SURROUNDED BY KANGAROOS

By Lorraine Anderson

Extract of personal Log of Lieutenant Thomas Paris:

...this is a hell of a fix. If it were happening to someone else, it would be funny...

#

Paris glanced down at his fingers and resisted the temptation to smash them on the control panel. His fingers weren't at fault. They worked; it was just that they... wouldn't work.

He looked back at the Captain. As usual, she was a picture of calm. He looked down at the panel, then back again. At least, he thought she was calm. Considering the circumstances, she could be sweating bullets and he would never know.

He hoped that his agitation didn't show.

AThey're firing, Captain! Kim yelled. Paris snapped back to business.

AShields up. Evasive maneuvers. Janeway leaned forward. AWe don't want to fire unless we have to.

AAye, aye, Captain, Paris said, almost before the Captain spoke. He ignored the screen and concentrated on the readouts on his panel. Ordinarily, he could play the panel like a musical instrument, but all of his normal perceptions were skewed and his body was uncooperative. At least he had his wits this time... he hoped.

APlease don't mutter to yourself, Mr. Paris, Janeway said.

AHuh? Paris almost looked up, then concentrated on what he was doing. ASorry, Captain. Was he talking out loud? He hadn't thought so, but...

AAnother shot, Captain! Kim said.

Damn these Dalways, Paris thought. Why were they so unreasonable. Why...

Suddenly, he knew what the Captain wanted him to do. His fingers flew over the board, and the ship maneuvered right, left, right again, then down. Then he stopped the ship. The Dalway ships flew past, and, as he had expected, a shot flew from Voyager across the bows of the pursuers. They stopped short, turned around... and sat, looking at Voyager.

Paris shook his head. How had he known what to do? He looked back at Janeway, who was looking at Kim, then at him.

Chakotay gulped visibly. AWhat just happened, Captain?

Janeway's eyes were wide. AI think, Mr. Chakotay, that we have another problem.

#

Extract of captain's Log:

... our current predicament seems to have started with the Sadinoel. I can't truly believe that such a friendly people meant harm to us... if this is indeed harm... but in this universe, even a beautiful flower may be poisonous...

#

ARemember, Captain, the alien on the front screen said with unusual solemnity, AI must insist that your passage through Dalway territory be only one way. Do not turn around, do not stop, do not even think of deviating from your course. Fortunately, with your ship, it should only take you a couple of days. He shook his head. AIt was the most I could gain from them. Our arguments with the Dalways go deep, and our truce is uneasy. If we hadn=t defended ourselves so valiantly in their last expansion war... He grimaced and shrugged. AWhat a waste. Millions dead on their side and ours. He exhaled.

Janeway smiled, standing up. AI understand, Mr. Ambassador, and again, thank you for your help. I hope you gain eventual peace with your neighbors.

The alien grimaced. AI do too. But I have no hopes. It=s been fifty years. A long time to hold a grudge. He grinned suddenly. ASo long, Captain. Remember, I=m afraid the Dalways get testy when they don=t get their way, so don=t let them have yours! He waved and hopped away from the screen.

Janeway's smile faded as the screen went blank. She glanced around the bridge and noted that most of the bridge crew were still smiling over the Sadinoel Ambassador's last small joke. But something was making her uneasy. It wasn't that the Sadinoel were unfriendly. . . far from it. And it wasn't that they didn't get all that they needed from this trading mission... and a passage through unfriendly territory, besides. Then what was it?

She sighed, sat down in her chair, and glanced over at Chakotay. He was still smiling slightly as he reviewed the provision list. He caught her look and his smile faded. ASomething wrong, Captain? he murmured. His smile returned. AShore leave too long?

Janeway shook her head decisively, as if to shake out any lingering doubts. ANo, she sighed. AIt's just that I keep thinking that they were too good to be true. Nothing went wrong. Absolutely nothing.

AWell, we did keep laughing at them. I kept expecting a diplomatic incident.

Janeway smiled. AI never expected to find a sentient species who look like kangaroos.

Chakotay smiled slightly. AYeah, still, nothing did go wrong, Captain. Perhaps Murphy's law doesn't exist in this section of space.

Janeway smiled back, recognizing the reference. AMaybe our luck is finally changing.

