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 Eight

"Something happened here," Chakotay said anxiously. ĎSee how the dirtís all scuffed. There was some sort of struggle."

"Perhaps the mountain people caught him." Branwe suggested.

"Damn! Whereís their village from here?"

"If we keep following this path we will come to it Captain. I am not sure how far up the mountain it is, as I have never been here. The fence was built in my grandfathers day and all I know is his stories he told me."

"Of course. I think we should just head for their village and you can tell them the story you came up with. If Tomís there weíd soon find out."

"Iím not happy doing that."

"Why? I thought you said there were no hostilities between your two people."

"There isnít Captain. But I donít think that they will hand the Little One - sorry - Tom over just like that either. They will say I was careless in my duties to protect him and they have the right to keep him. And they would be right."

"Are you saying they would want him themselves? What for? Theyíve got their own mutants," Chakotay demanded.

"If their teachers want him, for experimentation, they will do everything that they can to keep him."

"Including killing us?" Chakotay asked.

"Oh no. We donít kill each other, Commander. Weíre not wild animals."

"Iím sorry. I didnít mean to infer----"

Branwe interrupted him. "I had no right to snap your head off Commander. You are right. We kill those not like us without any compunction. We donít consider them people, so they donít matter. Iím the one who should apologize. The stars only know, what you must think of us." He shook his head sadly. "The Captain and yourself will be quite safe with me. If the mountain people believe you to be my mutants they will honor my ownership."

"They should honor your claim to Tom as well then."

"Itís not quite that simple Captain. I will have to prove that he is mine. He may not be too willing to go along with the suggestion, after everything I put him through. He seemed to be trusting me more towards the end there, but still, weíll have to see."

"Thatís the least of our problems at the moment. We have to see if heís even there, first."

"Youíre right, Captain. The Commander and yourself must not talk while we are within the mountain peoples hearing. You must act - how can I say this? -stupid."

"We can do that," Chakotay said grinning at the Captain.
 

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"Culgon, Iíve searched everywhere around here and thereís no sign of the little thing," Ilana called out as she saw he and some other men heading towards her.

"I thought as much," he answered, as he got closer. "The elders have put me in charge of the search. Three enforcers are going to join us and then weíll be off. Iím fairly certain itís headed further up the mountain. We havenít got a lot of time before nightfall."

"Alright, Iíll just get my shawl."

"No Ilana, the elders agree with me. You have to stay here."

"What?"

"You heard. The elders have given me permission to capture it using whatever means necessary, and youíll only get in the way."

Janeway and Chakotay exchanged looks. They were perched up above the mountain peopleís meeting area, hidden behind some rocks, and had heard everything. Janeway motioned to Chakotay to follow her back to Branwe.

"Did you see any sign of him?" Branwe asked them anxiously as they returned.

"They had him all right, but it sounds like heís escaped. Theyíll be using any means necessary to bring him back."

"They said he was heading further up the mountain, so if we start off now, Captain, we might be able to stay in front of them."

"Thatís not a good idea, Chakotay. I donít know my way around these mountains at all. We could easily get lost. Perhaps we should follow them and let them find him. Theyíd have more chance anyway. I can then step forward and make my claim for him," Branwe suggested.

"Good idea, as long as they donít try to hurt Tom. We might not be able to stop them,í Chakotay said.

"Weíll just have to stay close behind them, so that we can intervene if we have to. Okay, Branwe youíd better lead the way, just in case they spot us."

They were soon following the search party up the mountain, trying to stay a safe distance behind them and staying off the main pathway as much as possible. It soon became apparent that they didnít need to worry. The men in front of them, although looking sideways quite often, never once looked behind.

Night soon began to fall, but the moon was very bright and they could still see quite clearly. The men seemed to be following Tomís trail and an occasional excited cry from up ahead, let them know they were still on the right track.

The night air became rather chilly and Janeway put her uniform jacket back on and did it up. "How far do you think Tom would have got?" she finally asked in a whisper. They seemed to have been walking around in circles for hours. "I got the impression that he hadnít escaped all that long before we turned up."

"Youíre right," Chakotay whispered back, doing up his own jacket. "He must have run around a fair bit to throw them off. There havenít been any sudden exclamations for a while now. Maybe theyíve lost the trail."

