TRIPLE TROUBLE - SEQUEL TO TACNA'S TURN by PJ in NH

Summary: Sequel to Tacna's Turn. Tom is accused and
convicted of treason thanks to three crewmates. In an alien
prison, he befriends a little girl. Note: Angst alert, keep
a hankie handy.

DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Voyager and its characters. I've
only borrowed the characters to satisfy my own creative
urges. Archiving is okay, just e-mail me. Please keep
disclaimer and my name attached.

RECOGNITION OF APPRECIATION: A very special thanks goes out
to my beta readers: Phyllis J. Sutherland and Marleena
Mooneyham.


Triple Trouble - Sequel to Tacna's Turn
10/98
(P/T)
Rated R


Chapter 1

"It's got to be here somewhere," B'Elanna grumbled crawling
along the Jeffries tube, her dark hair falling down in front
of her face. The seemingly endless tube lay before her as if
mocking her efforts. "I'm so stupid! How could I have lost
it? If he ever finds out..."


About two hours ago, B'Elanna had returned to her office in
Engineering to review maintenance reports. For twelve hours,
Voyager had been dealing with temperatures and humidities
reminiscent of a tropical rain forest. So the half-Klingon
had spent the entire day supervising a major system-wide
sensor recalibration which was the last stage in bringing the
environmental controls back up to 100% efficiency.

The Chief Engineer had been sitting in her office reading the
current reports, still clad in her grey, sweat-stained tank
top. Her thoughts turned to a certain blue-eyed pilot and
remembered waking up beside him that morning in her quarters.
She loved the way he held her close to him and the feel of
his flesh against her own. B'Elanna smiled and her hand
trailed up to her neck to finger the beautiful necklace that
Tom had given her in the country fair program. But her
fingers only encountered her bare skin, the chain was
missing. Quickly she got up and danced around the desk,
pulling the top away from her body, hoping that the chain
would fall from somewhere inside the material. But of
course, nothing on Voyager was ever that easy. And now
B'Elanna was crawling through the bowels of the ship trying
frantically to locate the necklace while at the same time
trying to remember all the different Jeffries tubes and
maintenance consoles she had been in that morning.

The half-Klingon had come to one conclusion though. There
was no way she was going to let Tom Paris know that she had
lost it. It wasn't like she had left the ship, it had to be
somewhere after all, she mused. Voyager had what seemed like
a multitude of rooms and kilometers of Jeffries tubes, so,
she figured, it should only take her half her adult life if
she looked everywhere.

B'Elanna's commbadge beeped. "'Lanna, we still on for the
Resort tonight?" Tom asked.

She blew the hair away from her grease-smeared face in
frustration. Oh damn that's right, she thought If I turn
him down after I've been talking to him about going there for
two days, he'll wonder what's up. I'll have to think of
something. Maybe I can . . ."

"B'Elanna? You still there?"

"Ah--yes. Can you pick me up in--oh--twenty minutes?"

"I'll be there, love."

B'Elanna scrambled out of the Jeffries tube and headed
quickly to her cabin. Talking to herself the entire way, she
received many curious looks from her fellow crewmates.

"I know, I'll tell him that I'm having it cleaned? No, that's
stupid, I haven't had it long enough for it to be dirty."
B'Elanna stormed blindly out of the turbolift almost knocking
over an ensign. "Maybe I could say that someone wanted to
borrow it? Nope, then he'd just ask who and ask why I would
let someone borrow it to begin with." She strode down the
hall to her cabin ignoring a wave from Harry Kim. Pausing in
front of her door to her cabin she exclaimed. "Damn! I
know, I'll tell him that I didn't want to lose it if we went
swimming so I put it in a safe place. Well that's kind of
true," she rationalized. "I didn't want to lose it."

That decided, B'Elanna entered her cabin, quickly sonic
showered, and changed into a new bathing suit that she had
replicated the night before. She had been saving replicator
rations for a month until she could afford the new swimsuit.
It was a one-piece suit in lovely a shimmery bronze color
with a gold colored trim. To say it was a one-piece was a
mere technicality as there was a large area in the front mid-
section that was cut out and the neck line dipped very low to
reveal enough cleavage to make a Vulcan blush. All in all,
it showed off B'Elanna's trim, petite figure in all its
glory. She grabbed her towel and put on a cover up, to make
sure that Tom wouldn't see the suit until they were at the
Resort. She was curious as to what his reaction would be
with other people around.


Tom had greeted her at the door with a bouquet of yellow
roses from hydroponics, which she felt that she didn't
deserve. She still could not get over how thoughtful and
caring this man was, or how lucky she was that they had found
each other.

Before Tom could ask about the necklace, she told him that
she didn't want to lose the chain while swimming. He simply
nodded his head, kissed her, and they left he cabin.

B'Elanna and Tom walked into the Resort arm in arm and were
obviously very happy. Other people though that saw the
couple, were not so pleased to see them. Back at a side
table near the bar, three friends sat drinking synthenol.
Polen Carag, a Bajoran who worked in Maintenance; engineer
Richard Nensen; and Lars Henniken who worked along side Harry
Kim in communications had all noticed Voyager's latest love
match when they made their entrance. Each of the three
during the last year had tried to get Voyager's beautiful
Chief Engineer to go on a date and she had turned down all
three.

"What is it she sees in him?" Carag asked the other two while
Tom and B'Elanna strolled down by the water, stopping to
spread out their towels on the golden sand.

"Blond, blue-eyes, pilot," Lars said ticking off each
attribute on his fingers.

"And," Rich chimed in, "if he were back home he'd be very
wealthy." The engineer downed the rest of the amber liquid
in his glass and slammed the mug back down on the table.

"Let's face it, gentlemen, none of us are ever going to have
Torres, not while Paris is still around."

"Don't look now Lars, but the pilot's blue eyes just got
bigger," Rich said looking at the couple as B'Elanna finally
took off her coverup to reveal her new suit, which in turn
revealed quite a bit of her.

Lars groaned.


"Lieutenant, you look absolutely stunning," Tom said after he
found his voice. The sight of B'Elanna in her new suit had
left the normally talkative pilot momentarily speechless.

"What this old thing?" she replied flippantly turning around
so he could see the suit from every seductive angle.

"What *old* thing, B'Elanna Torres? That is brand new and
you look absolutely gorgeous in it."

"Are you just going to talk, or are you going to show me how
you really feel about it?" she purred, bringing her hands up
to his chest to play with his chest hair.

Not needing to be prompted again, Tom pulled B'Elanna toward
him and wrapped his arms around her lithe body. He
passionately kissed her, their tongues explored each others
mouth and for a moment they were the only people that existed
on the holodeck. Finally, they broke breathlessly away from
each other.

"Would you like me to show you how much I like it again, Ms.
Torres?" Tom quipped.

B'Elanna smiled broadly and licked her lips. "Yes, Tom. In
your cabin later." With the necklace still missing she
couldn't risk him coming back to her cabin. Laughing, she
turned on her heels and walked toward the water. She stopped
momentarily and turned around. "By the way, Lieutenant. Do
you like breakfast in bed?"

Tom took two steps toward her but before he could reach her,
B'Elanna was running toward the water. Picking up the chase,
laughing all the way, Tom followed. He finally caught her,
waist deep in the lagoon. Grabbing her from behind, he
embraced here and his hands explored the cut-out opening on
the front of the suit. "Have I ever told you, I love you,
B'Elanna Torres?" He kissed and nibbled his way from her
shoulder, up her neck, to her delicate earlobe.

B'Elanna moaned in delight as the warm waves of the lagoon
broke against their bodies. "Once or twice, flyboy."

"Only once or twice? I guess I've been neglecting you, but I
promise I won't tonight. Especially with the offer of
breakfast in bed. Tell me can I have . . ." he asked and
whispered his idea of the perfect breakfast in her ear.

B'Elanna's eyes widened with his suggestion and then
narrowed. The thought of his version of breakfast excited
her. "Only if you are very, very good tonight," she growled.
I guess this swimsuit was well worth all those replicator
rations.



"Have either one of you ever seen anything more beautiful?"
Lars asked sarcastically, upper lip curled in a grimace.
"It's sickening."

"Nope never have, and she's all his," Carag grumbled, taking
a long draw on the ale in his glass. Putting the glass down,
he wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. "How she
can be attracted to that good-for-nothing murderer and
traitor is beyond me. I thought Klingons were suppose to
value honor above all else."

"And on top of all that, now Paris is Chief Pilot, on the
Senior Staff no less, and cementing his position by going
with the Chief Engineer. It's real tidy."

"You said it, Carag. I was there on Caldik Prime when he had
his *accident*, and he should be behind bars not on the
bridge," Rich spat and ordered another round of real beer
this time for him and his friends. "And it's an injustice
that Chet Tacna's rotting away in the brig."

"As far as I can see it, Chet's only crime was his way of
going about it," Lars added. "Not enough thought, all flash
but not enough planning. If someone wanted to get rid of
blue-eyes they'd have to do something that would stick. That
wouldn't be questioned, not even by the Captain. Now if I
wanted to get rid of Paris . . . ." The other two listened
intently, eager to hear what the communications had to say.


Chapter 2

It was 0213, B'Elanna continued to crawl through JT36 with a
flashlight strapped to her wrist. She intently looked all
around trying to pick up a reflection of light from the
necklace, but she saw nothing of the kind. Over the past few
days, she had been able to keep her secret to herself,
searching for it in the wee hours of the morning. During the
day, she wore her uniform, of course, when she was on duty so
the necklace wouldn't have shown anyway; and off duty she
made sure to were something at her neckline that would also
cover her bare throat. But in a couple of days, she and Tom
were both scheduled for a day off. If she hadn't found the
necklace by then, it would take some real ingenuity not to be
found out. Tom had a lovely habit of nibbling her neck that
sent hot chills down her spine. He'd surely noticed if the
necklace was missing while doing that.

Reaching the end of the JT, she opened the hatch and stepped
out onto Deck Two. Her stomach growled and with the mess
hall right around the corner, she decided to see what Neelix
had laid out for the gamma shift.

She stepped into the darkened dining area and the motion
sensors automatically illuminated the room. Over on the
sideboard, the Talaxian chef/morale officer had laid out
sandwiches and fruit. Grabbing the Delta Quadrant version of
an apple, B'Elanna took a large bite. The juice from the
fruit escaped her mouth and started to dribble down her chin
before she located a napkin to capture the sweet liquid.

She sat down to finish it, trying to recall for what must
have been the hundredth time, where she had been that day she
lost the necklace. Suddenly an idea struck and, swallowing
the last of the 'apple,' the half-Klingon dropped to her
knees and started looking around the floor. After all, she
mused, she had breakfast and lunch that day, so maybe it had
been here the whole time.

After half an hour, B'Elanna still hadn't found what she was
looking for but she had come to the conclusion that the gamma
shift crewmembers were a bunch of slobs. Bits and pieces of
food were scattered all over the floor. It looked like they
had participated in some type of food fight.

