Title: Turn of Events
Contact: kelhapam@worldpath.net
Series: VOY
Rating: PG-13
Code: P/T, J, C
*Part: ?/? NEW
Date: 10th January 2000

Summary: We saw Janeway lose her cool in several episodes in
Season 5. How will the crew react when she goes completely
overboard?

Explanation: This story takes place almost immediately following
Equinox. Being an AU story, the author is assuming that certain
events from Season Five didn't take place--namely the following
episodes: Bride of Chaotica; Gravity; Think Tank; 11:59, and
Relativity; and as such, the time line between the beginning and
end of Season Five has been compressed.

Special thanks to TrekGirl "Annie" for being my storyline
sounding board and muse, I couldn't have done it without her; and
big thanks, hugs and kisses to my husband Fred for contributing
significantly to the storyline. And last, but not least, thanks
to the PTFs very own doctor, JanF, for providing valuable medical
information. Also, I can't forget my beloved beta readers:
Phyllis S.; Annie M.; Ronda S.; and Marianne L.

TURN OF EVENTS
by PJ in NH

Early in the morning in the cool of the cabin's circulated air,
Tom pulled B'Elanna close to him under the sheets. He could
still feel the heat of her flesh from their lovemaking against
his skin as they spooned together. The passion that they created
always amazed him. The way he felt about her filled his heart
with joy and awe. So much so that at times like this it almost
made him cry.

Pressing her body back against him, B'Elanna sighed contentedly.
He smiled at her reaction and at the now familiar sound. A sound
that he had grown to love, a sound that said so much yet nary a
word was uttered.

The feel of Tom's arms around her made B'Elanna feel safe and she
cherished it. She loved the feel of his chest hairs tickling her
back, and of his body molding itself so naturally to her own.
Natural...yes, B'Elanna thought, what she and Tom shared together
felt natural. It felt like each had been created for the other--
not that their relationship was without its detours and bumps--
but it worked for them. Her mother, B'Elanna thought, would
laugh at that.

The deep rumblings of her mother Miral's voice filtered down
through the years. B'Elanna Torres could still recall the
familiar lecture she had been forced to endure almost ever since
her father had left. A Klingon woman, she had been told, didn't
need to be dependent upon a man to make her feel safe--all that
was required was a bat'leth and a d'k tahg. A man, her mother
insisted, provided a possible mate and a fighting companion, if a
woman was lucky, but he wasn't necessary for a woman to feel
protected.

While B'Elanna proudly admitted that she was fully independent
and capable of defending herself, she knew she wouldn't trade
that for the security she felt when Tom held her in his arms.
And she certainly wouldn't trade the feeling of happiness that he
had brought her since they had been together. Her mother had
also warned that mating outside of your species was asking for
trouble. B'Elanna smiled in the darkness. Just how many half-
Klingons/half-Humans were there for her to mate with anyway? And
even if there were, would it matter? It was no wonder that her
parents' marriage didn't last. Her mother just didn't
understand.

"Penny for your thoughts?" he interrupted.

"Hmmmm?"

"B'Elanna, you are a million light-years away." Tom chuckled and
nuzzled the nape of her neck. As predicted, his half-Klingon
warrior woman giggled like a schoolgirl upon feeling the stubble
of his beard tickle her flesh.

"Stop that!" she admonished lightly.

He nuzzled her neck again, this time adding a lick or two along
the edge of her ear.

"Tommmmm!" Damn, he could be so distracting...deliciously
distracting.

"Admit it, you like it when I do this," he said and he nibbled
her neck again.

A growl escaped B'Elanna's throat. "You know I do, but right
now, just you holding me is enough. Can you understand?"

"Of course. You know I love to hold you. I just hate having to
leave..."

B'Elanna tensed. All that she had thought before came crashing
down. She admitted she loved this man, didn't want to be apart
from him, so why did she hesitate to accept his offer of
cohabitation? Was she afraid that her mother was right all
along? No. She knew that Tom was the man for her. Then why?
Did she put him off because she didn't want to lose her
independence? Maybe, she admitted. Maybe she was reluctant to
move in with him, just in case something happened and they had to
split. Then, in the long run, she'd have to admit that perhaps
her mother had given her good advice; and she'd hate that. In
the long run, B'Elanna relented, perhaps she was a coward. She
drew in a deep breath and slowly exhaled before she replied.

"We've talked about that before, Tom. Right now I feel..."

"Feel it is better for us to maintain separate cabins. I know,
B'Elanna, and I promised I wouldn't nag you, but..."

"But that's it, Tom. If we have to talk, can't it be about
something else?"

It was the pilot's turn to sigh and he tightened his hold on the
chief engineer while at the same time kissing her on her bare
shoulder. Her skin felt deliciously silky smooth on his lips.
Why did he keep on asking when her answer was always invariably
the same. And what would he do if she said yes? How would he
feel? Relieved, ecstatic, claustrophobic? Yes, yes, and he had
to admit it . . . eventually possibly yes.

His sisters used to kid him that he'd never settle down with
someone because of his claustrophobia to not only small places,
but to committed relationships. Every time he started to feel
strongly about a girl, there was something inside him that caused
him to call a halt to the affair. His sisters picked up on that
and teased him about it relentlessly. While a part of him craved
to advance to a more serious level of a relationship with
B'Elanna, he could still hear his sisters taunting him. He
mentally shook that memory away.

"Sure. Another topic. Ummm, let's see. I understand that Seven
was assigned to assist you in Engineering today. I also
understand that she barely survived the experience. Do you want
to tell me about it?"

B'Elanna took a deep breath before she began. It was a change in
subject, but not a preferred change in her view, but it was
better than rehashing old ground. "Well you know of the problems
we've been having with the warp core?"

"Yep, you are in need of a mineral to repair the core since our
encounter with Ransom's aliens." Due to lack of a proper name
for those strange but, aliens, the name 'Ransom's aliens' had
come to be what they were known as on Voyager.

"Well, Seven came down as the Captain ordered her to...and I
really tried to get along with her this time, Tom. I will admit
now that there are times when she does have some good ideas, but
this time she...she..."

Tom could feel B'Elanna's shoulder muscles tense. "Go on,
B'Elanna," her urged.

"Well...ah...we *talked* about the problem. I actually
*listened* to what she had to say. Finally, we reached a
consensus on how to tackle the situation. Then...then...then she
started issuing *my* people orders! I'm the chief engineer, not
her, Tom. I wasn't going to stand for it. I was right in the
middle of telling her where she could put her Borg implants, when
Janeway called me to her Ready Room. When I finally returned to
Engineering, you could see that Miss Borgette had really endeared
herself to my engineers. From the way they all looked, if I had
scanned them with a tricorder I'm sure it would have recorded an
increase in temperature and pressure in Engineering--and Joe
Carey was the worst. He was red-faced and looked...almost
Klingon. I thought he was going to break the Borg's nose
himself!"

"But you beat him to it," Tom concluded.

"Almost. I was this close," she held her index finger and thumb
about five centimeters apart, "to actually smashing her face."
Her hand dropped back to the bed. "Then the Doctor asked her to
report to Sickbay. She was damn lucky it was time for her weekly
maintenance."

"Some weekly maintenance," he quipped. "Our EMH probably wanted
to practice another 'old chestnut' with his prot‚g‚. This week I
believe they are working on 'What Do You Do with a Drunken
Sailor."

"Anything to do with you and Harry's escapade on that space
station?"

"Ahhh, probably. You know the Doc, he likes to give me a hard
time."

"And you don't like to do the same to him?" she asked.

"Well...he is an easy target," Tom said trying in vain to defend
himself.

"We all seem to be easy targets lately," B'Elanna grumbled.

"The Captain." It wasn't a question, everyone knew who was
aiming the barbs and worse at the crew as of late.

"She knows I've tried everything to get full warp capability out
of my engines, save for getting out and pulling the damn ship
along myself, and still she wants results--the sooner the better.
I am limited to what I can do until we find some caesium copper
to augment the core lining. Until then, the best I can coax out
of the engines is 6.5--at least right now--and she knows I can't
do any better until we find that mineral!"

"I know, B'Elanna. You have performed miracles before, but even
you are restricted to the resources available to you. The
Captain is being unrealistic, perhaps with time..."

"Time, Tom? She's been this way since before she allowed Doc to
activate that Cardassian butcher," B'Elanna ground out.

"But..."

B'Elanna turned her head around to face him. "Oh don't worry,
I've calmed down about that. I am very grateful to still be here
on the ship and especially with you, but I'm just saying that
it's been oh, probably almost two months since she's been
...*normal*. She demoted you, which was bad enough, but to put
you in solitary for thirty days was uncalled for! Any other time
someone was punished on Voyager, they were confined to their
cabin. And Harry, she jumped down his throat for falling in love
with an alien. That doesn't even cover what happened with Ransom
and the Equinox."

"I heard she almost murdered Lessing when she interrogated him."

"You too? Some people think that was a rumor."

"I don't think so, I happened to overhear Chakotay talking with
Tuvok late at night in the mess hall. They thought they had the
place to themselves. They didn't know that I was helping Neelix
clean up the rear kitchen area," he explained.

"You lost a bet," B'Elanna concluded her lips turned up already
knowing the answer.

"Well you see, um...I kinda...um...yeah, I lost a bet."

B'Elanna grinned. "Thought so. Continue."

"Well the Commander was explaining to Tuvok what had happened to
Noah Lessing. Chakotay believed if he hadn't intervened, the
aliens would have killed Noah."

"Yeah, that's basically what I heard. I overheard Marla and Noah
were talking in Engineering a few days ago. I'm worried, Tom.
Something's wrong with the Captain. She's changed."

"Tell that to Naomi," Tom offered. "She came up to say good
morning to the Captain at breakfast last week, and the Captain
snapped at her. You should have seen the look on that kid's
face, she was flabbergasted. Luckily, Neelix was nearby and
brought her into the kitchen to help him. Now, I've seen Janeway
when she hadn't had a decent cup of coffee in weeks, but she's
never ever snapped at Naomi Wildman."

"I know. I don't mind telling you, Tom, I'm concerned. I worry
how her attitude will affect both Voyager and the crew. People
are not happy."

"'Not happy' is an understatement. I haven't seen such stress on
board since the Maquis joined the crew. There's been talk, I've
heard whispers and innuendo all over the ship. They are saying
that if Janeway doesn't stop acting like a despot, then something
has to be done."

B'Elanna turned her head towards the pilot. "Mutiny?" B'Elanna
questioned, her voice barely audible.

"Well at the very least they think she should be relieved of
duty--let Chakotay run the ship for a change."

"Tom?"

"Yes."

"Hold me tighter."

* * * * * * *

Entering the conference room a few days later, Janeway surveyed
her senior officers. As usual, Tom sat near B'Elanna, Harry
couldn't keep his eyes off Seven of Nine, Tuvok waited patiently
for the meeting to begin, and Chakotay focused his attention on
her. Before she sat down to begin the meeting she walked over to
the replicator.

"Coffee," she ordered crisply, "one sugar."

The replicator hummed briefly before creating a perfect cup of
Columbian brew. Taking the mug of coffee between her hands,
Janeway walked purposefully to the head of the table where she
sat down in her chair.

"I don't have to tell you why we are here today," Janeway took a
cautious sip from the cup and placed it back down on the table.
"We have to find more caesium copper, and we have to do so
immediately. Suggestions, anyone?"

Harry nervously cleared his throat before replying. "I've been
working with Seven of Nine and Lt. Torres on this matter,
Captain. We've run extensive scans of the area, and have yet to
locate any reserves of the mineral. It's the group's
recommendation that..."

Janeway slammed her fist down on the table causing her coffee to
spill down the sides of the mug and pool beneath it. "That's
unacceptable! This ship has *got* to be returned to peak
performance immediately!" Everyone, save for the Vulcan looked
uneasy, it appeared that they had awakened a slumbering dragon.

"Why?" Tuvok questioned. "Granted optimum efficiency is
something we all strive for, but this area of space is relatively
safe."

The Captain's steely gray eyes narrowed as she scrutinized her
Chief Tactical Officer. "I don't need *you* to tell me what
needs to be done on this ship, Mr. Tuvok! I am the captain!" Her
words fell icily on the Senior Staff's ears. "If you don't watch
yourself, you'll find yourself demoted and thrown into the brig."

Tuvok's right eyebrow extended to its full height expressing the
Vulcan's astonishment at the Captain's words. Janeway steamed.

"I will not accept that nothing can be done!" Her fist hit the
table again causing it to reverberate and more coffee to spill.
"I want everyone working on this problem, around the clock if
need be. Bring in other engineers and technicians to assist you.
That mineral has got to be available somewhere!" Her gray eyes
appraised each of the senior staff coldly. "I will not accept no
for an answer. This ship has got to be up to maximum warp
capability as soon as possible. Do I make myself clear?!"

The members of the staff nodded but couldn't bring themselves to
look their captain in the eye.

"Dismissed," Janeway ground out, her eyes devoid of warmth.

Silently they all filed out of the room and headed back to their
stations.

** * * * * * *

"You ready to leave yet?" Tom asked the half-Klingon later that
same evening. After he had been relieved from the helm, he had
immediately gone in search of B'Elanna. He had found her on the
upper level in Engineering reviewing a large stack of data padds.
B'Elanna opened her mouth to respond to his question, but found
that a yawn had sneaked out instead. Paris chuckled, she always
looked so cute when she yawned, though he'd never tell her that.
It was as close to an expression of weakness as she ever got.
Klingons, even half-Klingons, didn't like to be told that they
looked cute, let alone weak. "Come on, sleepyhead, it's time for
both of us to go to bed."

B'Elanna shook her dark head slightly. "But Janeway..."