ADon't say that.

AWhy?

AThat's the perfect way to ensure that something bad will happen. He sat back. AAnd I am willing to bet one replicator ration that nothing will go wrong.

AI would tell you you're on, but I don't want to set a bad example.

AGo for it, Captain, came a voice in front of her.

AMr. Paris, don't encourage Chakotay. Janeway did a double-take. AYou were the Sadinoel's most ardent supporter. Does this mean you're taking my side?

Paris rotated his chair around. ANo, Captain. It's just that I always bet on long shots.

AHmmph. Janeway stared at Paris. AMr. Chakotay, you're on. Mr. Paris, get back to work.

AYes, Captain, the two men responded in unison. They looked at each other and grinned, then turned to their jobs.

She hoped they were right. Still, there was that little bit of Captain's intuition which served her so well in the past...

#

Extract of Captain Kathryn Janeway's personal log:

...I sometimes wonder why I wanted to be captain. For every moment of adventure, there's ten minutes full of paperwork and other administrative duties. Did I join Starfleet for this?

#

Janeway scratched her arm thoughtfully, then turned back to her computer. She had been tempted so many times to dump the endless paperwork, but there was always the possibility that they would return to Federation territory in something less than seventy years, and she wasn't, by God, going to show them anything less than a trim ship. If the paperwork were done on real paper, though, she was going to have to start filling the shuttle bays.

She scratched her arm again, and then her other arm. Still concentrating on her task, she leaned forward, then scratched one leg. Then the other leg. Then her neck. Then her stomach. She started sweating, started to order the computer to cool the room down, then cocked her head to one side. Something was wrong.

She glanced around the room, then realized the problem was with her. She looked down at one arm, froze, and lifted it for a closer look. The hairs on her arm seemed to be growing in thicker than usual. They were growing as she watched, and she shook her head. Couldn't be.

She crossed the room to the mirror, looked in, then stopped short, raising her eyebrows. She... seemed to be growing a beard. All over her face. She pulled down her shirt and looked at the hair growing below her neckline.

Her first thought was of werewolves.

Her second thought was that the first thought was ridiculous, and that she would have to get to Sickbay. She grabbed a scarf to put over her face. No use of startling some crewmate. She walked rapidly out of the room and made it to Sickbay with only a couple of odd looks. She walked in...

...and stopped dead. Staring back at her with the thickest beards she had ever seen were Paris and Kim.

AAh, the Doctor smiled. AI see the syndrome is not gender specific.

The trio stared at him.

The Doctor stared back. ADid I say something?

#

A...so you're saying that our... problem is genetic. Janeway brushed the side of her face to get her hair out of her eyes. Chakotay, called down from the bridge, noticed the gesture, then pointedly looked the other way. Janeway winced. In just two hours, her facial hair had already met and blended with her natural hair. The best she could do was smooth it back.

AI'm saying, the Doctor said, pointing to various spots on three DNA strands represented in front of him, Athat you were infected with a retrovirus-like organism which literally rewrote parts of your genetic code. He looked at the chart. AIn fact, it has a certain resemblance to Barclay's Protomorphosis Disease, but this does not seem to regress or progress you on the evolutionary track.

Paris looked at Kim. AWhich parts of our genetic code were affected?

The Doctor looked puzzled. AI'm... not entirely certain.

AOh? Janeway said.

AFor example, your hirsutism. The human body already has a genetic code for growing hair. Most of this hair is fine and thin, and humans never notice it. This just seems to have enhanced and magnified that ability. He stared at Janeway. AIn a short time.

Janeway looked at Chakotay and rolled her eyes. AIs this the only change we can expect?

ANo. Like I implied, the retrovirus also seems to have affected bone structure and muscle structure. I suspect you may end up looking a lot like the Sadinoel. Have you noticed that your arms and legs seem to be an average of two millimeters shorter?

The three looked down at their arms, then back at the Doctor. ANo, of course not, Janeway said. AWe're not equipped to notice anything less than centimeters.

AAh. However, it seems to have pretty much bypassed all major organs, including the brain. Although I believe the major organs will adjust to accommodate the different body structure.

AThank heavens for small favors, Kim muttered.

AWhy just those three? Chakotay said.

