Standard Disclaimer: Voyager and all the crew are copyright of Paramount. I take them out, play with them for a little bit, mess up their minds and then put them back. No profit will be made from this story as itís just for fun.
They exist on another plane of awareness. They are everywhere - all around us. If they chose they could let us know of their presence, but they never do. We are insignificant to them. We are to them as an amoeba is to us. We know of its existence, some of us even study them, but most of us ignore them.
Zenda was bored. Extremely bored. If it could have sighed listlessly, it would have. However, it was just a presence. It didnít have a solid form. It had often wished for one. Zenda wanted to know what it felt like to feel something, to touch it. It often watched the solid forms all around the galaxy, and felt envious. The others didnít understand.
Zenda had been banished out into this dark, totally empty area of space as a punishment. It had broken one of their laws. They didnít have many - there was no need. One of the few that they did have; was that there could be no contact with solid forms.
Zenda had wanted to know what it felt like to sniff that beautiful plant. To really feel itís soft texture. Not just to know it - like they seemed to, but to feel it. And also to know what it felt like to be sniffed like that. First Zenda had entered the plant and felt itself being sniffed and then it had entered the animal and felt itself sniff. Oh the sensation!
The others of course, had known. They didnít understand why Zenda felt the need to do this. This wasnít the first time Zenda had done this either. It had been severely reprimanded. Zenda had violated those two solid life forms - against their will - and now would have to be punished. They had taken Zendaís ability to go wherever it wanted away from it, and left it stranded here. As far as the others were concerned, it no longer existed.
Zenda didnít know how long it had been out here - time was meaningless, but it did know that it had to escape. That was why, when it saw the little lights approaching in the distance, it began to feel excited.
Captain Katherine Janeway of the Starship Voyager sat back in her chair and relaxed with a small sigh. After all the excitement of the last few weeks, it was kind of nice to be flying through such a desolate area of space. They had plenty of provisions and energy stores, so could afford to just sit back and take it easy for a while.
The last week had been really rather restful, and she - for one - was enjoying the peace. The crew seemed to be as well. There had been a lot of fun on the holodecks at night and Neelix was in the middle of organizing another talent show.
She was determined that she was not going to be in it this time no matter how much guilt Neelix subjected her to. It was time for someone else to set the example - someone like the First Officer. No matter how much he insisted that he had nothing to offer, she knew better. He told some wonderful stories, if nothing else.
The bridge was quiet as everyone went about his or her duties. She frowned a little. Something was missing. ĎSomeoneí she realized, as she glanced over towards the helm. Hamilton was still sitting there. He should have gone off shift ten minutes ago. Where was Tom?
She looked over towards Ensign Kim at the ops console. "Harry? Have you seen Tom this morning?"
"No Captain," Harry answered. They often had breakfast together, but Tom hadnít shown up in the mess hall that morning.
"Would you like me to dispatch a security detail to escort Ensign Paris to the bridge Captain?"
The Captain stifled a smile. "I donít think that will be necessary thank you Tuvok." She tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Paris."
"Paris here," came a breathless voice. "My apologies Captain. Iím on my way. I should be there any second."
"Very well. I hope youíve got a good reason for being late."
There was a pause before Tom answered. "Would you believe the turbolift got stuck?"
"Oh. Well how about my alarm didn't go off?"
"I was kidnapped on the way to the bridge?"
Janeway chuckled. "Not buying it."
"Damn! Iím sorry Captain. I overslept."
The woosh of the turbolift doors announced his arrival. As he stepped out and hurried down the steps towards his station, he missed his footing and found himself sprawled on the deck at the Captainís feet. She stood up quickly.
Janeway tried to hide her smile. "Iím used to having handsome young men fall at my feet, but this is taking it to extremes."
Tom stood up, blushing furiously. "Iím so sorry Captain. Nothing seems to be going right this morning."
"Is that why youíre late?"
Tom nodded. "Neelix kept me up most of the night organizing this talent show. I was so tired when I finally got to bed I forgot to set the wake up call."
"Well, I hope itís worth it."
Tom stifled a yawn. "Me too." He quickly took his place at the conn, apologizing to Hamilton as he did so. "Iíll make it up to you tomorrow morning," she heard him promise.
