oh! I see." Seven had then glanced at her and looking back at Tom had said, "No thank you Ensign." B’Elanna got the impression that Seven would have said yes, if she hadn’t been sitting there. "I will take my load off over with Commander Tuvok. I need to speak to him."

Tom had laughed. "Okay, but Tuvok’s not a very good conversationalist."

"Indeed," Seven had answered, walking away.

B’Elanna had glared at Tom, still watching Seven walk away. He’d looked at her then, frowning at the look on her face. "What?"

B’Elanna growled. "Do you have to be so---so obvious?"

"Obvious? About what? What are you talking about?"

"Her!" she’d said nodding her head in the direction that Seven had taken.

"Seven? What about her?"

"Don’t play dumb, Paris."

"I’m not playing." Tom had flushed angrily when he realized how that had sounded. "Maybe you should spell it out."

"All right then. P.I.G. How’s that?"

"How’s this? B.I.T.C.-----" B’Elanna kicked him - hard. "Ow!" The people at the next table had turned to look at them. "What is the matter with you?" He rubbed his leg.

"You’re eyes were practically bugging out of your head."

"They were not. I wasn’t even thinking about her like that. I was just thinking how far she’s come in the last year."

"Yeah, right!"

"I was! What’s your problem?" Tom’s voice had risen and more people were starting to look.

"You!" B’Elanna had struggled to keep her voice down. "You always go out of your way to be friendly to her. Why? It’s just so you can oggle those mountains stuck out in the front of her."

"Mountains?" Tom had choked on his coffee. "To tell you the truth I hadn’t really noticed."


"Damn it B’Elanna! What’s gotten into you?" Tom had slammed his mug down on the tabletop. More and more people were beginning to watch. This could be interesting. They always found the volatile pair entertaining. And there hadn’t been any good gossip for a while.

"Quiet! Everyone’s starting to look."

"Who cares? What, don’t you want people to see what an insane half Klingon looks like?"

"Tom, you are - starting - to - make - me - mad."

"I think you’re already there."

"P’tahk!" She spat at him. Most of the room was now watching. She could see Neelix coming towards them and she waved him away. She forced herself to remain calm. "I’m just saying that you are overly friendly to her and she doesn’t deserve it."

"I’m friendly to her because that’s just me." Tom had also lowered his voice, but he glared angrily at her. "I know how it feels to have everyone look at you as if you’re the scum of the earth." His voice cracked and he swallowed. "It helps to have a few friendly faces around. Harry and the Captain were mine. I’m just repaying the debt."

B’Elanna sniffed, not totally convinced.

"It wouldn’t hurt for you to stop being so judgmental."

"Judgmental? Me?" Her voice had risen again.

"Yes you." Tom had hissed back. "You know, you really don’t give me enough credit, do you? You don’t trust me. Have I ever given you any reason to doubt my feelings for you?"

"No," B’Elanna had admitted, her voice softening. "I’m sorry. I do trust you. It’s just that, haven’t you ever noticed how she goes out of her way to speak to you? Most people, she just nods to them, returns a greeting here and there, but that’s all. She always stops to speak to you."

"That’s because I treat her a lot nicer than a lot of the other people around here. She always stops and speaks to Harry and Neelix. And the Captain and Tuvok. Not to mention little Naomi and----"

"All right. All right. I get the picture. But she watches you. I’ve seen her watching us - a lot."

"She’s trying to fit in. Watching people interact, helps her."

B’Elanna sniffed again. "Well, I just wish she wouldn’t watch you so much."

"Hey! Are you jealous?"

"As if."

"You are!"

"I am not. Jealous of that -- that ?"

Tom had laughed delightedly. "You are! Hey! This is great."

"Shut up!"

Tom laughed again. "I’m really flattered here, you know."

"I said - Shut up!"

Tom had laughed harder. "Make me!"

"Don’t tempt me."

"Can I? Tempt you?"

"Not likely!"

Tom’s smile was infectious. She had found herself smiling back, the former Borg forgotten.

