Standard Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom owns Tom and Harry, the good ship Voyager and the rest of its crew. I am just borrowing them and will put them back neatly when I am finished with them. This story is just for fun. No profit will be made.
Hours later Janeway looked around at her senior officers and sighed in discouragement. The passenger ship had indeed had two youths aboard, wrapped in blankets - feeling a little worse for wear from overdoing the festivities.
They were about the same height as Tom but a lot broader. Janeway wondered how Hetron could possibly have thought they may be human. A full search of the ship had produced nothing and they had quickly followed the last ion trail.
The ship was another cargo hauler, smaller than the first one they had searched and by the time they had reached it, it was almost at its destination of Caldon Prime.
That search had proved fruitless as well. Ironically, a couple of the crew had told them about the first cargo hauler and the two last minute sacks of letters that they had seen waiting to be loaded.
Janeway sighed again. Everyone had been so helpful, but Tom and Harry were still missing.
"Well what happens now?" B'Elanna said impatiently. "Do we find that first cargo hauler again and tear it apart? Or do we go back to Caldon IV and start the search all over again? If they were still there when we left, they won't be now. Whoever took them has had plenty of time to take them anywhere."
Veron, who was sitting at the end of the briefing room table, shook his head. "If they were still on Caldon IV when we left, then they must still be there now. The President issued orders that no other ships were to leave the planet. Anybody attempting to leave would show on the monitors at once. There have been no such reports."
"Is it possible that any other ships left Caldon IV that we didn't pick up originally?" Janeway asked looking at Tuvok as she spoke.
The security chief shook his head. "I was most vigilant Captain. I do not believe that it is probable. I am quite certain that only four ships left the planet."
"Well where does that leave us? Tom and Harry weren't on Caldon IV, nor were they on any of the four vessels that left the planet. They have to be somewhere," B'Elanna said angrily.
"I don't know what to say Captain," Veron said in confusion. "The only thing I can think is that your men are still on Caldon IV and for some reason you can not pick up their life signs."
"Your people have shielding, do they not?" Tuvok asked him.
Veron nodded. "We have the technology but it is only used for the President, for security reasons. There is no shielding on Caldon IV at all. Caldon Prime has a few buildings equipped with shielding, but that is all. We have no use for it. And anyway, we searched the ships from top to bottom."
"I feel that we are being led around by the nose, but if we'd only turn around we'd find them," Chakotay said suddenly.
"What do you mean by that?" Janeway asked him.
Chakotay ran his hand through his hair. "It just seems so contrived. We race after the first ship that seemed the most suspicious at the time, and they point us in the direction of the second ship, who in turn tell us something suspicious about the third ship. And then the last ship tries to send us back to the second. It's almost as if we're being kept busy, while Tom and Harry are hidden away safely."
"Ckakotay's right," Janeway said. "I've had an uneasy feeling ever since we left Caldon IV. Somebody's been toying with us. It's time we headed back."
"You are talking about a huge conspiracy here Captain," Veron said disbelievingly. "Everybody aboard the four ships we stopped would have to be a part of it. I find it impossible to believe."
"No Veron," the Captain shook her head. "Not everyone. The pilot of the family cruiser, Hetron on the cargo hauler, the two crewmen on the second cargo hauler and perhaps one or two men on the passenger ship. That makes only six."
"Counting the two men who pretended to be guards, it is a lot of people to be involved in a vengeance plot against your two crewmen. As I told you before, Garnoff was not liked. It is hard to imagine two men out for revenge on his behalf, and certainly not eight or more."
"The people on the ships who have spoken to us may not have anything to do with a vengeance plot. They may have just been paid to lie to us. They may not know anything at all."
"I'll contact my guards and have them rounded up for questioning," Veron promised. "I also should contact the President to keep him appraised of the situation. He should have reached Caldon Prime by now. If I may, Captain?"
"Of course. Tuvok will assist you."
Tom and Harry looked up as the doors whooshed open. Their two captors entered, smiling rather smugly. "It's time for us to go," the first one said. "It went off exactly as planned. Your ship is heading back to Caldon IV, even as we speak."
Hauling them roughly to their feet, Tom and Harry were pushed out of the room. Quickly making their way through the ship, they stepped out onto a platform. They were in a giant hangar of some sort, very similar to the shuttle bay on Voyager.
"Where are we?" Harry whispered to Tom as the mercenaries forced them to the other side of the hangar.
"I have no idea," Tom answered. "Except that it's not Caldon IV."
"Quiet," the man behind him hissed.
They were soon heading away from the hangar and the buildings next to it and making their way to a small, dilapidated building some distance away.
They met nobody on the way and Tom and Harry couldn't help feeling a little relieved. They didn't want any one else to die, like the man in the ship's corridor, just because they'd seen them.
Entering the building they found themselves in a small room. It was obviously a storage room of some sort, as there were sacks of flour and grain lying everywhere.
The men moved three of the sacks and a trapdoor in the floor was revealed. It creaked slightly as it was opened and Tom and Harry could see a steep flight of stairs.