"I hope not," Janeway said with feeling. Really, whatís wrong with Tom anyway? she thought grumpily. Every time we get close to finding him he runs off somewhere. She inwardly cringed at the unfairness of these thoughts. Of course he doesnít know weíre trying to get him, but still, Chakotay was right yesterday. It is ridiculous. Iím going to have a long talk with that boy when we get him back. She smiled to herself. At least she was optimistic.
 

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When Tom regained consciousness he was in mind numbing agony. He lay there for a few minutes trying to find somewhere that didnít hurt. He finally decided that his eyebrows were fine and maybe just maybe his left little finger. It didnít seem to be hurting, but it was a little hard to tell at the moment. He wondered whether he should try to roll over. Hell Tommy, you just fell off a cliff. Youíve probably broken every bone in your body. The first thing the Doc would say is - donít move. I have to know what Iím laying on though. It might be warm and soft, but it stinks like hell. I feel all sticky and wet too.

Tom managed to shuffle over and soon had his face buried in the warm fur. What in Godís name is this? Blood? What the hell is that pink squirmy thing there? And that soft brown squishy thing? Oh no! Oh no! AAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! I didnít have to know that. I certainly didnít need to see itís brain splattered over there or that part of itís------. No! No! Donít think about it! DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT. Iím going to be sick. Concentrate on that. NO adding to the mess around me, or on me.

He crawled slowly off of the creature. I donít care how much it hurts or how much more damage I could be doing to myself, Iíve got to get away from that thing. Thank you for breaking my fall, doggy thingy. If it wasnít for you, Iíd probably be lying here with my head smashed open and my insides lying all around the place. He started gagging painfully. Iíve got to get away.

Tom realized he was covered in blood. How much was the creatures and how much was his he wasnít sure and at this stage he wasnít keen to find out. He knew for certain heíd broken both his legs and at least one arm. His ribs were cracked as well. Well Tommy, this is another fine mess youíve gotten yourself into.

Heíd lost the all in one suit, which heíd tied to his waist, somewhere and was now starting to shiver in the cold night air. He realized he was probably suffering from shock as well. What am I going to do? he thought in despair. Soon blackness engulfed him again.
 

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Sudden growling and snarling up ahead alerted Janeway and the others of the impending danger. Two huge furry beasts were attacking the search party. "We should try and help them," Janeway said, attempting to charge forward.

"Captain, we donít have any weapons," Chakotay reminded her, holding onto her arm. "Grab some sticks. I know itís not much, but itís better than nothing." Picking up the biggest sticks they could find, the three of them raced ahead.

One of the beasts caught sight of them, and letting go of the mountain manís arm, that it had in its mouth, charged towards them. Janeway gulped as Branwe stepped in front of herself and Chakotay. The creature let out a yelp of pain and dropped to the ground in front of them, a spear sticking out of its side. Two more spears quickly followed and the beast drew its last breath.

Janeway looked up towards the mountain people and saw the second beast lying dead at their feet. Well, she thought. Iím impressed. They certainly know how to look after themselves.

One of the men stepped forward. "Who are you? And what are you doing here?"

"My name is Branwe."

"Youíre from the forest, arenít you?"

"Yes thatís right. Iím looking for my -- pet. He accidentally climbed over the fence, and Iíve come to find him."

"That must have been some climb. How could it have been an accident?"

"Heís a curious little thing and didnít realize what he was doing."

The man snorted. "Badly trained you mean. I see youíve got two more of them with you. I hope theyíre trained better. Since when have you forest people had mutants anyway? I thought it was against your principals."

"Culgon. Youíre not being very polite," another man said. "If it wasnít for this man distracting the Urangi Beast, youíd only have one arm now. This is the first contact weíve had with the forest people for nearly eighty rotations. Iím sure the elders would want us to be friends. I am rule enforcer Magrik."

"Pleased to meet you," Branwe smiled.

"We had a little creature similar to those two in custody, but it escaped," the man continued. "Weíre trying to find it. It has been promised to our teachers though, so you will have to prove that it is yours."

"I expected that."

"All that doesnít really matter at the moment," Culgon said impatiently. "We have to find it first. Iím wondering if the Urangi Beasts got it."

