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.
Harry sat down at the table across from Tom with a sigh. "You feeling any better?"
"Iím fine. The Docís put me back on duty."
Harry studied him closely. Tom had spent the night in sickbay and then the Doctor had given him the day off as well. "Did he find out what was wrong?"
"Nope. Just so long as it doesnít happen again, I donít care."
"Iíd have to know why it happened," Harry said. Tom merely shrugged. "What are you doing this evening? Hot date with BíElanna? You probably want to make up for last night."
Tom scowled at that. "No, BíElanna says we have to take it easy. The Doc told her I wasnít allowed too much excitement and sheís actually listening to him." He sounded incredulous.
Harry laughed. "Zoeís got to work tonight, so we could hang out if you want?"
Tom smiled. "Sure. What do you want to do?"
"Iím working on a program in the holodeck for Zoe and I could use a bit of input. She told me last night that she loves horses so I thought Iíd surprise her. Itís not quite right though."
"As soon as we finish eating weíll go take a look at it," Tom suggested. He ate quickly, all sorts of expressions crossing his face simultaneously.
Harry watched him curiously. "Is it that bad?"
"No. Itís pretty good actually. Why?"
"I thought it must have tasted awful. Youíre pulling some weird faces."
"I am not," Tom protested, sounding slightly surprised. He pulled a couple more for good measure.
Harry laughed. That Tom! Always joking! He pulled a face back at him. Tomís eyes opened in surprise.
Turning around and then back again, he asked, "What was that for?"
"Two can play that game."
"What game? Harry, are you all right?"
Harry frowned in confusion. Tom sounded as if he didnít know what he was talking about. Harry watched as Tom brought his hand up to his face and stared at it as if heíd never seen it before. Tom then wriggled his fingers, seeming to be mesmerized by the sight of them. "Tom? What are you doing?"
Tom frowned and dropped his hand back down. "Huh? Whatís the matter? Sorry, my mind drifted for a moment. You were saying?"
"I wasnít saying anything actually."
"Oh! Well hurry up and eat. I want to get to the holodeck."
Harry took a forkful of Neelixís latest creation and ate hungrily, never taking his eyes off of Tom. Tom picked up the saltshaker and studied it intently, before shaking it up and down experimentally. He tipped it upside down and watched as he shook salt all over the table.
Harry grabbed the shaker off of him. "Tom? Whatíd you do that for? You got some in my stew and it was already too salty."
Tom shook his head and looked at Harry in bewilderment. He then looked down at the table. "Harry! Iíll go get a cloth." Before Harry could say anything else, he jumped up and hurried off.
Harry watched as Tom said something to Neelix, who laughed and handed him a cloth. As Tom walked back to the table, Harry studied him, feeling slightly concerned. He had a far away dreamy look in his eyes. Snapping back to reality, Tom wiped off the table. "Are you finished with that?" he asked, indicating the bowl of stew in front of Harry.
"I guess," Harry answered.
"Neelix has actually made some ice-cream for dessert, and the fruit salad to go with it looks interesting. Do you want some?"
Harry nodded and Tom hurried away again.
The rest of the meal went by smoothly and it wasnít long before the two friends were headed towards the holodeck. Every now and then Tom would pull another strange face, but Harry decided not to say anything about it. Tom was setting him up for some sort of joke. He just knew it.
As he stepped out of the turbo lift, Tom reached out and touched his shoulder. Harry turned around, slightly startled. "What?"
"What what?" Tom looked at him, a puzzled frown on his face.
Harry eyed him closely. "I thought you wanted something."
"No. What made you think that? Geez, Har - youíre acting really weird tonight. Come on." Tom walked over to the holodeck doors and Harry followed him slowly.
"Iím acting weird? What about you?" Harry questioned, as he punched in his program codes.
"What about me?"
"Youíre the one thatís doing all the strange stuff."
Harry sighed. He waited for the holodeck doors to open and then entered. Tom trailed behind him. "All those faces and everything. I know itís some sort of joke. I just wish youíd get it over with."
Tom gazed at him in astonishment. "What faces?"
Tom studied his face in the mirror. Rubbing his chin with one hand he frowned back at himself. "Youíre losing it Tom," he told himself. "I donít remember shaving this morning. In fact I donít remember putting on my boots either. But theyíre on, and the stubbleís definitely gone." He shook his head. "Too much on my mind I guess."