Just before she was ready to admit defeat though she spotted
something shiny underneath the serving counter. She crawled
over and laying on her stomach reached her slender arm under
the counter until finally her fingers encountered the object.
Smiling, feeling victory, she pulled it out only to discover
that it was part of one of Naomi Wildman's toys that Neelix
had given her. Her face fell.

"quH petaQ!" she roared.

"Hey watch what you're calling me, Maquis, I might resent
it."

B'Elanna swung her head around and found that she was nose-
to-nose with Harry Kim still dressed in his pajamas. "What
do *you* want, Starfleet?" she asked indignantly.

"Nothing, nothing at all," he replied with a yawn. "What are
you looking for this early in the morning? Maybe I can
help?"

"Who said that I was looking for something?" B'Elanna
growled.

"Well if you haven't been looking for something, you've spent
the last ten minutes crawling around the floor for nothing,"
he observed as he helped her up off the floor. "So spill it,
B'Elanna, what have you lost?"

"I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I told you I was
performing an inspection on the cleanliness of the dining
area?

Kim crossed his arms in front of his chest to show that he
was not leaving until he got his answer. Whether he was
foolish or brave he couldn't decide. "Hardly. B'Elanna,
tell me. Maybe I can help."

Admitting defeat she relented. "All right I'll tell you, but
you have to swear that it stays between the two of us. Do
you understand?" Harry nodded. "I lost the necklace that
Tom gave me," she blurted.

"You lost it? Where?"

B'Elanna pushed him roughly aside and stomped into the
kitchen area hoping that Neelix had spotted it and put in up
on one of the kitchen counters. "If I knew *where* I lost
it, then it wouldn't be *lost* would it!" she spat.

"Well then, when did you lose it?" he asked and joined her in
her search.

"Three days ago."

"Well have you reviewed your activities on that day."

"I have and unfortunately that was the day of the heat wave
and I was running the system-wide recalibration." B'Elanna
knelt down and peered under the edge of the cabinet. "I was
all over the ship that day. I can't even begin to tell you
how many Jeffries tubes I was in, not to mention how many
maintenance cabinets or cabins. If Tom ever finds out I was
this careless with his gift . . . well let's just say that
he's not going to find out."

"How about replicating another necklace," Harry suggested.

"You've got to be kidding, that would be highly dishonest
besides . . . I don't have enough replicator credits," she
admitted.

"So you did think about replicating one?"

"Well only as a last resort, but platinum and yellow gold
don't come cheap. Tom had to have saved for months for that
chain."

"Or played a lot of pool and won," Harry added.

"True. You know he had me believing that it was made of
silver and gold, but I just knew better. When I tested it,
right after he gave it to me, I found out just how many
credits he would have had to save to afford it."

Harry let out a low whistle, trying to imagine how long his
buddy would have had to save and how many of Neelix's meals
he would have had to consume to save for the gift. He really
must love her. "Wow!"

"Yeah, wow! And now I've gone and lost it. I've been so
careful wearing it, Harry," she said in as close of a whine
as the half-Klingon ever came.

"I know you have, B'Elanna," Harry agreed, he knew very well
that she was very fond of that necklace. "How about running a
scan for its mineral composition?"

"I thought of that and already done that, but the components
of the commbadges are so similar that it is useless. So
unless you come up with any other ideas, I'm afraid we will
just have to keep looking."

"*We* will?"

***

Alpha shift came on duty, the next morning, and relieved
their gamma shift counterparts. Harry relieved Lars
Henniken, who upon leaving the bridge almost collided with
Tom Paris coming off the turbolift. Tom reached out to
steady himself against the tall, fair-haired Swede.
Henniken's only reaction was to sneer and storm past the
Chief Pilot on his way to the turbolift.

Tom shook his head at Lars' behavior and smiled to Harry.

"Don't forget, mess hall, two days at 1800 sharp," he
reminded his friend.

"Wouldn't forget it for the world," Kim replied with a grin.

Tom nodded and then went to relieve the ensign who sat at the
helm. He sat down, reviewed the activity since his last
shift, took note of the course coordinates, and started to
perform the routine morning diagnostic.

The Captain and Chakotay entered the bridge from Janeway's
ready room and took their customary seats. "Looks like a
quiet morning," the Captain quipped to her First Officer.

"Hopefully," he replied. "You all set for the get-together
in the mess on Wednesday?"

"I still need to take care of a couple of things, but I
wouldn't miss it for the world. Though I don't know if I'd
want to be in Mr. Paris' shoes that night," she said softly
not wanting her Chief Pilot to overhear.

Chakotay nodded in agreement and laughed.


The morning did proceed quietly until just before the alpha
shift were to be relieved for lunch.

"Captain, there is a broad-span message coming in from a
message buoy about four light-years from our present
location," Harry informed.

"Proceed," Janeway ordered.

Harry nodded and channeled the message to the main view
screen. A strange alien appeared. He had vivid blue eyes
and his skin color was almost a pale yellow. Instead of hair
on his head, shiny fish-like scales covered his scalp. His
blue eyes peered out from underneath thin slits, and he was
dressed in a nondescript grey tunic.

"Warning. You have entered the Lynic/Croydos war zone,
proceed at your own risk. If you enter into the war zone, it
will be assumed that you enter as a neutral party and that
any assistance you provide to either side will be considered
guilty of a war crime--punishable by imprisonment or death.
The Lynicans have warned you. - - - "Warning. You have
entered . . ."

And the message repeated.

"How long would it take for us to avoid this area of space?"
Janeway asked her security officer.

"According to the interstellar map that the message also
transmitted approximately five months, three days, and three
point five hours," Tuvok stated.

Janeway took a deep breath. "Mr. Paris, plot us a course
through this war zone that will minimize contact with either
the Lynicans or the Croydosians," she ordered. "I'm not
going to add another five months to our journey. As long as
we stay out of their hair--or scales as the case may be--then
we should be all right."

"Aye, Captain."

Tuvok nodded his concurrence. "Very logical," he replied.



Voyager flew a path that, while not that direct, seemed to
allow them the opportunity to avoid any confrontations of
either race. The second day into the war zone, a strange
space ship hailed them.

"Captain," Tom spoke up from the helm," there is what I
assume to be either a Lynican or Croydosian warship
approaching from our port side, I can't provide you any more
specific information."

"Alien ship, this is Zotan of the Croydos fleet, please state
your intentions."

"On screen, Mr. Henniken," Janeway ordered while still seated
in her Captain's chair.

An alien, looking much different than the Lynican they had
seen depicted by the warning buoy, appeared on the view
screen. Whereas the Lynican was dressed rather plainly, the
Croydosian that was pictured before them was quite different.
He was dressed in heavily gold and silver embroidered flowing
robes with a heavy pendant bearing a large red stone around
his neck. The Croydosian also possessed an almost human
appearance except for the vivid purple head of hair that
looked like it was caught in a permanent wind storm.

"Mr. Zotan, I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the U.S.S.
Federation starship Voyager. We are just passing through on
our way home. We are a neutral vessel, we have no hostile
intent."

"Your home must be very far from here, I have never seen a
ship like yours before. Truly magnificent."

"Thank you," Janeway smiled proudly, "and yes, we are a long
way from home."

"Just remember to stay out of out conflict and you'll have no
problem."

"Thank you Mr. Zotan, Voyager out."


Tom turned around. "Wow, did you see that bauble around his
neck looks like he could afford just about whatever he'd
like," Tom said.

"Maybe so, B'Elanna responded from her post at bridge
engineering station, "but their ship certainly isn't much to
look at."

"No, not much of a vessel. Voyager and her technology is
certainly no match for it, our ship is much more powerful.
With no effort at all, we could leave that ship in the dust,"
Tom observed looking at the beautiful engineer who happened
to be on the bridge that day. "Personally, despite all their
obvious wealth, it looks like their engineer could use a
little of your help, B'Elanna."

B'Elanna smiled. "Thanks, but I'll stay on Voyager."

"You can't tell me that you wouldn't be interested in beaming
over and seeing what that ship's engines look like?" Tom
asked.

"Well maybe, but I think I'll survive."

Tom laughed as did the Captain and First Officer, they knew
how much B'Elanna liked to learn about alien technology, even
if it was vastly inferior to the Federation's.

From the communications station, Lars smiled slightly. He
had a lot to talk to his friends about after the shift was
over with.



At the end of alpha shift, Paris relinquished the helm to
Ensign Baytart and joined Henniken in the turbolift.

"That was some gem around the Croydosian's neck, Paris," Lars
commented dryly.

Paris was a bit surprised that the Swede was talking to him
as he usually maintained an icy silence. "Ah . . . yes it
was. I'm sure it would be worth quite a few pieces of
latinum back home."

"But nothing that *your* family couldn't afford," Lars tossed
over his shoulder as he left the turbolift.

Even in the Delta Quadrant, people just can't leave my past
behind," Paris thought as he headed to his cabin.


Chapter 3

Lars comment having been forgotten, Tom cleaned himself up a
bit in his quarters, grabbed a package that had been
carefully wrapped in blue paper and white bows that was
sitting on his table, and hurried down the hall whistling all
the way. The pilot was counting on the fact that B'Elanna was
always late, and if that didn't prove to be the case today,
Sue Nicoletti was going to make sure that she was. To make
sure she was late, Sue had sent a message to the bridge
requesting the Chief's presence in engineering just before
Alpha shift had been relieved for the day.


The pilot strode into the mess hall and noting that
everything seemed to be in order, sought out the chef.
Neelix was just putting the finishing touches on B'Elanna's
favorite, a chocolate raspberry tart, when Tom found him and
Harry.

"It looks great Neelix," the tall man beamed.

"It is," Harry said licking his lips.

On queue, the pilot stuck his finger in the chocolate coating
for a taste.

With a cry of pain, Tom pulled his hand quickly away from the
cake. "What was that for?" the pilot asked rubbing the back
of his hand. Neelix had just slapped his fingers with his
ever-ready spoon.

"Everybody out. Out! That's for later."

Still rubbing the back of his hand, the pilot laughed and
left for the dining room with Harry, it was 1550.

Tom's commbadge beeped. "Tom, Nicoletti here, I couldn't
keep her busy any longer, she's on her way."

"Thanks, Sue. I appreciate it. We'll save you a piece of
cake."

"Everyone," Tom said loudly. "She's on her way, so if
everyone will . . Oh, Captain, Commander, I'm glad you made
it, he said when the two senior officer, packages in hand,
came through the mess hall doors. "As I was saying she's
almost here. If everyone will take their place?"

All the people in the mess quickly found something to kneel
down behind to hide.

"I hope B'Elanna likes surprises," Janeway whispered to her
First Officer. "For heaven help Tom if she doesn't."
Chakotay chuckled in agreement.

"Computer, lights out," Tom said softly and the illumination
in the mess hall dropped to zero.

Listening intently, the sound of B'Elanna's shoes against the
deck could be heard and they were getting louder all the time
until finally they stopped all of a sudden just before she
was about to enter the mess hall.

B'Elanna noted the darkness and it puzzled her. Normally the
mess hall was always full of activity at this time of night.
"What the? . . . Computer, lights," she ordered.

The computer immediately responded and the lights came on and
at the same instant, the thirty people in the mess hall
yelled, "Surprise!"