AOh. The Doctor said. AI didn't make that clear. I took a random sampling. All of the human crew tested are affected; all of the non-human crew tested are not. And I did an analysis of the food brought up from the Sadinoel planet. It's infected with the retrovirus. He looked at the trio. AYou, with the addition of Mr. Tuvok and Kes, were the contact team for the Sadinoel. You ate Sadinoel food a full week before the rest of the crew. This is why you were infected first.

AThose endless banquets, Paris groaned.

AWhy weren't our decontamination procedures used on this food? She thought a moment. ANever mind. I inspected the first meal we were offered, and spotted nothing amiss.

Chakotay looked puzzled. AAnd the decontamination procedures were followed, Captain. I supervised the process myself.

The Doctor smiled. AThe decontamination procedure will not work on something that it perceives as a normal part of the basic structure of the food... or of a human.

Janeway closed her eyes. The damage was done; why castigate a normal procedure? ACan you reverse the effect?

The Doctor cocked his head to one side. AAs you have been infected by this retrovirus, all of the retrovirus aboard have been infected by the human factor. It=s possible, but it would take much longer, and I would prefer to have an uncontaminated sample before I start messing with your genetics.

ABut, Paris said. AWe left the Sadinoels two weeks ago!

Janeway exhaled. AAnd it will take us two weeks to return. She grimaced. AIncluding two days across Dalway territory. She grabbed Paris by the shoulders. AUnless you want to return home looking like this?

Paris gulped. AUmmm, no. Fur doesn't do much for my love life. He turned to the Doctor. AThis... won't affect personality, right? And it won't change our bodies much. I mean, my tongue isn't going to fall out, is it?

AYou may be going to grow a tail, but as far as I can tell, you should remain your sweet, lovable self.

ASo to speak, Kim muttered.

Paris took a swat at him, then did a double-take. AA tail? He craned his head to look at his back, eyes wide.

AThe hard part is coming up, Janeway muttered.

Chakotay nodded. ATelling the crew.

AExactly. She got up. AI=ll be in my ready room.

#

Extract of personal Log of Ensign Harry Kim:

... there have been times when I've wanted a beard... mine tends to come in scraggly... but this is ridiculous.

#

Janeway looked at her desk, then glanced up at Tuvok, who looked at her with a cocked eyebrow. AHow does the crew seem to be taking it?

AMr. Chakotay is fielding many requests for clarification. He asks that you come out to help.

AIt hasn=t sunken in yet. I wasn=t incomprehensible, was I?

AI felt your announcement was extremely clear and accurate. Did you feel it was not, Captain?

AI wondered. It was a hard announcement. She snorted. AA crew expects to hear that the situation is dangerous and they may have just moments to live. They knew that when they joined Starfleet. But they don=t expect to be turned into kangaroos.

Tuvok steepled his fingers. ABut they do expect new experiences, Captain. And besides, there are important physiological differences between the Sadinoel and the Terran kangaroo. The eye placement, for example. The upper body is more anthropoid. And the fact that the Sadinoel have no pouches.

Janeway looked down at her stomach. AThank heavens for small favors. I wasn=t looking forward to carrying a joey.

Tuvok looked at her. AWere you planning consensual relations with a Sadinoel?

She got out of the chair and strode over to the window. AI was speaking facetiously, Tuvok.

AAh. Someday I shall comprehend human irony.

She turned back towards Tuvok and smiled. AIf you=re around us for the rest of your life, you=ll have no choice.

AI believe Voyager will eventually return to the Alpha Quadrant.

AChicken.

Tuvok got up. AI see no fowl in or outside of this room. I shall return to work.

Janeway came up to lay a hand on Tuvok=s arm and caught herself just in time. AAnd I believe you understand human irony all too well. Just remember this when you=re surrounded by kangaroos.

Tuvok looked down at her. AI look forward to new experiences, he said, and opened the door to the bridge.

#

Kes' personal Log: I'm getting concerned over the attitude of the crew. I do realize that patient healing all has to do with patient attitude, but when the patient really wasn't sick to begin with... I do wish that the ship's counselor hadn't been killed. I try the best I can, but I do admit I'm puzzled by the attitudes I sense...

#

AIt=s your fault!