Their captors indicated that they were to go down them and so they gingerly made their way to the bottom. The room was dimly lit, although it was obvious that the room used to be a wine cellar. There were no bottles of wine in here now, though.
"Make yourselves at home," the men laughed. They made their way back up the stairs and slammed the trapdoor shut. Tom and Harry could hear the sacks being hauled back on top of the door.
Harry swallowed nervously and turned to Tom. "Any ideas on how to get out of here?"
Tom shook his head. "Not at the moment. But I'm thinking, Har. I'm thinking."
B'Elanna growled as she entered the ready room. "Captain, I need to speak to you."
Janeway and Chakotay exchanged glances. B'Elanna was in full Klingon-mode and her eyes glittered dangerously.
"What is it, B'Elanna?"
"This Veron." She practically spat the man's name out. "Can we really trust him?"
Janeway looked at her in surprise. "I believe so. Why?" She watched B'Elanna as she paced back and forth in front of her desk.
"Well, he's the one that's been leading us around in circles isn't he?"
"What do you mean?" Janeway asked. "Do you think he's behind this?"
B'Elanna nodded and stopped her pacing, much to the Captain's relief. "He suggested we go after the family cruiser first and if you think about it, has suggested everything else we've done since."
"That's because that's his job. I can't see that he's done anything suspicious." She turned to Chakotay. "What do you think Commander?"
Chakotay slowly shook his head. "Veron seems straight forward. He may have made suggestions, but you've made the decisions, Captain. But there is the fact that this Garnoff is his wife's brother. It does make him suspect. And those two men certainly fooled me into thinking they were guards. It would have helped if Veron had coaxed them."
"There's also the fact that he keeps on insisting that no-one would want to avenge Garnoff," B'Elanna added. "It's like he's trying to throw us off the scent. Why else would Tom and Harry have been taken?"
"The President had complete confidence in him." Janeway sighed. "I suppose that doesn't really mean anything, though. I can't help wondering why, if this was vengeance for Garnoff, that Tom and Harry weren't just killed. After all, he made it quite clear that all he wanted was them - dead. Why has whoever's taken them, gone to so much trouble to hide them?"
"This could all be an elaborate getaway plan for those responsible," Chakotay suggested. "Tom and Harry may have been---" he stopped abruptly and looked at B'Elanna.
She glared at him fiercely. "I know what you were going to say, Commander. That they may have been killed straight away and their bodies vaporized or something. Seven's already given me that theory."
Chakotay grimaced. "I'm sorry, but it would explain why we can't find them."
B'Elanna shook her head. "I refuse to believe that." Holding her hand to her heart she added. "I'd feel it here, if Tom were dead. I know I would. He's still alive. Don't ask me how I know, but I know."
The Captain nodded. "I believe you. Don't worry; I have no intentions of giving up. We'll keep going until we find out for certain, what happened to them. I also think that we should keep a close eye on Veron."
"Thank you Captain."
"We'll be back at Caldon IV in approximately two hours," the Captain continued. "Why don't you try and get some rest?"
B'Elanna shook her head. "Are you sure we're doing the right thing, returning to Caldon IV? I feel like we're wasting time."
Janeway sighed. "No, I don't, but the trail's cold. I'm hoping we can pick up some new leads."
"I just can't shake the feeling that we've missed something important," Chakotay worried.
"I know what you mean," the Captain agreed. Her door chime sounded and Tuvok entered.
"Excuse me Captain. I'm not interrupting am I?"
"No. Come in Tuvok," Janeway invited.
"I merely wanted to inform you that I have been in touch with the authorities on Caldon IV and can confirm that there have been no unauthorized ships leaving the planet in our absence."
"Thank you Tuvok. Perhaps Tom and Harry are still on the planet after all."
"They must be," B'Elanna agreed. "We've searched all the ships that have left the planet since Tom and Harry disappeared, and there's no sign of them. So they must still be there."
"That is not entirely correct," Tuvok stated.
"You stated that we have searched all the ships that left the planet tonight."
B'Elanna nodded. "That's right. We did."
"We did not search the President's vessel."
"The President's?" Janeway asked in surprise.
Tuvok nodded. "His vessel departed approximately two hours after we left. He had urgent business matters to attend to on Caldon Prime."
Janeway nodded. "We know that. But, you scanned the surface before we left. We would have picked up Tom and Harry's life signs if they were there, even if they were hidden on the President's ship."
"Agreed. I was merely correcting Ms. Torres's statement."
B'Elanna snorted, but Chakotay had a far away look on his face. He sat forward suddenly. "That's what's been playing in the back of my mind. When Veron told us about their shielding. He said that only the President uses it for security reasons. It's for his protection. Tom and Harry could have been aboard the President's ship and if the shields were on we wouldn't have picked them up."
"You suspect the President?" Janeway shook her head in disbelief. "What motive would he have?"
"I don't believe the President would do this, but he may not have been aware of it. The two men may really have been two of his guards."
"Chakotay, you have absolutely no proof of this. It's just a theory."