"Janeway can't expect us to stay up *all* night long. Besides,"
he paused and yawned himself, both in sympathy and because he was
also very tired. "When Chakotay told me it was time to leave the
bridge, he also told me to come down and relieve you from duty.
I, for one, am not going to argue with him. Are you?"

B'Elanna took one look at the data padd in her hand briefly
contemplated the dismal contents. No matter how much she
examined the readout, the answers were always the same--caesium
copper wasn't available within Voyager's scanning range. With a
shrug, she tossed the offending padd on the table. "Let's go. I
can't keep my eyes open anyway. My cabin?"

A smiling Tom held out his hand to her and she took it willingly.
He let himself be led down to the main level where the gamma
shift was working. Spotting Joe Carey, B'Elanna bid him
goodnight and told him to keep working on the problem and that
she would relieve him in the morning.

"I didn't even realize just how tired I was until you came in,
Tom." She yawned again, not even bothering to cover her mouth.

The pilot put his arm across her shoulders and pulled her closer
him. B'Elanna snuggled comfortably into his shoulder. She savored
the scent of her mate. A purr of contentment escaped her throat.
It did not go unnoticed by the pilot. Turning the corner, Tom
reached down and tilted her head up so he could kiss her. Not
needing any further encouragement, B'Elanna turned toward him and
pulled his head down to her. Her tongue penetrated his willing
mouth and she relished the taste of her lover. Tired though he
was, Tom suddenly felt revived. She had a way of doing that to
him, this vixen of a woman, he thought, and he loved every moment
of it.

"I thought you were exhausted?" Tom whispered in her ear when she
finally came up to breathe.

B'Elanna growled. He could feel the excitement that the sound
induced, travel from his head down to his toes and back again
until it finally wrapped itself around his chest and tugged at
his heart strings. Needing no further encouragement, thankful
that it was very early in the morning and the corridors were
deserted, Tom cradled her face between his hands and backed her
up against the wall. It produced another growl from B'Elanna,
this one found a resting place somewhere south of his heart, but
dear to them both.

* * * * * *

"...then I want Security to double and triple check every
security protocol on this ship after you supervise the weapons
recalibration."

"Certainly, Captain," Tuvok replied keeping pace with Janeway as
she strode powerfully through Voyager's corridors. His hands
clasped behind his back.

"Estimation on time of completion, Mr. Tuvok?"

"Starting tomorrow morning at the beginning of alpha shift,
assuming a full shift complement, I would say 37.5 hours."

"Insufficient, I want this done by..." Janeway came to a full
stop. Tuvok was two steps past her before he stopped as well and
turned to face her.

"Captain? Is something wrong?"

* * * * * *

"Oh, Tom...I love it when you...ah...oh yes...don't stop."
B'Elanna encouraged her mate. She was delirious with joy and
rapture, her exhaustion momentarily forgotten.

"We should stop, B'Elanna," Tom purred in her delicate ear. How
could a Klingon's or even a half-Klingon's ears be so tiny and so
delicious to lick and nibble? Who cares? He sure as hell
didn't.

ggrrr

"What if someone comes by?" he breathed. His tongue traced the
outline of her ear that he already knew by heart. The pilot was
also well aware that it made his mate hot.

"Let them," she gasped.

Encouraged, the pilot continued to nibble on her earlobe while
his arms encircled her lithe body and pulled her toward him. At
times like this, it felt that they just couldn't be close enough.
Times where if he could melt into her body he would, just to feel
more a part of her if it was at all possible. Times where...

"MR. PARIS!"

Damn! Tom regretfully pulled away from B'Elanna's hot body. A
glisten of perspiration clung to his forehead and cheeks,
testament to his passion for the Chief Engineer. Further
testament was hidden beneath his clothing, and would hopefully go
unnoticed.

"Ah, Ca-Captain, Tuvok, I c-can explain," Tom stammered, a guilty
smile lit his face. Of all people to catch him and B'Elanna
necking in Voyager's corridors it had to be Janeway and Tuvok--
and in particular Janeway.

A hand lashed out so fast, Tom could have sworn that it was
almost his imagination if it hadn't been for the pain that
coursed down his back. B'Elanna stared slack jawed at what was
happening. Captain Janeway had just body slammed her chief pilot
up against the wall of the corridor.

"Explain yourselves," Janeway ground out, teeth clenched, still
clutching Paris's uniform collar with one hand while glaring at
the half-Klingon. "Why are you two groping each other in a
public corridor? Why aren't you both at work trying to solve
this warp core problem?"

"Captain, I...we...um..." Tom didn't know what do say, he was
still in shock, and in pain.

B'Elanna stepped in. "We were heading back to...um...my cabin.
Chakotay relieved us from duty."

"Do I have to remind you that Chakotay is *not* the captain?"
Janeway's gray eyes flashed with anger. "Has the problem been
solved yet?"

"No, Captain. I have a double crew working on the problem, but
we haven't made any progress. There just is no way for us to
resolve the..."

Janeway roughly pushed her bewildered pilot away from her, again
slamming him against the wall before she released him. She
approached B'Elanna. "I don't want to hear that there is 'no
way,' Lt. Torres," she snapped spraying the engineer with
spittle.

B'Elanna boldly glared at her superior officer not even bothering
to wipe the moisture from her face. "We've done all we can do
tonight, Captain. Tom and I are going to get some sleep then..."

"Sleep? It didn't look like *sleep* to me, it looked like he,"
Janeway pointed at Paris, "was trying to jump your bones, and you
weren't stopping him. In fact, you were encouraging him!"

"Captain," Tom began having found his voice. "We didn't intend
to um...do what you saw...in the corridors...but..."

"There are no *buts*...I'm on my way to Astrometrics to check on
Seven's progress. I expect you to..."

"Captain?"

Janeway turned at the sound of her name. She saw Chakotay
approach her with a small grin on his face that emphasized his
deep dimple.

"Captain, I understand that Seven of Nine is waiting for you in
Astrometrics. Why don't you let me take care of this problem?"
the First Officer offered graciously.

"I was just--"

"Please let me handle it, I believe I have a suitable form of
punishment in mind, Captain."

Janeway looked at her Chief of Security and then back to
Chakotay. "Has Seven found anything?"

"I'm not sure, but she is looking for you. Perhaps it's a good
sign?"

With eyes narrowed, the Captain carefully appraised the lovebirds
for a moment before replying. "Very well, you take care of their
lack of discretion. If you need me, I'll be in Astrometrics.
Later we will talk about you relieving them of duty. Tuvok, you
have your orders, carry them out."

"Aye, Captain," the Vulcan replied.

Janeway nodded sharply satisfied that two problems were being
taken care of. Pivoting on her heel, she left the four officers
behind.

When they were well down the corridor, heading in the opposite
direction from the Captain and out her of earshot, Tom spoke up.
"Commander, really we're sorry and...tired. I know it's no
excuse, but we haven't been with each other in days... it...
um... well... Gee, Commander, you must know how it is."

The First Officer who was now standing between Tom and B'Elanna
clasped them both on their shoulders. "I'm sorry that this had
to happen. On one hand, the Captain is correct, you two have
been warned about Public Displays of Affection. On the other,
the corridors are nearly deserted and she, and this stays between
us four, overreacted."

"Well I wish I could say that I was surprised at what happened,"
Tom added.

"During the last few months, she's been more uptight than a
Tilekian badger," B'Elanna remarked. "You can't say anything to
her lately without her biting your head off."

"Indeed," Tuvok replied. The other three looked at the Vulcan
somewhat surprised that he had concurred with the Chief Engineer.
"Ms. Torres is correct, the Captain has been acting very stressed
recently."

"She's been acting this way since before B'Elanna was attacked by
that alien parasite," Tom noted. "If something isn't done soon
then the crew..." Tom stopped suddenly realizing that his mouth
was running away from him, and in particular that it was running
away while he was in the presence of two senior officers.

Chakotay was startled at what Tom Paris was implying. "What
exactly do you mean by that, Paris?"

Tom shook his head. "Look I'm sorry, ignore what I said, I was
just..."

"Excuse me, officers, but we're late for our duty shifts," Megan
Delaney called out approaching the four interrupting the
conversation. She was pulling her sister Jenny along after her;
the group of four split in two to let the twins pass.

"Perhaps we should continue this discussion in my quarters,"
Chakotay suggested. The other officers hesitated only briefly
before they all nodded and followed the First Officer towards his
cabin.


* * * * * * *

"What's the matter, Mr. Paris?" Chakotay asked seeing the pilot
survey the room upon entering. "Are you looking for a teepee?"

Tom laughed nervously and ran his fingers through his hair. "No,
Commander. It's just that it's been a long time since I've been
in your cabin. I was just looking around. It looks homey and
comfortable."

Chakotay chuckled. "What did you expect a fire ring with mats on
the floor?"

"Actually, I'm not sure what I expected," Tom admitted
truthfully.

"Well have a seat. Can I get you anything to drink?" he gestured
to the three of them, "Coffee, tea? B'Elanna, how about a
Bajoran chebel tea?"

"Mmmmm, sounds good, double sweet, please."

"Okay. Tom, would you like some too?"

"Chebel tea? No offense, Chakotay, but I just can't stomach that
stuff?"

"You?"

Tom laughed lightly. "Funny isn't it, I could drink any rot-gut
booze they put in front of me, but chebel tea? Eeeeuuww!"
B'Elanna and Chakotay smiled at his reaction. Tuvok was...well
Tuvok, other than the typical raised eyebrow you'd never have
known he had heard the pilot's response.

"How about some coffee or juice then, or perhaps something else?"

"Coffee may keep me awake, how about some fruit juice."

"Orange, Risan melon?"

"Surprise me. In fact, here," Tom walked over to the replicator,
"put it on my account. He tapped his account code into the
replicator's keypad. "I had a good week in Sandrine's a while
back and have a few extra ration chips--my treat."

Chakotay nodded. "Tuvok? Tea?"

"That will be sufficient. Thank you."

After the teas and juices were replicated, the four sat down in
Chakotay's living room, sipping on their beverages. Tom sat next
to B'Elanna on the First Officer's sofa. He took one long sip of
his juice before he placed the glass down on the table between
where he and B'Elanna were and where Chakotay and Tuvok sat in
two chairs opposite them. He looked hesitantly toward the two
senior officers and then turned and smiled slightly at B'Elanna.
The half-Klingon nodded and patted the pilot's knee answering his
unspoken question.

The silent communication between the pair did not go unnoticed by
Chakotay.

"It looks like you have something to say, Tom," Chakotay
commented. "So let's have it."

"Um...well...you see...ah . . . " Tom pulled his fingers through
his hair. "Hey, can this be considered off the record?" He
looked uncomfortably at Chakotay and then back at Tuvok--both
nodded.

"Thanks. Well it's like this...it's the Captain. She has
been...um...well...bitchy lately."

Chakotay smirked at Tom's description. "Well, Tom, I'm not sure
that I would describe it as bitchy..."

"Actually, Commander," Tuvok piped up, "according to the most
recent unabridged dictionary of Federation Standard, 'bitchy'
describes the Captain's attitude very accurately."

"I was going to say, Janeway has all the symptoms of a Klingon
woman in the throes of sexual dissatisfaction, but bitchy works,"
B'Elanna concurred with a shrug.

Chakotay rose from his chair and with hands on his hips paced
back and forth behind where Tuvok was seated. Every once in a
while he'd look over at the group, but then continue his pacing.
After the fifth lap the first officer stopped and faced B'Elanna
and Tom. They could see that he was carefully selecting what
words to say. "I, too, think that there is something troubling
the Captain. She has been irrational as of late, and quick to
anger."

"Quick to anger would be one thing, Chakotay, but the Captain's
been like a simmering volcano, you never know when she's going to
erupt. Now I admit, B'Elanna and I," Tom placed his arm around
his mate, "did start to get a bit carried away just a little
while ago. The Captain had every right to speak to us, but I've
never seen her get so mad before."

"And that's not all of it," B'Elanna interjected. "She's been
yelling at everyone. Telling her that certain scientific
absolutes cannot be compromised hasn't changed a thing. She's
always down in Engineering asking for the impossible. But she
hasn't stopped with Engineering. A couple of weeks ago, I saw
her snap at Naomi Wildman when she showed the Captain a picture
she had drawn. Naomi ran away in tears and the Captain seem
bothered at all."

"Everyone is talking about her," Tom added. "I've heard
speculations that range from space sickness to menopause. But
everyone has come to the same conclusions. This can't last
forever."

"Do you understand what you are saying, Ensign?" Tuvok
questioned.

The pilot nodded slowly. "Something has to be done, Commander,"
Tom added. "I'm afraid that if the Captain's attitude doesn't
change shortly, Voyager could be faced with real problems."

"Are you suggesting that the crew would mutiny?"

"I don't know, Chakotay. Four weeks ago I wouldn't have given a
second thought about it, but now I can't be so sure. Everyone is
talking about Janeway's unstable mental state."

An uneasy silence fell over the four. Finally, the First Officer
returned to his seat and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees
and his hands clasped in front of him. His thoughts seemingly
focused on the deck at his feet. Several minutes passed, during
which Tom and B'Elanna looked uneasily at each other, silently
communicating their concern at what had been said in this room.
Eventually Chakotay tilted his head up and looked first at Tuvok
who barely nodded and then to the Ensign and Lieutenant.

"You two should adjourn for the night. You both have been
working long, hard shifts; let me and Tuvok discuss this matter.
You can be assured that what was said here will stay between the
four of us."

Tom and B'Elanna rose from their seats.

"I believe you have forgotten something, Commander," Tuvok said.

Chakotay's paused and looked quizzically at the Vulcan.

"You forgot to punish Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Paris as you
promised the Captain. I don't need to remind you that Captain
Janeway may be experiencing problems, but she is still the
Captain."

The First Officer nodded and turned to contemplate the pair
before him. "He's right you know. I told the Captain that I had
a suitable punishment in mind, and I do. You two can consider
yourselves confined to quarters when you aren't on duty."