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

Back in Lars' cabin, Rich and Carag joined him. "I've got it
all figured out," Lars told his friends. "By manipulating
the conversation on the bridge today, I can make a recording
that will convince the Captain that our pilot is still a
traitor, who would sell information to anyone for the right
price."

"You're sure you can do it?" Carag asked skeptically.

"No problem at all, even Harry Kim won't be able to detect
the spliced message after I'm done with it. I just need a
little bit of help from you two to pull it off."

"Just tell us what you need," Rich said. Carag nodded.

"Well, I believe that Paris is working the beta shift
tomorrow night and we happen to be all working the gamma
shift, so this is what we'll do. . ."

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

B'Elanna stood with her mouth agape. "Surprise?" she
whispered. She was startled at all the people standing
before her applauding.

Tom came up to her side and gave the bewildered half-Klingon
a hug.

"What's this all about, Tom?"

"It's a party just for you," he told her. "Didn't you even
remember that today's your birthday?"

"But Klingon's don't celebrate birthdays," she argued
blushing a bit, she hated to be the center of attention.

"Then consider this your half-human birthday. Come on and
sit down B'Elanna," Tom steered her toward the chair of
honor. The engineer sat down and looked around, a lot of
people were here -- even the Captain and Chakotay. All were
wishing her a very happy birthday. It was a bit overwhelming
she decided. No one had ever cared enough to throw her a
party before. She smiled slightly and blushed again.

"Tom?" she whispered and pulled at his sleeve.

The pilot knelt down beside her so she could speak to him
privately.

"Thank you."

"You deserve it."

"You don't understand, I've never--never had a birthday party
before," she explained her voice choked with emotion and a
lone tear escaped and rolled down her bronze cheek.

"Never? Not once?" he asked and wiped the tear away with his
thumb.

B'Elanna shook her head. "Well perhaps when my father was
around, but I don't remember. This means so much, thank
you."

"You're not mad?"

"Mad? No. At one time, what seems like a very long time ago
now, I might have been, but not anymore," she reassured him
and kissed him lightly on his cheek.

"So what do you want to do first, cake or presents?"

B'Elanna smiled and scrunched up her nose.

"Presents, it is," Tom declared.

B'Elanna unwrapped what seemed like a mountain of assorted
gifts. She received a number of replicator credits, bath
oils, and perfumes. Chakotay's package contained a carved
worry stone which, when she was told what it was, made her
laugh. The present that Janeway brought was a lovely comb
and brush set that B'Elanna knew Tom would used when he
combed her hair.

Lastly, Tom's gift was opened. B'Elanna carefully untied the
white bows and unwrapped the blue paper. Inside, she found a
silver box that was a little larger than the span of her
hand, engraved into the silver were flowers and leaves, it
was simply exquisite. The engineer looked up to the pilot
and smiled.

"Open it, B'Elanna," Tom suggested.

Gripping the box in both hands, she opened it to reveal a
black velvet lined interior with a card inside which read:
"May my love for you be reflected in the jewelry what will
fill this box over the years. Love, T."

Oh Kahless, she thought, a jewelry box and I can't find
the necklace to put in it.

B'Elanna was speechless for a moment before she replied.
"It's beautiful, Tom. Thank you," she said with a smile on
her face. I've *got* to find that necklace, now more than
ever.

Tom bent down and kissed his love. He was prevented from
continuing the embrace when Neelix brought out his
magnificent creation from the kitchen and placed it on the
now bare table in front of the Chief Engineer. The chocolate
cake was now adorned with rosettes and candles. Two ensigns
passed around trays containing synthenol champagne.

Once everyone had a glass, someone in the back chanted,
"Speech!! Speech!!" which was soon joined by all the guests.

Tom raised his glass, "To the most wonderful, vivacious woman
I know. May she have the happiest of birthdays." He took a
sip and everyone happily joined him.

B'Elanna stood up from where she had sat and raised her own
glass "I'd like to say a couple of words," she said. She
then brought the glass down in front of her and held with
both her hands. "When we where first thrown into the Delta
Quadrant it felt like I was lost. But now looking back I see
that I was wrong. I'm no longer lost, I found more here in
the Delta Quadrant than I ever could have back home. I found
a new family here and I've made new friends," she said
looking around the room. Many of those that met her eye
nodded in understanding. "and I have found a wonderful man,
whom I love." B'Elanna looked into the blue eyes of the man
who stood by her side and tipped her head up and was rewarded
with a kiss. "I love you Tom Paris," she whispered.


Chapter 4

Tom worked the next day on beta shift, and during that shift
as planned, Lars and his friends set their sinister plan in
motion.

Tom slept that night dreaming of his B'Elanna and their plans
for the following day when they both had the day off. While
he was sleeping, the plan was initiated.

The next morning Harry reported to the bridge and relieved an
even younger ensign from the comm station. As per routine,
Kim reviewed all activity that had taken place from the last
time he was at his station and performed the morning
diagnostic. Everything was going fine until he noticed a
message that had been sent from the ship to the Croydosians
during the early morning. When he saw the location of the
message, Harry swallowed hard, his face paled. To discount
any fowl play, he reviewed the message several times but
found no abnormalities with the message, even the voice print
checked out. Doing your duty, Harry concluded, is not an
easy thing.

"Captain?"

The Captain who had been sitting in her chair casually
talking to her First Officer looked up at the ensign. "Yes,
Mr. Kim?"

"Could I speak with you in your ready room, Captain?"

Janeway looked quizzically at Chakotay and back to Kim. "Of
course. Commander, you have the bridge."

Kim followed Janeway into her ready room. "Please take a
seat Mr. Kim."

"Thank you," Harry replied clearly nervous.

"Harry, it looks like you lost your best friend," the Captain
remarked. "What's wrong?"

Harry, to maintain his composure, slipped into his full
Starfleet cadet mode. "Captain, I performed a diagnostic of
the communication system this morning and found an
unsanctioned message that was sent from Voyager to the
Croydosians."

"That's serious, ensign. Can you play the message for me?"

"Yes, ma'am," Harry replied grimly and punched the codes into
the table-top computer. "This--this is it."

"Croydosian vessel, have personal information on
Voyager technology that could help your war effort,
and it looks like you can afford it. Interested?"

Even though she recognized the voice she asked. "Where did
this message originate from, Mr. Kim."

"It was sent at 0305 this morning from Lt. Paris' quarters,"
he replied sadly.

Janeway sighed and nodded her head. There were times like
this that she hated her job.

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

Tom woke late, called B'Elanna and met her in the mess hall
for a late breakfast. They had just sat down with their
coffee and their meal when Janeway, Tuvok, and two ensigns
from security entered the dining area and approached the
lieutenants' table. In the rear of the room, Henniken,
Nensen, and Polen watched with great interest.

"Mr. Paris," Tuvok said to the blue-eyed pilot. "It is my
duty to inform you that you are being arrested for charges of
treason. You will come with me."

"What are you talking about?" Tom asked. "What is this?
Some sort of joke?"

"There is no mistake about it, Mr. Paris," Janeway explained
stepping forward. "We came across a message that was sent
from your cabin early this morning to the Croydosians. The
voice print matches yours precisely. Tuvok, take him to the
brig."

A bewildered Tom Paris looked at Janeway and then to
B'Elanna. "Captain, I don't know what to say, but I didn't
send any message."

"Well, you can tell your side of the story at the trial," she
said grimly and stormed out of the mess hall. Tom was led
from the room by the security guards leaving an irate
B'Elanna behind.


Janeway brooded in her ready room sipping her now cold coffee
with her First Officer.

"Chakotay, I just don't understand it. He had everything
going for him. He was back at the helm and he had B'Elanna.
Why would he throw it all away."

"I wish I knew, Kathryn. I don't understand it myself, I too
thought he had changed."

"So what do I do now, I have to have a trial, and if he is
found guilty--or should I say when he is found guilty--what
do I do with him? I can't just confine him to his quarters,
not for treason. The only option available to me is to
imprison him in the brig for the next twenty-five years."

"Captain, incoming message from the Lynicans," Harry
announced blandly.

The Captain and the Commander immediately got to their feet
and headed toward the bridge.

"Put the message through, Mr. Kim," Janeway ordered as she
sat down in her chair.

"Alien vessel, this is the Lynican vessel, the Emos, please
come in."

"Emos, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation
starship Voyager. What can we do for you?"

A man looking much like the Lycian who they had seen on the
message buoy greeted her. "Captain, my name is Dur Kalat, It
is my duty to inform you that we intercepted a message sent
from someone on your ship to Croydos. From the contents of
the message, that member of your crew is guilty of war crimes
against Lynic."

Janeway sighed, she had hoped that she could deal with Paris
herself and not involve any of the aliens.

"I am aware of that message, and we are taking measures on
this ship to see that the guilty party is punished
appropriately."

"Then once that person is found guilty, you'll release that
person to us?" the Kalat questioned.

"To you?"

"According to our laws, by attempting to abet the other side,
a war crime has been committed. This is punishable by the
laws of the aggrieved side. In order words, we have come to
take this person back with us to serve their sentence."

"Which would be what?"

"Ten years hard labor in one of our mines on the colony world
of Lynic IV. Which is fortunate, for if the message had
gotten through to Croydos, the sentence would be twenty
years," the alien replied.

"Dur Kalat, I respect your position but I need time though to
confer with my senior staff. Can I contact you in say, two
of our hours?"

Dur Kalat nodded, his scales on his head shimmered under the
lights on his bridge. "That would be acceptable, but no
longer if you want to leave this region of space without
conflict. For let me warn you, Captain, though my ship is
much smaller than your Voyager, fifty Lynican ships could
inflect serious damage to your vessel."



Janeway discussed the situation with Tuvok and Chakotay in
her ready room. Just before the agreed upon time, a grim
faced Captain emerged with her First Officer and Chief of
Security following.

"Mr. Kim, hail Kalat."

"Aye, Captain," Harry responded. Soon Kalat's face was back
on their view screen.

"Captain Janeway, you were true to your word," complimented
the alien captain. "You have come to a decision?"

"Yes, I have. I have spoken with my senior officers and we
have agreed to turn the guilty person over to you." A
collective gasp could be heard from the other crew members on
the bridge. "That is, if we can determine his guilt."

"But Captain Janeway, I'm warning . . ."

"I heard your warning, sir," Janeway said holding up her
hand. "But please I ask that you be patient just a little bit
longer. It is not my attention to ignore your justice.
According to our own laws though, we need to conduct a trial
here on the ship. You, of course, will be welcome to
attend."

Dur Kalat relaxed a bit, he did like this alien captain. She
seemed to be an honest sort and very direct. "Very well,
when do you plan on conducting this trial?"

"Tomorrow morning. We'll contact you in time for you to be
beamed over to our ship. Of course, you are welcome to bring
a couple members of your own staff with you."

"You are very kind," Kalat replied. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Janeway merely nodded and ended the transmission.


Chapter 5

"Mr. Paris," Tuvok intoned standing in front of the pilot who
stood at attention. "It is the decision of this panel that
you are guilty of attempted treason."