He laughed. "Thatís all Harry would need. If he walked in now and saw me standing here talking to myself heíd have me off to sickbay in a flash." The night before, as soon as heíd been able to convince Harry that he wasnít playing some sort of joke, Harry had insisted that he go there. Tom had managed to talk his way out of it after promising that he would go, if he did anything else weird. Luckily, nothing else had happened. Harry had watched him carefully all night, though.
Tom left his quarters and headed for the bridge. He wanted to get there early, as he still owed Hamilton fifteen minutes from the other day. As he entered the turbo lift he thought about what he had planned for that night with BíElanna, and smiled mischievously.
A blink of an eye later, Tom found himself halfway through stepping down the steps on the bridge. He stumbled and grabbed the rail behind him for support.
Janeway glanced up and frowned in concern. "Tom?"
"Captain." Tom felt himself flush as she stood up from her chair.
"Are you all right?"
Tom nodded and decided to joke his way out of it. "I just thought that this time I should fall in your lap instead of throwing myself at your feet. I changed my mind at the last minute."
Janeway laughed and there were snickers from all around the bridge. The Captain sobered quickly and asked worriedly. "You didnít lose your balance again, did you?"
Tom shrugged. "Not really."
Janeway frowned. "Whatís that supposed to mean?"
"I donít know what happened." He didnít tell her he had no memory of riding up in the turbo lift or stepping out onto the bridge. "I lost my footing for a moment."
"Maybe you should go back to sickbay."
"If you insist, Captain. But, I donít see the point. The Doc couldnít find out what was wrong anyway. I donít feel dizzy or weird or anything like I did before."
"Very well. But I want you back there if thereís any change."
"Yes Maíam." Tom continued to the helm and was soon chatting away with Hamilton. However, he could feel the Captainís eyes boring into his back.
As soon as he took over the helm, he felt better. It wasnít long before things settled down again and he relaxed into the helm. He loved flying. He loved the power and the peace it brought to him.
He gave a sudden start. Tom suddenly realized that he could hear Chakotay speaking softly to the Captain, behind him. When had the Commander entered the bridge? He looked around and was surprised to see Harry and Tuvok at their stations. He hadnít heard them arrive either.
Tom felt a wave of anxiety. What was going on? Was he having blackouts? He checked his console. They were still on course. Everything was fine. No one seemed concerned. He looked around again, and Tom noticed the Captain watching him out of the corner of her eye. He cursed and looked back at his readings.
"Everything all right Tom?" A hand touched his shoulder.
"Not feeling dizzy or anything?" she asked softly.
"You just seemed a little worried."
"No. Iím fine."
She tapped his shoulder before heading back to her seat. "Good."
Tom sighed with relief and then immediately felt guilty. He wondered whether he should tell the Captain that something weird was going on with his memory. He didnít want to endanger the ship. That was something heíd promised himself never to do. He decided that if anything else happened he would.
"Tom? You coming?"
"The meeting." Chakotay watched him with concern. "For the senior officers. Itís about to start."
Tom looked up at him in amazement. The meeting wasnít due to start until eleven hundred hours. "Whatís the time?"
"Eleven hundred." Chakotay frowned down at him. "The Captainís worried about you, and I can see why."
Tom stood up and Ensign Batehart quickly took over the helm. "Commander, something Ďs wrong here. Weíve strayed off course."
Chakotay quickly looked over the helmsmanís shoulder. "Get us back on course, Ensign."
Chakotay looked towards Tom, who was standing there dumbfounded. "I donít know what happened. Iím sorry."
"I think youíd better get to sickbay. Tell the Doctor to contact us in the briefing room as soon as he can."
"Yes sir," Tom answered unhappily.
Zenda was worried. This was not good. It camouflaged itself as the Doctor ran a medical tricorder over its Terran host. The Doctor found nothing - again. It wondered what it should do. It would take many more hours before it had complete control of this body. It had to be careful. Each new sensation was a wonder unto itself.
It was still coming to terms with the feelings of the five senses of the humanoid - touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. It was overwhelming at times and Zenda had to retreat into the dark recess. That was when the danger was at its highest. The more Zenda let the Terran come back, the more chance there was of him realizing something was wrong. Zenda needed to deflect the Doctor. Find a reason for the hostís strange behavior. Zenda needed more time to fully integrate. To practice how to make the host act normally.
Zenda wanted to quicken the process. It wanted to interact with these solid life forms. Talk to them as they did each other. Touch them. Act as one of them. Zenda had access to all that was Tom - his thoughts, feelings and memories. It wanted to be this Tom Paris. It wanted to live this Tom Parisís life. It could do it. All it needed was time.