"Youíre welcome to join us in the search," Magrik said. "If the creature is yours, it should come to you."

"Iím sure he will. Are you still following his trail?"

"No, we lost it some way back. At the moment weíre searching for any signs the creatureís been this way."

Janeway stepped forward to suggest they go back to the last place they had a definite sign of Tomís trail and just stopped herself in time. Seeing her move forward, Branwe looked at her inquiringly. None of the other men seemed to be paying any attention to her so she pointed backwards. "You want to go back?" he questioned softly.

"Huh? Who said anything about going back?" Culgon asked angrily. "You can if you want to. I have a job to do."

The Captain shook her head at Branwe. "No, of course not," he said quickly. Looking at the Captain with concern he whispered, "whatís the matter Captain?"

"Whoís Captain?" Magrik asked.

"Um, my pet. This one."

"Thatís a funny name. What did you call the other one?"

"Chakotay," Branwe said with an apologetic look at him.

"Chakotay," Culgon hooted. "Now Iíve heard everything. What sort of a name is that?"

"My small daughter made it up," Branwe lied easily. "Sheís only four rotations. Children!" he laughed.

The other men laughed with him. "Well whatís wrong with this - Captain?" Culgon asked.

"Iím not sure. Sheís trying to tell me something."

"Huh, the day a mutant can tell you whatís wrong with it, is the day I give up hunting," Culgon jeered.

Janeway gritted her teeth in frustration. She needed to speak to Branwe. But how? These men had sharp ears. Branwe knelt down next to her. "Are you tired, Captain?" he asked loudly. "Do you want me to carry you?" He held out his arms and Janeway suddenly realizing what he was doing nodded quickly.

He gently picked her up and placed her head up against his neck. She nuzzled up against his ear and whispered quietly. "We have to go back down the trail to the last place they found signs of Tom."

Branwe laughed. "Youíll have to excuse this little one gentlemen. Sheís very cuddly."

"Lucky you," Magrik laughed.

"We have to look around the area in case they missed something," Janeway continued in Branweís ear. "Hopefully, thereís a clue there somewhere to tell us why his trail disappeared."

"Itís all right Captain. You go to sleep now," Branwe said patting her gently on the back. She looked down at Chakotay, who was grinning broadly and turned her death glare on him. The grin dimmed, but his eyes were still twinkling merrily. Even The Look couldnít stop the smile.

"You know gentlemen, Iíve been thinking," Branwe suddenly said. "Itís strange that the Little Oneís trail disappeared so suddenly. Perhaps we should go back and search more thoroughly the last point on his trail."

"You may be right. Weíre not getting anywhere here," Culgon said. "Is that what you named your so called missing pet? Little One? Well thatís original."

"Um no. Thatís just a term of endearment. His proper name is Tom."

"Tom? That would have to be the strangest name ever. Itís not even a full name. It sounds like it was cut off halfway through. Donít tell me. Your daughter thought of that one too. No wonder you call it Little One."
 

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"See, this is where the last tracks are. They just seem to disappear from here," Culgon pointed out to Branwe. "We looked everywhere around here before, but thereís nothing."

"What are these markings here?"

"They look like Urangi footprints. Thatís why I thought the beasts might have got it. There should have been some sign of it though. The Urangi rip you to pieces, so thereís always some body parts lying around somewhere."

Janeway shuddered, and looked over at Chakotay in horror. His eyes reflected his own horror at the cold manís words. This man was cruel and heartless. He didnít like him - at all. Lucky BíElannaís not here. She probably would have been trying to rip him to pieces by now.

Chakotay hunted around the edges of the pathway, looking for clues. He wasnít as good at tracking as Tuvok, but he did have some skills. Further away from the pathway, and getting closer to the edge of the cliff, he noticed the ground was scuffed. He couldnít tell what had done it, but considering that Tomís trail stopped here, he thought it might be significant.

"Hey, Iíd watch your little mutant, if I were you Branwe. Itís liable to go head first off the side of the mountain if it goes any further that way," Magrik warned. "The grounds really soft around there and crumbles easily."

"Chakotay," Branwe called out and hurried over to him.

Culgon snorted with laughter. "Youíd almost think it was helping to search. Just how smart are these mutants of yours anyway?"