It wasnít long before things settled back to normal and the Captain decided to retire to her ready room. There really wasnít any point in her being on the bridge when it was this quiet. "Tuvok, you have the bridge," she told him as she left quietly.
"Yes Captain," Tuvok acknowledged.
Just as she was about to enter the ready room she heard Harry say, "Thatís strange! Commander Iíve just picked up something odd on the sensors."
Janeway turned back around.
"Ensign, Ďsomething oddí is not very specific. Please give a more detailed report," Tuvok scolded.
"Iím sorry Sir. I donít know what it was. It was just for a moment."
Janeway strode back onto the bridge. "What did you see Harry?"
"Um, Iím sorry Captain. I really have no idea. It was almost as if something attached itself to the hull. It was just for a fraction of a nanosecond. Everything checks out now."
"Nothing is showing on my sensors Captain," Tuvok informed her.
"Mine neither," Tom sang out from the conn.
Janeway frowned. "Run a full sensor sweep, just to be sure." She sat back down in her chair. Maybe thereíd be some excitement this morning after all.
"Everythingís fine here Captain," Tom called out a few minutes later.
"I concur," Tuvok said quietly.
Harry sighed. "Me too. Sorry Captain. I must be seeing things."
Tom stifled a laugh. "Tell the truth, Harry. You hiccupped."
Harry looked up quickly. "I did not."
Tom grinned evilly as he looked over at his friend. "I heard all about what you got up to last night."
Harry flushed scarlet and looked over to the Captain. She was watching him, a small smile at the corners of her mouth. "I didnít do anything," he stammered.
"Really? Thatís not what Zoe told me. Apparently the two of you had a wild time last night. Went through two or was it three bottles of wine together? Now we all know how wine effects you when you drink it at night," Tom teased.
Harry glared angrily over at Tom. "It was only one bottle."
Tom laughed. "One bottle? Zoe wouldnít even tell me that."
Harryís glare became darker. Tom had tricked him - again. Damn it! When was he going to learn?
"Harry, youíd better do a diagnostic on your console, just to be sure thereís nothing wrong there," Janeway told him.
"Yes Maíam," Harry answered. He glared once more at Tom, who just grinned back, before proceeding.
Janeway smiled to herself. Zoe heh? Harry had a date with Zoe Hendricks from engineering last night? She watched him as he frowned in concentration over his console. She hoped he knew what he was doing. Ensign Zoe Hendricks was the female version of Tom Paris, well at least - the Tom of a few years ago.
Janeway frowned. That wasnít really fair. Tomís was all an act; she somehow doubted that Zoeís was. She was blonde, tall and beautiful. She was also out to have a good time - anyway she could. Janeway remembered a few stories sheíd heard about young Ms. Hendricks. She hoped Harry wasnít about to be hurt. Tom had never done anything to deliberately hurt anyone - hopefully Zoe didnít either.
ĎStop it Kathryn,í she scolded herself. ĎYouíre not his mother. What he does in his own time, is his own business.í She glanced over towards Tom, who with one eye on his controls was still busy teasing Harry. Tom had come a long way over the years. She smiled indulgently. She could just imagine Tuvokís expression as he stood behind her. He did not approve of all the easy bantering that she allowed on the bridge when it was quiet.
"Since it doesnít look like there is going to be any excitement after all, I will go to my ready room. You have the bridge Commander."
As she left, she heard Tuvok remonstrating with Tom. "Mr. Paris, please concentrate on your own station and leave Mr. Kim alone. There has been enough idle chit chat for one morning."
"Yes Commander, Sir." Tomís voice was deeply respectful.
The Captainís smile widened.
Zenda entered the solid life formís vessel and opened itself to the life forms around it. They were bipedal, humanoids. Zenda floated around the room observing them. They were intelligent and had almost registered its entrance.
Zenda felt the life form next to it. Terran - male. Negative energy. Had all sorts of bad feelings revolving in its mind. Something about revenge and embarrassment. Its thoughts were on the human male at the front of the room.
Zenda moved on. Two more solid life forms to the right of this one. One female - Bajoran - and one male - Terran. Possibilities here. They were both concentrating on the human male at the front as well. Their thoughts were full of humor.
Zenda moved on again. A Vulcan male. Zenda moved quickly away. Vulcans were no fun. They had some of the most powerful emotions ever encountered, but repressed them. Boring! Zenda felt the Vulcanís attention on the male in the front as well.