The EMH sighed in annoyance and glared at Tom as if he was deliberately trying to stump him. "You have no memory of two full hours on the bridge?" As Tom nodded, he continued. "Youíre memory engrams are perfectly normal. In fact everything is perfectly normal. Iím beginning to believe that this is psychological, not physical."
"What are you saying? My mindís doing all this? Why?" Tom could feel himself growing angry. Just because the Doctor couldnít find anything physical he was going to throw it into the Ďtoo hard basketí and call it a mental illness.
"Stress," the Doctor answered. "Your body is showing all the classic signs. You are upset and anxious."
"Well, under the circumstances I would have thought that that was perfectly normal. Youíd be upset and anxious too, if you were having memory blackouts."
"Naturally, I will have to do some psyche evaluations," the Doctor said ignoring him completely. He moved away to get the proper equipment. "Iíd better report my findings - or lack of them - to the Captain."
Tom muttered under his breath.
"So, what are you saying Doctor?" Janeway asked confused. "There is a physical cause for Tomís mental blackouts? You told me only an hour ago that it was psychological."
"I was wrong Captain. As hard as that may be to believe."
The Captain smiled slightly. "So this virus that you found, suddenly showed up? There was no sign of it on your other tests?"
"No Captain. It is unlike anything I have ever encountered before. It is able to camouflage itself; it was really quite lucky that I found it."
"Where did he get this? Is it contagious?"
"No Captain. Not that I can ascertain. He must have touched something down on the planet we visited last and the virus was then transmitted to him. Iíve already called in the other members of his away team, but they are all clear."
"Well thatís good news. Iím assuming you can treat this?"
"Yes, his system should be clear of the affects quite soon."
The Doctor sounded a little doubtful and the Captain frowned in concern. "Is there something wrong?"
"Itís just that since Iíve never seen this virus before there could be lingering side affects that I donít know about. I would like Mr. Paris to stay here in sickbay for observation, but he is being - difficult."
Janeway smiled. "I can imagine. Maybe you could monitor him from his quarters?"
The Doctor sniffed. "That would probably be best."
Zenda listened and was relieved when the Doctor said that its host could go back to his quarters to recuperate. Zenda could now take full control.
Zenda practiced walking around Tomís quarters. It sat - crossed legs and then uncrossed them. Practiced everything that this body could do. After an hour Zenda was reasonably confident that it looked normal. Zenda smiled at itself in the mirror and Tomís face smiled back. This was fun!
The door chime suddenly sounded and Zenda turned, confused. Would the Doctor be checking up already? Zenda wondered what to do. Maybe whoever it was would go away. The thought drifted through that whoever it was might come in, regardless of an invitation. Just as this thought surfaced the door did indeed open and Harry Kim entered.
"Tom? Why didnít you answer the door?" Harry stood just inside the doorway. "I thought you might have been asleep. I was just doing a quick check; to make sure youíre all right?"
Zenda hesitated. It still didnít have the speech perfected yet.
Zenda realized that it would have to answer. "Iímmmmmm f-f-fine, Harrrryyyy."
"It sure doesnít sound like it." Harry came fully into the room and stood staring at him. "Does the Doc know that youíre having trouble talking?"
Zenda concentrated. "I-I-I-itís g-g-getting b-b-better."
"I take it that means the Doc doesnít know. Kim to sickbay."
"NNNO!! D-d-donít! B-better see?"
ĎDoctor here. What is it Ensign Kim?í
Zenda watched the apologetic look Harry gave before continuing. "Doc, Iím just checking up on Tom and heís having trouble talking. I thought you should know."
ĎThank you Ensign, Iíll be right there.í
Zenda realized it was frowning at Harry without any conscious thought to do so. "Iím sorry Tom. I had to let him know."
"N-no you d-d-didnít. I-Iíll be f-f-f-f-fine in a m-m-m-moment." Harry led them over to the sofa and they sat down. "S-S-S-S-S-Sitting isnít g-g-g-going t-t-t-to help." Zenda was pleased to notice that the words came naturally with no thought at all.
Harry gave a small chuckle. "Heh, Iím willing to try anything at the moment." Just then the door chime sounded. "You stay there, Iíll get it. The Doc was sure quick."