Branwe looked at him. "No different to yours I shouldnít think. Why?"

"I donít know. They just seem different. The one we caught managed to get away by picking the lock on his cage door and none of our mutants would be able to do that. And these two seem to be almost following the conversation. I donít know. Thereís something not quite right about them. Youíve gone to an awful lot of trouble to get this one back too. Our peoples have had nothing to do with each other for all this time and youíre willing to breach all that for one stupid little mutant. Something just doesnít seem right."

"You are a very suspicious man, Culgon," Branwe accused.

"Yep. Itís got me where I am today."

"Culgon, stop it," Magrik ordered. "Iím the rule enforcer here, not you. All these questions will be answered at the appropriate time."

Culgon walked off in disgust. "Iíd make a better rule enforcer than you Magrik, thatís for sure." He started searching up further and the other men followed him.

Branwe looked back at Chakotay, as Janeway joined them. "Weíre going to have to be a little more careful," he told them quietly. "If they get too suspicious, they might not let any of us go."

"Iím sorry. Itís hard not to look at the men while theyíre talking, and especially not react to that Culgon creature," Janeway whispered.

Branwe nodded. "He is a hard man. Many of the mountain people are the same."

Chakotay looked over at the men. He didnít think that they could hear him from there. He motioned to Branwe to bend down. "Look," he whispered. "The grounds pretty marked up here. Iím wondering if Tomís been here."

"I hope not," Branwe said softly. "He might have gone over the edge."

"Is there any sign of that?" Janeway asked in alarm.

"Itís hard to tell," Chakotay answered. "The edge of the cliff face is pretty eroded. I need to get closer."

"Itís too dangerous. The ground will give out on you," Branwe warned.

"If I crawl towards the edge, and you hang onto my legs, it should be safe enough. Weíll form a sort of chain."

"Good idea," Janeway approved. "Only, Iíll be the one to crawl to the edge. Iím lighter than you."

Branwe shook his head. These people! They seemed to delight in throwing themselves into danger. "And what are the mountain people going to think, when they see us doing this? They are already suspicious enough as it is."

He held up his hand as Janeway started to speak. "Please donít say Ďwe just have to take that chanceí. Iíve heard that too many times already. You people are far too reckless. I might be able to talk us out of everything so far, but even my glib tongue has its limits."

Janeway opened her mouth to speak again. "Uh," Branwe scolded. "Not another word, young lady. Weíll do this my way. Stand over there, both of you and look as stupid as possible."

Janeway and Chakotay exchanged glances. Who had put Branwe in charge? However, they both walked meekly over to where he had pointed. Janeway just stopped herself from saying, "Yes Father."

Branwe walked back over towards the men. "Have you considered the possibility that the Little One has fallen over the edge of the mountain?"

"Would it have been stupid enough to leave the path?"

"Perhaps. If it was attacked by one of these Urangi Beasts, anything might have happened."

"Thatís true."

"Is there any way we can find out?"

"Other than climbing down and walking around the bottom of the mountain until we find itís broken body, no."

Branwe sighed impatiently. "Culgon, you really try hard to be unpleasant donít you?"

Magrik stepped quickly in. "Perhaps we can look down the side here, if we are very careful."

"How do you propose we do that?" Culgon sneered. "The ground will crumble away as soon as we step on it. Iím not willing to risk my life for the stupid little thing."

"Weíll crawl carefully, each one holding onto the otherís legs. Weíve done it before," Magrik answered. "We form a sort of people rope," he explained to Branwe.

"What a marvelous idea!" Branwe enthused. "Come on."

It wasnít long before Culgon, who despite his unpleasant talk, had insisted on being the one to take the chance of going right to the edge, was peering over the side of the cliff. "I see something, on a ledge a fair way down," he called out. "It looks like a Urangi Beast. Itís smashed up really bad. Thereís something there to the side of it. Itís hard to see in the moonlight."

He pulled back up from the edge. "It could have been your creature, Branwe. Then again, it could have been the creatures guts."

"Is there any way we can get down there to see?"

Culgon shook his head. "I donít trust the ground around here. Itís liable to break away. Whatís it matter anyway? It would have to be dead. Thatís a long fall."

"It might not be. I have to know."