B’Elanna sighed at the memory. Harry was looking at her, a slight smile on his face as she glared suspiciously at Seven. I bet Tom told him she thought angrily. She sighed. It all seemed so silly now.

She heard Seven tell the others, "we’ve brought you some nutritional supplements. Neelix insisted."

"Neelix calls it Martzipan Toast, and believe it or not, it’s really good. Seven and I will reprogram your armbands while you eat."

"Will we be able to find Tom’s variance?" Chakotay asked.

"It will be a simple arithmetic problem Commander."

"Good," the Captain said. "If we go now, they should still all be asleep, so we can sneak in, put Tom’s armband on him and shift out."

Chakotay sighed. "I guess you’ll be needing my back again," he said, much to the astonishment of Seven and B’Elanna.

The Captain laughed. "You’ve got it Commander."

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

It was still dark and all was quiet, as the away team hurried across the open expanse to the house they believed Tom was in. Chakotay immediately dropped down to all fours at the top of the steps and Harry jumped up on his back.

Seven’s eyebrow arched up so high you could no longer see it, while B’Elanna’s mouth dropped open. "What the hell are you doing?" B’Elanna hissed.

"It is necessary to open the door this way," Tuvok answered, as he pushed forward on the huge, heavy door, at the same time as Harry pulled the handle down.

As the door opened, Harry turned around to look at them, a huge grin on his face. "Don’t worry. We’ve had plenty of practice. The Commander and I are thinking of doing a balancing act at Neelix’s next talent show. What do you think? Standing on his shoulders is my next trick."

B’Elanna snorted, while Seven’s eyebrow remained where it had disappeared. The Captain held up her hand. "Quiet people. We don’t want to wake everyone up."

"Sorry," Harry mumbled jumping down lightly.

The Commander stood up, trying not to smile. "He should be in the kitchen. This way." Chakotay led them down the hallway stopping outside the kitchen door. "Tuvok, can you hear anything?"

Tuvok shook his head and then pressed his ear against the door. "Nothing Commander," he said quietly.

They quickly opened the door and entered the room. The moonlight coming through the window was enough to see the cot at the end of the room. Even from this distance they could see it was empty. "Damn!" Janeway muttered. "Okay, we’ll split up. He must be in one of the other rooms. Tuvok, you go with B’Elanna and Seven."

"There is no way Seven is standing on my back. Not in those heels," B’Elanna announced.

"I will be needed to pull on the handle, Lieutenant. You are not tall enough to reach."

"I will do the pulling on the handles." Tuvok interrupted the argument before it could get started. "That is, of course, if Lieutenant Torres believes she can carry my weight."

B’Elanna snorted again. "I’m a Klingon Tuvok, I think I can handle it."

The Captain and Chakotay exchanged a look, humor in both sets of eyes. "Let’s go then," Janeway ordered. "Try not to disturb anyone."

The first room the Captain entered was a bedroom. She looked around cautiously. It was dark and hard to see if anyone was in the bed. She crept closer, Chakotay and Harry at her heels. A sudden rustling noise - someone turning over in the bed - made them stop. "Quilla, my child, go back to bed," a voice suddenly said. "You must try to get some sleep."

They looked at each other in horror. The giant! Janeway took a deep breath. "Yes Father," she whispered. They backed out of the room quickly. "That was close," she said to the others. "We’d better get out of sight, in case he decides to get up and check on her."

They had just managed to scuttle behind a bookcase about halfway down the hallway, when Branwe came out of his bedroom. He entered another room further along, saying as he opened the door, "it’s all right sweetheart. Did you want to come back to my bed?" There was a murmured answer, which the group couldn’t hear, and then the giant reentered the hallway, carrying the child in his arms.

"You mustn’t worry about them," he said. "Mallee will be back as soon as the Little One is safe. She has a lot of experience in the forest." He put Quilla down on his bed. They could still hear what he was saying, as he had left the door open.

"Where will she take him though Father? Those horrible men were so mad at her and they sent the rule enforcers after them."