Neelix stepped back and spread his hands, looking at an angry Ensign. The thin young man stood at the other side of the counter, hands on his hips, two spots of color on his pale face. AMr. Bennett, the Captain asked me to guide her to a safe food source. I=ve dealt with the Sadinoel before. He shrugged. AI=ve never had any trouble with them.

Bennett pursed his lips, his dark eyes flashing. AOf course not. You=re both Delta quadrant. They don=t want to experiment on you. You=re neighbors.

AI=d hardly consider one hundred light years as close neighbors. He turned back to his salad, chopping a vegetable. ABesides, what would I gain by turning you all into Sadinoels?

AMaybe you=re planning to put us on display as freaks.

Neelix wrinkled his nose and stopped chopping. AWhat?

AKangaroo men. See the freak show.

Neelix set his knife down. AI happen to think the Sadinoel are a nice looking race, and I cannot figure out why you... Terrans... laugh at them.

AThey look like kangaroos! Bennett leaned forward, and Neelix saw one of Bennett=s dark hair drift toward his salad. He grabbed it out of mid-air.

ASo? You look like a Terran monkey.

AAnd you look like a strangely-colored skunk. Smell like one, too.

Neelix backed up, his fists balling up. He wasn=t sure what a skunk was, but he was sure that he had been insulted enough. He drew his fist back...

AGENTLEMEN!

A sudden stricken look appeared on Bennett=s face, and he stepped back from Neelix. Neelix dropped his arm and relaxed his hand.

Janeway walked up to the two and looked up at the tall ensign. AI heard enough of what was said to confine you to quarters. There is no excuse for insulting Mr. Neelix. You are confined to quarters, Mister.

ABut... yes, ma=am. With a narrow-eyed look at Neelix, he spun around and left the dining area.

Janeway motioned to the back of the kitchen. AWhat happened, Mr. Neelix?

Neelix pursed his lips and looked at the dining room. AHe accused me of leading Voyager to the Sadinoel for my own gain. He said something about freaks= and putting the Voyager crew on display.

Janeway closed her eyes. AI=ve been hearing the same thing in more subtle terms from other crewmembers. Neelix looked dismayed. ANot the top staff, of course. But I hate to say that most of the talk is coming from the Maquis members. You may hear this again.

ABut Mr. Bennett wasn=t a Maquis.

AMr. Bennett is very young and still thinks that every accident has an ulterior motive behind it.

ASo you think this is an... accident?

Janeway looked at him. AOf course. Did you think I blamed you?

Neelix shrugged. AI wondered.

AStop wondering. She smiled. AAnd get back to your salad. That=s one of the better salads you=ve made in a long time. She left the kitchen, grabbing a vegetable on the way by.

Neelix looked at the vegetable and wondered if she knew that the vegetables were of Sadinoel origin, and that the Sadinoels were primarily vegetarian. Then he shrugged. It was either Sadinoel food or replicator rations, and there were still a few eating Sadinoel food. He started chopping, thoughtfully.

#

Extract from Janeway=s Personal Log: We=re four days from Dalway territory, and the three of us infected first are changing more every day. After some initial anger, most of the crew have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Mr. Neelix is still having a rough time, but he understands. I just hope the Sadinoel will have some answers...

#

Harry Kim glared at his wayward fingers, then pulled the clarinet close to his body. Playing the instrument had always cheered him up, but the only comfort he was going to get from it now was as a cuddle toy. He stared out into space, then sighed and brought the mouthpiece to his lips again.

He started playing, his fingers reaching just a little further to compensate for the changes in his body. The music started flowing, and he started losing himself in the music...

The door chimed. His concentration shattered and the instrument squawked. ACome in, he sighed.

Paris shuffled in, walking awkwardly on shortened legs. Harry looked at him. The eyes, yes, the eyes were definitely the same, but his face had grown longer, his arms and fingers had shortened, and his feet had lengthened. Paris was in the uniform du jour... a Starfleet shirt, sleeves rolled up, non reg shorts with a hole cut out for the beginnings of a tail, and bare feet.

Paris looked down at himself. AWhat! he said. AIs my fly open?

Kim grinned ruefully. AI'm just not used to seeing you like this.