"I know Captain, but it would explain how Tom and Harry were moved. I'm probably wrong---"
"I've felt all along that we're still being led around by the nose," Janeway said thoughtfully. "So why would it have stopped now? We're going back to Caldon IV, for no reason really, and in all probability Tom and Harry are in the opposite direction. My gut tells me to head for Caldon Prime. It's the last place you'd think these men would go, therefore that's probably where they are."
She turned to Chakotay. "Turn the ship around Commander," she ordered. "We're going to Caldon Prime."
Tom woke up with a start as the trapdoor creaked above them. Quickly nudging Harry awake, he jumped to his feet and waited expectantly. He didn't think that they'd been down in the cellar long enough for Garnoff to arrive, but it was hard to tell.
"On your feet, you two. It's time to go."
Tom looked at their two captors in confusion. "Where are we going now?"
One of the men pushed him roughly towards the stairs. "It's not your place to ask questions, just do as you're told."
"What's wrong? I get the impression that this isn't part of the plan."
"Shut up, or I'll shut you up."
Tom shrugged and headed up the stairs, Harry right behind him. He wondered if they could make a break for it when they reached the top, as both men were behind them. He didn't think they'd get too far.
Stepping out into the room, he saw two more men waiting for them, and cursed silently. Not that he'd entertained any serious hopes of being able to escape at the moment, but things had just become more difficult.
The two men pushed them out of the building and into a waiting ground vehicle. Tom grimaced slightly. It looked like he was going to get his wish to ride in one of these things after all. It was just a pity that the circumstances weren't a little different.
As they sped along, the Caldon that seemed to be in charge of the mercenaries, growled angrily to the driver. "Faster. They'll be within scanner range soon. We have to get these two hidden."
The driver nodded. "Don't worry, we'll make it."
It wasn't long before they stopped in front of a small house, almost hidden in the undergrowth. "Out," the leader grunted. Before Tom and Harry could climb out of the vehicle however, the men pulled them out and dragged them into the house.
"Quick, get them down in the basement. There's no more time," the leader ordered.
Tom and Harry were practically thrown down into the basement. They rolled down the stairs and landed in a heap at the bottom. The door slammed shut behind them.
Tom groaned, picking himself up off the floor. He peered around in the almost complete darkness. "You all right Har?"
"No," Harry moaned. "I've got bruises on top of my bruises."
"Me too. Can you stand?"
"Sure." Harry stood up to demonstrate, although he hunched over like a little old man. "Ow!!! I think I've put my back out."
Tom reached around for him in the blackness, and felt along Harry's spine. "Yep, in at least four places."
"Great," Harry muttered.
"Take your shirt off."
"So that I can feel your back better."
Harry grunted as Tom helped him take his shirt off. "I just think you should know Paris - I'm not that kind of a guy. Besides, I don't have the chest that you do, so I want my shirt back."
"Very funny Harry." Tom pressed a little harder than was necessary as he felt along Harry's back once more.
"Ow! What are you doing?"
"Lay down on your stomach," Tom ordered.
Harry did as he was told and Tom knelt down next to him. "Um, you can't really see anything you know Tom."
"I can feel though." Tom pushed down on Harry's back once more. "Take a deep breath and breathe out slowly."
"Why? Ow! Stop pressing on it like that. It hurts."
"Shut up Harry and breathe."
"What are you trying to do?"
"I'm trying to put your back, back in. A little co-operation would help. If we're going to get out of here, it may help if you can at least walk."
"So, you've got an escape plan?"
"No Harry, not at the moment. Now for Pete's sake shut up and breathe."
"Some bedside manner," Harry grumbled taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. A series of cracks were soon heard.
Harry winced. "That doesn't sound too good. Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"No. You're the first person I've done that to. But without any medical instruments I didn't have much choice."
"Tom, you're scaring me here. For all I know, you may have just broken my back."
"That's right," Tom answered cheerfully. "Now try to sit up."
"What if I can't?"
"Well then, I probably have broken your back."
Harry sat up carefully.
"How does it feel?"
"I'm not sure," Harry said slowly.
"You really need a massage, to loosen your muscles, but that will have to do for now."
"Help me put my shirt back on. If those men came down now, I'd hate to know what they'd think."
Tom snorted with laughter and was soon holding his sides.
"Hey, it wasn't that funny," Harry protested, chuckling a little himself.
"Harry, you're priceless," Tom managed to gasp out. "Here we are completely at these men's mercy and all you can worry about is what they'll think if they see you with your shirt off."
"I guess it was a little silly." Harry's chuckles grew.
As soon as they'd sobered Tom felt his way around the room. "It looks like that door up there is the only way out, but Harry this place is full of stuff. There's furniture over here. Feel your way around."
"I wish we had a light. Damn! This is a couch. If I'd known that was here, I would have lain on that. That floor is hard."
Tom snorted with laughter again. "If you were worried about what those Caldons would think if you didn't have your shirt on, can you imagine what they'd thought if they'd seen you laying on the couch as well."
"Very funny Paris," Harry growled. "So, what do you think happened back there? Do you think it was Voyager they were talking about?"