"Noooo!!!! Noooo!!!!" B'Elanna stood up and screamed from the
back of the room. Harry pulled her back to her seat and she
sobbed openly upon his shoulder while he patted her back.

Tom stood tall and proud, and his gaze never left the
Vulcan's. Surely, Tom thought, this had to be some type of
nightmare. He had never sent a message like that, he never
would send a message like that. Yet when they played the
transmission, he himself had to agree that it sounded like
him. When Harry testified, the somber ensign was forced to
admit that according to his review of the audio files, that
the message matched his friend's voice pattern exactly.

But the worst thing of all for Tom was to see a strangely
quiet B'Elanna sitting in the back of the room in a daze
during everyone's testimony. Then the time came for Tom to
testify. The pilot swore his innocence and looked at his
love trying desperately to send a silent message to her that
he was guiltless of the charge. Their eyes locked for a
moment, deep brown eyes seeking the sky blue eyes of the man
on the stand. She knew at that moment, what she had expected
all along, Tom was telling the truth.



Janeway approached her former Chief Pilot after Tuvok
proclaim the judgement, her face betraying no emotion as she
had been trained in Starfleet. She reached up to Paris'
collar and removed his rank and detached his commbadge from
his uniform. "Tuvok, please return Mr. Paris to the brig,
while I take care of some business with Dur Kalat."


Tom sat on the edge of his bunk in the brig and across from
him in another cell, Chet Tacna gloated.

"So, Paris, you don't look so happy," he taunted. "What's
the matter, you have to go to bed early without any cookies?"
Chet laughed at the scowl that formed on Paris' face.

"No, Chet," the guard said, gladly relating Tom's miseries to
the other prisoner. "Our *Mr.* Paris here has been found
guilty of attempted treason and has been sentenced to ten
years hard labor on an alien planet."

"Ten years?" Chet questioned. "Is that all?"

The guard nodded.

"Hmmmm. Ten years doesn't sound too bad when you're faced
with life imprisonment." Chet thought for a while and came
to a quick decision. "Smansek," he said calling to the
guard. "Can you tell Tuvok that I'd like to speak with him?"

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

"So you're telling me that Chet Tacna wants the option to
serve time in an alien prison rather than staying on
Voyager?" she asked her Chief of Security.

"That's what he told me, Captain." Tuvok walked around the
table in the Captain's ready room to join Janeway near the
windows. "He was adamant. I don't have to tell you that
with him off Voyager it solves a couple of problems. We
don't have a permanent prisoner on board and with Tacna gone
it eliminates any remote chance of him using his mental
powers against anyone again on the ship."

Janeway nodded. "So it is your opinion that if the Lynicans
will have him to let him go?"

"It is only logical. It is what he wants and it benefits
Voyager."

"Very well then, if the Lynicans want him, he's theirs.
Please talk to Kalat and see if it's possible."

"Aye, Captain."



After his meeting with Dur Kalat, Tuvok received permission
to let Tacna accompany Paris to the prison. And after that,
the unlikely pair paid a trip to Sickbay and were implanted
with the part of the commbadge that contained the universal
translator behind their ears. Paris and Tacna, manacled, now
stood, accompanied by a security contingent, just inside the
transporter room.

They were just about to step up on the transporters platform,
when a bedraggled B'Elanna Torres burst into the room. Two
of the security guards quickly grabbed her by her arms.
"Captain, please let me speak to Tom before he leaves.
Please." B'Elanna pleaded.

A grim faced Captain nodded and replied. "Let her go."

B'Elanna pulled her arms away from the men who had held her.

"Five minutes, B'Elanna. The Lynicans are waiting," Janeway
explained.

"That's all the time I need." B'Elanna walked over to Tom and
pulled him over to the side of the room.

"B'Elanna, I wish you wouldn't have come. I don't want you
to see me like this," Tom told her holding up his wrists to
show her the manacles.

B'Elanna reached up and caressed Paris' cheek with the palm
of her hand. She didn't care who was looking, she had come
to see Tom and no matter how large the audience it wasn't
going to stop her. "I would have come sooner Tom, but I was
going over that message. I wanted to prove your innocence
before you were beamed off the ship," the half-Klingon
explained. "I know you're innocent."

"Then you and I are the only ones," he replied sadly.

"It looks like whoever did it knew what they were doing," he
replied sadly.

"Trust me, I'll prove that your not guilty. It's just going
to take me longer than I had hoped it would."

Tom shook his head. "I don't know if anyone can do that,
'Lanna. Whoever framed me did a good job--they seemed to
have thought of everything."

"Ssssh. Trust me. I'll be back for you. You're my love.
Kiss me, Tom, before you leave?"

Tom bent his head and tasted her sweet lips for what might be
the last time. B'Elanna kissed him back with a passion that
even surprised the pilot. Her tongue sought out his own,
until finally she broke away and kissed him up along his jaw
line until she reached his ear.

"Tom?"

"Yes?"

"Do you love me?" B'Elanna asked her lips and warm breath
tickling his ear.

"Of course I love you. I'll never stop loving you. I'll
carry you in my heart forever. No one could ever take your
place."

"I love you too, Tom. Forever." She kissed him on his ear.
"Trust me, Tom, I've been waiting a long time to do this."
With a quick, decisive movement, she bit him on his cheek.

The people in the transporter room were startled by
B'Elanna's actions, but none more so that the one who was
bit.

"B'Elanna? Why?"

B'Elanna turned her eyes towards the familiar blue eyes of
her lover. She lovingly and tenderly stroked his cheek that
she had just bitten wiping away the blood. "I've marked you
Tom. You're mine forever. Nothing, not even death will keep
us apart. You're my tIqwIj, my beloved."

"It's time to go," Tuvok reluctantly announced. Even the
Vulcan was loathe to part the two lovers. The guards came
forward and grabbed Tom and escorted him to the transporter
pad.

"Trust me, Tom, I'll find you innocent. We'll be back."

Tom nodded and just before the transporter beam enveloped him
he said. "I love you, 'Lanna. Forever."


Chapter 6

Paris and Tacna were beamed to the alien ship and placed in
their brig. After a few days, the ship had reached it's
destination--Lycian IV. The pair were shuttled down to the
planet and processed, before being shown to the prison
itself.

To call it a prison would bring up images of orderly rows of
cells in a stark building, but what greeted the former
crewmembers of Voyager was nothing more than a deep, dirty
hole in the ground, only accessible by two steep well-guarded
stairways to the main level. The guards brought Paris and
Tacna down one of the stairways and to their assigned bunks.
The other prisoners, never having seen humans before, were
very curious about the new residents. The other prisoners
were mostly men, but there were a few women who occupied the
prison as well, almost all of them where Croydosians.

"Welcome to the prison of Lynic IV," the guard stated
grandiosely. "There is no escape from here. Here you will
work and live, and if you are fortunate and survive you will
be released at the end of your sentence." The other guards
laughed. The one that had been speaking merely smiled at the
apparent inside joke. "If you disobey, you will be punished.
You and you," he said pointing at two of the guards,
"demonstrate."

The other guards who hadn't been selected grabbed the new
prisoners by their arms and held them firm. The two selected
guards grabbed what looked to be a rod or pole that had been
secured to their waists. Pushing a glowing button in the
middle of the rod, both of the ends extended. They raised
the rods over their heads and brought them down across Paris'
and Tacna's backs.

If the sensation of the force of the blow wasn't enough, as
soon as contact was made, an electric-type charge surged
through Tom and Chet's bodies. The pair screamed in pain and
their knees buckled. If it wasn't for the guards holding
them they would have collapsed to the ground.

"As you can see the correction rods are quite affective," the
guard boasted.

The laughing guards threw Tom and Chet to the ground and went
back to their duties.


The following day, a loud alarm woke the prisoners. Each of
whom received a block of food to eat and a container of
water. Then they were brought to the area of the mine that
they were assigned to work for the day. The first day Chet
and Tom worked apart each assigned to a different area of the
mine. It was hard work, carrying the heavy ore from where a
machine removed it from the walls to large containers. At
their break time in the middle of the day, Tom sat down
wearily next to some of the other prisoners. The pilot's
face and hands where dirty, sweat ran in rivulets from his
forehead through the dirt on his face to land on the clothes
that were already drenched with perspiration.

"First day, huh?" an old man with light purple hair
interspersed with white asked.

"Yep," Tom replied, taking a large swig of water from his
container. "My name's Tom Paris, what's yours?"

"It's good to meet you Tom Paris. My name is Hayten, but
everyone calls me just 'old man.' You see I've been here the
longest. I've been here eight years."

Tom almost stopped breathing, "Only eight years? My sentence
is for ten."

"Well you're strong, you might make it," Hayten didn't have
the heart to tell the newcomer that in eight years he'd never
saw anyone leave the prison. "Just watch out for the fumes."

"Fumes?" Tom choked.

"Yep, if you see any yellow fumes coming from the ore, try
not to breathe them in. They'll make you sick, in fact they
can be quite deadly. We call it the 'yellow death.' It
doesn't bother the Lynicans, just everybody else it seems."

"So is that why I'm feeling strange?"

"What are your symptoms?"

"I feel like I've got a fever and my stomach is upset."

"Could be, but usually the symptoms don't show up for a
couple of weeks, but with you being a . . ."

"Human." Tom supplied.

". . . being a human it might affect you sooner than
Croydosians."

"Thanks for the advice. I'll try to avoid those fumes."

"Good. Here come the guards," the old man slapped him
lightly on the shoulder. "It's back to work my friend."



That evening when they had been returned to the 'hole' and
had been given a meager meal, Tom related his conversation
with Hayten to Tacna.

"Why are you bothering to tell me?" Tacna snapped.

"I just thought that you should know," Tom replied. "Look I
know that you don't like me and I don't like you either after
what you pulled, but . . ."

"Just leave me alone, Paris. The less I have to do with you
while I'm here, the better off I'll be." Tacna then turned
his back on his former crewmate and finished his meal.

Tom was about to get up to find Hayten to talk to when he
noticed a pair of innocent green eyes looking at him from
behind one of the bunks. They looked like they belonged to a
child. He smiled at the green eyes and left to go find the
old man.

Tom soon found the old man leaning up beside the wall of the
hole, still clutching his container of water.

"I told the other human, what you told me about the fumes.
Thanks," Tom said. For what good it did.

The old man nodded.

"Tell me, Hayten, how come you're here in this place?"

The old man took a swig of the water. He described how the
Lynicans stormed into his village and abducted most of the
residents.

"Including the children?" Tom asked. As if on cue, the pair
of green eyes peered out from behind a large rock in the
human's direction. Tom caught the movement in the corner of
his eye and turned and winked at the green eyes. Green eyes
ducked down so they wouldn't be seen. "Like that one?" Tom
asked nodding in the direction of the large rock.

"Oh, that's Tiri," the old man explained with a laugh. "She
was captured along with the rest of us. Fortunately, the
other children where able to escape, but Tiri was always too
curious for her own good. We all try and watch out for her."
Hearing her name, the little girl peered out again from
behind the rock. "Tiri, come here and sit with me."

The little girl shook her head.

"He won't bite little one. Come here and sit with me."