AYeah, well, you're not much better, Bucky.

Kim shifted uncomfortably. AYeah.

A'Yeah?' Is that all you have to say? 'Yeah'? Tom stared pointedly at the bed. AWell, can I sit down?

Harry smiled. ADid you ever need an invitation before?

Tom sat down. ANo. He stared sideways at Harry. ABut I was never in a depressed kangaroo's quarters before. He sighed. AAnd I was hoping you would cheer me up.

AB'Elana? Harry started to put his clarinet away.

ADon't, Tom said, motioning at the instrument. He sat back, then winced. ADamned tail. Yeah, B=Elana.

ADoesn't want to see you?

Tom looked down and smoothed down his shorts. AWell, not exactly that. Besides, it=s not like we=re going together... yet... we=re just working together. But she does admit I give her the creeps.

AWhat, then?

AShe keeps giggling at me!

Harry looked at Tom, then at his clarinet, then at himself, then at Tom again. He started smiling. Tom looked up at Harry and noticed the grin on his face. AWhat!

Harry started chuckling. AWell, you do have to admit that the whole thing is pretty funny. I mean, look at you. Tom Paris, stud extraordinaire, starting to look like a candidate for a petting zoo. Tom looked at Harry with a puzzled grin. AC=mon, Tom, if we can't laugh at ourselves...

Tom grinned. AI refuse to take suggestions from an overgrown wallaby.

Harry put his clarinet aside. AYou and what joey, furface?

AMe and my duck billed platypus, you... you... He started laughing, punching Harry in the arm, who dissolved into giggles. AC'mon, let's go to the Holodeck, where the women don't give a damn what we look like.

Harry grinned. ABut didn=t you promise B=Elana to go with her to the Holodeck...

Tom laughed. AYeah, well, anyone who giggles at me...

ALike me? Harry said.

A'roos excepted. C'mon, Harry.

AWho said I was hairy? Harry said with a sly grin.

#

Captain's Log: we are three days from the Sadinoel planet. The doctor informs me the changes are complete, but we still have a grace period of four days before reversal becomes difficult... at least with our technology. The human crew have now all been affected to some degree or another, the non human crew seem not to have been affected. With the exception of B=Elana, whose half Klingon makeup does not seem to have entirely shielded her.

#

AWhat do you mean, it's the virus? You told me...

AI... was wrong, the Doctor admitted reluctantly. ABut with your Klingon physiology I can guarantee that the virus won=t go further.

B=Elana ran her hand over the pelt on her arms and over her face. AWhat comfort is that?

Paris hopped into the room. AB=Elana?

She turned away.

AYou've never looked... better? He grinned. He shuffled closer. ACare to rub some fur together and cause some sparks?

AIt's not funny.

Tom cocked his head and scratched his muzzle with his shortened hands. AI seem to remember having said the very same thing last week.

AIt wasn't funny last week, either.

Tom poked at her. AThen why were you giggling, huh?

AKlingons never giggle.

AYeah, well, Klingons never grow fur, either.

She grinned. ASo they don't.

AHarry and I were going to have a race on the holodeck. You know, see what these can do. He stretched out a powerful back leg and wiggled the long toes on his foot. AWe need an impartial judge. Wanna come?

Her eyes wrinkled and she grinned. AWho said I was going to be impartial? She slid off the table and followed him out the door.

The Doctor looked at the door bemused. ADismissed, I suppose.

#

ACaptain's Log. . With everything that has happened, I can at least say that all of us affected most strongly have our health. The Doctor assures me that I am now a healthy Sadinoel, and the only differences in structure appear to be our vocal chords and our eyes, which remain the same.

AAll of the human crew are affected now, some more than others. Ensign Bennett was astounded to find that a deep DNA scan showed traces of a Romulan ancestor... which seems to have shielded him from the virus. Ironic, of course, since he was one of Mr. Neelix=s main tormenters. Poor kid is now trying to trace his ancestors, which may be impossible.

AI am proud of my crew. In spite of the initial shock, they seem to handle the changes quite well. I surprised Tom and Harry in the holodeck the other day... they were racing. I challenged them and won, much to Tom's surprise, because he knew he could beat me easily before... this happened. There are certain advantages...