"I hope so. I think the chances are pretty good. Do you think they'll be able to pick up our life signs down here?"
"Not by the way those men were talking. They wanted to hide us from the scanners, so this basement must be shielded with something."
"Then we've got to get out of here."
"Agreed. Have you come up with a plan yet?"
"No, and I resent the fact that I have to be the one to come up with a plan."
"All right then, I will."
"You will? Just like that?"
"Yep, just like that. I say we use this couch here to bust open the door. I didn't get a good look at it as we were thrown in here, but it seemed to be made of wood. If we use the couch as a sort of battering ram, we might be able to break through."
The silence stretched.
"I take it, your back's better," Tom finally said.
"Yeah, it feels much better. Thanks. I owe you one."
"Just part of the service. Um - Harry? This plan of yours. Were you trying to be funny?"
"Okay, I know what you're going to say. The Caldons are probably just outside the door. They'll catch us immediately. But we'll be out in the open for a few seconds. That may be all Voyager needs to pinpoint us."
"That isn't what I was going to say Harry. And anyway what's to stop them from saying 'we've had enough of you pesky critters' and shooting us there and then."
"Pesky critters? All right, I concede, they may shoot us at that, but I'm willing to take the chance."
"There are three problems with your plan Harry. One: That couch feels like it could be fairly heavy. By the time we managed to get it to the top of those stairs, I don't think I'd have the energy left to knock on the door with it, much less use it as a battering ram. Number two: The door may be made of wood but it's a solid wood and number three: Have you tried to pick that couch up?"
"Well, have you got a plan then?"
"No. But I can see why I'm the one who has to think of them."
"I regret to inform you Captain, there are no human life signs on the planet."
"That's all right Tuvok. I didn't really expect there to be. Tom and Harry are probably being hidden somewhere where there's shielding." The Captain turned around in her chair to smile reassuringly at the Vulcan.
"Captain? I feel I must point out to you again, the absolute absurdity of this whole notion." Veron shook his head stubbornly. "The very idea that the President's ship was used by the kidnappers is beyond belief."
"Perhaps. But as I told you before, we must leave no stone unturned."
"The President traveled with four guards and I can assure you they are loyal to him. The kidnappers would not have been able to get on board without help. And then there is this latest belief of yours that they seem to have access to the President's shielded rooms. The whole idea is ludicrous. Those rooms are heavily guarded."
"If a couple of the guards have been helping them, or those two men that took Tom and Harry really were guards all along, it may have been possible."
Veron snorted in disgust. "None of my guards would do this. They are all hand picked. And besides---"
Janeway sighed. "I know. I know. None of them liked Garnoff. He was merely tolerated because of his relationship to you. Perhaps he made some friends amongst the guards that you didn't know about?"
"That is impossible. He is a most unlikable man. I do not even like him. If it wasn't for my wife, I would never have allowed him to join the guards."
Chakotay leaned forward in his seat. "But you were willing to cover for him. Our reports show that he constantly abused prisoners. He had had many warnings."
"As I explained, that was because of my wife. He is all the family she has besides me. They were very close. She arranged Garnoff's wedding and everything. He was set to marry into one of the richest families in Caldon."
"Your wife was very upset when the wedding was cancelled?" Tuvok asked from his position at tactical.
"Well, of course." Veron stopped abruptly. "I know what you're getting at, but she's not behind this whole revenge thing. She was upset - yes, but at him. She said she was wiping her hands of him and never wanted to see him again."
"You are mistaken. I did not suspect your wife. If I may make an observation? You are a man who would do anything for his wife, is that not so?"
"I - I - I'm not sure what you're getting at Commander Tuvok. I wouldn't kill for her, if that's what you mean."
"I don't think anyone here believes you would," Janeway said quickly. She frowned over at Tuvok. Now was not the time for this - or the place. "Tell us about the shielding. You say that only three buildings have shielded rooms?" At Veron's nod she continued. "Well that makes it easier. It shouldn't take us long to check them out."
"And as I've told you. It would be impossible for the kidnappers to sneak your crewmen into any of them. We have very good security. However, I believe the only way to prove that to you, is to show you."
Janeway nodded briskly. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to contact the President."
Tuvok entered the President's office quickly and stood at attention. "I regret to report that there are no signs of Ensigns Paris and Kim in any of the three buildings we have searched."
Janeway looked across at Chakotay, her disappointment obvious. "Damn! Where the hell can they be?"
"I hate to say it Captain, and I know B'Elanna doesn't want to believe it, but it's a very real possibility that they were killed and their bodies vaporized," Chakotay said softly.
"It is a logical conclusion," Tuvok added.
Janeway sighed. "I guess I just don't want to believe that yet. It's too soon to give up. It's been barely twenty-four hours since they disappeared. We'll just have to search each planet in this system."
Chakotay nodded. "Of course. I think we should go back to Caldon IV and start there."
The President stood up from his desk and went around to place a comforting hand on Janeway's shoulder. "I assure you, we will help you in any way possible. If what your Commander's believe is true, and your men are dead, then the men responsible more than likely left Caldon IV on the passenger ship. They may have been on either of the two cargo ships of course, but that would have been a little harder as they do not take passengers. They would have had to be workers already assigned to those ships."