Zenda stopped suddenly. This was interesting. The Captain. The leader. A Terran female. She had all sorts of emotions at the surface. Humor was the main one. There was concern as well. Her thoughts were on the negative Terran male that it had encountered first. Zenda hovered around the Captain, although she did not feel its presence.
The Captainís thoughts returned to the male at the front of the room. There was a lot of affection there. Zenda decided to find out what was so special about this Terran male at the front of the room. Everyone seemed to be concentrating on him, for one reason or another. It glided down to the male and observed him.
The pilot of this vessel. Very talented too. Full of humor. There were hidden depths within. Zenda felt itself drawn. This male was interesting. Very interesting.
Tom pretended to concentrate on his readouts. He figured he could get another days worth of teasing out of Harry yet. Tuvok of course was no fun. He wondered what he could do to liven the Vulcan up a bit. He started to plan all sorts of pranks.
Zenda observed silently.
Tomís mind wandered to BíElanna. They had a date planned for tonight. He hadnít seen her for a couple of days. Sheíd been busy on some new warp core modifications. Tonight should be pretty special. His thoughts became quite detailed as he imagined what they would do.
Zenda still observed.
Tom pulled himself up short. That was enough of that! For all he knew Tuvok might be able to pick up on some of his more graphic imaginings. He was getting himself pretty worked up here. He studied his console dutifully for a few minutes before his mind drifted again.
He pictured what it must have looked like when heíd fallen at the Captainís feet. Sheíd been really good about it. He shook his head and grinned. The Captain had a wicked sense of humor. She was some lady. Tom chuckled quietly to himself as he thought about some of the stunts heíd pulled on the bridge and the Captainís enjoyment of most of them.
Zenda continued to observe.
"Hey Har, wait for me," Tom called out, as Harry stepped into the turbolift. Harry gave Tom a deliberate stare and then proceeded to close the doors.
Tom just managed to squeeze inside. "That wasnít very nice."
"I donít feel very nice."
"As if you donít know," Harry growled.
Tom laughed out loud and Harry glared angrily. "Come on Har. Youíre not mad at me are you? Everyone knows that you and Zoe went out last night."
"I donít think the Captain did. She looked almost - disapproving."
Tom shrugged. "The Captain can go out with Zoe next week," he said lightly.
Harryís scowl deepened - if that was possible. "Thatís not funny. Itís all right for you. You and BíElanna are in some sort of deep and meaningful relationship. How would you feel if everyone started speculating about what you two got up to?"
Tom laughed again. "They do. It doesnít bother me. Not much anyway. Iím used to people talking about me."
"Yeah well, Iím not as confident as you."
Tom frowned. "Iím not all that confident Harry. You know that."
"Well you manage to look it."
"Plenty of practice, Harry. Iíve been pretending all my life donít forget." Tom put his arm around Harryís shoulders as they stepped out of the turbolift and headed towards the mess hall for lunch. "Iím sorry. If it really bothers you that much, I wonít say anything more. I promise."
"Thanks," Harry said gratefully.
"Anyway," Tom continued. "I was just trying to deflect you from teasing me about my graceful swan dive this morning."
Harry chuckled. "That was pretty funny. The look on your face." His chuckles grew louder.
"I knew I shouldnít have reminded you about that," Tom pretended to grumble.
They entered the mess hall. Neither of them felt the small presence hovering over them. No one did.
Tom raced down to sickbay as soon as he was finished eating. As he entered the room he looked around. No one there. "Doc?"
The Doctor poked his head out from his office. "Mr. Paris. Youíre early. Your duty shift doesnít start for another twenty minutes." He eyed Tom suspiciously. Tom never turned up until the last moment for his sickbay duties.
"I wanted to talk to you about the talent show."
"Yes, I had heard that Mr. Neelix is preparing for another one."
"He sort of roped me in to help him. Weíre a little short on acts and I had this idea---"
"You want me to sing one of my operas," the Doctor broke in enthusiastically. "Iíd be delighted. Iíve really become quite accomplished over the past two years."
"Thanks Doc, but thatís not what I had in mind. Iím going to do a tongue in cheek magic show and I really need you to be my assistant."
"Your assistant?" The Doctor sounded incredulous.