"I wish I knew. Don’t worry about your sister though. The rule enforcers won’t hurt her. She’s still a child."

"What about the Little One though? They’ll hurt him won’t they? They want to put him in a cage and cut him all up. I heard them."

"We’ll just have to hope they don’t find him. I have a few ideas about where Mallee might take him, but the enforcers will be watching us, so we can’t go after them."

Janeway looked at Chakotay and Harry in shock. "We have to get out of here and see if Voyager can pick up his lifesigns again," she told them. Just then Seven entered the hallway, Tuvok and B’Elanna behind her. Janeway beckoned them over. "We have to shift back to Voyager’s phase. We’re going to need some help." They quickly tapped their armbands and the hallway disappeared from around them.

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

Mallee sank down wearily against a tree. This was only the second time she’d allowed herself to stop for a quick rest. She drank greedily from a water bottle and then held it out to Tom. "Drink up Little One. I’m going to rest for a short while." She closed her eyes trying to think of where they could go and promptly fell asleep.

Tom stood guard over her. The poor kid’s exhausted. Let her sleep for a bit. He was pretty tired himself, but had dozed off a couple of times during the journey. He knew he could stay awake to keep watch. He still wasn’t sure why they had had to run off. Obviously those men were trying to take him away, but he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him. It must have been something pretty bad for Mallee to go to so much trouble.

Mallee slept for over two hours before jerking awake suddenly. "My stars," she gasped. "How long have I been asleep?" The Little One was standing next to her, a stick almost as big as he was in his arms. "What are you going to do with that? I hope you’re not thinking of trying to defend yourself against the rule enforcers with a puny stick like that. They can be awfully mean if you resist them."

She sighed, knowing he couldn’t understand her. "Come on, we have to keep going. They could catch us up at any minute." She knelt down, picked him up gently and put him back in the sling. Hurrying forward she tried to shake off the feeling that the rule enforcers weren’t far behind them.

However, she hadn’t gone far when the snapping of branches behind her, alerted her to the fact that some one was following them. She quickened her pace, not really sure where she was headed, and then broke out into a run. The noises behind her increased and she realized that whoever it was, was getting closer.

No, she thought frantically. I can’t let them catch us. Tom was bounced to and fro as she raced along. She ran blindly, weaving in and out of the trees, until a fence suddenly appeared in front of her. Mallee stopped dead, looking up at the huge fence. Oh no! The boundary! I had no idea we were so close. What am I going to do? She looked around in despair.

"Stop!" a voice called out to her from the depths of the forest. "If you hand the creature over now, you won’t get into any trouble."

Mallee let out a small sob. They’d be here any moment. Jumping up on a rock she hauled herself up to look over the top of the fence. The trees were a lot sparser on this side and you could see in the distance, mountains looming up out of the darkness. The home of the mountain people. You couldn’t get to them though, because if you attempted to cross the boundary between the two peoples it was said you would disappear.

The fence had been built hundreds of rotations ago, after many people had disappeared, never to be seen again. The mountain people had also appeared in their forest, from time to time, telling tales of forest people appearing out of nowhere in their mountains. The two people had been so different in their ways and beliefs, that it had been decided to erect the fence, on both sides, to separate them from each other. They hadn’t seen each other since.

Mallee dropped back down to the ground as the rule enforcers emerged from the forest. There were three of them. "Stay right there," one of them ordered. Mallee quickly pulled Tom out of his sling and put him over her head, silently urging him to grab the top of the fence. He did, and quickly clambered up.

"What are you doing?" one of the enforcers yelled.

"Saving him," Mallee answered simply. She turned around to Tom, who was watching them from the top of the fence. "Go Little One," she said urgently, gesturing with her hands, as the three enforcers rushed forward to grab him. With one last look at her, Tom hung himself over the other side of the fence and with a grateful, "thanks", let go.