"If we're going to investigate everyone that was on those ships," Chakotay said. "It will be a massive undertaking."
"We will do whatever it takes, to find those responsible," the President promised.
Veron, who had been quietly reading a report one of his men had handed him, looked up suddenly. "That won't be necessary," he said. "We already know who's responsible."
Veron nodded. "My men have just finished investigating those men that were suspicious, from the ships we searched. Each one disappeared as soon as their ship docked, and it appears at least two of them are wanted criminals."
"We are talking about a lot of people being involved here," the President objected.
Veron nodded. "At least ten that we know of. That was my objection too, but it looks as if a group of mercenaries are involved here. Our worlds have a rather unsavory criminal element," he went on to explain. "Although we manage to keep control over most of them, there are a few that elude us. There is one group that is especially hard to capture. Their leader is very cunning. Everything they do is planned down to the last detail."
"Why would they become involved in this?" Janeway asked. "You think someone paid them to - kill Tom and Harry. Garnoff perhaps, before he was captured?"
Veron nodded. "Except for one problem. Garnoff is very poor. They are paid very handsomely for their services. And killing would double, if not triple their fees. Garnoff could never have paid them."
"Perhaps this family that he was about to marry into? You did say it was one of the richest in all Caldon?"
Veron looked at Tuvok in surprise. "Julase? I can't imagine it. She wouldn't be out for revenge or anything. She was only marrying Garnoff for his prospects, just like he was marrying her for her riches. There was never any love involved in the arrangement."
"I believe, nevertheless, she and her family should be questioned."
"I suppose so." Veron's shrug made it obvious that he thought it was a waste of time.
"I'm still not giving up on the hope that Tom and Harry are still alive," Janeway said. "We should continue searching for them as well."
Tuvok nodded and then turned to the President. "Mr. President. I hope you do not take offence, but I would like your permission to search your cruiser. I believe we should allay our suspicions that the Ensigns were brought here in it."
"Of course," the President said. "But if they were, then where are they now?"
"Perhaps they are still there. Our sensors could not pick them up, just as they couldn't on Caldon IV."
Janeway jumped up in excitement. "Of course, we should have checked there first."
The President touched her arm. "I do not think that can be possible, but we can certainly look."
When they entered the cruiser, they found the cleaners there, going over it from top to bottom.
"Mr. President." A woman came over to them hurriedly. "I'm terribly sorry. We weren't told you would be needing the ship so soon. We're almost finished."
"It's all right Freema, I just thought I'd show our guests around."
"Freema," Veron asked. "Have you found anything unusual while you've been cleaning?"
"No Sir. What did you have in mind? Ambassador Teffron left his bag behind, which is a little unusual. Is that what you mean?"
"No, it doesn't matter. We'll call you if we need you."
They quickly searched the ship but could find no sign of Tom or Harry.
"Would those instruments you're carrying pick up residues of your crewmen?" the President asked, pointing to the tricorder in Chakotay's hands.
"Yes, but only if they'd been here in the last few hours. Their power is limited," Janeway answered.
They were in the bowels of the ship by this time and entered the cargo hold.
"What is in these boxes?" Tuvok asked, stepping over to them.
"Clothes. For a local charity," the President explained. "I'll be delivering them myself. Why do you ask?"
"It appears that they have been opened."
"I don't know why anyone would want to."
Tuvok opened the box nearest to him and checked inside. A curious look crossed his face. "I think I have found a clue. We were indeed correct in our suspicions that Ensigns Paris and Kim were hidden on this ship." He pulled something out from the top of the box. It was a gray tee shirt and handkerchief.
Janeway gasped and hurried over. "That's one of our shirts and that's Tom's hanky."
Chakotay looked at the handkerchief in astonishment. "Tom has his initials embroidered on his hankies?" There in the corner of the hanky was a neat T.P.
Janeway went a little red. "They were a birthday present from me. I was into embroidery at the time. I'd put an N on Naomi Wildman's baby blanket I knitted for her and wanted to do some more. Tom's birthday was coming up, so---"
Chakotay smirked. "I'll bet he loved them."
Janeway glared at him. "He said he hadn't had anything with his initials on it since kindergarten and he'd cherish them always."
"Well it's lucky he did," Chakotay said hurriedly. The Captain still looked a little miffed.
"Actually, it's very lucky that you looked in that box, Commander Tuvok," the President said. "I, for one, would not have thought of it."
"Mr. Paris knows me quite well. He would know that I would see that the box had been tampered with."
"Well, I think it was ingenious."
"Mr. Paris is known for his quick thinking."
"Well, this is good news for you anyway. Your crewmen are still alive - at least they were not killed immediately," the President amended. "But I am outraged that my ship was used in this way. I do not understand how it could happen."
"Perhaps some of your men are not as loyal as you think." Chakotay said.
Veron nodded. "It must be so. These mercenaries are too clever. They know too much. They could not possibly have snuck on board here without help. And they would most definitely have been found out at some stage. Somebody, who was on this ship, must have been helping them."