"Chakotay?" Tom and B'Elanna responded in unison.

"You heard me. You two are confined to quarters if you aren't on
duty. You are confined to either Deck 9 Section 12a or Deck 4
section 3c. It's your pick."

Tom and B'Elanna smiled at the Commander and then at themselves.

"Of course, Commander, anything you say," Tom piped up, a smile
on his face.

"Come on, Tom, you can pick up your stuff and come to my cabin,"
B'Elanna suggested pulling Tom along after her and out into the
corridor.

"Your cabin? What about my cab..." The pilot's words were cut
off by the closing of the door to Chakotay's quarters.

The First Officer chuckled at hearing the pair argue. "If they
ever stop bickering, Tuvok, we had better start worrying."

"I believe you are correct, Commander. However, that does not
solve our present dilemma."

"Well, Tom and B'Elanna are correct, crew tension is very high.
I've felt it myself. There just has to be something we can do."
Chakotay paused for a moment and thought, analyzing the situation
carefully before he spoke. "I wonder when was the last time the
Captain has reported for a physical?" he queried the Vulcan.

"Without checking the ship's records, I would have to say that it
has been some time. Perhaps as much as five to six months."

"We need to get her in to see the Doctor. Maybe he can shed some
light on the Captain's change in mood. At the best, he can treat
her if he does find something is amiss...at the worst..."
Chakotay paused and thought but for a moment. "At the worst, he
has the authority to relieve her from duty."

* * * * * * *

"Is this okay?" Tom asked motioning to the table in the mess hall
that was in the far corner of the room.

B'Elanna surveyed the rest of the room and saw that everyone else
was congregating on the other side, out of earshot from the table
Tom had found.

"Yeah, it looks good."

Tom placed the tray carrying both of their meals on the table.
Then, the gentleman that he was, he pulled out a chair for
B'Elanna. With a flamboyant sweep of his arm he bid her to sit.

"You spoil me you know, Mr. Paris."

"Yeah, I know." He grinned. "You want me to stop?"

"I didn't say that."

Smiling he helped push in her chair before he too sat down beside
her.

"Another day with our nose to the grindstone," Tom quipped.
B'Elanna humorlessly chuckled as she speared something green with
her fork.

"I just hope, Her Bitchiness stays out of Engineering today,"
B'Elanna said, her voice low.

"Well," Tom began, "I wouldn't count on it. It seems like you
can't get away from her these days. Just when you think you're
safe..."

"Who's safe?"

Tom and B'Elanna turned to see not only Harry Kim but also Seven
of Nine had approached their table.

"What?"

"Ensign Kim asked both of you who was safe in reference to your
statement," Seven replied as she and Harry sat down at the table
with Tom and B'Elanna.

"Oh, well you know," Tom hedged, "anybody and everybody."

"Tom?" Harry warned in that, tell-me-the-truth-if-I'm-your-friend
kind of voice.

The pilot raked his fingers through his hair. "Harry, we were
just talking, you know about who's with who, the latest menu,"
Tom pushed a purple thing next to a yellow thing on his plate,
"the weather...you know."

"Jenny Delaney is with Lt. Chapman, Ursula Hendricks is seeing
both Crewman Dalby and Lt. Peters, though both are unaware; the
latest menu is as colorful as the menu before and probably tastes
just as bad, and the weather," Seven's ocular implant rose to new
heights, "is irrelevant."

The other three at the table stared at the ex-Borg their mouths
agape.

"Is something wrong?" Seven asked noticing their facial
impressions.

"That's amazing," B'Elanna finally said breaking the silence.

"Amazing that Dalby and Peters don't know about each other?"

"No, Harry, that she was able to say all that in one breath."

"Let me guess," Harry said spreading his napkin on his lap.
"You're talking about the Captain."

Tom looked up at his friend. "Yeah, are we that obvious?"

"No, Ensign Paris, the odds are 1.24576 to 1 that you are talking
about Captain Janeway. Everyone on the ship is talking about
her."

"Thanks, Seven. So if that's the case, what's your beef?"

"Beef?"

"He means, what is your complaint about the Captain?" B'Elanna
explained. "It seems like everyone has one of late."

"My complaint?"

Paris leaned forward a bit in his seat so what he had to say
couldn't be overheard by anyone else in the mess hall. "Come on,
Seven. She's been snapping at everyone. Are you telling me
you've been exempt?"

The ex-Borg pouted a bit before replying. "No. Last night
Captain Janeway came down to Astrometrics. When I informed her
that I had not made any progress, she stared at me."

The Chief Engineer laughed. "Just stared at you, Seven? Is that
all?" B'Elanna asked, wishing the Captain had only stared at her
and Tom last night.

"She stared at me before she picked up a tricorder and threw it
across Astrometrics. Then she left."

"That's more like it," Tom quipped. "For a minute there you had
me worried."

"Worried?" Harry asked.

Tom picked up something purple from his plate and held it up to
examine it, much like a scientist might pick up an insect.
"Yeah, worried. I thought for a moment that Janeway was treating
Seven different than the rest of us."

"Lower your voice, Tom. Someone might hear you," Harry warned.

The pilot nodded and lowered his voice before he spoke again.
"Do you really think, Harry," he motioned with his fork toward
the other diners, "that everyone is not having or had a similar
conversation today? Look around you," he beckoned. "Do you hear
any loud voices? See any smiles? This is not the mess hall that
it once was, where the only thing we had to complain about was
the food. Something is very wrong on Voyager, and it all stems
from Kathryn Janeway."

"Tom!" Harry gasped.

"Think about it, Harry." B'Elanna turned toward her friend. "The
Captain is the cause of everyone looking so pensive and
melancholy. She has everyone walking on egg shells--afraid to
speak their mind, afraid of telling the Captain anything but what
she wants to hear. And Tom's right, it isn't the same on Voyager
anymore," B'Elanna added. "I felt less tension on board when the
Maquis first joined the crew. Something has to give."

"B'Elanna, are you saying what I think you're saying?" Harry
asked his voice even lower than it was before.

The half-Klingon looked point blank at the young man, her gaze
didn't falter. "I'm not sure, Harry. I can't believe I even
feel this way sometimes. I can't believe the crew is acting the
way they are. Things aren't getting better on the ship, they are
getting worse."

Tom observed the ex-Borg's reaction to B'Elanna's words. "What
do you have to say, Seven? How do you feel about what has been
happening on Voyager and with the Captain?"

Seven, who had been chewing on a slice of bread, swallowed slowly
and what appeared to be painfully before replying. "What Lt.
Torres says is true. The situation is getting worse on Voyager.
I have calculated that if Voyager is to successfully reach the
Alpha Quadrant, it cannot do so under the current command.
Captain Janeway has become unstable, she allows her emotions rule
her actions. The conclusion is obvious; Voyager needs a new
captain."

"I don't like how this conversation is progressing," Harry said
softly but with passion. Suddenly having lost whatever appetite
he had, he threw his napkin onto his food tray. "It sounds like
we are discussing a possible mutiny."

"At the minimum, Harry, if this ship is ever to complete its
journey Janeway needs to be removed from command, either
temporarily, until we find out the reason why she has been acting
out of character--or possibly...permanently," Tom concluded
grimly. He noted the look of discomfort on his friend's face.
"I don't like it any more than you do, but we certainly can't
continue on like this."

* * * * * *

Later that evening the EMH stood just inside the Commander's
quarters at attention. It wasn't every day that the Doctor's
presence was requested by Voyager's First Officer.

"You wanted to see me, Commander?"

Chakotay motioned toward his dining area and beckoned the
physician to have a seat. Chakotay joined him, seating himself on
the other side of the table. "Voyager appears to be experiencing
a problem," he began carefully.

"A problem? Certainly, Lt. Torres and her staff..."

"It has nothing to do with Voyager's mechanical systems, it
involves...the Captain," Chakotay interrupted.

The Doctor's eyes widened slightly. "Oh."

"Just 'oh'?" He had expected the Doctor to act more alarmed.

"It comes as no surprise, Commander. I've observed problems with
Captain Janeway for some time now. She's irritable and very easy
to anger."

"And?"

"And what?"

"What is your prognosis of the Captain? What did your
examination determine?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?" Chakotay could hardly believe what he was hearing.
"Are you saying that nothing is wrong with her?"

"I determined nothing because I have yet to perform an
examination. I have scheduled physicals for her six times in the
last two months. Each time she has an excuse why she can't make
the appointment."

Chakotay leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his
chest. "I don't suppose that she had other commitments?"

"All six times? I think she's probably avoiding her physical,
just like most of the crew." The EMH's eyes narrowed and focused
on his host. "In fact, when was the last time you had yours?
Seems to me that you are overdue for your examination."

"Yeah, um...well...that's not the point, Doctor. The point is
that we need to have the Captain examined."

"Agreed. But to do that, I need to get the Captain to come to
me. In order to perform a detailed examination, there are
certain instruments that I need to use that cannot be removed
from the Sickbay."

"You want me to coerce her into coming?"

"If that is what it will take. Do you think you can do it?"

Chakotay thought for a moment. "I have to do it, for the good of
the ship."

"The ship? There seems to be more involved than just performing
a physical on an unwilling officer."

Chakotay examined the physician for sometime before he spoke
again.

"Doctor, what I'm about to tell you is to be kept in the
strictest of confidences. The well-being of Voyager and her crew
are at stake. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Commander. My protocols were designed to guarantee
discretion. What you tell me stays between us, unless I
determine it's not beneficial to the ship or its complement."

Chakotay contemplated the EMH briefly before he continued. Due
to the doctor's programming he knew the physician was telling the
truth, but he still felt it necessary to form his own opinions.
"We are all very worried about Captain Janeway. She's been
acting irrationally as of late. We believe that it has come to a
point in time where she may not be capable of commanding
Voyager."

"I understand. I myself, though I have not been able to
medically examine her, have questioned some of her actions
lately."

"Good. Then you know that under Order 105, Section C: The chief
medical officer has the authority to relieve a commander of duty
if he or she is deemed mentally or physically unfit. To do so
requires you to perform a physical examination."

"So you want me to relieve her of duty?"

"Want? No. Need? Maybe. What we are contemplating is not a
pleasant undertaking, Doctor. I greatly respect the Captain. If
your examination comes up with nothing substantial, then we may
be forced to resort to General Order 28."

"That being the concurrence of the ship's first officer, chief
medical officer (namely me), counselor (which Voyager doesn't
possess), and one junior officer of command station (say Ensign
Paris or Ensign Kim). That being the case, you'd require my
services either way."

Chakotay nodded solemnly.

The Doctor's lips formed a fine line while he pondered the
situation. "You can count on me, Commander. If the Captain's
physical examination proves inconclusive, and if you decide that
the Captain is not fit to remain in charge, I'll back you."

"Thank you. But first let's see if you can conduct a physical
examination of her."

"I'll be prepared."

"I know you will be. Just do what you must to check her out.
She has to be examined. This may be the most important job
you've ever done."

The EMH nodded solemnly. "Understood, Commander."

* * * * * * *

Early the next morning, Janeway awoke on her sofa still clad in
her uniform. She rubbed the sleepiness from her face and tucked
a lock of auburn hair behind her left ear. She yawned twice as
she padded over to her replicator and ordered a large mug of
coffee. Clutching the warm mug between her hands she sat down in
front of her desk communicator and accessed her messages. There
were two messages from engineering informing her of the current
status of the warp engines. The Captain grimaced at the lack of
progress indicated, took a long draw on the java, and proceeded
through the rest of the messages. Somewhere near the bottom of
the list she finally came across one from the EMH. Reading the
note, Kathryn Janeway smiled slyly, and drained the contents in
her mug.

Ten minutes later a neatly dressed, hair perfectly combed, and
with a smile she hadn't sported lately, Captain Janeway entered
Sickbay.

"Good morning, Captain. I see you got my message," the EMH
greeted her.

She nodded. "Yes, it somewhat surprised me. With all the people
working on the warp core problem, I didn't expect you to be the
one to find the solution. I should have known by now not to
underestimate your skill and ingenuity, Doctor."

The EMH picked up the medical tricorder from where it lay on the
table beside him and approached her. He began to circle her,
scanning her as he went. He stopped when he was in position
between her and the door to sickbay.

Janeway grinned. "What's this about, Doctor? What does scanning
me with your tricorder have to do with finding a sufficient
supply of caesium copper to repair the warp core?"

The Doctor tilted his balding head up and looked at the Captain.
"I haven't seen you in Sickbay in quite sometime, Captain. I've
been worried about you as of late. You haven't been taking care
of yourself. You don't seem to get enough sleep or enough to
eat. I've told you before that you have to look after yourself,
as well as you look after Voyager, if you want to get us home to
the Alpha Quadrant."

She laughed lightly. "I'm feeling fine, Doctor. Now let's get
to the point of this meeting. Tell me what you found."

The EMH nodded. He did indeed want to get to the point of the
meeting. He walked toward her and she, like he had planned,
backed up to preserve her personal space. Just two more steps
backwards and she would be perfectly lined up to the medical
diagnostic examination device (MDED)(1) --a device that was too
large to be portable but provided a much more detailed analysis
of a patient's condition than the medical tricorder could.

"Certainly, Captain." When she was finally in position, the
physician then elaborated on an extremely detailed fictional
explanation of how caesium copper could be extracted from a waste
product from the warp core nacelles and combined with a variety
of medical compounds. While he was in the middle of his
explanation, he casually tapped out a series of commands on the
MDED control panel.

Janeway listened to him speak. With each new sentence, she
became more exasperated. What he was telling her was making no
sense at all.

"Doctor, I know you mean well, but there is absolutely no way
that what you are telling me can be accomplished. In order to
make enough caesium copper to be useful..."