He landed in the soft dirt and picking himself up, looked back at the fence. That was strange. From this side it looked to be made out of stone, not wood. He shook his head, perplexed. Running toward an outcropping of rocks he waited for one of the men to follow him over. Nothing happened. No one jumped over the fence to come and get him. What was going on? Was Mallee all right?

Tom ran back to the fence and looked around. He had to see what was happening. It was impossible to climb with no ropes or anything, so he looked at the ground. There was a small hole in the bottom of the fence, where a few stones must have come loose over the years. It wasn’t big enough to climb through, but he could see what was happening on the other side.

There was nobody there. No Mallee, no strange men - nothing. He couldn’t understand what had happened. It was him they had been after, not Mallee, so why did they give up? Surely at least one of the men could have gotten over the fence, with the others help, and continued the chase. It didn’t make any sense. Tom sighed heavily. I wonder which way the beach is from here?

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

"What do you mean, there are no human lifesigns?"

Vorik took a step back. Lieutenant Torres was acting most irrationally. Her roar was still ringing in his ears. Joe Carey, who had also taken a step back, rolled his eyes. Klingons, he mouthed to the ensign, who raised his eyebrow slightly. He hit his commbadge. "I’m sorry B’Elanna, but it’s just like he said. We’ve checked all the readings from that variance and there’s no sign of him."

"There has to be." Carey flinched. The chief engineer’s voice was loud enough to be heard all the way from the planet, without using her commbadge at all.

"B’Elanna, that’s enough," they heard the Captain say in the background. She tapped her commbadge. "Lieutenant Carey, keep searching and let us know if you find anything."

"Yes, Captain."

Janeway sighed looking around at the group in front of her. B’Elanna was seething, and none too quietly at that. Chakotay was trying to calm her down, but by the look on his face he was just as frustrated. Harry looked desolate, as if he had given up and anxiousness seemed to cross Seven’s face every few seconds as she spoke softly to him. She looked into Tuvoks eyes and saw worry reflected back. That really worried her.

"I’ve had it," B’Elanna yelled out. "Captain, we should just go back, tell that giant who we are and get him to show us where he thinks Tom might have been taken to hide. It would be a start at least."

"The prime directive --------"

"To hell with the prime directive. You and your almighty prime directive. You make me sick."

"B’Elanna!" Chakotay grabbed her roughly and spun her around. "If you can’t control yourself, then get back to the ship."

B’Elanna gulped. "I’m sorry Captain. I didn’t mean that."

Janeway looked at her. "You probably did you know," she said softly. "At the moment it doesn’t matter. As I was about to say, the prime directive has probably been broken by Tom’s presence anyway. I think we should do as B’Elanna suggested. Try and keep our contact to a bare minimum. Hopefully speaking to this giant man will be enough."

"Are you sure Captain?"

"No Tuvok, I’m not. But I don’t see that we have many alternatives. I feel that this man can be trusted."

"I don’t think that we should all go back this time. We don’t want to make the poor man think he’s being invaded."

"You’re right Chakotay, just you and I will talk to him." Janeway turned to the others. "If we need any help, one of us will contact the rest of you." She nodded to Chakotay, and then they both tapped their armbands and disappeared from view.

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

The sun was just coming up over the horizon as Tom set off towards the mountains. He had strapped the canvas bag that Mallee had thrown over the fence after him, onto his back and although it was big and heavy he felt he could manage it.

Tom really had no idea where he was going, but just knew he should get as much distance between himself and the fence as he could. The only thing he could think of was that the men who had been chasing them had gone back for reinforcements.

He still couldn’t work out what had happened with the fence. It had definitely been made of wood when he had clambered over it, but now it was made of stone. Everything is just so weird on this planet - I want off.

I wonder if Voyager is even still out there, or if they’ve given me up for dead. Somebody would have come to get me if they could have. The last thing I remember is B’Elanna telling me they couldn’t beam me out for some reason and they let Mallee and her Father take me instead.

But they couldn’t see them, so did I become invisible too? Is that why they haven’t rescued me? Is this an alternate reality or something? Did I time jump or get pulled into another dimension? He sighed as he trudged along. He had no idea what the answers were.