"There was only a dozen or so people on board," the President told them. "It shouldn't be too hard to find out."
"Who exactly was on this ship?" Janeway asked.
"There was myself of course, and Veron's wife and daughters. I brought them back with me, as I didn't think they'd want to stay on Caldon IV without him. There was the pilot and his assistant and four of my guards, although I am beginning to believe that two of them are the men you are seeking, and three of my most loyal ambassadors."
"Ambassadors?" Tuvok said suddenly. "Didn't the woman, Freema, say that an Ambassador Teffron had left his bag behind? She stated that it was rather unusual."
"Yes, and she's right. Ambassador Teffron is very organized."
"May we see this Ambassador's room?"
"Of course, but I don't understand what you are thinking. I have known Ambassador Teffron for years."
"Someone on this ship must have helped them. The two guards could not have engineered the whole thing."
"Ambassador Teffron wouldn't have helped them."
"You did not believe that your guards would have been involved at first, either."
"I may have been wrong about them, but I'm definitely not wrong about Teffron."
"We shall see," Tuvok answered quietly.
Veron turned around gravely from the communications terminal at the front of the ship. "The Ambassador did not return home this morning. Nobody has seen him. It looks very damning."
"Why didn't he take his bag with him?" The President shook his head in confusion. "I just can't believe this of him. Leaving the bag behind was careless and these mercenaries are very clever."
"They would not have been expecting us to search this ship. Thus leaving the bag behind would not have been a suspicious occurrence," Tuvok said.
"You don't know Teffron, so I can understand why you might think badly of him, but I do. It's impossible."
"I think we've established that Tom and Harry were brought here on your ship and now we have found that two of your guards and the Ambassador are missing," Janeway said carefully. "We now have to determine where they are. They are not in any of your shielded rooms and the scanners can't pick them up anywhere else on the planet."
"They may have been taken to another planet once they arrived here," Veron said. "Keeping them moving all the time, may be the mercenaries plan."
"You may be right. There's nowhere else on this planet they could be," Chakotay said.
"There is one place," the President said slowly. "It has a shielded basement, but no-one knows of it except Veron and I."
"There's another shielded room here that we haven't searched? Why weren't we told about it?" Janeway asked quickly.
"No-one knows about it. No matter who is helping the mercenaries, they could not possibly know about the security house," the President objected.
"You're sure of that? Secrets leak out." Janeway did a slow burn. Why the hell weren't they told about this sooner? The President kept on telling them they would help in any way, but it was worse than pulling teeth to get any information out of them.
The President shook his head. "Not this one."
Tuvok turned to Veron. "You have never told any-one?"
"Never. Not even my wife."
Tuvok turned to the President. "My wife died many years ago," the President said quickly. "Only the President, leader of the guards and his-second-in-command know of the location of the house."
"Who's your second-in-command?" Chakotay asked Veron.
"I don't have one at the moment. He died in an unfortunate accident a few weeks ago, and we are still in the process of finding a replacement. It is a long process."
"What about past leaders of the guards and their second-in-commands?" Janeway asked.
"The location is changed every year. They would not know where it is," the President told them.
"I see. Well, I think we should go there straight away. No matter what you say, and we can work out the how later, I have a very strong feeling that they may be there."
The President nodded. "Of course. It is not far from the edge of the city. We will go there straight away."
"Mr. President, you should stay here," Veron said quickly.
"Very well. I will leave them in your capable hands."
Harry listened as Tom shuffled around the room, cursing every now and then as he bumped into something.
"What are you doing? We've searched this place already. There's nothing we can find to help us out of here."
"I'm looking for a light switch."
"A light switch?"
"Yeah, you know. A dial or a knob or something, to turn on the lights. This place is decked out for some sort of long time stay. I can't imagine that they'd sit here in the dark the whole time."
"Of course. You're right." Harry jumped off the couch in excitement. "I'll search over the other side."
"Search the walls Harry. I think that's where they usually put light switches."
"Okay. You know, you'd think they'd put the light switch somewhere as you first step into the basement. I wouldn't want to try to go down those stairs, they threw us down, in the dark."
Tom swore softly in the darkened room. "You're a genius Harry and I am a complete idiot. Why didn't I think of that? Now where are the stairs?"
Harry heard Tom rustle over towards where he remembered the stairs were. There was a soft thud followed by a louder one and then a groan. "Tom?"
"I found the stairs." Tom's voice was muffled.
Harry gave a small laugh. "Are you all right?"
"No. As a matter of fact, I'm not. Damn it! Damn it all to hell!"
"What's wrong?" Harry made his way over to where he thought Tom was.
"Can I lend your hanky?" Tom's voice sounded strange.
Harry almost tripped over him. "What's happened?" He pulled a hanky from his pocket and held it out in the darkness. "Here."
Tom fumbled around until he could feel Harry's arm and took the handkerchief quickly. "Thanks."
"Are you all right?" Harry asked again.
"I think I broke my nose. I tripped over the first damn step and fell forward. My nose connected with one of the stairs."