Cautiously, the green-eyed girl came out from behind the rock
and crept up to the old man and sat on his right side away
from the human.

The old man ruffled the purple hair on the child's head.
"This is Tiri, Tom Paris," he explained. It seemed like the
Croydosians never said just 'Tom' it was always 'Tom Paris.'

To Tom, she looked somewhere between six and seven in human
years. She was very thin and was dressed in a yellow stained
dress.

"Tiri, say hello to Tom Paris."

The little girl tucked herself under the old man's arm for
protection and shook her head never taking her eyes off the
human.

"What's wrong, Tiri?" Hayten asked.

Tiri looked up at the old man and said just one word.
"Eyes."

"Eyes? . . . Oh, eyes." He turned his attention to Tom.
"Tiri is afraid of you because of your eyes," he explained.

"My eyes?"

The Lynicans have blue eyes," he said simply.

"Oh, well I'm not a Lynican, Tiri--look," the human said
ruffling his fair hair. "no scales."

The little girl couldn't help herself and grinned.

Tom frowned at Tiri. "I'm not used to this type of reaction,
Tiri. Usually the ladies love a man with blue eyes where I
come from. In fact there's one lady. . ." he took a deep
breath, paused, fingered the crescent shaped bite mark, and
shut his eyes as tears began to fall. B'Elanna loved his blue
eyes, he remembered, she said that she could never get tired
of looking at them. Gods, I miss her.

He was startled when a small hand touched his wet face. He
opened his eyes. Little Tiri stood before him her face
solemnly reflecting his pain. Her sad face made the pilot
smile a little.

"Sad?" Tiri asked.

Tom nodded.

Tiri tilted her head waiting for the explanation.

"Yes, Tiri, I'm sad. I love a lady that I may never see
again. She always said that she loved looking at my eyes."

"I know how you feel, I'm sad too. I'll never see my Mommy
or Daddy again. They're dead," the little girl explained in a
small, sad voice.

Hayten, looked lovingly at the girl and pulled her into his
arms for a comforting hug. "Tiri, isn't it time for you to
go to bed?"

Tiri nodded her head, bade both men goodnight, and left.

"Lovely little girl, Hayten. It's too bad she's in here."

"We've asked the guards to send her back to Croydos but they
won't, so she spends the day here in the hole. She does her
best to help the injured and keep out of the way of the
guards. They hate children."


Chapter 7

The Captain sat in her ready room, the senior staff
surrounded her, ready for the morning briefing. One thing
was missing--B'Elanna.

Finally, ten minutes late for the meeting, B'Elanna came into
the room. All eyes focused on her. She looked around and
then noticed that she was late.

"Sorry, Captain," she said and found her seat next to Harry
and sat down.

"B'Elanna, this is becoming a habit as of late. I would
appreciate it--in fact we all would--if you could show up to
these meetings on time," the Captain replied icily. Janeway
hated meetings as much as anyone and like to get them out of
the way in the morning.

"I'm sorry Captain, it's just that I was up late last night
and early this morning."

Janeway then noticed that B'Elanna wasn't looking her usual
healthy self. Her cheeks were sunken somewhat and her face
appeared pale. "Are you *still* investigating Paris'
transmission to Croydos?"

The Chief Engineer looked at her without flinching, her
mother would have been proud. "Yes, Captain. And I'll
continue to investigate that sham of a message until I find
out the truth," she answered boldly.

"B'Elanna. . ." she warned.

"Captain, I *know* Tom's innocent." Harry nodded his head
expressing his belief that his friend wasn't guilty. "He
couldn't and wouldn't have done that. He valued his life
onboard Voyager. He told me many times that he had come to
think of Voyager as his home and all of you as his family.
He wouldn't jeopardize that, Captain. Not for anything. And
besides. . ."

"And besides what?" Janeway questioned.

"Well--ah--it's a Klingon thing Captain."

"Explain."

"My mother told me once that a Klingon can always tell if her
mate is lying. I never believed her until now. But now I
know. Tom wasn't lying. I'd stake my life on that."

The Captain rose to her feet and began to pace the ready
room, one hand on her hip and the fingertips of her other
hand on her chin, obviously in deep thought. "B'Elanna, what
is the status of the warp core and Engineering?"

The Chief Engineer was surprised at the change in topic.
"Um, the warp core is operating at peak efficiency and
Engineering is running flawlessly."

Janeway turned to face her. "Then there is no apparent
necessity for you to report to Engineering until further
notice?"

Oh Kahless, what have I done now? The blasted Klingon
temper always did get me into trouble.

"No, Captain. With the current status of the ship, I'm sure
Joe Carey could handle things with no problem."

"Then I see no need for you to be in Engineering when you
should really be concentrating on stellar communications. Do
you?"

B'Elanna, smiled at the implication. "No, Captain, not at
all."

"In fact, I'm sure Mr. Hansen could handle things at the opps
station for a while. Don't you Mr. Kim?"

"Yes, Captain," Harry replied promptly.

"Well then I guess you two have a lot to accomplish.
Commander please bring ship's speed down to impulse until
further notice. If any of the Lynicans or Croydosians
question the drop of speed, be creative, make up something.
Also this is to be kept confidential only the people in this
room will know what B'Elanna and Harry are doing."

The rest of the people presented nodded in understanding.

"As far as anyone knows...they will be working on . . ."

"Improvements to the interstellar communications grid?"
Chakotay suggested.

Janeway smiled at her First Officer. "Very good. Dismissed."


Chapter 8

The next several days, Tom worked the mines, trying to avoid
the fumes, though he was not always successful. Some days he
even worked along side Tacna, but that was worse than working
with the aliens. Tacna never spoke to him, just glared.

At night, Tiri would seek Tom out, crawl up on his lap, and
he would tell her stories. Hayten had also taken to
listening to the tales. Tom told of earth and how beautiful
it was from space. How at a distance it looked like a blue
star and up closer you could see its blue water and green
land masses. He explained how different the land looked on
the planet itself with its deserts and jungles to its cold
arctic areas to tropical climates.

Tiri asked about his life back on earth, and he told her,
making sure only to tell her the positive things that had
happened in his life. He told of all the races that lived
there in harmony and how no one suffered from hunger. The
little girl asked about his parents and Tom told her of his
father and that he was an important man back home. And he
even told her how his own mother had died when he was not
much older than her. To Tiri it made Tom sound like a
romantic prince from a fairy tale. She enjoyed hearing the
human's stories every night. It was the one thing that she
looked forward to all day.

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

B'Elanna grumbled and Harry sighed. They examined the
message for the two hundred and thirty-second time since they
had started and were still no closer to proving Tom innocent.
Both knew that if they didn't come up with an answer soon, it
would be too late.

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

Janeway walked past the security station, nodded to Tuvok,
and walked around the railing and finally sat down in her
command chair next to the First Officer. She hated traveling
at impulse, it always made her feel that she was going
nowhere.

"Morning, Captain." Chakotay greeted the Captain. "Any
progress in Stellar Communications?" he added quietly so he
wouldn't be overheard.

"I haven't heard, I haven't even seen B'Elanna or Harry.
Have you?" she whispered.

Chakotay pondered the question. "You know, now that I think
of it, I don't recall seeing either B'Elanna or Harry since
they were assigned to Stellar Communications."

"Please see that the Doctor checks on them, Chakotay. I
don't want them working themselves so hard that they become
ill."

He nodded.


Chapter 9

The Doctor opened the door to Stellar Communications and
immediately wished that he hadn't. B'Elanna was pacing and
swearing in Klingon and Harry sat before the computer screen
with his head in his hands.

"Hello!" the EMH called out cheerfully.

B'Elanna growled at the greeting and Harry just sighed.

"Well hello to you too," the Doctor replied sarcastically.
"The Captain asked me to come down and check on you, and I
can see why." He began to wave his medical wand over the
pair. He started to Harry and then scanned B'Elanna. "Uh
huh. . .uh huh . . . ummmm."

B'Elanna pivoted to face him. "What do you mean 'uh huh'?"
she asked belligerently.

The EMH ignored her. "When is the last time either one of
your ate or slept?" he asked.

B'Elanna quickly avoided the EMH's eyes and resumed her
pacing. "Ah . . . I."

Harry looked up at the EMH guiltily. "Well, maybe . . .um .
."

"That's what I thought. You two haven't. Now I'm going to
relieve you from duty and order you to go to your cabins and
get some rest *and* some food," he said quite satisfied with
the solution.

"No, Doctor, you can't!" both B'Elanna and Harry replied in
unison.

"What?"

B'Elanna looked at Harry and crossed her arms in defiance in
front of her chest. "I said that we are not going to go back
to our cabins. If you want to, you can give us a stimulant
so we can stay awake and we'll even eat, but we are NOT
leaving Stellar Communications."

"I know you are trying to exonerate Mr. Paris. The Captain
told me, but. . ."

"But nothing, Doctor."

The Doctor grumbled and resigned himself that they weren't
going to follow his sage advice. He put away the medical
diagnostic wand. "At least tell me, have you made any
progress?"

B'Elanna sighed, sat down next to Harry, and pivoted the
computer screen to the Doctor's direction. The screen
displayed a colorful graphic representation of the suspect
recording.

"No progress at all. The message seems to be genuine. If a
message were faked, then normally we would see some type of
discrepancy between the words. Like here, here, and maybe
here," she pointed at a couple of areas on the screen. "But
there's nothing." She threw her hands up in defeat and
leaned back in her chair. It was looking more and more like
she'd never see Tom Paris again.

"I beg to differ, Lieutenant," the EMH replied seriously.
"There is a slight fluctuation between some of the words.
Like after the word 'personal.'

"Where?" Harry said suddenly sitting up straighter in his
chair. "We didn't see anything."

"Well, they are right here and here," the EMH reiterated
pointing at the areas on the screen.

Harry and B'Elanna looked at the Doctor in disbelief. They
still didn't see a thing.

"Computer, increase the modulating frequency of the test
parameters to 0.35 megatrems," the Doctor ordered.

The screen flickered, and there before them the computer
displayed the proof that they had been looking for and had
tried for days to uncover--several areas where there were
indeed disruptions in the flow of words.

"Doctor, you're a genius!!! Thank you!!" B'Elanna squealed.
She hugged the surprised EMH and soudnly kissed him on the
cheek.

"Your welcome," the EMH replied blushing fluorescently as
only a hologram could.

"Come on Harry, let's go tell the Captain."

B'Elanna and Harry transferred the information to the Ready
Room computer and left Stellar Communications, smiling for
the first time in days.

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

The guards moved Tom and Tacna into another section of the
mine that the prisoners referred to as the Death Chamber, a
few days later. Even the guards were aware of the reason
behind the title for this area of the mine, and limited the
amount of time the prisoners worked there before they
transferred them back to one of the less dangerous areas.

When Tom entered the Chamber that day for the first time, he
could see how it came by the name. The yellow fumes from the
ore just couldn't be avoided, they hung thickly in the stale
air. With every breath, you couldn't help but inhale the
noxious odor of the gas.