Tom nodded eagerly. "Itíll be great fun. Weíll do all the old tricks. The disappearing trick, the floating in the air one, and Iíll saw you in half and stab you with swords."
"Mr. Paris, I am a hologram. These things can be done easily. Everyone on the ship knows this. There will be no magic involved."
"Of course not. Thatís why it will be so funny. Iíll keep up an amusing commentary the whole time and everyone will be in hysterics."
"I can imagine," the Doctor said dryly. "I still do not see the point in this. The whole crew knows that---"
"I told you. Itís tongue in cheek," Tom interrupted. "Trust me. The crew will love it."
"What was that?" The Doctor looked above Tomís head.
"For a moment it looked as if there was something glowing above you."
Tom laughed. "Just my halo Doc."
The Doctor watched Tom closely, but there was nothing there now. He sniffed. "What am I supposed to do, besides blinking off and on when you so desire it?"
Tom looked at him thoughtfully. "Youíll need a costume. All magicianís assistants wear a very scanty costume. Tight tights, low cut top. Maybe you could put a jewel in your navel or something. You get the picture."
"Mr. Paris. That is where I draw the line. I refuse to wear anything your rather sick mind might come up with. I am a Doctor - not a belly dancer. I have a certain professional image to maintain."
Tom laughed. "Well, it was worth a try. Donít worry. Iím sure that we can come up with something that will keep your dignity intact."
"I will decide what I am going to wear Mr. Paris."
"If you insist."
The Doctor suddenly realized that Tom had tricked him into agreeing to be in the act and frowned in irritation. "I have not actually consented to partner you in this."
"Of course you have," Tom said with a smile. "Now let me tell you what weíre going to do."
Zendaís observations were complete. This was the one.
Tom whistled as he made his way back to his quarters. He couldnít wait to see BíElanna. Heíd get changed as quickly as he could and then make his way to her quarters. Heíd be early, but she never seemed to mind.
The Captain and Commander Chakotay were walking down the corridor towards him. He smiled happily at them both.
"Tom." The Captain smiled in return. "What have you been up to now, I wonder?"
"Yes," Chakotay grinned. "You look far too happy for someone whoís just finished a shift with the Doctor."
Tom chuckled. "I managed to talk the Doc into going into the talent show with me."
Chakotay groaned. "Heís not going to show off more of his holopictures is he?"
Tom shook his head as he laughed. "Nothing like that."
"Heíll probably sing," Janeway said. "He has quite a good voice actually."
Tom shook his head again. "Youíll just have to wait and see. All Iíll say is that heís doing an act with me, but Iím not telling you anymore than that. And Iíve sworn him to secrecy as well."
"Spirits preserve us," Chakotay said with a grin.
Janeway smiled. "Youíll have to get that silver tongue of yours working on the Commander here, Tom. He flatly refuses to enter the show. Heís even disobeyed a direct order. Iím thinking of throwing him in the brig." She cringed as she realized who sheíd said that to, but Tom merely smiled.
"Iíd gladly spend the rest of the trip in the brig, before making a fool of myself in front of the rest of the crew. Iíve already told you Captain, thereís nothing I can contribute."
"There has to be something. Iíve already been in the show twice. Itís your turn."
Chakotay shrugged, with a smile.
Tom eyed him thoughtfully. "Can you play a musical instrument?"
"No," Chakotay said smugly.
"Oh! Well the Commanderís right Captain. It would be better if he didnít go in the talent show."
"Thank you Tom."
Janeway frowned. "Youíre supposed to help me talk him into it."
"Sorry Captain. Chakotayís right. He canít sing. He canít dance. He doesnít play any musical instruments. He doesnít even tell a joke all that well. Heíd just end up being the laughing stock of the ship. He does have a certain professional dignity to maintain."
"But Tom," Janeway protested, while Chakotay frowned darkly at him, "Chakotay tells some wonderful stories. Theyíre quite captivating."
"If you say so," Tom said carelessly. "But no one would want to hear them. Look how everyone reacts to Tuvokís Vulcan poetry."
"Tuvokís delivery is rather dry," Janeway pointed out. "Chakotay has a beautiful voice."
"I still donít think any one would be interested." Tom watched Chakotay bristling and tried to keep a straight face. "It would probably be boring."