The EMH tapped a few more keys and his eyes widened at what the
readout displayed.

Janeway stepped forward. "What are you doing?"

The diagnostic wasn't complete yet. The EMH knew he had to stall
for as long as possible if he wanted a complete analysis.
"Nothing, Captain. I'm just killing the two proverbial birds
with one stone. I'm performing a medical exam while I discuss
this solution with you. It's just a demonstration of my
multitasking capabilities."

"What medical exam?" Her voice was cold and hard. "Are you
examining me without my permission?!"

"It is within my rights as the Chief Medical Officer to examine
any member of the crew. I don't need to obtain permission, even
from the ship's captain. What I have found is very interesting.
Through further detailed analysis it might offer an explanation
of your behavior as..."

"Computer, delete the Emergency Medical Hologram, authorization
Kathryn Janeway Omega Nine Five One, reactivation only on my
personal voice print security protocol."

The EMH's eyes widened and his lower jaw dropped in astonishment
just before he disappeared.

* * * * * * * *

"Status?" Janeway barked immediately after alighting from the
turbolift.

"Everything is stable, Captain. We are maintaining warp at 5.9,"
Harry Kim announced almost hesitantly, awaiting her wrath at the
point three drop in speed from the day before.

"What happened to 6.2?" she snapped.

"Well, Captain..."

"Captain," Tuvok interrupted. "I am detecting an alien vessel
approaching our position."

Janeway diverted her attention away from a relieved Harry Kim and
towards the Chief of Security.

"Scan it."

Tuvok complied. "It is a small ship, approximately the size of
our Delta Flyer. Presently it is traveling at warp 5.5. There
are two life signs within the vessel. And Captain," The Vulcan
looked up and eyed Janeway, "I'm also detecting a supply of
caesium copper."

Janeway's eyes widened. "Hail them."

Tuvok nodded and tapped on his console. Janeway took her seat in
the center of the bridge beside her First Officer.

"Channel is open, Captain." Tuvok tapped his console again.
"Visual is coming through."

On the screen two small purple aliens coalesced. They were chubby
individuals, each sporting a stock of dark unruly hair on their
heads. Small orifices on the sides on their heads indicated what
must be their ears, and tiny black eyes bulged out from their
faces. Their noses, seemingly large compared to the rest of
their features, twitched nervously.

The Captain smiled warmly. "Greetings, my name is Captain
Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. I'm pleased
to meet you."

The two aliens' noses twitched at a faster tempo and they turned
to look at each other before they again turned back to the
screen.

The alien on the left spoke. "We-we from Gyrask--big big planet.
What-what you want?"

Chakotay smiled softly at the rapid and repetitive manner of the
alien's speech.

"Our scans indicate that you possess a significant quantity of
caesium copper. We would like to discuss trade," Janeway replied
evenly.

"Trade? Trade? No...no trade caesium copper is ours...ours. No
trade. Out..get..get out of way." The two aliens shook their
heads rapidly back and forth. The next minute the little
spacecraft spun around and shot away, back towards where it had
come from.

"Mr. Paris, follow them!"

"Aye, Captain."

"I don't have to tell you what will happen if you lose them, do
I?"

Tom's only reply was the rapid tattoo his fingers beat out on the
helm console.

"Tuvok, let me know when we are within weapons' range," Janeway
snapped crisply.

At the Ops Station, where Chakotay was helping Harry Kim, the
First Officer looked up. "Captain?"

"I *need* that mineral. After we disable the vessel then we can
confiscate the caesium copper."

"But, Captain, it will serve us no good to fire on the vessel,"
Tuvok stated. "Firing on an alien vessel without first being
provoked violates..."

"Are you two questioning my orders?" Janeway challenged.

Chakotay looked over to his right and caught Tuvok's eye. Paris
who, as ordered, had been following the smaller ship, looked back
at the senior officers. On the screen, the alien vessel was now
visible again as Voyager had rapidly closed the distance between
them.

Janeway's steely gray eyes flashed with rage. "Tuvok, fire!" she
roared.

"I cannot, Captain."

"I gave a direct order!"

Tuvok remained motionless at his station, his dark eyes focused
intently on Janeway.

"Computer, transfer operation of tactical to the captain's
station, authorization Beta Five," Janeway ground out quickly.

::::Acknowledged::::

Tuvok looked as surprised as a Vulcan could.

Janeway simply turned and entered the command for the computer to
fire a phaser blast at the small ship. An angry orange beam of
light promptly struck its target just before Tuvok and Chakotay
could reach the captain. The alien ship's defensive shielding
protected it from the brunt of the blast but did send it
somersaulting through space.

"Captain, stop this!" Chakotay barked. He reached out, grabbing
his captain by both shoulders and pulled her away from her
console and up out of her chair.

Janeway struggled against his hold on her. Her body twisted
against her First Officer. Growling and biting like a Klingon she
fought, heedless of the looks of astonishment from the other
crewmembers on the bridge. She had almost succeeded in freeing
herself when she felt a pair of strong arms encircle her from
behind.

"Captain, under Starfleet General Order 28, I'm hereby relieving
you of duty," Chakotay informed her. He would have preferred to
have the Doctor relieve her on medical grounds, but she had left
him no choice.

"You can't do that, I'm the captain of this vessel. She's *my*
ship!" Janeway continued to struggle uselessly against her Chief
of Security's hold but to no avail. "According to regulations
you require the consensus of three senior officers, that being
comprised of First Officer, Chief Medical Officer, Counselor, or
one junior officer of command station. I challenge you to comply
with the regulations," she spat.

"You are correct, Captain. I believe you'll find that not only
I, but Tuvok and the EMH will agree that you are not fit to
continue command. Harry, contact the Doctor and ask him to come
to the bridge."

"Aye, sir," Harry replied.

Despite the fact that he knew this was something that had to be
done for the benefit of the ship and the crew, part of him felt
like he was betraying Janeway, but he stood firm.

"Commander, I'm receiving no answer to my hail."

Chakotay turned to look at the ops officer. "Computer, location
of the ship's EMH."

::::Voyager's EMH has been deactivated.::::

"Reactive him."

::::Unable to comply.::::

"Explain."

::::Activation of the EMH is restricted to voice only
authorization of Captain, Kathryn Janeway. ::::

Chakotay looked down at Kathryn Janeway. A sly smile spread
across her face. What's gotten into you, Kathryn? I thought I
knew you.

"Regulations require that you have agreement between *three*
senior officers, Commander," she reminded him. Seems to me that
you are short one." She all but stuck her tongue out at him.
When he didn't relent, she began to fight again trying to pull
away from Tuvok's strong grasp. She bit and she clawed until
finally Tuvok resorted to applying the Vulcan nerve pinch to her
neck and she fell limp in his arms.

Chakotay coolly crossed his arms in front of him. "Tuvok, take
her to the brig."

* * * * * *

Chakotay sat in his usual position at the conference room table,
leaving the captain's chair vacant. It just didn't seem
appropriate for him to be sitting there in her place. He was
flanked on either side by Tuvok and Harry, and across from him
sat Tom Paris. B'Elanna was the last to arrive and slid into the
chair beside Tom. Everyone, save for Tuvok, looked as
uncomfortable as Chakotay felt.

"B'Elanna, did you hear what happened?"

The Engineer nodded. "Yes, Chakotay. The word spread fast. So
it's true, she's in the brig?"

Chakotay nodded.

"Now what?"

"That's why I've called this meeting. We have critical things to
discuss. The most important being what's going to happen to the
Captain and the Doctor's current situation.

"First, regarding the Captain. Currently, she's being held in
the brig. If anyone asks, tell them that we are holding her there
for her own protection and until we can determine a prudent
course of action. We don't want to hurt Captain Janeway. We
want to find a way to help her. In the meantime, I'm assuming
command of Voyager, and until further notice, Mr. Tuvok will
assume duties as both First Officer and his current position.

"Now regarding the EMH. Until B'Elanna and Harry," Chakotay
acknowledged the pair with a nod, "can find out a way to bypass
the Captain's security lock, Paris, I'm placing you in charge of
Sickbay. You are now our acting Chief Medical Officer."

Tom grimaced slightly.

"I wish there was another way, but you are the most qualified.
Also, if we have to officially remove the Captain from duty, we
need someone to assume the duties of a Chief Medical Officer.
You'd take the Doctor's position and I can place Harry in the
position of 'junior officer of a command station.' It should
just squeak through the regulations if we ever get back to the
Alpha Quadrant. I'll leave it up to you, Tom, as to who you'll
leave in charge of the helm."

"Aye, sir."

"Now on to--"

::::Commander, twenty alien spaceships approaching.::::
Surprisingly for Seven, who had been left in charge of the
bridge, she sounded uneasy. ::::They seem to be of comparable
configuration to the one we encountered earlier, except they are
larger.::::


In a flash the conference room was cleared and the senior
officers streamed out onto the bridge. Chakotay called out for
Red Alert and for shields to be raised immediately.

Henderson, who was manning Ops, stepped back so Harry could take
control. Tom slipped momentarily back to his position at the
helm and Tuvok resumed his post where Seven had been standing.
With red lights flashing and the klaxon sounding, the First
Officer bypassed the Captain's chair and sat in his own.

"Can you hail them, Mr. Kim?"

Harry shook his head. "They aren't responding, Commander."

"Damn, I want to apologize to them for their ship being fired
upon. If I could talk to them, perhaps I could make them
understand our predicament." Chakotay shook his head. You
couldn't speak to someone if they didn't want to listen. That
left only one other option--prepare Voyager for potential attack.

The lights on the bridge darkened and the red alert warning
lights flashed.

"Status?!" Chakotay barked.

"I am reading, twenty-four alien vessels now, Commander," Harry
Kim replied.

"At their rate of travel they should intercept Voyager in
approximately ten minutes," Tom added. "They may be small, but
they're quick--quicker than we are right now."

"Paris, evasive maneuvers. Do your best. I don't want to fire
on them if we don't have to. Perhaps if we don't, they'll
understand we don't want to fight and decide to talk to us
instead."

"Aye, sir," Paris replied without hesitation.

"Weapons?" Chakotay asked.

Tuvok tapped out commands at his station. "Scanning. They
appear to have a variety of weapons...none as advanced as
Voyager's, but in their number they can be formidable."

"Will our shields hold?"

"Unknown, Commander. It would depend on a number of variables--
method of attack, their supply of weapons, and available energy
reserves, to name but a few."

"Looks like we're going to find out about the shields, hold on
everyone!" Tom called out. He pitched Voyager to starboard as
the alien ships neared. Several of them peppered the bigger ship
with bursts of a small version of photon torpedoes.

From his position on the floor, where he had landed when Paris
had banked the ship away from the alien vessels, Chakotay called
out. "Report!"

"Shields are at 94 percent and holding, Commander," Kim informed
him. "No reports of any injuries, but there are reports of minor
internal damage to the ship."

"They are coming around again," Tuvok informed the bridge crew.

Paris again swerved Voyager in an effort to avoid fire, but being
that they were so outnumbered, he couldn't avoid all of the
blasts.

"Shields down to 85 percent, Commander. There are reports of
damage coming in from decks 5 and 6."

"Injuries?"

"Mostly minor ones, sir."

"But they won't be if we don't get out of here," Chakotay said
mostly to himself. "Tom, can't you get this ship moving any
faster?"

"I'm trying, Commander, but--"

::::Torres to Chakotay, come in.::::

"Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"The warp core is at critical, Commander. I'm going to have to
drop warp core output by thirty percent."

"Isn't there something else you can do, B'Elanna? We need all
the speed we can get right now."

"I don't like it any more than you do, but it's either that or no
propulsion at all, Commander."

"Understand. Do your best. Keep me posted, Chakotay out."

"You heard her, Paris. You're going to have to be inventive.
Tuvok, be prepared to defend Voyager on my command with a full
sweep of phaser fire."

"Aye, sir."

"They're coming about again!" Tom called out. "Hold on!" He
pitched the ship to port and then corkscrewed Voyager around and
around before finally straightening out the ship and shooting off
away from Voyager's attackers. Like persistent little gnats the
alien vessels soon overtook Voyager again, firing as they came.
The larger ship rocked as each volley impacted her shields.

There was a cessation of alien fire; it seemed for a moment that
the battle was over until Voyager was struck on its starboard
side by one large blast which caused Voyager to lurch suddenly to
starboard.

"What was that?" Chakotay asked.

"It appears that the aliens synchronized their attack into one
powerful strike, Commander," Tuvok explained.

"The purple people eaters all fired at once and in one location,"
Tom simplified.

Tuvok raised one eyebrow. "Essentially. They have also almost
depleted their energy reserves."

"Commander, we've sustained heavy damage on decks 4 and 5. There
are numerous reports of injuries coming in," Harry informed the
First Officer.

Great! This incident with Kathryn couldn't have happened at a
worse time! "Paris, get down to sickbay. Harry, contact Rollins
and have him come to the bridge to man the helm," Chakotay called
out slipping momentarily into Paris' seat until the other pilot
could arrive. "Call Samantha Wildman and Neelix to assist Paris
in Sickbay. Dispatch repair crews to Decks 4 and 5 and seal any
breaches."

"Aye, sir."

Tom was already in the turbolift by the time Chakotay had
finished issuing orders to Harry. When he reached Sickbay, Tom
saw that Samantha and Neelix were already there and several
crewman were waiting to receive medical assistance. The three
quickly evaluated the injuries. The minor cases were left to
Neelix's care, while Samantha and Tom handled those more
seriously injured.

Meanwhile back on the bridge, Rollins was doing his best to keep
Voyager out of the line of any remaining fire. The little alien
ships continued to buzz around the larger ship, taking random
potshots time and again. Most of the shots were being deflected
by what remained of Voyager's shields.

"Commander, some of the aliens are leaving--more are following,"
Harry Kim reported.