"Ouch!" Harry winced in sympathy.
"Harry, I'm bleeding pretty bad here."
Harry put out his hands towards where he thought Tom's face was. "Ow! What'd you do that for? I've already got a broken nose. I don't need my eye poked out as well."
"Sorry. I just wanted to see how bad it was."
"It's bad Har. There's blood everywhere. When I decide to have a nose bleed, I really have a nose bleed."
"Damn! Listen, I'll climb up the stairs and see if there is a light switch up there. It would certainly help if we could see."
"Okay, but be careful. My blood's made things pretty slippery around here."
Harry grimaced and made his way carefully up to the top of the stairs. He was soon at the top and searched the wall for a switch. He couldn't feel anything. He searched frantically along the walls around him, but there was nothing.
"I can't find a switch," he called out. "All there is, is a stupid cord that keeps hitting me in the face."
"A cord? Tug it Harry."
"Pull down on the cord," Tom practically shouted.
Harry did as he was told and the room was flooded with light. Harry was blinded for a few seconds and waited for his eyes to adjust. He almost turned the light off again when he saw the mess at the bottom of the stairs.
Tom was covered in blood and the floor and quite a few of the steps were covered as well.
Harry hurried down to him. "Geez, Tom. I thought you were exaggerating. Come on. I know there's a bathroom here somewhere."
He helped Tom up and across to the small basin in a corner of the room. Pressing on one of the taps, he was pleased to see water come out. The hanky Tom was holding was way past being any help. "Where's your hanky? That one's no good."
"I haven't got one. I left it as a clue in the cargo hold of that ship. Hopefully if Voyager's looking for us, they found it."
"That was a good idea. But we need something to hold up to your nose. Your clothes are covered in blood. Take off your jacket. We'll use your skivvy."
Tom did as he was told and it wasn't long before he was laying on the couch, the wet skivvy held under his nose. It took some time for him to stop bleeding and Harry was beginning to panic.
Finally Tom did stop bleeding and Harry was able to get a good look at the damage. "I'm not sure if it's broken, but it sure is swollen."
"Great," Tom mumbled.
"How do you feel?"
"A little weak and dizzy, actually."
"Well, just lay there and I'll get you a glass of water."
Harry jumped up hastily and gave a small groan. His backache was back with a vengeance. Slowly straightening up, he groaned again.
"Back still sore?" Tom asked. "You have to be careful how you move. I put it back in, but it'll be sore for a while."
"We make a great pair," Harry said, shuffling over towards the basin. "Even if we could find a way out of here, I don't think we'd get too far at the moment. What with my back and you being weak from loss of blood."
"I don't think we have to worry about that, Har. The only way out of here is through that door at the top of the stairs."
Harry sighed and handed Tom a cup with some water in it.
Tom took a few sips and then lay back and closed his eyes. "Don't worry. I just need to get back my strength. I'll be fine in a few minutes."
However, it didn't seem like he'd have a few minutes. The door opened suddenly and two of the men stood at the top of the stairs. "Get up here, you two. We've got to move - now!"
Harry helped Tom get slowly to his feet, the men yelling at them the whole time. They made their way as quickly as they could towards the stairs. It wasn't fast enough to satisfy the waiting men, who raced down the stairs and pushed them forward, angrily. "Hurry up, or we'll kill you both now and be done with it."
They were hauled roughly up the stairs, through the house and back into the ground vehicle. Harry cried out in pain as his back was jostled time after time.
They soon came to a clearing in the dense foliage, where a small ship stood. It was slightly smaller than the Delta Flyer and ready for take off. Pulling Tom and Harry from the vehicle, the men hurried aboard and threw them on the floor at the back of the ship.
"Go. Go now," the leader of their captors ordered crisply. He laughed as they soared into the air. "Well, that was a little close for comfort, but we made it."
Harry squirmed around, trying to sit up without causing any more pain in his back. He finally managed it and looked over towards Tom, who was still laying against the wall where he'd landed. "Tom?" He reached out to touch his friend.
The mercenary leader turned around to look at them. "What's wrong with him?" he asked, indicating Tom. "He's not dead, I hope. Garnoff wanted that privilege for himself."
Harry glared at him. "He's unconscious. He had a fall and lost a lot of blood."
"Oh, that's all right then."
"Where are you taking us?" Harry demanded. "What's the matter? Voyager nearly get you? They'll never give up, you know."
The mercenary shrugged. "You won't be my problem for much longer. You'll be handed over to Garnoff shortly, and what happens after that is none of my concern."
"That's if Voyager doesn't catch us first."
"That isn't going to happen. Your Voyager will never find us now that we are in this little beauty."
Harry snorted. "This ship is no match for Voyager."
"That's where you're wrong, Ensign Kim. This new little acquisition of ours has some very special features. We are completely shielded. We will not even show on your Voyager's sensors."
"Voyager will keep on looking," Harry insisted.