Janeway's door chime beeped, and she balanced back on her tail. ACome in, she called, then looked belatedly at the computer. AComputer, save. For an official log, she was getting rather personal, and she often wondered what the difference between an official log and a personal log was, anyway.

She sighed, looked up at her visitor, and smiled as her ears swiveled forward. In spite of the dark black fur, she could recognize Chakotay anywhere. He looked ruefully at her.

AI'm sorry to disturb you, Captain, but we seem to have a shadow.

Her smile faded. ASadinoel?

ANo, he shook his head. AAt least, not as far as we can tell. At this distance, all we can determine is that they seem to be warm-blooded.

AMoving closer?

AThey moved into range and have maintained the same position for the last minute. Their ships appear to be a little faster than Voyager.

AAnd we entered Dalway space about a half hour ago, didn't we?

Chakotay grimaced. AThe Ambassador did say our passage was only one way.

Janeway took a shuffling step towards the door, then looked down at her feet. AOh, hell. I'm never going to make it this way. She glanced at Chakotay, who obediently stepped to one side. One small jump landed her in front of the door, which obediently opened. Two more careful hops took her to the center of the bridge. AHailing frequencies open. Sound only.

Kim looked down at his console. AThey're not acknowledging, Captain.

AI didn't expect them to, she muttered, looking at the screen. She raised her chin and spoke clearly. AThis is Captain Janeway of the Federation ship U.S.S. Voyager. We apologize for intruding on your space again, but we have a medical emergency aboard that can be solved only by your neighbors, the Sadinoel.

ACaptain Janeway, this is the Captain of the ship Dr'ziw. We graciously allowed you passage across our space, one way. Our sensors clearly show you have Sadinoel aboard... Sadinoels that you did not have on your first trip across your space.

Janeway sighed and looked down at herself. Chakotay looked startled, then looked at Voyager's sensors. ABetter sensors, he muttered, shaking his head.

AThis is true, Janeway said. AThis is the nature of our medical emergency.

AWe do not allow Sadinoel past our borders without prior notification. We will escort you back the way you came.

Janeway shook her head. Her ears flattened automatically, and she raised an involuntary hand towards her head. She sighed. AWe are almost through your space. In the name of mercy, we beg you...

ANo. Any further action towards the border will be considered an act of war. This communication is terminated.

With an exhale, Janeway settled back on her tail. She exchanged a look with Chakotay, then looked resolutely at the viewscreen. AAll speed ahead, Mr. Chakotay. Warp factor 7.

#

Captain's Log: ...humans are stubborn creatures. Even after centuries of trying to erase our prejudices, we still regard with some shock the maimed and the different among us... even those of us in Starfleet. Which makes me wonder about my motives. Was I willing to start interstellar war between two alien species because of my sense of righteousness or because of my vanity... my sense of being maimed...?

#

A... I think, Mr. Chakotay, that we have another problem. What was that? Janeway regarded the two alien ships in front of her, then looked at Paris and Kim. Can you hear me? she thought at them.

AFaintly, Captain, Paris said out loud.

ATelepathy, Kim mused.

Tuvok spoke from over to his station. AIf I'm understanding you correctly, Captain, I believe I felt something, also. It appeared to be something more akin to the Vulcan mind meld. Apparently the link is activated under stress. Since Sadinoel are primarily herbivores, perhaps it is latent herd instinct.=

Janeway looked forward. AI wonder if this development could be used to our advantage...

Chakotay looked bemused. APossibly... but war, Captain?

Janeway rocked back. War. Was she willing to commit war over... looking down at her short arms, her powerful legs... this? Was she?

ANo. She said out loud. AOne hundred eighty degrees about. We'll figure something else out.

ATwo other ships approaching, Captain. One is the Ambassador's!

AGood, Janeway muttered. AMaybe we'll get some answers now. Hail the Ambassador's ship, audio, only.

AThey're hailing us, Captain, Kim said.

Janeway inclined her head. AThen put it on... audio only.

AVoyager, said the Ambassador in distressed tones. AIs something wrong? We thought you had moved on. Is Captain Janeway there?

AI am, Ambassador.