"They must have run out of energy reserves finally," Chakotay
concluded. "Rollins, try and move us away from the aliens. When
you are a sufficient distance away resume original course.
B'Elanna, report."

Over the open comm link, the bridge crew could hear the sounds of
the engineering crew working and Carey and B'Elanna barking
orders before the Chief Engineer responded. "Sorry about that,
Commander, there's a lot to be done down here."

"Understood. What's the status of the ship?"

"Well, frankly, it's a mess, Commander. I've dispatched repair
crews all over the ship with concentration on Decks 4 and 5.
Vorik's already reported back from Deck 4. It doesn't look good.
Rough estimates indicate that twenty-six cabins have been almost
totally destroyed."

The First Officer gripped the arms of his chair tightly. Of all
times for the Captain not to be in command. he thought, it
would have to be now. "I'll put Harry in charge of crew
relocation, B'Elanna. Keep me posted on your progress."

"Aye, sir."

* * * * * *

"Neelix, see if you can give Sam a hand with Ensign Peters, while
I take care of Crewman O'Hara."

Neelix nodded crisply and went to help Sam Wildman while Tom
activated the medical arch over O'Hara.

"Don't you need any help, Tom?" Sam called out. "I could get
Wilkenson to come down."

"Thanks, but I don't think this will take that long." Tom smiled
confidently down at Talli O'Hara and injected a sedative into the
pretty redhead's neck. "I've assisted the Doc with a ruptured
spleen before. You just have to know what you're doing. Talli
should be dancing jigs again by this time tomorrow."

"Tom seems to be doing very well," Neelix remarked quietly to
Sam. "I didn't know he was so capable."

"You wouldn't with how the Doctor ribs him all the time,"
Samantha remarked, "but I happen to know that our EMH also
respects Tom's talents. Before he was deactivated, he was
preparing to instruct our blue-eyed pilot on the intricacies of
repairing brain injuries."

Neelix let out a low whistle.

"He's very good...though I'm not sure how good Tom knows he is,
but rest assured the EMH does."

"Chief pilot and skilled medical provider all rolled into one,"
Neelix pronounced.

"Yeah, and don't forget to add 'Defender of the Universe and
Scourge of Evil'," Sam added referring to Paris' Captain Proton
holodeck character.

Neelix smiled at the blonde woman recognizing the reference. "It
was Tom trying to act like Captain Proton that got him into
trouble," he reminded her.

"Yeah, I know that Janeway had to punish him for what happened
with the Moneans, but I would have thought that he would have got
his lieutenant's pip back by now."

"But who would have thought back then that Captain Janeway
herself would be spending time in the brig?" he asked. News had
spread fast through the ranks of Janeway's predicament. Sam
shook her head sadly.

"You two going to talk or take care of our patients?" Tom called
out.

Neelix and Sam smiled and got back to work.

* * * * *

"How's it going, Joe?" B'Elanna asked her second in command. She
had come down to Deck 5 to join Joe Carey and see for herself how
the repairs were coming along.

"Slow, Chief. We're making progress, but due to the nature of
the damage if we don't proceed carefully, we could have--"

"Chief!"

B'Elanna spun around to see one of her junior engineers, Ensign
Matthew Nycot, approach at a trot.

"Ensign, what's wrong?"

"We just reached Deck 5 Section 10. We have found more injured
and..."

"And what," she prompted noting the worried look on the young
man's face.

"It's Megan Delaney, Chief. She's trapped--pinned under a fallen
strut."

"Did you contact Sickbay?"

"Yes. With communications down in this area, we sent someone
down to Sickbay. Ensign Paris should be on his way down, but it
may take a while to extract Megan."

"Show me, Matt. Perhaps I can help."

Nycot doubled back the way he had come, this time with B'Elanna
Torres following him. "I was hoping you would say that, we could
use your expertise. Follow me, this way's the quickest due to
other damage to this area of the ship.

"I'm right behind you," she reassured him.

Carefully picking their way around other fallen beams and
sparking cables, the pair neared Megan Delaney's position. When
they arrived, B'Elanna found that Tom was already there, his
medkit laid open beside him on the deck. He was kneeling down
beside Megan and brushing her wavy chestnut hair from her heart-
shaped face. B'Elanna could also see that the metal strut did
indeed have the woman trapped against the deck, effectively
pressing against Megan's right knee. Blood had pooled all around
the woman and she looked very pale. As B'Elanna neared, she
could also hear Tom's soothing words and see the tears that
stained the woman's face.

Hearing the sound of footsteps, Tom turned around. "Glad you
showed up, B'Elanna." He motioned for Nycot to attend to Megan
for a moment and joined B'Elanna just out of earshot of his
patient.

"Looks like you need some engineering assistance," B'Elanna
noted, looking up at the fallen strut.

"Yeah, you can say that again," Tom replied softly.

"What is her condition?"

"Well basically her knee is smashed. I've been able to put a
tourniquet on her leg to stop the bleeding, and I've injected her
with a compound to help replenish the blood she lost. So
essentially she's stable for the time being, but..."

"But what?" she prompted.

He turned back to look at Megan Delaney. Matt Nycot was talking
to her softly, trying his best to keep her mind off her
situation, but Megan couldn't help but notice the concerned look
on the medic's face.

"It's okay, Tom, tell her," Megan urged.

"I keep on forgetting that you have excellent hearing, Megs," Tom
chastised her lightly with a soft smile on his face. Megan tried
to return the smile but failed.

"Well it's like this, B'Elanna. You have to be very careful
removing that strut--careful and fast. I've got her stable but
for how long I don't know. From what I can tell that is--the
medical tricorder isn't working very well down here. Whatever
those purple creatures hit Voyager with seems to be disrupting
not only the transporters, but the tricorder..."

"What he's trying to say, Lieutenant, is that if you don't get me
out of here soon, he might have to amputate."

B'Elanna looked first at Megan and then up to Tom and mouthed the
word 'amputate?'

Tom solemnly nodded.

"We'll get you out, Megan. You believe me don't you?"

"Yes, Lt. Torres," she said then grimaced in pain.

Tom knelt down beside Megan and grasped one of her hands in both
of his. "I'm sorry I can't give you anything more for the pain,
Megan. But when we move you, you're going to have to help us and
let us know if we hurt you. I promise we'll be as quick as
possible and as soon as you are out, I'll sedate you."

"I know you'll do your best. I can handle anything, Tom. Just
promise me you won't take my leg. Promise me, Tom," she pleaded.

Tom hesitated.

Megan clasped her free hand over his own and squeezed hard.

"Promise me," she reiterated.

Paris pursed his lips and nodded once. "I promise, Megan."

B'Elanna finally released a breath she didn't know she had been
holding. Could she have made the same promise Tom had? She
didn't know and she sure as hell hoped that she'd never find
herself in the same position.

"Go ahead, B'Elanna. I'm going to stay here with Meg. For some
reason she can't get enough of looking at my blue eyes--I don't
have the heart to tell her they aren't natural," he jested.

It was just like him to garnish any stressful situation with a
liberal dose of humor. This time though she could tell it didn't
come easy for him.

"Okay, hold on to her, Tom. We'll do our best." She nodded to
Nycot and called for Carey and another junior engineer for
assistance. The four of them positioned a large electromagnetic
jack under the strut close to Megan's knee. B'Elanna instructed
the crew on the exact placement, then she called for two lateral
spatial supports to be positioned so the strut wouldn't fall back
onto any of them after it was raised from the deck.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the strut began to move. Tom and Nycot
placed themselves on either side of Megan. The trapped twin
clenched her teeth together trying hard not to give in to the
pain. Despite the painkillers Paris had administered, her knee
was so mangled that the agony couldn't be totally contained.

Tom could see that Megan was trying hard to be brave. He could
also see the perspiration, from the effort required not to scream
out, pour down her face.

"Let it go, Megs," Tom coached. "You get no points for trying to
be brave. Yell, scream, cry. Do whatever it takes."

Megan let out a pitiful wail and buried her face in Tom's chest.
Hot tears and beads of sweat moistened his uniform. The
pilot/nurse stroked her head tenderly and Nycot patted her back,
both trying to offer what little comfort they could.

"Get ready, Tom," B'Elanna warned.

Tom nodded. "On the count of three, Nycot," he instructed.
Nycot and Tom gripped Megan by her shoulders. "As soon as she's
free, I'm going to prep her then we are heading right to
Sickbay."

"Aye, sir."

B'Elanna positioned herself by Megan's feet and held the twin's
ankles firmly. "Just a little bit more, Joe," she instructed.

The strut groaned in protest as it was raised. Suddenly it
shifted and one of the lateral supports thankfully stopped it
from falling and inflicting any more damage.

"Now!" B'Elanna yelled.

Tom and Nycot didn't need to be told twice. Swiftly, the two men
pulled the astrometrics officer out and B'Elanna carefully guided
her legs along after them. When they were safely out of danger,
Tom instructed the other two to put her back down on the deck.

Quickly Tom snapped open his med-kit and extracted a hypospray.
Selecting an appropriate dosage he pressed it against Megan's
neck.

Just before his patient slipped into merciful unconsciousness she
whispered: "Remember, Tom, you promised."

Tom swallowed hard upon hearing her words and began to prepare
her for transport to Sickbay.

* * * * * *

"Commander, most of the injuries have been treated and released
from Sickbay with the exception of Megan Delaney," Harry
reported. He paused for a moment having just heard the news
himself he was still trying to come to grips with what Tom was
about to face.

Hearing the hesitation in the young man's voice, Chakotay looked
up. "What's her condition, Harry?"

"Not good. According to what information B'Elanna is providing,
Tom says that Megan may lose her leg. Ensign Paris has also
contacted the bridge to see if there is any remote chance that
there has been any change in the Captain's condition. He needs
to know if it is at all possible that the EMH may be activated
before he has to perform the operation."

Chakotay closed his eyes for a moment and said a silent prayer of
hope. He didn't relish Tom's position right now. The EMH should
be the one to make these decisions and perform any operation
required, not a medic with only a couple years of any actual
hands-on experience.

"How much time does Paris have?"

"Not much, sir--mere minutes."

Chakotay looked over towards tactical. "Tuvok, what is Janeway's
condition?"

"Still unconscious, and probably will be for a few more hours,
sir," Tuvok answered promptly.

"Harry, inform Tom that I'm sorry but he's on his own. Also tell
him I have every confidence in him, and keep me informed on Lt.
Delaney's status."

"Yes, sir."

"Any more news on the repairs?"

"According to Lt. Torres, they're coming along slowly,
Commander."

"And the crew relocations?"

"Just about all relocations have been taken care of," Harry
remarked. "Unfortunately a lot of personal articles have been
lost or destroyed."

"Fortunately, everyone was at their duty stations and we didn't
lose them," Chakotay added. Harry nodded.

"Tuvok, I want to be notified as soon as Janeway awakens. There
are several things I need to discuss with her."

* * * * * *

"How is she?" Samantha Wildman asked. Tom had pulled the sheet up
from the foot of the bed to Megan's mid-thigh and was carefully
removing the compression bandage he had earlier placed around her
knee.

"See for yourself, Sam."

After the knee was laid bare, Sam could see the terrible damage
that the strut had caused. The leg was horrifically discolored
where the strut had been pressed up against the knee. The
swollen flesh that surrounded the knee was various shades of
blues and purples.

"It looks nasty," Sam remarked clucking her tongue at the
gruesome sight.

"Actually, that's not even my major concern. Look at this."
Paris pointed to the twin's right foot. "See the coloring here,
it's kinda of a dusky blue."

Sam nodded. "What does that indicate?"

"It means that I may have lied to Megan earlier."

"What do you mean?"

"I promised her I wouldn't amputate her leg, Sam."

Samantha paled not only from Tom's words but from the look of
betrayal that marked his fair face.

"When I straightened out her knee after she was brought to
Sickbay, I was able to relieve the pressure from the popliteal
artery. Which means the blood flow to her foot has been
restored."

"That's good...,isn't it?"

"It should be, providing I don't uncover or cause any more damage
during the operation. Her knee is like a picture puzzle, it'll
take some time to put it together. She's not out of the woods
yet. She could still lose her leg."

"I'm sure you'll do fine," Sam said reassuringly. "Come on then,
Tom, let's prep--"

"My sister's in there, I want to see her. I DEMAND to see her!!!"

Tom and Samantha looked up at the source of the interruption.

"Jenny, I'm sure they are doing all they can for her," Neelix
assured the distraught young woman.

From her position, just inside the doors to Sickbay, Jennifer
Delaney looked up at Tom and then down to the still form of her
sister.

"I deserve to be with her. I'm her sister. Let me through,
Neelix!"

During their exchange, Tom let Samantha remove his uniform top
and replace it with a surgical gown and proceeded to the
ultrasonic hand sanitizer.

"It's okay, Neelix," Tom finally said to the Talaxian. "Let her
come in."

"What is wrong with Megs, Tom?" she asked approaching the tall
man.

Tom signed. "Sam, activate the medical arch over Megan and
prepare yourself to assist." Then he turned towards the patient's
twin.

"I'll have to make this quick, Jen," he started to explain.
"Megan was trapped under a fallen strut on Deck 5."

Jenny gasped.

"Her knee has been severely damaged. "I'm going to try and fix
it, but I don't have to remind you that I'm far from a fully
trained physician."

"I know you'll do your best," Jenny said trying to sound
encouraging.

"I will do my best, I can promise you that, but I won't lie to
you, Jen. We've been friends far too long for that."

Tom paused and turned his hands over so the sanitizer could
properly clean his palms.

"What is it you're not telling me?" Jen demanded.

Tom's blue eyes captured her vivid green ones intently. The twin
couldn't remember ever seeing the pilot look so serious.

"What I'm trying to tell you, is that if I'm not able to fix the
damage. I...I...may have to amputate her leg."