The first day after working there, he and Chet came back to
the 'hole' pale and shaky. Both where sick to their
stomachs, they couldn't even keep down the food that had been
given to them. Hayten and Tiri looked after the two when
they returned to the 'hole.' Neither had ever seen the gas
affect anyone else as strongly or as quickly as it did the
humans.

Tiri hovered near Tom all night, wiping his brow, holding the
pail for him to vomit in, and later telling him to sleep with
whispered promises that he would feel better in the morning.
It was a lot for a little girl to do. For the first night in
a week, there were no stories--no tales of the distant planet
of the blue water that she had grown to love.


Chapter 10

Feeling somewhat better the next morning the humans were
again led from the 'hole' and back to the accursed Chamber.
Being sick the night before made working the next day very
difficult for the humans. It was hard to keep up with the
pace that the guards demanded. Several times the correction
rod had found its mark on their backs. So by the time the
pair was returned back to the 'hole' that evening, not only
were they pale and sick from the fumes, they had sores and
lacerations along their backs that needed to be treated as
well.

Tiri carefully attended her friend and Tom was grateful for
her help. She told him that they wouldn't be in the Death
Chamber much longer before the guards would move them to
another area. For that he was grateful, and hoped that he
could last that long.

As Tiri cleaned his wounds, he rewarded her with tales of the
animals of earth, of the giraffe with its ridiculously long
neck to the elephant with its equally ridiculously long nose.
The little girl laughed trying to imagine the animals while
she wrapped his back in her supply of bandages. She would
dream of these animals during the night and wish that she
lived on this earth.

It was Tiri's laughter that he thought of that night as he
himself drifted off to sleep. Soon though, in his dreams,
Tiri's laughter changed, deepened, and became more familiar.
He could see B'Elanna before him laughing at one of his
jokes. He loved it when she laughed. Her brown eyes had
glimmered with delight and reflected the happiness that she
had not known for a long time.


Chapter 11

Neelix sat as straight and tall as he could on a chair in the
Captain's cabin. The Captain paced back and forth in front
of him, every once in a while pausing, before again resuming
her pacing.

No one, not even Mr. Vulcan, made him feel like he was still
a spotless boy like the Captain did. All she had to do was
to look at him in that commanding way she did and he felt he
was back on Talaxia, a little boy caught doing something he
shouldn't.

So what did I do now? I know, maybe it was the spreta
quiche I made last week, seven people had to go to the
infirmary to be treated for gastrointestinal complications.
Or maybe, it was the time yesterday that I hugged Mr.
Vulcan.

Finally the Captain stopped pacing and took a seat across
from her Morale Officer.

"Mr. Neelix, I have something I need to ask you to do that is
of the utmost importance."

The nerves that the Talaxian was feeling were now replaced
with a flustered feeling of importance.

"Anything I can do you for you, Captain. All you have to do
is ask. You can count on me."

Janeway smiled. "I was hoping you'd say that. Now I know
that you are aware of the circumstances that led to Mr. Paris
being accused of treason and removed from this ship."

"Yes, Captain--an unfortunate thing."

"New information has come to light that establishes Mr.
Paris' innocence." Neelix's eyes lit with joy. "But the only
problem is, is that we don't know who the guilty person or
persons might be. This is where you come in."

"I'm listening, Captain," Neelix promised, leaning forward in
the chair to make sure that he caught every word.

"Lt. Torres and Ensign Kim have been investigating the
message that was sent from Mr. Paris' cabin to the
Croydosians. They have uncovered evidence that proves Mr.
Paris' innocence."

"Oh, Captain! This is wonderful news!" Neelix exclaimed.

"Yes, Neelix it is, except for the fact that if Mr. Paris
didn't send the message, someone else did with the vicious
intent to incriminate the Lieutenant. So, we have to find
out who that person or persons are. This is were you come
in."

"I'm at you service!"

"What we would like you to do is just let the word be known
during the next meal that you found out that B'Elanna and
Harry aren't working on improvements to the interstellar
communications grid, but are in fact examining the message
that was sent from Voyager to the Croydosians. Tell them
that you found out that by the end of the day they should
know who really sent the message to the aliens. Do you think
you could do that?"

"Of course, Captain. It would be an honor. Now let's see,
I'll make sure to tell Chell, he never can keep a secret, and
then there's . . . ."

"That's the idea, Mr. Neelix. Spread the word to people you
know who will talk, but be subtle. I can't stress that
enough." Gods, I can't believe that I am asking Neelix to be
subtle. "No one can suspect that we are out to set a trap. I
knew I could count on you."

"Always at your service, Captain!"

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

"But Doctor, Harry and I would have taken a break
eventually," B'Elanna growled, making sure that she could be
heard, as she and Harry were pushed into the mess hall by the
EMH.

"You two have hardly had a bite to eat in two days, and I
don't even want to know when it was the last time you slept,"
the Doctor chided the pair.

Harry looked at the people in the dining area that were
paying attention to them, which were in fact everyone there,
and then back to the Doctor. "If we eat a meal and then
catch a little sleep, then can we go back to what we were
doing?"

"We'll see, we'll see." Forget opera, I think I'll try my
hand at acting next, the Doctor mused.

Harry and B'Elanna each got a meal from Neelix, who smiled
broadly at them. Found a table in the middle of the dining
area and sat down with the EMH, still grumbling at their
predicament.

Harry whispered to B'Elanna, but not so low that he couldn't
be heard by a nearby table. "B'Elanna, I tell you, just one
more tweak and I'll know who it is. If we could just get rid
of our *chaperone* then I'm sure that we'd ..."

"Sssssh!! Do you want everyone to know?" B'Elanna snarled as
quietly, but not too quietly, and went back to nibbling at
her meal half-heartedly like they had planned. They had to
stretch out their meal and then reluctantly go back to their
cabins to rest so Tuvok and Chakotay could *hopefully* catch
the culprit or culprits.


Tuvok sat with the First Officer in the Jeffries tube that
exited in Stellar Communications and they waited. Thirty
minutes went by and then an hour. Still they waited.

"Do you think they'll take the bait?" the Indian asked the
Chief of Security.

"It is only logical that as long as they heard the 'gossip'
that was spread that . . ."

The sound of metal on metal could be heard as well as muffled
voices. Tuvok and Chakotay looked at each other, both ready
to act.

They could hear the sound of the door locking mechanism being
tampered with and the sound of footsteps entering the room.

"Hurry, Lars," Rich said quietly. "Get that information out
of the computer and . . . ."

"Stop. Hold your positions!" Tuvok yelled opening the hatch
to the Jeffries tube. Lars, Rich, and Carag reacted quickly
and fled the room and sped down the corridor.

"Computer lock onto Henniken, Nensen, and Polen's commbadges
and beam them directly to the brig," Chakotay yelled as they
followed the trio out the door and down the hall.

Acknowledged.

"Brig to Commander Tuvok."

Tuvok slapped his commbadge as he ran. "Tuvok here."

"Sir, three commbadges beamed into the brig, but that was
all."

"They obviously planned the whole thing," Chakotay observed
as they turned the corridor and found that the turbolift was
already moving.

"Computer, terminate progress of turbolift 13C and return it
to Deck Five," Tuvok ordered.

Acknowledged the female voice of the computer stated.

Almost immediately the turbolift doors opened but there was
no one inside. Entering the lift, they ordered the lift to
take them as its previous stop. In a moment the doors opened
on Deck Eleven.

"They must be heading to the shuttlebay," Chakotay exclaimed.

Tuvok nodded. "Computer, place a security lock-down on all
shuttlebays."

Unable to comply. The security measures have been
bypassed.

"Damn, let's hurry, Tuvok, perhaps we can still catch them."

Just as they entered Shuttlebay One, the familiar sound of
the vacuum protection grid activated and the Lindbergh
launched into space carrying with it Henniken, Nensen, and
Polen.

"Captain, they got away," Tuvok informed Janeway.

Janeway nodded, the ball was now in her court. "Harry, can
you get a tractor beam on them?"

"I'll try, Captain," Harry's nimble fingers played across his
screen, but was not successful. "Someone has disabled the
all tractor beams," he informed her. "Probably Rich Nensen,
he works in Engineering."

"And the weapons?"

Harry checked his console again. "Also off-line, Captain."

"B'Elanna?" the Captain hailed.

"Aye, Captain," her Chief of Engineering answered.

"We need to bring the tractor beams and weapons array on line
immediately."

"I'm already working on it, but it looks like whoever did
this really knew that they were doing. It'll take hours to
bring them back up and running."

"Options?" the Captain asked just as her First Officer and
her Chief of Security entered the bridge.

"Captain, there is a Lynican vessel approaching, it is
hailing the shuttle," Harry piped up.

"Lynican vessel, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway."

"Captain Janeway, I see we meet again," Dur Kalat quipped.
"Why have you launched a vessel?"

"I gave no permission to launch a vessel," the people on
board that shuttle are the ones who are actually responsible
for the message that was sent from Voyager to Croydos and not
Tom Paris. We were . . ."

The communication line between the two ships went dead. From
the viewscreen the bridge could see the Lynican ship close on
the small shuttle.

"I'm patching through their audio signal, Captain." Harry
informed. Janeway nodded.

"Alien vessel, surrender, or you will face dire
consequences," Dur Kalat warned the trio on the shuttle.

Tuvok looked up briefly from his instrument panel. "Captain,
the Lindbergh is powering up their weapons. I believe that
they intend to fire upon the Lynican vessel."

"Open up a frequency to the Lindbergh, Harry."

"Aye, Captain."

"Lindbergh, this is Captain Janeway. Power down your weapons
immediately. . ."

"Not on your life!" Lars spat back, and severed
communications.

The Lindbergh fired its phasers at the Lynican vessel and
immediately the alien ship answered back with a powerful
volley of energy projectiles.

A blinding flash lit the viewscreen and after the brightness
faded all that could be seen of what was the Lindbergh were
tiny pieces of debris.

"Life signs?" Janeway queried solemnly.

Harry spoke. "None."


Chapter 12

The prison alarm awoke Tom the next morning. He groaned and
gingerly got up off the pallet he had slept on fitfully
during the night. He ate his meager breakfast, hoping that
it would stay down, and joined Tacna along with a group of
men who were scheduled to work the Chamber again. All were
soon taken by the guards to their work assignments.

"It's all your fault you know!" Tacna spat as they trudged
along toward the Chamber.

"How do you figure that?" Tom snapped back.

"If you hadn't sent the Croydosians that message, then none
of this would be happening," he hissed.

"I didn't send a message to anyone, I was framed," Tom
snarled. "And besides it was your idea to leave the brig."

The guard pushed Tacna ahead of Tom. Entering the Chamber,
Tacna was assigned an area on the far side of the entrance
where the ceiling was low. Tom being taller than Chet was
assigned an area where his height would be an advantage.

Just before their mid-day meal break, the trembling began.
Bits and pieces from the caverns walls and ceiling came
tumbling down. Growing up in the San Francisco area, Tom
knew in an instant what it meant--earthquake!

Tom crouched next to the wall his arms over his head, trying
to protect himself from the falling rubble. When the shaking
stopped and the dust cleared from the stale air, many of the
prisoners lay injured. Tom himself lay unconscious half-
buried beneath a pile of debris.