As Harry slid back the door, Zenda was dismayed to see the mate standing there. It wasnít ready for her yet. The dismay must have shown because the mate stepped in and scowled. "Nice to see you too. I just thought Iíd see how you were, but if you boys want to be alone?"
Harry pulled her into the room. "Donít be silly. Weíre waiting for the Doc actually. Tomís having trouble speaking."
Zenda was concerned as BíElanna hurried over. "Tom? Whatís wrong?"
"Since when have you stuttered?"
"I - Itíll p-p-p-pass."
"Let me be the judge of that," the Doctor said coming into the room. "This is the reason I wanted you to stay in sickbay."
As the Doctor lent over with the medical tricorder, Zenda concentrated for all its worth. It almost had complete control. No more receding back and letting the host take over. "Itís al-r-r-r-right D-d-doc. P-P-P-Probably j-j-just a s-s-s-s-side affect. You wonít f-f-find any-th-thing."
The Doctor sighed as his tricorder showed the patient to be in perfect health. "Your self diagnosis is more than likely correct. However, I want you to come to sickbay in case something else happens."
"N-No! Iíll b-be b-better here."
"Mr. Paris, I insist."
"D-Damn! Itísss not f-fair." Zenda was pleased. Although it was still having trouble with the actual speech, it no longer had to think before speaking. Everything seemed to flow as if it were really this Tom Paris. It all felt quite natural and normal.
Cheerfully, Zenda stood up and followed the Doctor out of the room, noticing the surprised looks on Harry and BíElannaís faces. "I d-donít f-f-feel like arguing."
The Doctor stood and observed Tom from the window in his office. "As you can see Captain, heís really not himself. Thatís the third time heís done that."
Janeway frowned as she watched Tom jump off of the biobed and look around confused - almost panicked, only to then climb back up again calmly. "You say his speech is better?"
The Doctor nodded. "That phase seems to be past now. He still appears to be having memory lapses though."
"What can you do for him?"
"Nothing. We just have to let the virus run its course."
"How long will that take?"
"I have no idea, Captain."
Janeway sighed. "Can I talk to him?"
"I donít see why not." The Doctor led the way to Tomís bed.
"Captain," Tom smiled in greeting.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Great. Hopefully it wonít be much longer till Iím out of here."
"The Doctor tells me youíre still having some memory lapses."
He nodded. "Obviously the virus hasnít completely gone yet."
The Captain patted his arm. "Well donít worry. It shouldnít be much longer."
"Oh, Iím not Captain. I know the Docís----" Suddenly his face changed. He looked both angry and scared at the same time. "Whatís going on here? Captain, whatís happening? Iím still having memory blackouts arenít I?"
"Try to keep calm Tom. Whatís the matter? Donít you remember just talking to me?"
"No. The last thing I remember clearly is lying down on my bed in my quarters after the Doc let me leave sickbay. The next thing I knew I was on a biobed. And it doesnít matter how many times I jump off the damn thing I still seem to be lying on it."
"Itíll be all right," Janeway tried to soothe him.
"Iím scared," Tom said in a small voice. "I feel like Iím fighting for my very existence."
"No Tom, itís just a few memory lapses thatís all. Your life isnít in danger." She looked back at the Doctor for confirmation. He nodded.
"Captain, its like Iím not me anymore. Something weirdís happening inside of me."
"What do you mean?" Janeway looked at him in alarm.
"Itís like Iím in a giant struggle with myself to be me. If I lose my concentration for even a moment then Iíll be lost, maybe forever."
Janeway looked back at the Doctor. "Whatís he talking about?"
"I have no idea."
"Captain!" Tom called out in panic.
Janeway turned quickly back to him again, not knowing what to expect, but he appeared completely normal. "Tom, what is it?"
"Iím sorry Captain. Iím fine now. I guess I panicked for a moment."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Iím sorry about all that stuff I said. I wasnít making much sense. Itís kind of scary doing and saying things that I canít remember, but I know it will be all over soon."
"Thatís right. It will be." Janeway smiled at him reassuringly and patted his leg.
Tom smiled in return and the Captain patted his arm before turning back to the Doctor. "Keep me posted please Doctor," she ordered before leaving.
Zenda gave one final push and smiled in delight. The host was locked so deep inside, he would never find his way out. This body was now Zendaís. Zenda was Tom Paris.
Tom screamed as he felt himself falling. Dark mists surrounded him. He could feel that his body was still operating around him, but he no longer had any control. He could no longer hear, or see, or touch anything. He screamed silently - once again.
End Part Two