Jen's mouth fell open and she would have collapsed if it hadn't
been for Neelix's quick reflexes.

"Stay with her, Neelix," Tom said. "She'll need to be with
someone during the operation."

"Don't worry, Tom, I will...and I want you to know I have every
confidence in your abilities."

The words were good to hear, Tom just wished he had as much
confidence in himself as Neelix did.

* * * * * *

"Harry, wait up!"

Harry spun around to see B'Elanna Torres trotting up towards him.
"What's up, Maquis? Looks like you are in a hurry."

"Have you heard from Tom?" she asked. "Is the operation over?"

"Last I heard he was still operating. Doesn't seem right does
it?"

"It certainly doesn't, the whole ship doesn't seem right.
Captain Janeway is in the brig. The EMH can't be activated. And
Tom's performing major surgery."

"I'm sure that Tom will do his best," Harry assured her.

"Oh, I know he will do his best. But will it be good enough?"
she asked him.

Harry didn't know what to say.

"If I know one thing, I know that if he has to resort to
amputation he'll never forgive himself."

"He's not a trained surgeon, let alone a doctor," Harry reminded
her. "He has nothing to forgive. It's not his fault that he's
not fully qualified and he had this situation thrust upon him."

"It won't matter to him, Harry. Even if I hadn't seen his face
when he was with Megan on Deck 5, I know him. I sometimes feel
that I know him better than I do myself, and other times he's
still an enigma. But I do know that regardless of how much
training he's received from the Doctor, he will consider it a
failing of his own if he has to resort to amputation. He will
blame himself for not taking his medical training anymore
seriously than he has. He'll kick himself for not studying
longer, not listening to the Doctor more intently. Tom will find
some way to place the blame on himself. I've seen him do it
before, Harry. This time won't be any different."

Harry didn't know what to say, he knew B'Elanna spoke the truth.

* * * * * *

"I'm the Captain of this vessel. I demand that you release me
immediately!"

The two hapless security officers assigned to brig detail looked
up at each other and shook their heads. They never thought that
they'd ever see Kathryn Janeway in the ship's brig.

"Konlat, I know you," Janeway threatened pointing her finger at
the tall man, "and you too, Jack Long. If I ever get out of
here, I'll make both of your lives miserable. You'll both regret
the day you ever saw me in here!"

"I already regret it," Jack admitted to the other guard.

"Me too," Konlat agreed.

With a single push of a button welcomed silence greeted them as
the force field separating Janeway's cell from the brig command
post adjusted frequency to cancel out any sound coming from her
cell.

"We may have to look at her, but there's nothing saying we have
to listen to her," Jack concluded with a self-satisfied grin.

Konlat chuckled. "I'll worry about facing her wrath later.
Computer record any sound from cell 3b, if any reference is made
to Chakotay or the EMH, inform me."

::::Acknowledged.::::

From behind the force field on the brig's cell the pair could see
Janeway pace back and forth still yelling at them. Eventually
she sat down on the bunk. Her eyes never left the two guards.
If looks could kill, then both Konlat and Long would have dropped
dead.

* * * * * *

Tuvok looked up from his console. "Commander, I've just been
informed that Captain Janeway has regained consciousness."

"How's Lt. Delaney doing?"

"According to Mr. Neelix, who is in Sickbay, they are almost
finished."

"No time to extract the information from the Captain and
reactivate the EMH then?"

"I do not believe so, Commander."

Chakotay sighed. The moment he had been dreading had arrived.
"Will you accompany me to the brig, Tuvok? There are several
questions I have for the Captain."

"Of course."

* * * * * *

Chakotay stood just outside the force field to Janeway's cell,
arms on his hips with Tuvok flanking him. Janeway made note of
her two visitors.

"Lower the force field," Chakotay ordered his eyes never leaving
the Captain.

"Jack Long positioned himself, phaser drawn, just outside
Janeway's cell. Konlat activated the controls, the force field
dropped, and Chakotay and Tuvok entered the cell.

"Morning, Kathryn," he greeted her.

Janeway who was seated on the bunk, her knees drawn up to her
chin looked first at the tattooed man and then the Vulcan. Her
gray eyes flashed with rage.

"Morning?" she spat. "Is that all you can say to me, Chakotay?"

"I'm sorry it had to come to this," he offered. He *was* sorry
and still couldn't believe that Kathryn was occupying a cell in
the brig--it was a strange turn of events--very strange.

Janeway noted his look of internal conflict. "But not sorry
enough to release me?" she asked. Her voice had taken on a
sultry tone, much lower than usual. Kathryn Janeway then lowered
her legs, stood up and casually tucked a lock of her auburn hair
behind her left ear, never once taking her eyes off Chakotay.

He swallowed hard, she certainly wasn't going to make this easy
for him. Regretfully he shook his head. "No, I can't release
you. Not yet. Believe me, I wish..."

"You have no right to imprison me!" she roared. Gone was the
seductress, the shrew had returned. "This is mutiny!"

"Actually, Captain, under General Order 28, we have the right to
relieve you from duty."

"But you forgot, without the Doctor you..."

"I've made Tom Paris acting Chief Medical Officer until we can
find a way to reactivate the EMH."

"Tom Paris as an acting Chief Medical Officer? What a laugh!
It'll never work. The Federation won't buy it!" she spat. "When
or *if* you get back to the Alpha Quadrant they'll imprison you
on charges of mutiny!"

"We'll see," Chakotay said slowly and what he hoped sounded
confidently.

Janeway disgustedly turned her attention away from the First
Officer and instead focused on the Vulcan. "Tuvok, I might have
expected this from a former Maquis officer, but you? We've known
each other for years!"

"I believed I knew you, Captain-- but I appear to have been
mistaken," the Vulcan remarked.

"But surely you know that what's happening here is preposterous!"
Janeway continued hoping to persuade Tuvok to trust her again.
"Voyager is *my* ship. If Voyager is ever to make it home, back
to the Alpha Quadrant, her captain can't be confined to the brig
for the remainder of the journey!"

"That would be illogical. Taking into account your latest
personality alterations, it is logical to conclude that if you
had not been removed from duty, Voyager would never have made it
home."

Tuvok's eyebrow rose and Chakotay's eyes widened at the string of
epithets that sprung from Janeway's lips. She was still spouting
obscenities when they left and the force field was reactivated.

* * * * * * *

"He's right over here, B'Elanna." Neelix pointed to where Tom
Paris was asleep at one of the tables in the deserted mess hall.

"How long?"

"He came in right after the surgery was finished. Sam insisted
that he get something to eat before he went to sleep. I guess
that sleep came before he found the bed."

B'Elanna's lips curled upward slightly, as she and the Talaxian
moved closer to the table.

"Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?" she asked motioning to the
half-eaten sandwich that had almost become her mate's pillow. A
glass of milk, almost empty, sat beside the plate.

"Comfort food," he explained. "I thought he needed it."

"He did."

B'Elanna turned to see that Samantha Wildman had joined them.

B'Elanna's smile faded at the implication. "Megan...is she?"

Sam patted the half-Klingon's arm. "Megan's fine, B'Elanna. She
came through the operation wonderfully."

"And the leg?"

"He saved the leg. It was touch and go for a while, but he did
it."

"It certainly seemed to take a lot out of him. He looks
exhausted."

"Tom did a fine job, B'Elanna. You'd have been proud of him,"
Neelix smiled down at the sleeping man.

"I'm always proud of him, Neelix," she took a step closer to the
pilot and gently stroked his hair away from his face. Tom moaned
in contentment and nestled his face further down in the crook of
his arm. Neelix deftly removed the glass of milk and what
remained of the sandwich before the pilot could knock them over.

"He was very patient, but I could tell he was tense as well," Sam
explained. "Working inside Meg's knee was a challenge. It took a
lot longer than he had originally anticipated. When he found out
that the knee was posteriorly dislocated he was relieved, for as
soon as he was able to straighten out the knee he was able to
relieve pressure on the artery that was providing blood flow to
her lower leg. He wasn't done then though, Tom had to extricate
the tiniest bone fragments and piece the remaining kneecap back
together with the osteogenic stimulator. I wish the Doctor had
seen him. He would have been proud."

"We'll tell him went he get gets back," Neelix offered.

"You bet we will," Sam said, a smile of pride lit her tired face.

B'Elanna positioned herself on the pilot's left side. "First we
have to get him to bed. Too bad the transporters still aren't
working." Holding Tom by the shoulders she rocked him back and
forth. "Come on, sleepy head time to get up." She shook him
again.

Tom groaned.

"Come on, Tom, let's go."

"Doihafta?" he mumbled, his voice still heavily laden with sleep.

It would have been so easy to let him sleep, but she knew he
would rest better back in bed. "Come on," she urged and nodded
to Neelix to come closer. The engineer pulled up on the pilot's
left arm and Neelix the right, until he finally hung over both of
their shoulders. The pair then left the mess hall with the pilot
between them his long legs dragging along the deck.

"This would be easier if the transporters were working," Neelix
commented.

"It would be easier if he wasn't so tall and his feet weren't so
big," B'Elanna countered trying avoid contact between the pilot's
feet and the mess hall chair legs.

Samantha smiled. "Well you know what they say about tall men and
big feet, Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna returned the grin and nodded. She knew full well what
they said about tall men and big feet, and could personally
testify that this one old wive's tale was correct.

Neelix looked back and forth between the two women who seemed to
be sharing some inside joke. A joke that he didn't get. "What
*do* they say about tall men and big feet?" he asked finally.

Soft female laughter was the only reply to his question.

~~~~~~~~~

"According to my analysis, it would be prudent to alter course
toward the nearest Class M planet while we attempt to implement
repairs to the ship."

"Agreed, Tuvok. I'll inform B'Elanna. Baytart, alter course."

"Aye, Commander. Altering course to vector 2.651." Baytart
punched out the commands. A puzzled look crossed his face and he
tried entering the command again. "Commander, I can't change the
original course heading."

"Let me try from here." Chakotay activated the center console and
entered in his security code followed by the flight change
information. "It's no good, I can't change it from her either.
Computer, alter course to vector 2.651 authorization Chakotay
alpha rho one nine seven."

::::Unable to process request.::::

"Explain."

::::You do not possess authorization to change the assigned
original course heading. Only Captain Janeway has the proper
security clearance.:::::

*Damn her!* He turned toward the Vulcan. "Tuvok, where are we
heading?"

"Unknown, Commander. It is safe to surmise that the only one
that knows why we are on this particular course is the Captain."

"And she isn't talking."

"Not yet. According to security, she is still not cooperating."

"Contact Engineering, Tuvok. Maybe they can find a way to
circumvent the Captain's command codes."

"Aye, sir."

"And inform me when Paris is available in the morning. It's past
time the good Captain had her physical."

~~~~~~~~

B'Elanna woke the next morning in her cabin still spooned against
her lover. His arm was draped across her waist and his palm lay
limply against her stomach. The smell of his body assaulted her
senses and sent them reeling. His breath, still light and gentle
from his slumber, delicately caressed her cheek. The half-
Klingon smiled...she was content.

Content and Klingon--wasn't that some sort of oxymoron?
Silently she chuckled at the thought. Not too long ago it would
have been almost unheard of to think of herself as being content.
Since she and Tom had begun seeing each other, it was happening
more regularly, especially when he was around. She was wise
enough to know that any road they traveled together would never
be smooth--but she also figured that smooth roads could be very
boring.

Softly, happily, she turned within the crescent of his arm. As
was his habit, he adjusted his position so he lay on his back and
she pillowed her head against his shoulder.

It felt so right, so natural, so... so... good that she never
wanted to think about not feeling like she was right now. To
hell with what her mother had tried to drill into her skull all
those years ago! To hell with all her self doubts! She wanted
this man...wanted him not only in her bed but beside her for her
life. She wanted not only his body but his soul! And heaven
help any person that would stand in her way--including Tom Paris!
She smiled and putting her arm around his chest hugged him.

Noting the chronometer that hung on her wall, she saw that
shortly they would have to get up to begin a new day. She still
had time though to savor the moment, time to let Tom sleep in a
little bit longer (after all he deserved it), and to let her
fingertips explore his chest. She ran her fingers across his taut
stomach that she knew so well and up through his golden chest
hairs. With practiced ease she traced a pattern in the chest
hair with her fingertips. Lightly, ever so lightly, she touched
his nipples, just teasing them with the very tip of her fingers
until they stood at attention.

"Having fun?" he drawled, both eyes were still closed but there
was a sly smile plastered on his lips.

B'Elanna smiled. "Ah, huh." She followed the trail of hair from
his chest down his stomach until she found another patch of curly
hair.

One blue eye opened, sparkling with mischief. "Want to have even
more fun?"

"Do we have time? You have to report for duty in thirty
minutes."

With lightning quick reflexes he swung his body over her own.

"I would prefer if we had thirty hours, but in emergency
situations we'll just have to make do." He was enjoying himself
immensely.

B'Elanna laughed seductively and licked her lips.

::::Chakotay to Tom Paris.::::

Paris let out a cry of despair and reluctantly rolled off
B'Elanna. The Indian, the spirits help him, will pay.

The half-Klingon sighed. He'll need more than his animal guide
to save him if that man comes between me and my mate!

"I'm up in more ways than one what can I do for you,
Commander?"

::::I need to speak to you about the Captain, can you be in my
office in twenty minutes?::::

"I'd like check on Megan first, Commander."

::::Of course. Get something to eat, check on Lt. Delaney, and
meet me in the Cap..um...the ready room as soon as possible.::::
Any reference to the Captain right now grated on his nerves.

"Aye, sir." He noticed the Commander's change of words.

::::By the way, good morning, B'Elanna. Chakotay out.::::

"I think I can hear him laughing," B'Elanna remarked.