"Well thatís where youíre wrong Ensign," Chakotay hissed. "If I tell them properly, with the right background accompaniments, people will be calling for more."
"Does that mean youíre going to tell some?" Janeway asked eagerly.
"Try and stop me," Chakotay growled as he continued to glare at Tom.
"Well, if you insist. I guess we can fit you in somewhere." Tomís voice was full of dismay.
"As a matter of fact, I do." Chakotay saw the gleam in Tomís eye and cursed silently. He had done it again! He glanced at the Captain and saw amusement in her eyes. Curse it all!
Tom stepped away. "Iíd better get moving. Big date with BíElanna tonight."
"Donít let us keep you," the Captain said.
As Tom started to continue down the corridor, he seemed to stumble slightly. He visibly shuddered and then sank against the wall.
"Tom!" Chakotay grabbed him by the arm.
"Are you all right?" Janeway asked in concern.
"Phew! Yeah, I think so." He shook his head to clear it as he looked up at them both. "I went a little dizzy there for a moment. Everything went black. Iím fine now."
He straightened up slowly and Chakotay let go of his arm. "Are you sure?"
Tom nodded. "Positive."
"Maybe youíd better go back to sickbay," the Captain suggested. "This is the second time today youíve seemed to lose your balance."
Tom blushed. "I just tripped this morning Captain. It wasnít anything like this. This felt kind of weird. I canít even describe it."
"I definitely want you to go to sickbay then."
"I do feel a little light-headed," Tom admitted.
"Come on." Chakotay took hold of his arm again and led him back the way heíd come. "Sickbay it is."
The Doctor shook his head. "I can find nothing wrong with him. Nothing at all."
"Maybe itís his eyes," the Captain suggested. "Have you checked his eyes? He does squint sometimes you know."
"Yes Captain, Iíve checked his eyes."
"Maybe itís his ears," Chakotay suggested next. "He might have an ear infection. Your ears control your balance donít they? Have you checked his ears?"
"Yes Commander, Iíve checked his ears."
"Maybe heís anemic," the Captain said thoughtfully. "Have you checked his blood?"
"Yes Captain, Iíve checked his blood." The Doctor sighed heavily.
"Maybe itís his heart. Or brain?" Chakotay said hopefully. "Have you checked----?"
"Enough!" The Doctor snapped, "I have given Mr. Paris a complete and thorough checkup. There is nothing wrong with him. I repeat - nothing."
"Then, why did he have those dizzy spells? He had four, just on the way here." Janeway sounded concerned.
"I had to practically carry him in here," Chakotay added.
"I donít know." The Doctor was irritated. He did not like mysteries.
"Can I go now?" Tom asked suddenly from the biobed. "Iím fine now. I havenít had any dizzy spells since I got here."
"I would like to run some more tests."
"How much longer are you going to be? Iím supposed to be meeting BíElanna in fifteen minutes. She doesnít like to be kept waiting."
"Iíll tell her whatís happened," Chakotay offered.
"That is a good idea, Commander. Iíll be keeping Mr. Paris here for observation overnight."
"Aw! Come on Doc. I had a big date planned."
"That canít be helped Iím afraid."
"Damn it!" Tom muttered darkly under his breath. The Doctor decided to ignore him.
BíElanna raced down the corridors to sickbay and hurried through the doors. "Is he all right?" she asked breathlessly as she came to a stop in front of Tomís bed.
"Iím fine," Tom scowled.
"There is a slight increase in electrical activity to his cerebellum. It seems to be correcting itself."
"What caused it?"
"I donít know," the Doctor said thoughtfully.
"Whatís it matter?" Tom asked irritably. "Iím fine now. I should be allowed to go."
"All in good time Mr. Paris. I would like to know what caused this."
"Canít we just leave it as one of the great mysteries of the universe?"
The Doctor sighed. "We may have no choice in the matter. I still have more tests to run however."
Zenda watched from its new abode. It felt relief. This artificial life form would not find anything now. The transition was well and truly complete. The initial entry had not been smooth, but Zenda now had things under control.
It could only observe at the moment. See and hear and feel things the way its Terran host did, but it could not control anything. It had to be careful. It did not want the Terran to become aware of its presence. Zenda settled back into the dark recesses of the Terranís mind. Control would come later.
End Part One