The pathway had become steeper now and Tom found himself breathing harder. He knew he still wasn’t well enough for a long mountain trek, so slowed his pace. At least there were rocks he could hide behind now. He kept looking back over his shoulder, to see if anyone had followed him over the fence. Of course, the reason why there’s some huge fence in the middle of a planet doesn’t bear thinking about. He shuddered as he began to imagine all sorts of things. Was the fence built to keep something out? Or in?

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

Janeway and Chakotay rematerialized in the hallway of Branwe’s house and quickly ran to hide next to the bookcase. "Okay," Chakotay asked. "How should we proceed? Do we go and knock on his bedroom door and say ‘excuse me. We’re looking for our lost crewman’?"

Janeway shrugged. "I don’t know. We’ll probably give the poor man a heart attack." She smiled ruefully. "I didn’t stop to think about that. All I was thinking about was getting some answers. It sounded like a good idea at the time."

"Hmm. I think we probably should------"

The decision was taken out of their hands just then, when there was a squeal from behind them.

Quilla had just stepped out of the bathroom and couldn’t believe her eyes. Two more of the strange creatures, the same as the Little One, were standing in the hallway. Her squeal turned into a full throttled scream however, when Janeway stepped forward and said, "Please don’t be frightened, we mean you no harm."

Branwe came rushing out of his bedroom, only to stop dead at the sight before him. Janeway turned towards him. "I’m Captain Katherine Janeway of the starship Voyager and this is my first officer, Commander Chakotay. Please, we mean no harm."

"Good morning," Chakotay said softly. The size of this man was very intimidating.

Branwe opened and then shut his mouth again. No sound came out. He sank to his knees in the middle of the hallway. "Father," Quilla’s voice was awed. "They can talk." Branwe nodded, still unable to say a word.

"We didn’t mean to give you a fright," Janeway apologized. "We’re hoping you can help us."

When Branwe still didn’t say anything, Janeway turned to Chakotay. "This is going well."

Chakotay decided to try. "Our crewman was here. He was sick and you were looking after him." The giant man nodded, but still didn’t answer. Chakotay sighed and continued. "We understand your other daughter has taken him somewhere to hide and we need your help to find him."

"Mallee tricked the teachers and I helped," Quilla informed them proudly. "Do you come from the stars? Mallee said the Little One came from the stars."

"Well, sort of," Janeway smiled at the little girl.

"We had to protect him from being all cut up you know. The teachers are really mean and when I get big and have to go to the learning center I’m going to kick them hard and smack them and everything. Not if they’re smaller than me though or sick or something, cause then I’d be being mean too. Isn’t that right?"

"Um yes," Janeway said faintly. She looked over at Branwe, who seemed to be in a state of shock, and then at Chakotay. He quirked his eyebrow at her, his eyes shining with humor.

"What’s a crewman? Is the Little One a crewman?"


But before Janeway could continue Quilla was off again. "Mallee dropped him in the bath you know. He nearly drowned, cause he wouldn't hold still. And I dropped him one time too, cause he kept being all wriggly. But I kissed him all better," she quickly added seeing the look of horror that crossed the Captain’s face.

"Well that’s good," Janeway said confused. "Is he all right?"

Quilla nodded. "Father said all his bruises would be gone today, excepting for his shoulder. I hurt him you know," she felt she should confess. "Not his shoulder though. He did that falling out the window when he ran away."

Janeway turned to the father, but he was still watching them with amazement. Quilla claimed her attention again. "How come we can talk to each other? The Little One just made chirping noises. I can copy them if you want."

"Oh no, that’s not necessary," Janeway said hurriedly. "We wear a little badge that can make us understand other peoples languages and they can understand us. See?" She pointed to her commbadge and then at Chakotay’s.

Quilla stared at the commbadges. "What’s language?"

"The way you talk, you’re speech," Chakotay supplied.