"I have no doubt of that. You know, your Captain is very clever. I never imagined she would even realize where you were or how we brought you back to Caldon Prime. I thought she would still be on Caldon IV, searching for clues. She must have arrived at the house only moments after we left." He gave a small laugh. "She and your crew may be clever, but out leader is even more so. We manage to stay one step ahead of you all the time."
"Your leader?" Harry said in surprise. "I thought you were the leader."
"Me? Oh no. I'm no planner. I'm a doer. The leader hatches the plans and works everything out to the finest detail. We all simply follow orders. It has kept us alive and I must admit quite rich for a number of years now. Unfortunately, it's all about to end. This is our final job together. We will be disbanding."
"Why, if everything's been going so well?" Harry really didn't care one way or the other, but thought if he could keep the mercenary talking, he might find out something that could be useful, although he couldn't imagine what.
"This latest job put the leader's identity at risk. I didn't want to do it, but the leader had a brilliant plan. We'll all be set for life after this. And it's all thanks to the two of you."
Veron led the way in to the security house, Chakotay and Tuvok right behind him. Captain Janeway followed behind them, cursing quietly to herself. Ten minutes ago their tricorders had stopped working and they found they could no longer contact Voyager.
It was obvious that the dampening field had been erected around the planet once more. Veron, looking completely astonished, had contacted his headquarters to find out why.
He was told that two unknown assailants had broken into the control room, overpowering the two technicians working there. They had turned on the dampening field and put a locking mechanism on it. It would take a little while to disable it.
"I suspect that the mercenaries are relocating Ensigns Paris and Kim," Tuvok had said calmly.
"I'd like to know how the hell they knew we were coming," Chakotay had said angrily.
"You have made a valid point, Commander. No one knew we were headed this way."
"The President did."
"Captain Janeway," Veron had said, sounding shocked. "You surely don't suspect the President?"
"He's the only other person who knew we were coming here. Add that to the fact that only you and he know of this place. These mercenaries always seem to be one step ahead of us. It would help if they had inside information."
"You people suspect everyone," Veron had answered, annoyed. "In the beginning, you suspected me, and don't deny it, I know you did. Then Julase and Ambassador Teffron, and now the President himself. I told you. These mercenaries are very clever."
"A little too clever," Janeway had answered grimly.
"We don't even know if your crewmen were at the house. You're jumping to conclusions."
"Well, we shall soon see."
The Captain made her way through the quiet house, already knowing what they would find. Veron opened the secret door to the basement and stepped cautiously inside.
"There is nobody here," he told them.
"Why aren't I surprised?" Janeway said dryly.
They all followed Veron into the basement and looked down into the room.
Veron gave a slight gasp and pointed to an object on the couch. "Isn't that part of one of your uniforms?"
"Yes," Tuvok hurried down the steps. "It is a Starfleet issue skivvy." He picked it up and examined it closely. "It is wet and covered with blood."
Tuvok looked over at the Captain and Chakotay as they started down the stairs. "There is blood on the steps." He rushed back over to them; Veron following.
"Whose?" Janeway asked softly, stepping down carefully.
"Without a tricorder, I can only assume," Tuvok said. "It appears human."
"Well, it's not Caldon," Veron remarked.
"This doesn't look good," Chakotay said worriedly. "There's a lot of blood here. The skivvy looks as if it might have been used to try to stop the bleeding."
"There's so much blood here, are we sure it's only one person's?" the Captain asked.
"We can not be certain." Tuvok stood back up and looked searchingly around the room. He spotted something in one corner and quickly made his way over there. "Ensign Paris's jacket," he stated holding it up.
Janeway swallowed at the amount of blood on it. "Tom's obviously been hurt. Harry may have been also."
"I apologize Captain," Veron said sadly. "I do not know how the mercenaries knew of this place, or how they knew we were on our way, but it is obvious that we have a security breach."
"They can't have gone too far. The dampening field's only been up for around fifteen minutes," Chakotay said. "Is there anywhere around here they could have gone?"
Veron shook his head. "As soon as the field is disabled your ship's sensors will find your men. The mercenaries must be counting on the field being up for a long time."
They all hurried outside again and Veron searched the area with his own version of a tricorder.
"How is it that your instrument is still working?" Chakotay asked, watching the man closely.
"The dampening field does not effect our technology," Veron answered, studying his readings carefully. "My instrument is not as advanced as yours, but it shows that a vehicle went this way, and not long ago."
They made their way back to their own vehicle and set off in pursuit. It wasn't long before they found the mercenaries vehicle.
"I don't know why they abandoned it," Veron said, after checking it over quickly. "It's still working."
"Is there anywhere they can hide around here?" Chakotay asked.
"Not that I know of."
They began searching the area, looking for any sign of which way the men had gone.
It wasn't long before Janeway's commbadge crackled. 'Voyager to Janeway. Are you there, Captain?'
Janeway slapped her badge hastily. "Janeway here. We're fine. I presume the dampening field is down now?"
"Scan for human life signs."
'I'm already on it, Captain,' came Torres's voice. 'There's only you and the Commander.'
"Damn it! Have any ships left the planet?"
Janeway sighed in frustration. Where the hell could they be? "Keep scanning B'Elanna."
End Part Four