Culgon sighed. "The only thing I can think of is to go up further where the ground is more stable. We can then lower the ropes down and perhaps swing across to the ledge."

Branwe nodded. "Thank you."
 

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Tom could hear the voices around him, but couldnít open his eyes to see who was there. He hurt all over and thought he might be dying.

"By the stars Branwe, you were right. It is still alive."

"Let me see. Stars, heís a mess."

"Youíre a Doctor you say? Will it live?"

"I donít know, Culgon. Heís barely breathing. Itíll be touch and go."

"Iíll strap it to you, so you can climb back up with it."

"We shouldnít really move him, but I donít have much choice. Do your people have a blanket they can send down to us, so I can wrap him up first?"

Culgon nodded. "Iíll get one. Maybe I should be the one to take it back up. We have to swing back across to the other ledge, before we can climb up. Iíve got a lot more experience at mountain climbing than you."

"Are you sure? Heís covered in blood, and will make quite a mess on you."

Culgon shrugged. "Iíve seen worse."

It wasnít long before they had Tom tied to him and he started across to the other ledge. "Just follow me as closely as you can. If you get into any trouble Iíll send a couple of the men down for you. Letís go."
 

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As soon as Culgon reached the top he unstrapped Tom and placed him gently on the ground. Janeway and Chakotay hurried over, not caring how it would look. No one seemed to be paying them any attention however.

Branwe soon appeared at the top of the cliff face and two of the men helped him over. He ran to Tom. One of the men handed him a bag that looked like a first aid kit to Janeway and Chakotay. "Let me see how bad his injuries are." He unwrapped the blanket from around Tom, and Janeway let out a gasp at the sight. Tom looked terrible.

Branwe looked over at her. "I know it looks bad Captain, but a lot of this blood isnít his," he said softly. She knelt down on the ground next to her missing pilot and softly stroked his cheek. Oh Tom!

"She really seems to care about him, doesnít she?" Magrik said.

"Is that so unusual?" Branwe asked, running his instruments over Tomís body. "Donít your mutants show concern for each other?"

"Some do. It depends on how intelligent they are."

"Well, mine are very intelligent, as youíve already guessed, Culgon."

"Hmn! So it would seem."

"He has broken his pelvis and three of his ribs," Branwe diagnosed. "His right arm is broken in three places and his left wrist is broken as well. His right leg is smashed. There are so many broken bones, I canít even count them and his left leg is broken in two places." Branwe shook his head. "There may be permanent injury to his spinal column and thereís definitely some damage to some of his internal organs. Heís bleeding internally again."

Chakotay knelt down next to the Captain. Gods, would they even be able to fix him?

"We have to get him back down to your village as soon as possible," Branwe said.

Magrik nodded. "Of course. If we hurry weíll be there before sun up."

Culgon put his hand on Branweís arm as he started to lift Tom up. "I think I should tell you that the Doctorís at our medical center probably wonít want to work on him. They refuse to treat mutants, especially if heís as bad as you say."

"Iíll work on him myself. I just need some instruments."

"Well, you can try. The teachers will probably try to claim him straight away, though. They wonít much care what condition heís in. Theyíll probably say heís going to die anyway."

Branwe looked towards Magrik. "Is this true?"

"Iím afraid so."

"But he could die before I can prove heís mine."

"The teachers wonít care. They were going to kill him anyway," Culgon told him.

"What can I do?"

"Well, Magrik here is the head rule enforcer, so itís up to him. I suggest however, that you prove to us that heís yours and then head off back to your village as fast as you can. I know your village is a long way from here, but itís the best chance youíve got. We do have some medical equipment here with us. Perhaps it will be enough to stabilize him, so that you can get him back in time."

"Culgon, Iím not sure thatís a good idea," Magrik said. "The elders will expect us to bring him back to the village to prove his ownership."

"Well, as I said, itís up to you. I donít think he really needs to prove anything though. After all, heís got two other mutants just like this one, so thatís proof in itself."

"You may be right." Magrik seemed to be trying to be persuaded. "What do you others think?"

As the men discussed the situation, Branwe gave Tom an injection. "That will stop the internal bleeding and help with the pain," he told Janeway and Chakotay as they looked at him in horror. Heíd just stabbed Tom in the stomach with that - thing. He took out another one. Chakotay quickly reached out and grabbed his arm.

