Many thanks to my betas elara ananke and archaeology!
The array's interior was painted white with pale blues and greys. It looked very sterile, but Chakotay's nose told him otherwise. He gave Vorik a sympathetic look, knowing that the slight stench would be heightened by his Vulcan sense of smell.
"Okay...Harry, Celes. You go off to the right," Chakotay nodded, looking along the corridor they'd found themselves in, "Vorik and I will keep to the left-"
Suddenly they could hear children giggling – and little footsteps. Four or five children ran by, and Chakotay noted they were all Saurian races, and none were humanoid as such. One of the children – a strange creature with four legs and two smaller limbs that were a cross between arms and claws - stopped while the others ran on. The infant, neither appearing male nor female looked at them with brilliant sapphire blue eyes. The child seemed intimidated, backing away.
"It's okay...we're friends," Celes smiled, but as she stepped forward, the creature gasped and yelped, running off down the corridor after it's friends.
"Those other...children with it were all different species, but it was afraid of us," Harry said sadly.
"That doesn't bode well." Celes stated.
"We still need deuterium and those maps," Chakotay looked at her. They couldn't afford to worry right now.
"We'll meet back here within the hour...No later."
Despite the fact that Chakotay was on an away mission, Tom continued his work in sickbay. Doreen was still tending to Andrews, but most of the other casualties had returned to their quarters.
Tom however, had another job to do – inoculations. The Federation knew from their dealings with a species called the Kelvans that Andromeda was a highly radioactive galaxy. Tom had checked external radiation levels as soon as he'd gotten the chance, and was now formulating a vaccine against as many radiations as he could. Disturbingly, there were several forms of radiation present that had never been documented in the Milky Way, and there was no way for Tom or Doreen to anticipate what effects these radiations could have on the crew in either the short or long term.
"I think I'm done with these Doreen," he said to the EMH.
"Thank you Commander."
Tom stared at Doreen for a few seconds, and for not the first time, he missed good ol' Doc. Tom thought of the irony of him missing Voyager's original EMH. Following the holo-revolution, EMHs had had their programming restricted. Doreen was pleasant enough, but she seemed artificial – a facsimile of a person, whereas Doc had grown to become a fully realised individual. Doreen's programming was not adaptive, and she regularly cleaned out her program files without a second thought, deleting all of her memories of personal contact with members of the crew.
If they were going to be stuck out here, he would need to get Harry to tweak her program, or Tom would be serving as First Officer, helmsman, husband, father and doctor to boot.
Doreen obviously wasn't going to review Tom's work anytime soon, so he retreated to the office to update the wounded crew members' medical files.
Chakotay and Vorik had walked for several minutes before finding any signs of life beyond the murmuring of voices some distance away.
The man was a portly, small saurian species that reminded Chakotay of a Barnacled Langar Turtle - if Barnacled Langar Turtles walked upright and had bird-like beaks. He appeared to be stunned at seeing Chakotay and Vorik, and looked at them as though examining a rare animal or a piece of merchandise. Huffing, the chubby alien moved off, clicking his 'fingers'. A wretched little figure scurried out from a nook in a bulkhead. She was humanoid, and mammalian, and was thoroughly emaciated. She did not seem to fear the man who was obviously her 'owner'. Instead she bounded after him on unsteady limbs, glancing back at them out of curiosity and not fear.
"Perhaps mammalian humanoids in this galaxy have not developed as great a measure of intelligence as in our own galaxy."
Chakotay nodded and grimaced, realising that the scrawny humanoid may be a maltreated pet, and not a slave.
"It's still unsettling."
"Indeed," Vorik admitted.
Harry had noticed the whispering and the change in atmosphere as soon as his and Celes' presence had been noticed. People looked at them with looks of confusion, worry and disgust. The crowd, as with the children they'd seen earlier, were all saurian – reptilian. There were only a few humanoids present.
Harry mustered up a friendly smile, as Celes kept close, standing behind him. Harry put his hand down on a counter of what looked like a cafe counter, but the proprietor scowled at him. Harry removed his hand and decided he and Celes better go back the way they came.
"Commander..." Celes said, looking at where Harry had stood moments earlier.
The proprietor was busy washing the counter where Harry had touched it.
"Maybe we smell funny to them?" Celes tried to understand the alien's reaction to them.
Harry had a bad feeling about this.
A few moments later, Celes' tricorder located another corridor, and both she and Harry proceeded towards it with caution. A portly alien marched towards them, a stick thin mammalian humanoid trailed behind him like an excited puppy. The chubby alien's face was nearly unreadable as he rubbed his beak with a stumpy hand.
"More of you," he remarked.
"You've seen others like us?" Harry asked.
The little alien seemed incensed that Harry had spoken to him, but continued the conversation with calculating eyes.
"Yes. Two males. One was big. Real big. Bizarre mark on his face. The other? His skin was strange and his ears pointed."
"They're with us," Harry smiled, "We're visiting this array to trade for some items we need."
"You Kabai grow bolder, or are you...Ba'neen?" the alien said the latter with caution.
"We're neither. We're from a place...far far away."
The alien absorbed this information, "So...are you wanting me to help find your two males, or do they own you?"
"They neither own us or vice versa." Harry said.
The alien furrowed his brow, his beady eyes shining brightly.
"Tell me of the items you seek. I shall take you to a man better equipped to deal with stranger requests."
As the alien walked off, Harry and Celes followed suit.
"He's after something sir," Celes whispered.
Chakotay and Vorik came to a large meeting place, full of dozens of species. Chakotay smirked that over two million light years from home, that haggling still took place as he spotted a Pterosaurian alien having a heated discussion with another turtle-like creature.
The Turtleman, as Chakotay had dubbed him appeared via another entrance, Harry and Celes in tow.
As their presence was noticed, the reaction was again stunned and hostile.
"I bring some Mal-tescheg! They are on their own, and will make strong slaves!" The alien shouted.
"No...wait! We're not for sale!" Harry yelled.
"No one owns us. We're people!" Chakotay shouted as a large creature with several limbs suddenly grabbed both he and Vorik.
"Oooh...they're feisty!" said a smirking female alien.
"Danner Mer...You can have all four for four thousand tements." Turtleman grinned as much as he could with his beak.
A tall alien with bizarre pebbled skin, and extended face, three legs and dreadlocked hair loped forwards.
"A fair price. But I have so many mammals already...why would I need four more?"
Chakotay tried to speak, but the alien that held he and Vorik gagged him before he got the chance. Two large Raptor like creatures watched Harry and Celes, who had also been gagged.
"I think you former associate, Tambil Kel would appreciate receiving a nubile young thing like this, as an apology for your recent conduct." Turtleman pointed at Celes, who began to struggle.
"Three thousand tements." Danner Mer said.
"Three thousand five hundred."
"Three thousand two fifty. No higher."
"Sold." sneered Turtleman in delight.
A petite humanoid watched from a distance, scratching the skin on her face which had been irritated by the elaborate disguise she wore. Her mouth narrowed into a fine line and her expression grew angry as she saw how Chakotay's team was being treated. She watched to find out where Danner Mer would take his newest purchases before turning to leave.
Rage gripped Chakotay as their captors dragged them off towards a darkened tunnel. But struggling was getting him nowhere against the strong brutes who restrained him. Just as he resigned himself to his captivity and let himself be taken into the tunnel, Chakotay caught a glimpse of a petite woman with flowing auburn hair. There was something familiar about her, but he would have no time to ponder why.
He felt a needle prick the base of skull, and then there was darkness...