AThe Dalway indicated you had a medical emergency. Even though they did not believe you, they passed this information on - since I was already in Dalway space nearby, they escorted us here. They also told us you had three of our people, which we could not believe, because our people rarely go beyond Sadinoel space. How...

Janeway held up a hand, then realized the Ambassador could not see her. AThere is a medical emergency, but, no, we do not have any of your people, in spite of what your sensors may tell you.

AThen how...

Janeway had a brief thought that the ambassador may be lying... but why? Either way, being secretive wouldn't solve anything. She sighed. AViewscreen on.

The Ambassador peered in the viewscreen, then backed off in surprise. ABut those are...

AI am Captain Janeway, she said.

The Ambassador took an audible gulp. AYou are... he looked around the bridge, staring at crewmembers in various states of transformation, his eyes finishing on the unaffected Tuvok. AOh, my Gods. You are. He shook his head. ABut how...

AOur doctor tells us this is the result of a retrovirus.

AA retrovirus? But... oh, no. The food additives.

AFood additives? Chakotay said.

The Ambassador looked distinctly uncomfortable. AWe routinely add... things... to our food to keep up our general health. We=ve found it invaluable... the additives fix certain abnormalities, prolong our life spans, help our reproductive capacities... we have a low reproductive rate and a large planet to repopulate after the last war. Anything to help us thrive is encouraged. He looked off screen. ABut we have never heard of our retroviruses ever affecting another species in this quadrant.

ABut... Janeway started, then looked pointedly back at Neelix, who had emerged when the fighting had started.

The Ambassador stared at Janeway. A... you aren=t from this quadrant. I know.

Neelix shrugged. ALike I=ve said all along, I have never had any reaction eating the Sadinoel food.

The Ambassador closed his eyes. AFirst, let me deal with our worthy adversaries. I believe they=ve been listening in. He looked off screen. AI thought so. Then let=s get you back to Sadinoel. Our geneticists will work with you to solve this problem.

Janeway let out a sigh and smiled. AThat would suit us just fine.

#

Captain=s Log: Extract: Taking the long way around Dalway territory is a small price to pay for our own bodies back, even though it adds another week to our trip. Dalway territory is not broad, but it=s long, and we had no choice.

Everyone opted to go back to their own body shape, despite the clear advantages to the Sadinoel form. It may have been, in part, the Doctor=s objections on having to learn physiology and keeping medical supplies for a whole new species... but I doubt it. Terrans have, for the most part, gotten over Xenophobia, but most still prefer the human ideal to any Extra-Terrestrial body form. It almost seems a shame to go back to my puny Terran body after experiencing the speed and the power of the Sadinoel...

#

Paris didn=t open his eyes and dug his toes deep into the warm sand. AYou=re blocking the sun, Harry.

AI=m not Harry.

Paris sat up and noticed Kim grinning beside him. ASorry, Captain. I didn=t see you there. He shifted uncomfortably on the sand on the Holodeck. AIs there something I can do?

AActually, I was looking at the sea and thinking of taking a swim after Chakotay gets here. She pulled at the strap of her bathing suit. AIt=s wonderful to get wet without having to worry about fur. She sighed. AEven if it=s holographic water.

AAmen to that, Kim muttered.

The Holodeck door open, and Chakotay came in wearing shorts and a towel. AHow=s the water?

Janeway grinned. A I haven=t been in yet. Perfect, as usual, I imagine. She looked at Chakotay. AYou know, Chakotay, we haven=t settled our bet yet.

Chakotay looked blankly at Janeway. AWhat bet... oh, that=s right. That was a long time ago. He looked at Paris. AI lost, didn=t I? Something did go wrong.

Paris cocked his head. AI believe you did... he drawled.

AWhat were we betting?

AA replicator ration... but I=ve changed my mind. I think the bet should be a bit... more memorable. You=ll find out what I=ve decided.

Chakotay looked suspiciously at her. AYes, Captain.

AWhy don=t you take a swim?

Chakotay glanced at her. AI believe I will. He dug in, ran into the water at full speed, then immediately levitated back out. AThat=s freezing! I thought you said... He shook his head and shook a finger at Janeway. ACaptain, you...? That=s the bet...?

AComputer, revert water temperature back to normal. She strode into the water as Paris grinned and Kim chuckled. AI told you would find out what I decided.

END