Branwe looked at him in astonishment. "Whatís wrong Chakotay? Iím trying to help him. This is an injection to stabilize his injuries. Everything will stay the way it is now until we get him back home."

Chakotay looked at Janeway for guidance. "His broken bones wonít knit back together again, when we get back, if I donít give him this. Please trust me," Branwe said.

Janeway nodded, and Chakotay let go of Branweís arm. He shuddered as he watched Branwe plunge the pointy thing into Tomís upper arm.

"I wonít lie to you," Branwe told them. "I canít do anything about the internal organs. I just hope the stabilizer works with them as well. I am very worried about the spinal injuries."

"He needs to get back to Voyager, and our Doctor," Janeway said softly, forgetting that the mountain men might hear her.

"Your Doctor will have to be a miracle worker," Branwe said sadly. He cleaned Tom up as best he could using the blood soaked blanket and then started wrapping him up in another one.

"Branwe," Magrik said coming over. "I am willing to let you go with the creature, if it can show us you are its owner. That should be enough for the elders."

"How can I do that? Heís unconscious."

"Canít you wake it up?"

"Well, yes. I donít want to do that though. He will be in a lot of pain."

"You gave it a painkiller. I saw you. This is the only way I can let you take it. Iím sorry."

"Very well, then." Branwe took out another needle and plunged it into Tomís arm. Chakotay had to look away. He noticed the Captain trying to catch his eye. She was gesturing to their commbadges. Of course, he thought. If Tom wakes up, he might start talking and with our commbadges nearby, theyíll be able to understand him. Theyíll never let him go, if they think he can speak.

He quickly took it off and adjusted the setting on the back, as did the Captain. He hoped no one would notice what they were doing, but everyone was looking at Branwe and Tom.

Tom started moaning soon afterwards and Janeway and Chakotay stood back. They didnít want him to see them just yet. They needed him to focus on Branwe. They just hoped he would react favorably to the giant man, but how could he prove he belonged to him?

He wouldnít even understand what was going on, or what the stakes were. Janeway wished with all her heart that she could have spoken to him first, to warn him. She felt her heart start to pump furiously in her chest. Everything depended on the next few minutes.
 

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Tom woke up slowly, wondering why the pain seemed so much duller now. He opened his eyes gradually, seeing a lot of strange giant men peering down at him. He recognized Culgon straight away and tried to cringe backwards. His body didnít seem to want to reciprocate, however. "Oh gods!" he exclaimed, remembering what had happened. "I canít move properly," he sobbed, starting to panic. "Help me please!"

Chakotay had to hold Janeway back from rushing to his side. Tom looked around at the faces above him and suddenly noticed Branwe. The father! Thank the gods! He gave a little cry and tried to move towards him, finding he could only hold his arms out.

Branwe picked him up and cuddled him to his chest. "Is that enough proof for you?" he asked angrily.

"It is for me," Culgon said quickly. "Surely it is for you Magrik?"

"I guess so. He certainly seemed to recognise you."

"Can we go then?"

Magrik nodded. "All right. Weíll escort you back past the village, but then youíre on your own."

"Thank you." Branwe motioned to Janeway and Chakotay and wrapping Tom up in the blanket, he headed back down the mountain.

Culgon went up to Chakotay. He held out the first aid kit to him. Although they couldnít understand what he was saying, it was just a serious of chirpings; they realized he was telling them to keep it. "Thank you," Chakotay said softly. Culgon just shrugged and walked off.

"Who would have thought he would turn out to be our ally?" Chakotay asked.

"I think his gruff exterior hides a soft heart. I also donít think he was fooled a bit. He knows weíre more than just mere mutants. He saw us switch our commbadges over you know. Every time I looked up, he was watching us. I donít understand why he didnít say anything, but Iím grateful, nonetheless."

Chakotay smiled. "Me too."

"Weíll keep our badges switched off until the mountain people leave us. Tomís in no condition to say too much, but it might be better, just in case he catches sight of us."

Chakotay nodded. "Poor Tom. Heís a real mess, isnít he? I hate to think what heís been through the past few days."