Quilla laughed. "You’re being silly. There’s just one way to talk." Before Chakotay could say anything to this, Quilla went on. "I looked after the Little One just as good as Mallee did you know. Except when I lost my temper." Her eyes filled with tears. "He doesn’t like me any more cause I was mean to him." She sniffed loudly. "I even carried him to the bathroom all by myself, cause he wouldn’t wear his nappy but Father told me off when he caught me. He said the Little One was too big for me. But he wasn’t. I could carry him easily and he’s not heavy or anything."

"I see." Janeway looked around for something to sit on. This child was unbelievable! What exactly had Tom been put through?

"Are you a girl?"

The question came out of nowhere. "Yes," Janeway replied wondering if she was dreaming all this.

"And you’re a boy?"

"That’s right," Chakotay answered, thinking what an adorable little girl she was.

"Are you the Little One’s Mother and Father?"

Chakotay felt himself begin to choke and shook his head rapidly. "No. We’re his Commanding officers."

"What’s that?"

"We’re responsible for him, and he’s supposed to do as we say."

"Just like my Father is to me. I don’t always do as I’m supposed to though. Does the Little One be naughty sometimes too?"

"Yes," Chakotay nodded his head up and down vigorously, hearing the Captain snort with laughter beside him.

"I thought so. Father made him scream, you know. And he cried and cried afterwards, and wouldn’t even let Mallee cuddle him better."

"I took his temperature that’s all. I didn’t realize-----. I didn’t know." Branwe said in a soft dazed voice. The accusation had brought him back to life. "I thought he was a mutant animal of some sort. That’s the way I always take the animals temperatures. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. We treated him terribly."

Janeway looked at Chakotay. "Poor Tom, he wouldn’t have known what was happening."

Chakotay nodded grimly.

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

"I don’t know if I can take you to Mallee’s hiding places," Branwe cautioned. "The rule enforcers will be watching me. I don’t want to lead them straight to her. Besides, I’m not sure she would have hidden in her usual places. She wouldn’t want to take the chance."

"She said she was just going to run as far away as she could," Quilla added.

Janeway sighed. "It’s the only lead we’ve got. Our instruments can’t pick up Tom’s readings. How far would she have got, if she’d kept going all night?"

They poured over the map that Branwe had produced of the forest. He had explained to the strange visitors everything that had happened since his daughters had found the Little One on the beach. They had moved into the kitchen and Janeway and Chakotay were perched up on the table, while he and Quilla sat on the chairs.

They had explained to him, in as simple words as possible, where they were from and a little bit about their technology. He had found it amazing, but agreed that his people weren’t ready to accept any of this.

Branwe leaned forward and pointed to a section of the forest. "I believe she would be somewhere in here. I’m only guessing though. I think she would have circled around and doubled back, trying to throw the rule enforcers off her trail. She wouldn’t have just run in a straight line."

"That’s still an awfully big area," Chakotay said dejectedly. "It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack."

"Perhaps we can split into several different search parties and try to find them."

"That would not be a good idea, Captain Katherine Janeway of the starship Voyager. The more of you that are in the forest, the more chance there is, of the rule enforcers finding you."

Chakotay nodded. "He’s right. I think just a small group of us should go. Tuvok’s pretty good at tracking. He might be able to pick up their trail." Sighing loudly he added, "I just don’t understand why Tom’s lifesigns have disappeared. I hope nothing else has happened."

"The Little One - oh, I apologize. What did you call him? - Tom, will still be weak from his operation, but should be a lot stronger than he was yesterday. Perhaps there is something blocking your instruments, first officer Commander Chakotay."

"You may be right. Nothing’s working properly here."

"I wish I could be of more help, first officer Commander Chakotay. I want Mallee back just as much as you want the Little ----sorry, Tom."

"We know you do," Janeway said, leaning across and patting his arm. "You have been a lot of help, I can assure you."

"Thank you, Captain Katherine Janeway of the starship Voyager. However, I feel I should be doing more."

"Please, call me Captain."

"Very well."

"And please, call me Chakotay."