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

The Captain turned toward the communication station. "Harry,
what is our ETA to Lycian IV?"

"At our present speed, Captain, four days," the happy ensign
replied.

Janeway nodded and turned back to face her First Officer.
"I'm glad that we were able to convince the Lynican
government to return Tom to us."

"They seemed fairly reasonable once you explained the
situation. But they might have agreed sooner if they had
known the rage of an half-Klingon." Chakotay explained with
a grin.

"That sounds rather mild."

"Well, I'd was going to say something else but after all, we
are on the bridge."

Janeway laughed. Chakotay thought that it had been a long
time since he heard that delightful sound.

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

Tom was eventually dug out of the rubble and, by the grace of
God, only received bruises and abrasions from the rocks that
had fallen on him. The guards had brought him back to the
'hole' and the old man and Tiri, tended the human once again.

When he finally awoke it was in the middle of the night, he
was stricken by a severe bout of nausea brought on by
inhaling the 'yellow death' in the Chamber. Tumbling from
the bed in search of the ever present bucket, he woke Tiri
who lay beside his bunk on the ground.

"Tom Paris, I'll get the bucket you get back to bed," the
little girl threatened.

"Too late," he gasped. His fingers found the edge of the
bucket in the dimly lit prison and brought it up underneath
his chin. He threw up until nothing came out, then he dry
heaved until he collapsed shakily to the ground. Tiri wet a
rag and wiped his face.

"Better?"

Tom barely nodded. "Wha--what happened?"

The old man awoke hearing his friends speak and joined them.
"You don't remember?" Hayten asked.

"Um, I don't know," Tom thought. He seemed to recall tremors
and rocks falling. "Wait a minute. I remember the ground
shaking." He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled to try
and clear his mind. "I remember thinking that it might be an
earthquake."

"It was," Hayten informed him. "There was a terrible quake.
You were trapped under some rocks that had fallen from the
walls and ceiling of the Chamber."

"I remember. Tacna?" Tom asked.

"He and several other prisoners were caught when the part of
the Chamber they were working in collapsed. He's dead."

Tom nodded, remembered the ceiling falling down upon Tacna
and the group he was working with. So now he was the only
human in this prison of hell.

"You need to sleep, Tom Paris. You inhaled a lot of the
yellow death before they pulled you out," Tiri admonished her
green eyes, even in the dim light, reflected her worry for
her friend. "They will be coming in the morning to take you
to work."

And as Tiri had predicted, the guards did come in the
morning. Being short handed with so many of the prisoners
killed in the quake, they took not only Tom and Hayten, they
even took little Tiri to work the mines.


Chapter 13

"B'Elanna!" Harry called, her name echoed throughout the
labyrinth of Jeffries tubes and maintenance shafts.

The half-Klingon stopped her search momentarily. "Did you
find something, Starfleet?"

"No. B'Elanna, look this is hopeless. We're never going to
find it."

The engineer snarled. "We have to find it. I can't face Tom
without the necklace. He loved me enough to give it to me
and then he gave me that jewelry box. Do you know what is in
the box? Nothing!!!" she roared "So keep on looking, I'm
going down to JT46 and look there."

"But you've looked in that tube twice already." Harry
reminded her.

"Then this will be the *third* time. Do you have a problem
with that?"

Harry knew when to back down. "Nope, not at all I'll keep
looking. Not that I'm going to find anything, he mused,
but at least I'm in one piece.

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

The mine was cold and darker then usual when Tom and Hayten
returned from their labors that night. And they waited for
what seemed like hours before Tiri returned. As soon as the
little girl saw her friends, she ran to them and launched
herself into Tom's welcoming arms.

"We were worried about you, little one," Tom said as he
smoothed back her hair away from her cherubic face. "Hayten
and I were afraid that you got lost in the mine."

Tiri didn't respond but just hugged the human tighter. Tom
responded and embraced her.

"Ouch!" she cried as Tom tightened his hold.

Tom looked at the old man and then back to the girl. "Ouch,
Tiri? Did they hurt you?"

She shook her head yes and tears tumbled down her cheeks.

Tom laid the girl down on his bed and unfastened the back of
her dress to reveal angry, red marks on her back. He
motioned to Hayten to bring the medical rags.

"I tried...to be...go-good, Tom Paris." Tiri said in between
her sobs.

Tom took the rags from the old man and did his best to clean
her up. "I know, sweetie," Tom said soothingly. His heart
broke to see the results of the guards anger.

"She'll learn to hurry next time," the on-duty guard sneered
as he made his rounds and passed by the trio.

Tom threw down the rag and turned to confront him, but Hayten
held him back. "Don't, Tom Paris. It will only make it
worse for you and her. She can't afford to be hit again, and
she'd be crushed if anything happened to you."

"But they hit her, Hayten. Those...beasts hit a little
girl...a third of their size," Tom said, his throat tightened
trying to keep the angry tears at bay.

"I know but it doesn't pay to fight with them, you only end
up dead. Believe me I know, I've seen plenty of my
countrymen perish. Take care of Tiri. Tell her a story.
You know how she loves your stories of earth. You must have a
wonderful imagination to come up with all the things you've
told her. She believes all of them you know."

"I've never lied to her, Hayten. All I've told her was the
truth." Tom was surprised that after all the stories that
the old man had listened to, that he believed them to be
fiction.

The old man shook his head in disbelief. "Tom Paris, how can
what you told her be true. Animals with extra long necks and
noses, a place where people don't want for food, and where so
many different races get along. It just isn't possible."

"It is true," Tiri exclaimed vehemently from the bunk behind
them. "Tell him it's true, Tom Paris."

"It is true, Tiri. Everything I told you was true. I
swear."

Hayten listened to this exchange between the human and the
girl, but his eyes never left the man's. Tom could sense the
old man's gaze upon him and turned to face his Croydosian
friend.

"It's true, Hayten. Everything I said is true. I just wish
that both of you could see it. I just wish that someday I'm
able to return. Return to Earth, to my family, friends, and
most of all to B'Elanna."

The old man nodded. "I believe you, Tom Paris. I can see
the truth in your eyes. I'm sorry I ever doubted you.
Forgive me."

"There is nothing to forgive. You have been a true friend.
But I wish you and Tiri could see Earth, it is beautiful."

"Tom Paris, tell me more," Tiri pleaded almost asleep.

Tom's mind drifted back in time, back to when he was just a
young cadet in Starfleet and he had three days off from the
Academy. He was seeing a lovely a girl with flaming red hair
from the former Canadian Maritimes. "Tiri, have I ever told
you about a place on earth called Prince Edward Island?"

Tiri shook her head and her eyes widened slightly. Hayten
who had left briefly to bring back their food and water
rations distributed their meager meal to his friends and sat
down beside the bunk to listen to another story from the
young man.

"It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, Tiri.
"Actually, it is a simple, quiet place. The ocean that
caresses its shore is deceptively warm in the summer months.
The land is green and the cows that graze in the pastures are
some of the happiest animals I have ever seen. And the
people who live there are friendly and welcoming. I wish you
could see . . ."

The story continued and soon Tiri fell asleep but the old man
remained spellbound listening until the tale was finished.


Chapter 14

"Captain, I can hail the Lynicans now," Harry informed
Janeway from his station.

She stood proudly, glanced to her right, and faced the
viewscreen, she spoke clearly and strongly. "Lycian IV this
is Captain Janeway of the U.S.S. Federation Ship, Voyager."

"Captain Janeway this is Lycian IV, how can we be of
assistance."

"I have come to pick up one of your prisoners--Lt. Tom
Paris."

The person on the viewscreen stuttered. "But...but I have no
authorization to release a prisoner." He had never even heard
of a prisoner being released.

"Durat Mir is it?" Dur Kalat asked as he stepped out beside
Janeway to be seen by the unfortunate officer on Lycian IV.

"Yes, sir!"

"I would suggest that you do as this lady asked. We will be
beaming down in three cycles to the mine. Please have an
escort available to take us to this Tom Paris."

"Yes, sir! Of course, sir!"

Harry severed the communication with a grin.

Janeway turned to her alien counterpart and smiled. "Thank
you Dur. I can't tell you how much I and the crew appreciate
your assistance."

"It is only fair. Lycian justice can be swift and I'm afraid
cruel, but a terrible wrong has been committed that is not
your fault or Tom Paris'. We will correct the error."

"Thank you."

"I will accompany your landing party to the surface. I must
warn you ahead of time that prison of Lynic IV is not
pleasant. I didn't want to tell you before because you would
have only worried needlessly."

Janeway nodded her head indicated that she understood and
tapped her commbadge. "B'Elanna, please join me in
Transporter Room Two in at 0800 tomorrow morning. We're
going to get Tom."

"Aye, Captain." The half-Klingon replied excitedly from her
post in engineering.

"Tuvok, I would appreciate your company and two of your
security guards."

"Yes, Captain."

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

Early the next morning the three was herded off again to work
but this time fortune smiled and Tom, Hayten, and Tiri were
sent to work the same area that day.

They worked hard for a few hours. Tom and Hayten kept a
close eye on Tiri, trying to keep her out of sight of the
guards. After a small break that morning, Tom shared his
food ration with the starving child. He couldn't understand
how the guards could expect this a child to keep up the pace
that the guards demanded. She hadn't worked long and he
could already see that she was starting to tire greatly.
After the break, she rose from her sitting position but
immediately fell back to the ground from exhaustion.

"Up!!!" the guard with a wart on his nose bellowed.

Tom threw down his armful of ore and rushed to the girl's
defense despite Hayten's warnings. "Why don't you pick on
someone your own size!" He bellowed and bent down to comfort
Tiri, who was shaking from fear on the floor of the mine.

The guard grabbed the pilot by the shoulder and threw him
away from the girl, Tom landed heavily against the wall of
the mine. He could feel that at least one but probably more
of his ribs had been broken when his body impacted with the
stone. "You DON'T give me orders, human! And you," he
snarled pointing at the girl. "No time for sleeping, get up
and get to work NOW!!!"

Tiri pulled herself up on her elbows but she didn't have the
strength and collapsed back down to the floor. Hayten tried
to go to her but was stopped by another guard.

"Up!!!" the guard roared again. "Up, now!!!!"

She tried again but again fell.

The guard was shaking in anger and drew his correction rod
and brought it down hard on the girl's back...once...twice...
three times.

Tom clutching his bruised ribs crawled over to Tiri. He
screamed for the guard to stop hitting the child.

"STOP THIS, THIS INSTANT!!!"

The surprised guard turned around to see the source of the
voice. The prison warden angrily marched towards him along
with what looked like five humans.

Tom oblivious of the visitors reached Tiri and pulled her
body up onto his lap and held her lovingly in his arms. His
only thought was to get to the girl and protect her.

The warden growled at the guard and took the correction rod
from him, ordering him to leave the mine and never return.

Janeway, Tuvok, B'Elanna and his security guards watched as
Tom, his back to them, comforted the child. B'Elanna
swallowed hard. He looked much worse than she had imagined,
all of the prisoners looked just terrible, they were all
malnourished, sickly, and dirty. She could tell that he
never would have survived the ten-year sentence.