"I don't think, I know."

~~~~~~~~

"You wanted to see me, Commander?" Tom Paris stood just inside
the Ready Room door.

"Yes," Chakotay greeted the pilot and motioned to the sofa.
"Please have a seat. Can I get you a cup of coffee?"

"That would be great, I'm still trying to wake up." Tom
gratefully accepted the cup of java from the First Officer,
position himself on the sofa, and tentatively sipped at the still
too-hot liquid. He still wasn't completely comfortable being
alone in the presence of the former Maquis.

The older man poured one for himself and settled back against the
seat before he took a sip. "Were they able to salvage anything
from your cabin?"

"Not much," Tom shrugged. "But I didn't have much anyway. I
will have to replicate a couple more uniforms."

"Go ahead, but I'm sorry about your cabin."

"It's nothing that can't be repaired, Commander. It just means
I'll have to bunk with B'Elanna for longer than planned."

Chakotay smirked. "And how long have you planned to stay with
her?"

Tom grinned. "Well that all depends on B'Elanna. If I had my
way...well let's just say for a very long time."

The Commander chuckled at the pilot's reply, and stirred his cup
of coffee thoughtfully. "So how's Megan?"

Tom took another taste of the beverage and cradled the warm mug
in his hands. "She's doing well. I suspect if she doesn't drive
Samantha crazy soon, she'll be released in a day or two. Then
Jenny can look after her."

"You should be proud of yourself, Paris. I understand that you
did a remarkable job."

Tom didn't know what to say for a moment, it wasn't every day
that he received a compliment from the First Officer--in fact it
was more like never. "Ah, thanks Commander. I couldn't have
done it without Sam Wildman and Neelix though."

"I somehow doubt that, but I'll make note of that in my report.
Who knows you play your cards, right, you may get that pip back
after all."

He didn't know whether to thank him or tell him he was crazy so
he opted for a third choice--he laughed.

Chakotay made note of the pilot's reaction, his smile, the gleam
in his eyes and the tone of his laugh. He came to a realization.
"Do you really care?"

"Care about what?"

"Getting it back? Becoming a lieutenant again?"

"Oh that. Look I...I'd really rather not talk about it if you
don't mind."

The older man noticed the look of discomfort on the younger one's
face. "No problem, Paris. I understand if you don't want to
talk about it, but..."

Tom looked up at him.

"...but have you spoken to anyone about it since the Captain
sentenced you to thirty days in the brig?"

Paris placed his coffee cup on the table in front of him and the
First Officer, and rose from his seat. With hands on his hips he
walked away from the Commander, with arms crossed before him he
returned. He looked out of the view screen into the void of
space. "I talked to B'Elanna...kinda."

"Kinda?"

"Well we did talk about it after I was released. Look, Chakotay,
this wasn't easy when I talked to her."

"Perhaps you do need to talk about it. Maybe to someone who can
look at this more objectively than your...lover."

The last word spoken made Tom look at the First Officer again.
It was the first time he could remember that Chakotay had ever
referred to B'Elanna as his lover. It caught his attention.
Chakotay noticed.

"Perhaps you're right," Tom relented. "It's just that..."

"It wouldn't go any further than this room," Chakotay reassured
him.

Tom nodded. He knew that without Chakotay having to tell him.
Despite their past, he respected the man. The pilot returned to
his seat and rubbed his face vigorously with his hands before he
finally lowered them and looked again at the First Officer. Tom
thought for a moment before he responded. "I used to care about
the pip...granted I certainly wouldn't refuse it if it was
offered...but do I think about getting it back? Not really.
What would it mean if I did get it back? I've given up trying to
impress my father. I've finally realized the only one I have to
impress is myself."

Chakotay was surprised at the depth of introspection that the
pilot was exhibiting. "All the same, it must have hurt when she
removed your lieutenant's pip."

"What really hurt was disappointing her. She is the reason I'm
on board Voyager. She's the reason I got this second chance.
The pip itself means nothing. I'd rather go through life as an
ensign or a crewman and still be able to look myself in the
mirror than have a collar full of pips. And look at B'Elanna,
she couldn't care what my rank was. She loves me regardless of
my status on the ship. I can't tell you how much that means to
me...how much she...means to me," his gaze locked onto Chakotay
silently daring him to contradict him. He didn't. The First
Officer knew that Tom spoke the truth. Not hearing any
opposition, Tom continued. "I guess I can say that I've finally
come to peace with myself, and all it took was almost dying in
space with B'Elanna, and putting my life on the line for the
Moneans," he paused for a moment toying with the rim of his
coffee cup, noting the lights of the room reflect off the
coffee's dark surface. "It's almost ironic. I had to almost die
to learn how to enjoy being alive. Despite that I will tell you
that I'm still angry. Not with the Captain taking away my rank,
but how it was done."

"The thirty days."

"Yep. I'm not one to bellyache, but others on board have gone
against her orders and didn't have to spend time in solitary."

Chakotay nodded. "Myself included."

"Well, I wasn't going to say that--but yeah."

"Despite that you've learned more than some of us do in a
lifetime," Chakotay offered. He was surprised and thankful that
the pilot finally felt comfortable enough with him after all
these years to open up to him.

"So what's this about, Commander?" Tom was anxious to change the
subject. "You didn't call me to the ready room just to talk
about my pip. What's up?"

"You're right. Actually I need you to finish what the Doctor had
started. I need you to examine the Captain and ascertain her
medical condition."

"I'm not a diagnostician, let alone a doctor, Commander. I can't
guarantee that whatever I come up with would be correct. Besides
it appears that the Captain, as well as deleting the Doctor, also
damaged the MDED and it will take a while before it can be fixed.
Perhaps as much as four days according to B'Elanna."

"She did?"

Tom nodded.

"I'm not happy to hear that, but I'm not surprised either. It
was obvious that she didn't want the Doctor to examine her. With
you being the only one on Voyager with even a remote possibility
to determining whether what is troubling the Captain is due to
some medical reason, I'm going to have to ask you to evaluate her
condition."

Paris looked uncomfortable at the prospect. He wasn't properly
trained to take over full-time for the EMH. It was a heavy load
to bear knowing that the ship might have to rely on him for their
medical care.

"Tom, I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't absolutely necessary."

Tom took the cup he had been clutching in his hand and placed it
on the table in front him. "I know you wouldn't. I just hope
that I know enough to find some answers."

"Good. Where do you want to begin? Do you want to come to the
brig?"

Tom thought for a moment, considering his possibilities. "Sure,
I'll bring a tricorder and something to take some tissue and
blood samples, but first I want to check on Megan again. I can
meet you in the brig in forty-five minutes."

"Sounds good."

"Good wasn't the word I'd use," Tom quipped. Chakotay had to
agree with him.

~~~~~~~

Walking down the corridor, just before entering the brig, Tom was
transported back in time to the last time he traveled this
particular corridor. Until now, without thought, he had done all
he could to avoid this particular part of the ship. Until now he
really did think that losing that pip didn't really matter.
Memories of that fateful day flooded his mind. He felt ripped
apart again. Tom felt guilty for betraying his Captain while at
the same time proud to have attempted to help the Moneans.

/Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris. You are guilty of
insubordination, unauthorized use of a spacecraft, reckless
endangerment, and conduct unbecoming an officer. Do you have
anything to say?/

Yeah, despite everything I'd do it again. Footsteps echoed down
the deserted corridor.

/You violated the protocols that govern this crew./

Govern this crew, but not everyone pays the same price. Strong
hands clutched the medical tricorder.

/You nearly caused an armed conflict with the Moneans. And
frankly, you're lucky to be standing here right now. I would have
destroyed your shuttle if necessary./

Given your present state of mind, I'm sure you would have.
Teeth clenched until his jaw hurt.

/Four years ago, I released you from prison and gave you a fresh
start. Until now, you've been a fine officer. Your service on
this ship has been exemplary. I really believed you were past
this kind of conduct./

Surprise, Captain! Don't ever assume you know me. Not many do.
Hell, there were times I didn't even know myself! Eyes shut
tightly, briefly, before continuing.

/I admire your principles, Tom, but I can't ignore what you've
done./

Didn't think you would or could--others maybe, but not me. It
should have come as no surprise. But if you think I would have
plead for forgiveness, you'd better think again. Resolutely he
maintained his pace, head held proudly erect. His father had
drummed it into him years ago how to maintain a perfect Starfleet
parade march, head up, shoulders back . . . 'sound off, one, two;
cadence count three, four; say it again, one, two, three four...'

/Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris...I hereby reduce you to the rank
of ensign./

Cringe. It was true what I told Chakotay earlier, I don't care
about the damn pip, but it did bother me that I had disappointed
you.

/And I sentence you to 30 days solitary confinement./ The door to
the brig slid open, purposefully he walked through the door, and
with just a hiss it slid shut behind him.

~~~~~~

"The Commander sent me down to help you. What can I do?"

B'Elanna Torres looked up from her calculations to see her friend
Harry Kim. "That's a loaded question, Starfleet. I have gel
packs that have ruptured that need to be cleaned and replaced. I
have repairs that need to be completed in Jefferies Tube 39. Or
you can help me with these calculations. I just can't seem to
think straight."

"Here, give me the padd, and let me give it a go," Harry offered.
Normally, he knew B'Elanna could handle this and more besides,
but with thinking about the position the ship, and of course Tom
was in, even she was having problems coping.

A tired B'Elanna passed the offending padd over to him. Taking
it from her, Harry noticed again the look of frustration and
concern on the half-Klingon's face.

"What's the matter, Maquis?" Perhaps if she talked about it, it
would help, he thought.

B'Elanna tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and sighed. "Other
than the usual lately?"

"Yeah."

"Um...well..."

"It's about Tom, isn't it?" Problems with the ship he knew she
could handle, it was always the emotional entanglements that
troubled her. Her Human and Klingon halves fought against each
other and it wasn't uncommon that neither side won.

B'Elanna nodded.

"Tell me about it."

"It's just that I've finally come to a conclusion about our..."
the half-Klingon grinned. "...our relationship."

Harry looked uneasy at her pronouncement. "That's good...isn't
it?" He hoped it was good news this time.

B'Elanna smiled. "I think so. I hope so."

Kim returned the smile and looked a lot more comfortable.
Happily he tapped away at the padd trying to make sense of the
engineering calculations.

~~~~~~~

Tom approached the cell the Captain occupied. Ironically, the
same cell he had served his thirty days not that long ago.
Janeway sat in the middle of the cell on the deck, her back
leaning up against what served as a bed. Nodding toward the two
security guards they joined him, phasers in hand, just outside
the force field. Tom took the medical tricorder in hand, nodded
once more and the force field was lowered.

"I'll try not to be long, Captain. I'm just going to scan you,
take some samples and I'll be on my way." He tried to avoid
looking her in the face but instead concentrated on the far wall
of the cell. Keep it professional, he told himself. Play it
cool.

Janeway looked up. A smile spread slowly across her face and she
began to giggle and finally fully laugh. "You've got to be
kidding. They sent *you* in here to examine me?"

"Some people would be flattered. I actually get requests from
some of the ladies on board," he quipped paying sole attention to
the tricorder readout.

As she stood to face him, Tom looked up and Janeway captured his
gaze with her gray eyes. "And how does B'Elanna feel about
that?" she drawled deeply.

Tom determined that discretion was called for and opted not to
say anything but resumed his scan of the Captain. First he
walked around to her right side and then to her left.
Approaching her cautiously, even though a pair of phasers were
prepared to fire if necessary, he continued to scan.

"Wouldn't it be easier if I removed my top, Ensign?" she asked
softly and sultry. Her deep voice purred. "I'll let you in on a
secret," she licked her lips and blew him a kiss. "I'm not
wearing anything underneath. You get rid of these two space
brains and I could make you *very* happy."

"Captain, I thought you were interested in Chakotay?"

Light laughter tinged with gravel erupted from her lips. Tilting
her head lazily to one side, she trailed one finger down Paris'
chest ever so slowly. "Chakotay? You have to be kidding? I
need a man that is exciting and daring, not someone who's idea of
a fun time is sitting around talking to fuzzy animals. In short,
Mr. Paris, I *need* you. I want to see your bright blue eyes
light with desire when I touch you. I want to see your toes curl
when I..."

"And you really think what you have can compare to what I have
with B'Elanna? Frankly, Captain, you leave me cold--ice cold."

Janeway's eyes froze and her lips pressed together to form a fine
line.