Janewayís eyes filled with tears. "We have him back now though, thatís the main thing."
 

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The sun was coming up as they trekked back to the mountain peopleís village. "If you stay on this path youíll get to the bottom of the mountains in no time," Culgon told Branwe.

Branwe nodded. "I donít know how to thank you."

"Just get him back safely. Maybe you could come and visit us again someday. I wouldnít bring the mutants with me if I were you, though." Branwe held out his arm and Culgon grabbed it with his hand. "Goodbye, forest man."

Branwe quickly turned around and hurried off, turning around once to wave. Janeway and Chakotay reactivated their commbadges and hurried after him. "Is Tom all right?" Chakotay asked as they caught up.

"Yes, heís sleeping. What happened to you two? I couldnít understand what you were saying and Iím quite certain you couldnít understand me."

"We had to turn off our communicators, in case Tom said something. They would have been able to understand him and I donít think we ever would have gotten away then," Janeway explained.

"Your technology is awe-inspiring, Captain."

"You have great medical technology yourself. This stabilizing agent you gave Tom. Iíve never seen anything like it. We have advanced medicine, but if we break our bones, and we donít have the right medical equipment to fix them, we have to splint them, to hold them still. We would never be able to hold somebody with broken bones the way you are holding Tom. Heís curled up in a little ball."

Branwe nodded. "That is the old way. We have a lot of natural medicines on the planet. I can only give him two stabilizing agents however and then they wonít work anymore. Itís a temporary measure thatís all. We still have to regenerate the bones."

Janeway nodded. "Itís pretty amazing though."

They stopped to rest shortly after. Branwe sat down slowly and lay Tom across his knees. He handed his backpack to Janeway. "Hopefully, thereís still some food left and some water."

Janeway nodded. "Not much," she said rifling through the contents. "But enough to keep us going. Should we keep something for Tom?"

Branwe shook his head. "I donít think heíll be wanting to eat anything, but keep some water for him."

"Thereís plenty of water still. A whole bottle unopened, after this one."

"Thatís good. Itís still a long way to the boundary."

"Iíd estimate about four hours," Chakotay said. "Hey, I think Tomís beginning to wake up."

"Tom?" Janeway said softly running her hand through his hair. "Itís all right, youíre safe now. Weíre on our way back to Voyager."

"Voyager?" Tom mumbled indistinctly.

"Yes Tom. Everythingís going to be all right."

"Captain?"

"Thatís right."

He looked up at Branwe. "Father?"

Branwe gulped. "You can call me that, if you want."

"I can understand you."

Branwe nodded. "At last, we can understand each other."

Tom winced. "What happened?"

Janeway smoothed his brow. "You fell. Do you remember any of it?"

"A huge beast attacked me. It fell, but I fell too. I landed on it. Oh gods. Its head was all smashed and I was lying in the middle of its intestines or something." He shuddered uncontrollably.

"Shh! Itís all right. Donít think about it now."

"It hurts," he whimpered suddenly.

"I know. Hang on, it wonít be long now." She smoothed the hair off of his forehead. "Branwe, do you have any more painkiller?"

"No," Branwe said sadly. "I will give him another stabilizer. That might help a little. After that, there is nothing I can do."

Tomís whimpers increased. "Beam me up to Voyager now, Please! Please?"

"Weíre trying Tom. We canít yet. We have to get somewhere first, then we can." She stroked his face soothingly.

Tom started sobbing in earnest. "Please Captain? Father? Help me please? Father?" He gripped Branweís shirt.

"Chakotay, hand me the first aid kit," Branwe ordered. He injected Tom as quickly as he could, but it didnít seem to help. "Try and drink some water, Little One. Please?"

Tom tried to do as he was told, but the pain was too much. He couldnít handle this. He knew his cries were getting louder, and he could see the worried looks on the Captain and Chakotaysí faces, but he couldnít help it. He thrashed about from side to side.

Branwe looked up worriedly. "Weíd better hurry. Come on." He stood up as carefully as he could.

"How are you going to carry him, thrashing about like that?" Chakotay asked concerned.

"Iíll manage somehow."

They picked up their belongings and hurried down the path. Janewayís hands were shaking. Four hours of unimaginable pain lay ahead for Tom. Would he make it? Can you die from unbearable pain? A few minutes later, he lapsed into unconsciousness again and she was grateful.
 