As B'Elanna approached, she could hear the girl's feeble
voice and Tom's. "To..Tom Paris."

"I'm here Tiri, I'm not...going to...let you go."

Tiri gazed up at the pilot with her beautiful green eyes.
"I...I...love...you," she stammered. Tom gently kissed her
on the forehead. The green eyes blinked once and then twice,
the girl smile ever so slightly, and then the green eyes
closed forever.

"No...no....no!!" Tom cried out over and over clutching the
now dead girl to his chest. "Don't die, Tiri. Don't leave
me!!!!" Tom wept, his heart broke.

A familiar pair of arms encircled him from behind. "Ssssh,
Tom. Ssssh."

It felt like B'Elanna, but it couldn't be B'Elanna, he
thought. The gas had to be playing tricks on his mind. He
continued to sob and buried his head against the small body
he held in his arms.

B'Elanna released him and moved to kneel in front of him.
She reached down and lifted his head up so he could see her.
So he'd know she was real.

"Tom, it's me," she said softly. She looked into the blue
eyes dripping with tears that she thought she would never see
again. "Tom, it's B'Elanna, it's time to go back to
Voyager."

He looked at her in disbelief. "B'Elanna?"

"Yes, Tom. It is me," she lifted his dirty hand and placed
it on her face and moved it up to her forehead where he could
feel her ridges. "It's B'Elanna, tIqwIj. I told you I'd
come back for you."

"B'Elanna."

Hayten pushed his way past the guard. "Tom Paris, I'll take
care of Tiri." The old man picked the child up in his arms.
Hayten looked down at Tiri. "Don't cry for her, my friend,
her soul now walks in peace. She is with her family once
again." With great emotion, he looked at the human. "You
made her last days very happy. For that I am very grateful,
we all are."


Chapter 15

Tom, along with B'Elanna, was immediately transported
directly to Voyager's sickbay. They placed Tom on one of the
biobeds and erected a privacy screen around him. The EMH
waved his medical wand and began his diagnostic examination.

B'Elanna held Tom's hand with her own as if she were afraid
to let him go and his eyes never left her face.

"While you're doing that, can I clean Tom up?" B'Elanna asked
the Doctor.

The EMH looked up from his medical tricorder. "Yes, go
ahead, that's a good idea."

Tom's grip on her hand increased.

"I'm coming right back Tom, I'm just going to get you cleaned
up." Tom released his grip and B'Elanna retrieved the
medical scissors and a wet sponge.

B'Elanna gently cut away his clothing and sponged away the
dirt, grime, and leftover caked on blood. All the while,
Tom's eyes never left her face. He seemed to be carefully
examining her face taking careful note of every feature from
her Klingon ridges and her pert nose to the curl of her hair.

"I'll try and be gentle," B'Elanna explained as she cleaned
his chest. Her heart broke to see how much weight he had
lost while away from Voyager.

Tom nodded but he didn't care. He was home and B'Elanna was
with him.

The door to Sickbay slid open and Kathryn Janeway and her
First Officer entered. The EMH, upon hearing them, finished
his examination and joined them on the other side of the
screen. He explained to him the extent of the Lieutenant's
physical injuries including the malnutrition. The senior
officers listened and were saddened by what the Doctor told
them. He assured them that with his expert medical care and
with time that Tom would recover and soon be back at the
helm.

During the next few days, with the help of B'Elanna and the
Doctor, Tom started to regain his health. Harry visited,
along with Tuvok and Chakotay. Even some crewmembers that he
had assumed disliked him stopped by and surprised him by
wishing him a speedy recovery.

Then one afternoon a somber Captain Kathryn Janeway stopped
by. Tom was sitting up in bed reading from a datapadd that
Harry had left him, trying to catch up on all that had
happened during his time away from the ship.

"Tom, do you mind if I have a seat?" she asked motioning to
the empty chair that was beside his bed.

Paris looked up and was somewhat surprised to see the
Captain. "Of course not, Captain, please have a seat."

"How are you feeling, Lieutenant?"

"Better, much better," he held the datapadd up for her to
look at. "I'm trying to catch up on all the 'gossip' that
happened while I was away. B'Elanna and Harry were very
busy." He smiled at the thought that they had worked so hard
on his behalf.

"They worked almost three days straight, and barely stopped
to sleep or eat. Harry's a fine friend, you couldn't ask for
better." Tom nodded in concurrence. "And B'Elanna loves you
a great deal, Tom."

"I know, Captain, and I love her too." Tom swallowed hard.
"When I was back in that prison and thought that I'd never
see her again, I just wanted to die. It would have been easy
to, but I couldn't. Tiri needed me."

"You miss her." It was a statement not a question.

Tom brought his hands up and wiped away at the dampness in
his eyes. "I miss her very much, I loved that little girl."

"I'm so sorry that she died Tom. I'm also very sorry that I
didn't believe your testimony."

Bright blue eyes locked with the pair of gray. "You
shouldn't be sorry, Captain. Don't be so hard on yourself.
All the evidence pointed to me. Henniken, Nensen, and Polen
were very clever--especially Lars. I'm just grateful that
the truth did come out and you were able to come back for
me."

Kathryn grasped his right hand in her own. "You are very
kind, Tom."

"No, Captain, just honest."


Chapter 16

Two very happy people strode along the red sand beach, hand
in hand. Each was dressed in denim shorts and wore spotless
white t-shirts. B'Elanna wore a red bandana around her neck.
They stopped every once in a while to take note of the
formations of the red rock cliffs that had been eroded by the
wind and the water, and to run through the warm salt water.
Finally as the sun began to set, Tom pulled the half-Klingon
along with him up a set of worn wooden steps to the top of
one of the cliffs. There laid out in the green grass, with a
lovely view of the ocean and beach below, was a white
tablecloth and a picnic basket. Tom helped her sit down on
the cloth and opened the basket. He handed two wine glasses
to B'Elanna and took out a bottle of fine champagne, popped
the cork and filled the glasses. Placing the bottle back in
the basket, he took his glass from B'Elanna and sat down next
to her so they both could enjoy the view and each other.

"This is really beautiful, Tom. So this is what you did to
keep yourself busy while you were healing in Sickbay."

"Thanks, B'Elanna. I'm glad you like it." Tom stared off
into the distance, seemingly at the ocean, but in reality his
mind was focused light years away.

"Tom, are you okay? What are you thinking about?"

"I'm that transparent?"

B'Elanna placed her glass down on the ground and took his out
of his hands and put it down beside hers. She embraced him,
pulling him into her strong arms. "Only because I love you,
Tom. So tell me. What are you thinking about?"

"Tiri."

B'Elanna tightened her arms around the pilot. "I'm sorry
that she died, Tom."

"Me too. Shortly before she died I told her about this
place, about a time I visited Prince Edward Island when I was
still a cadet. To be honest, 'Lanna, I went there with a
girl I was seeing at the time." Tom sighed and kissed
B'Elanna on her forehead. "I don't even remember her name
other than she had red hair. Anyway, Tiri loved my stories
and really seemed to love this place when I described it too
her. I wish she were here with us now. I'd love to see her
playing in the sand and chasing the waves."

"She's here Tom," B'Elanna said and placed her hand against
his chest. "She's in your heart and will be there always."

"Thanks." Tom smiled. "I'm sorry. I meant this to be a
happy time for us, not to be so depressing."

"You need to talk about it, Tom. I understand. Besides you
are my tIqwIj." She traced her fingertip along the almost
invisible crescent scar on his cheek. "I meant it when I bit
you, Tom. You're mine forever."

Tom pulled her close to him and kissed her deeply on the
lips. Their tongues explored each other's mouths. Tom pulled
slightly away from her. "You're mine forever too, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna's dark eyes met his blue ones, each silently and
sincerely avowing their love, their trust. Tom kissed her
forehead, her eyelids, her luscious lips, and quickly and
decisively bit her cheek. "Forever, B'Elanna."

B'Elanna though wasn't surprised by the bite, she had known
by looking into his eyes what he had intended. Tom kissed
her again below the bite and then took a detour, nibbling her
ear lobe before working his way down the side of her neck.
He untied the bandana and pulled it away from her throat.
He nuzzled her neck with a nibble and a kiss.

She groaned with excitement. She loved the way he . . . Her
hand flew up to her bare throat. "Tom, I'm . . . I can't . .
."

"Still haven't found the necklace?" he asked innocently and
proceeded to kiss her throat again.

B'Elanna pushed him away with her hands. "What? What did
you say?"

"I asked if you had found the necklace yet?"

"How did you know. When did you know?"

"I had a pretty good idea you misplaced it when you didn't
wear it to the beach that day. You had always worn it there
before. That's what gave me the idea of the jewelry box for
your birthday. So you'd have some place safe to put it. I'm
just surprised that you haven't found it yet."

"Well we tried, we searched everywhere."

"We?"

"Yeah, Harry and I. We searched all the Jeffries tubes and
the mess hall, as well as just about every public and private
cabin on the ship."

"And you can't find it?" Tom laughed.

"I'm sorry, Tom. You don't know how sorry. I wanted to find
it before you got back."

Tom looked at her trying not to laugh but he couldn't help it
and starting laughing all over again.

"Tom Paris, will you tell me what's so funny?" B'Elanna
demanded.

"Maybe it would be better if I showed you. Computer save
program and display arch."

Tom led B'Elanna out of the holodeck and to the turbolift.
Called for her floor, and stopped in front of her cabin. He
waited for her to request admittance and followed her inside.

"So what is this about, Tom. I've already searched my cabin
at least six times. I didn't find it."

"Then you didn't look in the right place. Did you check the
closet?"

"Of course."

"I bet I can find it," Tom boasted.

B'Elanna crossed her arms in front of her chest in a definite
pose. "Go ahead, flyboy, find it."

Tom stuck his head in the closet and within five minutes
brought out the missing necklace.

"You...you found it?" Tom walked behind her and fastened the
chain around her neck. B'Elanna touched it to confirm that it
was real. "I don't believe it. How?"

"I saw what you did with it. I watched you put it right
where I found it. Piece of cake."

"Which was where?"

Tom looked at her with a well-practice expression of wide-
eyed innocence. "What?"

"I SAID WHERE WAS IT!!!!" she growled.

"Oh...well it was in your pocket."

"My pocket?"

"When you stepped out of the shower that morning--you know
that last night I spent in your cabin--you were in a hurry
because we um...."

"I get the picture."

"And you placed it in your pocket so you could put it on
later."

B'Elanna grim look faded gradually. First her lips drew up a
little bit on each end, then lips opened in a smile and her
teeth showed, and finally she erupted in a full Klingon
laugh. Taking advantage of Tom's position next to her bed,
she pushed him roughly down on the bed.

"Tom Paris, I love you. So let me prove it."

"You want to bite me again?"

"Maybe. Maybe I'll bite you on the cheek, on the neck, and
maybe I'll bite you . . . " she whispered a few other
locations in his ear and he laughed.

"I love you too, B'Elanna. Forever.


The End.


The author, of course, would appreciate hearing from you.
Please e-mail her at kelhapam@lr.net