"I would be honored. You must call me Branwe."

"Thank you." Janeway turned to Chakotay. "You stay here while I go and get the others." She jumped off the table and hurried out of the room.

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

Tom stopped to rest against a huge boulder. He’d only been walking for a few hours, but was already exhausted. Quickly rummaging through the backpack, he found a water bottle and downed the contents thirstily. He closed his eyes briefly. Just where the hell am I heading anyway? It doesn’t look like any one is going to chase me in here. Maybe I should go back. What’s the point? It’s not like I could get over that damn fence anyway.

A sudden noise from above made him jump. Looking up he saw a huge pair of feet on the rocks above his head. Standing up carefully, the sun in his eyes, he gazed up at the huge man standing above him. "Hello," he said hopefully. "I’m Tom Paris."

The man jumped down to him waving what looked like a spear at him. The strange chirping noises that meant the man was talking to him started.

"I’m sorry. I don’t understand," Tom tried to tell him. Two other men suddenly jumped down from the rocks above. "Oh, Great! How about - take me to your leader?" He tried smiling at them, but they didn’t return the sentiment. They were all looking curiously at him.

Tom studied them closely. Although they looked to be the same race as the father and the others, they were dressed differently and looked a lot less civilized. He swallowed anxiously. Licking his lips in a nervous gesture, he tried again. "I mean you no harm. I’m just trying to -----"

One of the men stepped forward and grabbed his arm roughly, shaking him as he said something. Tom tried to pull his arm free. "Hey! There’s no need to -----"

The man shook him harder and then grabbing him by both arms, lifted him high into the air to dangle over his shoulder. "Damn it! Will you people stop treating me like this?" Tom shouted angrily.

The man swatted his backside and Tom yelled loudly. "Stop it! I’m not a little kid." He kicked his legs indignantly and the swats became harder. Tom could hear the other two men laughing loudly. "Damn you all to hell!" he yelled, kicking his captive furiously.

The man lowered Tom from his shoulder and dangled him from his hip, slapping him twice, quite resoundingly as he did so. Tom struggled in his arms to no avail, realizing he must look like a small child having a temper tantrum to these people. At the moment, he didn’t care.

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

"Do you mind if we take this map with us Branwe?" The Captain had quickly explained to the other away team members what Branwe had told Chakotay and herself and then they had all shifted back.

"No, of course not Captain. I just wish I could go with you to help in the search, but I’m quite sure that the rule enforcers would follow me."

"It would be better if you stayed here anyway, in case Mallee returns. You’ve been a tremendous help already."

"Thank you, Captain. But if Mallee does return, those two enforcers outside will stop her. I still don’t understand how all of you managed to get past them. I know you’re small but they still would have seen you, especially now that the sun has come up."

The Captain and the others had phase shifted in the hallway of the house, so as to bypass the guards. The Captain thought that disappearing right in front of Branwe and Quilla, although they had been very good about everything so far, might be more than they could accept, so had shifted out of their sight.

"We have a special technology. It’s too hard to explain," she told the giant man. "It enables us to move from one place to another quickly, without being seen."

"I see," Branwe answered, clearly not understanding at all.

"Are you ready to go, Captain?" Chakotay asked coming up to them. "Quilla has shown us all their favorite hiding places in the forest and Tuvok has estimated how far Mallee would be about now. We can shift back and get Voyager to transport us there."

"Right." The Captain nodded as the rest of the away team came over to them. "It would be best if you and Quilla stayed in here for a few moments," she told Branwe.

Branwe nodded. "You will come back and let me know what happened?"

"Of course." She smiled up at him. "I’m not sure how long we’ll be, but I’ll definitely see you again."

They quickly headed out into the hallway and adjusting their armbands shifted back to Voyager’s variance.

Quilla, who had sneaked a look at them from around the door, gasped. "Father, you won’t believe what they just did. They disappeared. Wow!!!!"

"Disappeared? Are you sure?"

Quilla nodded her head up and down. "Absolutely, positively," she gasped.

End Part Six