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

The fence - finally. "I hope Tuvok or some oneís still there." She picked up a rock and threw it over the top. It disappeared in mid flight. A rope appeared, dangling out of thin air, shortly afterwards.

"How are we going to get The Little One over? I donít have anything to tie him to me, and Iíll need my hands free to climb up. Do you have an extra rope?"

Janeway shook her head. "Is there anything in the backpack?"

Chakotay searched through it. "Nothing that Iíd trust. He needs to be held pretty securely, the way heís thrashing about there. Iíve got an idea. Iíll tie him to me using the end of the rope, that way my hands will be free to try to hold him still."

"How will you climb up?"

"I wonít Captain. Perhaps they can pull us up from the other side. If you go over first Branwe and tell them what I want to do, you should be able to pull us up donít you think?"

Branwe nodded. "Hold his head as still as you can, though." He grabbed hold of the rope and quickly climbed up the fence.

A stone came over signifying heíd reached the other side. Janeway helped Chakotay steady Tom and tie him to him. "I hope this holds," she said worriedly. "We donít have a lot of rope here to play with." She tugged twice on the rope and soon Chakotay and Tom were lifted off the ground.

Tom thrashed around wildly and Chakotay held him as tightly as he could. "Hold still Ensign. Thatís an order." Somewhere in his pain-fogged brain Tom heard him and obeyed. They soon reached the other side and as Branwe untied him and lifted him back up, he could hear BíElanna saying his name.

Tuvok quickly threw the rope back over the fence for the Captain and she appeared soon after. Hurriedly untying the rope he said, "I suggest we phase shift immediately. Some one is coming."
 

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

Branwe held Tom out to Tuvok, who had assured him that he could carry him. "Youíd better get him to your Doctor as quickly as possible. Heís in a bad way."

"Thank you Doctor," Tuvok said gravely, easily taking him from the giant manís arms.

BíElanna hovered around him. Brushing the hair from Tomís forehead, she asked quietly. "Kahless, what did they do to him?"

"Iím sure the Captain and Commander will tell us later, Lieutenant." Tuvok touched his commbadge. "Voyager, three to beam directly to sickbay."

As Branwe watched them disappear in a shimmer of lights, he turned towards the Captain. "I hope the Little One will be all right. His right leg is a real mess. Thereís no way I would be able to fix it."

"Donít worry Branwe. Our medicine is very advanced. Iím sure heíll be fine."

"Thatís good to know. I suppose I wonít be seeing any of you again, so this is goodbye."

Janeway nodded. "Itís time to get going. We still have a long journey home and we need to keep moving."

"Iíd just like to say what a pleasure itís been to know you all. Iím going to miss the excitement," Branwe smiled sadly.

"The pleasure has been all ours. Iíd just like to thank you for all your help. We wouldnít have got Tom back without you."

"Captain, Iíll take Branwe back to his home and then meet you back on the ship," Chakotay offered.

"Very well. Goodbye Branwe. Tuvokís people have a saying Ďlive long and prosperí. Please say goodbye to Mallee and Quilla for us, and thank them for all their help. You know they are really wonderful girls and you should be very proud of them."

"I am, thank you Captain. Live long and prosper, all of you. Please, give the Little One our love. Goodbye."

Chakotay tapped his commbadge. "Voyager, please transport myself and Dr. Branwe directly to the house coordinates. Energize."

Janeway looked around at the beautiful forest surrounding her, one last time. Paradise. But there had been trouble in paradise. Wasnít that the name of a book or a poem or something? Iíll have to look it up.

Heaving a huge sigh, she tapped her commbadge. "Voyager, beam me directly to sickbay. Energize."
 

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The End, - finally.

TíPam, July 1999

Thank you everyone for reading this. Let me know what you think. As it is my first fanfic donít be too cruel. I would love some positive feedback though.

I would like to dedicate this story to my daughter Melissa, who kept at me to write my own fanfic, instead of just reading everyone elseís. Thereís some great stuff out there, by the way. Thanks Mel! I would never have had the guts to do this if it wasnít for you.

Please contact me at my email address: t_pam@yahoo.com