Tom, satisfied that he had the last word, returned to his task.
"Nycot, would you please hold her arm while I draw some blood."
With a slight smile of satisfaction on his face, Tom Paris drew
the Captain's blood and left the brig.

~~~~~~

Later that evening, Chakotay, entered Sickbay to find Tom Paris
seated at the Doctor's desk examining information on the computer
screen. He lightly knocked outside the office area to announce
himself.

"How's it coming, Paris?"

Tired blue eyes looked up from the screen. "It's not."

"You can't find anything wrong?"

"Not really. She's not experiencing space sickness or menopause.
I've ruled out viruses and infections. But something isn't
right."

Chakotay seated himself opposite the desk from the pilot. "What
do you mean?"

"Well you see this." He pointed to a wave like reading on the
computer screen. "Sometimes it looks like it does now.
Everything all perfectly normal. Then," he tapped a few keys,
"it changes to look like this." The screen displayed a wave with
greater peaks and valleys.

"What does the medical computer data base have to say?"

"It's not much help. It keeps on saying that the results are
inconclusive. But..."

"But what?"

"I know something is wrong, I just can't figure out what it is.
I've been at this for hours, Chakotay! Damn this is frustrating!"
In a flash he was out of his seat. He walked briskly around the
end of the desk, around Chakotay, and paced back and forth behind
the First Officer. A couple of times he stopped walking and it
seemed that he was about to speak, but would instead resume his
almost frantic pacing. Chakotay felt it was only a matter of time
before Paris would speak, he just had to be patient. Finally,
energy having been expended, Tom returned to his former position
in front of the computer screen. "If only I had paid more
attention to the Doctor, read more medical texts, participated in
more training holoprograms, then maybe I'd know what this all
means." With a flip of his hand he motioned to the display on the
screen.

Chakotay noticed the unkempt blond hair caused by Paris running
his fingers through it and he noticed the dark circles around his
blue eyes. "Perhaps, after you've had a rest you'd make some
more progress," he suggested.

Tom shook his head sadly. He couldn't imagine ever making any
progress with the readouts no matter how much sleep he got. "I
don't know if sleep is going to help, Commander. If I know
anything, I know there is something wrong with the Captain. I've
seen her in all kinds of moods over the years, particularly of
late, but until today she never..." Realizing what he had almost
told the older man he quickly stopped talking.

"Never what?"

Tom look up at the First Officer. Evaluating the stern
expression on the Indian's face, he knew that he wouldn't accept
or believe anything but the truth. "Until today she never tried
to make a pass at me."

"She what?" Chakotay's eyes widened with shock.

"While I was in the brig examining her, she propositioned me.
The Captain was trying to distract me from my duties and using
the only *weapon* at her disposal--sex. And with two guards
present! So I know something is amiss, I just can't find it. I
feel that it is staring me right in the face, I just can't see
it."

"She what?"

Tom stared solemnly at him, not flinching.

"Perhaps if you..."

::::Commander Chakotay to the bridge::::

"I'm on my way, what's up?"

::::Those alien vessels are back, this time they are about twice
as many.::::

"Take the ship to red alert. Tom, I think I might need you more
on the bridge than in Sickbay."

"Aye, sir. I'm right behind you."

~~~~~

Chakotay, followed by Tom Paris, quickly exited the turbolift and
stepped out onto an bridge that was already humming with
activity.

Chakotay slipped into his seat. "Status!"

"We are being approached by forty-four vessels, Commander," Tuvok
answered. "All appear to be heavily armed."

"What is our weapon status?"

"Our phaser energy reserves are fifty-eight percent of normal and
the shields are at sixty-seven percent. Also, Engineering has
finally been able to override the Captain's original course
heading."

"That's good to hear. Harry, have you hailed them?" Chakotay
asked though he already had a good idea what the answer would be.

"Yes, sir, on all frequencies. There has been no response," the
young Asian replied.

Of course not.

"Harry keep trying to raise them. Do you're best, Tuvok.
Unfortunately, I think we'll have to fight to stay alive, but try
your best to stun not kill. Tom, looks like you'll have to
impress us with your piloting skills. Think you're up for it?"

"Of course." Tom tapped Rollins on his shoulder and took his
place at the helm. His previous weariness was now forgotten. He
was back at the helm where he knew he didn't have to question his
abilities.

A game of cat and mouse, or cats and mouse with Voyager being the
mouse, ensued over the passing hours. Turning Voyager on a dime,
using the shields to their best possible advantage, and taking
the opportunity to disable ships with phaser power was keeping
the crew alive. It wouldn't last forever though. Already the
ship was suffering from trying to stay ahead of their
adversaries. Shields were losing their integrity, energy supplies
were dwindling. It would have been difficult as it was to
accomplish such a task, but to do it without causing serious harm
to the aliens was almost impossible. If something didn't happen
soon, Voyager's journey might end right here.

"How many left functioning?" Chakotay asked referring to the
alien ships.

Tuvok punched away at his console. "The count now stands at
thirty-one, Commander."

Looking around the bridge he saw that everyone was fighting to
stay alert and responsive, but despite their best efforts their
reflexes weren't what they had been at the beginning of the
battle eight hours earlier. He knew it was only a matter of time
before surrender would be their only option.

"They are regrouping again!" Harry called out. Sure enough, just
like they had many times before, several of the ships were
assembling to try their combined fire attack on Voyager.
Voyager's crew was now prepared for the aliens attack strategy.

"I'm on it!" Tom called out. "Hang on!" He deftly banked
Voyager to starboard and then turned the ship abruptly to port.

"Tom!" Kim called out. "Another group is forming 1200 kilometers
off Voyager's port bow!"

"Damn it!" the pilot called out and in desperation having not
anticipated this new version of the alien's attack, he pushed
Voyager into a downward swoop hoping to miss the little vessels,
but luck wasn't with him.

A great explosion suddenly struck Voyager sending sparks flying
from various components on the bridge. Damage reports were being
called in from various parts of the ship faster than the bridge
could handle them.

::::Torres to Bridge:

"Go ahead, B'Elanna," Chakotay called out.

::::Warp drive has suffered major damage, Commander, ::::
B'Elanna informed him sadly. ::::I can't give you more than
impulse drive. And it may not be long before we don't even have
that available to us.::::

Even though he knew the answer he asked both B'Elanna and the
Bridge crew. "Options?"

::::None that I know of::::

Tom sadly shook his head as he continued to pilot the ship with
what little power remained.

"Hail them again, Harry."

"Aye, sir." Harry resolutely adjusted the controls and was about
to hail the circling alien ships when something caught his
attention. "Commander, another alien ship is approaching.
It's...it's of Federation design."

Chakotay launched himself out of his seat and joined Harry at the
ops station. "Federation? Are you sure?"

Harry analyzed the information again. "The design is Federation,
but the warp signature is...well..." Harry hesitated for a
moment. "Well it's close to being a Federation warp signature."

"Close?" the First Officer asked. "Could your sensors be
incorrect?"

"With all the damage the rest of the ship has received, I
wouldn't rule it out." Not wanting to get his hopes up, Harry
kept his mind on his task. He punched away at various buttons,
read various readouts, until something caught his eye.

"Commander, I'm detecting that the Federation ship is in
communications with the other vessels," Harry noted.

"They're backing off," Tom pointed out. "In fact, the smaller
ships are retreating." He sounded relieved.

"Harry, hail our..."

"Incoming transmission, Commander," Harry piped up.

"Seems they beat us to it. Put it through."

What the crew saw next on the view screen left them speechless.
Jaws dropped, hands stilled over their controls.

::::Commander Chakotay, this is Kathryn Janeway. Permission to
beam aboard?::::

Chakotay merely nodded.

~~~~~~~~~

"It's her," the EMH pronounced proudly.

Janeway smiled up at the physician from her position on the
biobed. As she tried to pull herself up, Chakotay reached down
and offered her his hand. She gratefully took it. It was good
to be back on Voyager again--very good.

"I still can't believe it, Kathryn. We've had an imposter
running this ship for months--all the time thinking that it was
you." Not only couldn't he believe it, but the entire bridge
crew that had seen her image appear on the main view screen were
in a state of shock. The last person they had expected to see
was her.

Janeway sat on the edge of the bed, surrounded by her First
Officer and Chief of Security. It was hard to imagine that
someone had been masquerading as her all this time. She was
anxious to see what changes her mirror image had done to her
ship.

"She or he, or whatever, was quite devious," Janeway remarked.
"During our visit to the Earth training planet of Species 8472,
just before I was ready to beam back to Voyager, one of their
scientific masterminds lured me into a room, locked me in, and
switched places with me."

'Boothby' who had been conferring off to the side with the Doctor
stepped forward. "She was in there almost three days before we
found her--quite by accident. It was a good thing we did too,
any longer and she might not have survived."

Chakotay still was finding this whole story of Janeway's
abduction to be amazing, but he was also very glad to have *his*
Kathryn back on Voyager. "I would have thought we would have
detected the imposter."

"Normally you would have." The old man placed his wrinkled hand
on his chest. "For instance, you'd have no problem detecting me.
But the imposter is a superb scientist, one of our best, and had
been working on an advanced method for our species to maintain
human form. The method he was experimenting with would allow one
of our kind to maintain your form for an extended period of time,
and also to avoid easy detection. Apparently it was successful."

The Doctor taking note of the conversation moved towards them.
"According to the records that Mr. Paris left me, they were very
successful. While Mr. Paris instinctively knew that something
was wrong, the results of his test were inconclusive, he couldn't
prove anything."

That being the case, where was the imposter planning on taking
Voyager?" Tuvok queried.

"We surmise that he was planning on rendezvousing with our High
Echelon. There he would surrender Voyager to them, the crew
would either be killed and/or studied, and he would inform them
of our cooperation with you."

"He had it all planned out," Chakotay concluded.

Boothby shook his head. "He underestimated that you would
suspect that something was wrong with your captain. He was very
overconfident, it had always been one of his weaknesses."

"I don't know how we can ever thank you, Boothby," Janeway
responded. A grateful smile graced her face. "Without your
assistance I never would have made it back to Voyager." Even
after spending so much time with him recently, she still had to
remind herself that he was one of Species 8472. In the time she
had spent with Boothby and some of the other 8472s she had come
to think of them as friends

A kindly smile lit Boothby's face. "It was our pleasure. If
you'll let us, we'd like to be of further assistance."

Janeway looked quizzically at her friend.

"I've been talking with your Chief Engineer," he explained. "She
informed me of your ship's desperate need for certain minerals
and repair materials. We'll supply you with those items from our
ship, after your Ms. Torres inspects these items of course." He
smiled knowingly.

The Captain grinned back. "That sounds like B'Elanna. She's
very careful with the ship, much more so than she is with
herself."

"And so it should be. She's a fine officer."

"She is, and you're a fine friend." Janeway remarked. Boothby
smiled his thanks.

"What will you do now?" Tuvok asked.

Boothby turned toward the Vulcan. "We will take the imposter and
head back to the planet to prepare to meet with our superiors.
It will take a little longer than it did to get here after we
help your Chief Engineer," he smiled broadly, "but we don't have
as far to travel as you do."

"We wish you all the best," Janeway told him.

"We know you do," he replied with a smile.

~~~~~~

"It won't be long, your cabin will be repaired and you can
return," B'Elanna reminded her lover. Tom, who was seated across
the table from her, finishing the last of his evening meal looked
up at her.

"Sounds like you can't wait to get rid of me, woman," he jested.

"Now why would I want to get rid of you, Mr. Paris?" B'Elanna
teased. "You've been a very good guest. You pick up after
yourself. You don't leave the toothpaste dispenser in the
activation mode. I couldn't ask for better company."

Tom wiped his mouth with his napkin and rose from his seat and
walked slowly around the table, never taking his eyes off of the
half-Klingon.

"Company, Ms. Torres?" Reaching down he pulled her up from her
seat and into his strong arms. "You consider me 'good company'?
I'm touched." A faux look of pain creased his brow.

"Yeah, company. You never leave your boots around for me to trip
over. You always make the bed. And you never ask me any silly
questions."

"Silly questions, huh? Like what kind of silly questions?" His
left eyebrow rose as he evaluated B'Elanna and her words.

B'Elanna smiled seductively. Looking up at her man she saw that
now familiar lovable glint of mischief in Tom's blue eyes. She
wrapped her arms around his neck, licked her lips once, and
pulled his head down to her own and kissed him passionately and
thoroughly. Finally she pulled away and answered. "You know that
silly question you always like to ask me."

"Oh, that *one."

"Yeah."

"Well I guess I finally figured out how much you hate..."

Another kiss this time to shut him up. "So ask me."

"Huh?"

B'Elanna smiled. "Ask me again."

"Are you serious?"

"Try me."

Tom cleared his throat, and looked deeply into her dark brown
eyes. "B'Elanna, I think the world of you and can't imagine
being apart from you. I would appreciate it if you would
consider either moving in with me or letting me move in with you.
What do you say?" Anxiously he awaited her answer.

Looking him over B'Elanna grinned broadly and then abruptly
stopped smiling. "No."

"B'Elanna?" Tom was flabbergasted. Hadn't she just ask him to
ask *the* question?

"I mean it. No."

"But..."

"But, Mr. Paris," she poked him in the chest with her index
finger. "I have a question for you."

He looked puzzled.

"Thomas Eugene Paris, will you move in with me . . . "

His jaw dropped. Hadn't he already asked that same question?

"...after we get married?"

"What?"

"Tom Paris, I'm asking you to marry me?"

"You're serious?"

"I am. I've given it a lot of thought."

"But I...I thought..."

"Is that a 'yes' or a 'no'?" she demanded hands now placed on her
hips.

"Oh, B'Elanna, a yes...definitely a yes!" His eyes sparkled with
delight.

B'Elanna smiled back and motioned for him to follow her back to
the bedroom area. She reached down to grab the edge of her tunic
and Tom brushed her hands away and pulled her top up over her
head himself. Turning towards him she did the same and removed
his outer shirt. The grey turtlenecks followed, and finally
their slacks and undergarments until both stood unashamedly naked
in front of the other.

Beautiful, he thought and she's mine. He smiled, this was one
relationship he knew he could never feel claustrophobic about.
What do you think about that, Kathleen? Moira? Happily
laughing, he pulled B'Elanna up into his arms and spun her around
three times before he stopped and still holding her in his arms
kissed her hard. B'Elanna smiled back at her future husband.

I'm getting married she thought. Getting married to a fine man
who loves me, even though he can't say the words. She giggled.
It doesn't matter, I know how he feels...I have no doubt. I
have no doubt that we belong together...forever.

"Take me, Lieutenant, I'm yours," she breathed huskily.

Blue eyes widened. "Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna grinned broadly. "Seems to me with the real Captain
back, and since it was the imposter that took away your pip,
you're rank is as good a restored."

"So you don't mind that I still might outrank you by a couple of
days?"

"Not at all. Just as long as you remember when we step through
the door into our cabin who wears the pants," she teased, pulling
on his waist band.

"Yeah, but for how long?" he asked.

B'Elanna giggled. "I suppose until you can take them off."


The End.


Email is, of course, very appreciated. Please send all replies
to kelhapam@worldpath.net

Footnote 1: As, you have probably guess. The MDED is a device I
invented for use in this story.