walked down Voyager's corridors, with a bounce in his step
and a PADD in his hand. It felt good not to be carrying Miral
with him for a change. Even though he loved her with all his
heart, she was getting bigger and bigger every day. He sighed.
The days of carrying his little girl about the ship with him
were nearly over for good, he realized with a pang in his
heart. Where had the time gone?
at his PADD now and then, checking the supply list for tomorrow's
away mission, and began to hum a song that both he and B'Elanna
liked. This in itself was a rare thing indeed, since Tom didn't
particularly care for Klingon music and B'Elanna couldn't
stand most every song Tom knew. The Doctor had tried to interest
both of them in his type of music, but neither of them could
warm up to opera.
a corner quickly and nearly ran into a couple of the younger
crewmen aboard ship. He apologized wholeheartedly for not
looking where he was going, and they said it was all right.
But then they looked at him a little strangely as they moved
away and continued down the corridor. Tom immediately realized
his blunder. While it was a part of his job as a senior staff
member to help raise or sustain crew morale, it wasn't exactly
a good thing to be singing happily in the corridors as though
he didn't have a care in the world, while the rest of the
crew was still upset about being so close to home, and then
getting lost again instead.
on his way to Engineering, but slowed down a little and began
to think about his away mission tomorrow. Just because Tom
Paris had everything he'd ever wanted, and more, aboard Voyager,
most of his other crewmates had families who were back on
Earth, or elsewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. And, although no
one was able to determine yet where Voyager actually was,
they knew for certain it wasn't the Alpha Quadrant.
to Engineering whooshed open and Tom walked in, already looking
for B'Elanna. He immediately saw her across the room and started
toward her. She was busy with Vorik, explaining something
to him that sounded like an alien language, but then, Engineering
talk always sounded that way to Tom. At least Vorik seemed
to understand her, and nodded at Tom before moving away to
begin doing whatever it was that B'Elanna had instructed him
there," Tom said, greeting his wife casually.
yourself," she said, grinning. "How's the second
best pool player aboard Voyager?"
"She's the only one who can beat me."
you're just going to have to practice more, Tom," said
B'Elanna lightly, as she entered some data into the console.
"You know that the Captain has to be the best to save
not how pool works, B'Elanna," he said. "Being good
at pool is a skill. You have to practice a lot to be the best.
And I know she's not practiced in a long time. I just don't
know how she does it."
said B'Elanna. "She intimidates the balls into submission."
Then she threw a grin over her shoulder at Tom.
back. "I'll keep that in mind."
what's going on?" She continued to work the console in
front of her as she spoke.
closer. "Not much at the moment. I've got some preparations
to do before leaving tomorrow on the away mission, but there's
plenty of time to do those later."
heard about that. Sounds like it could be an important diplomatic
mission, Helmboy," she said, continuing to work. "Where's
being entertained by the Wildmans," he said, grinning.
"They were overjoyed to get her all to themselves. I
just hope they don't spoil her."
Not much chance of that on Voyager, is there?" she asked,
grinning back at him over her shoulder. The two of them shared
a glance that spoke volumes. Every time they left Miral with
someone new, she came back to her parents more spoiled than
ever before. But that was the way it was going to be, they
knew. They were also grateful for all the kindnesses the crew
showed them daily. Many of the crewmen volunteered for "baby
duty" repeatedly, and Miral was loved throughout the
ship. As parents, Tom and B'Elanna couldn't be luckier. Besides,
it helped them to remember that Naomi had been spoiled by
everyone, too, and she'd turned out just fine.
since you're free at the moment, did you come around looking
for something to do?" B'Elanna gave Tom an evil grin,
which he immediately understood.
no, not me," he said, throwing up his arms to ward off
her suggestion. "I don't understand a thing that goes
on in Engineering, and I don't want to find out." At
least he was honest.
said B'Elanna, good-naturedly, knowing her husband would say
exactly that. "So, why are you here then?" She continued
to work at her console, periodically checking it against the
PADD in her hand.
a deep breath. "I just wondered if you'd be free for
dinner this evening," he said.
thought it might be nice if the three of us could have dinner
together tonight. It's been a few days since we've both been
with Miral at dinnertime, and I want her to grow up knowing
that her parents really do live together," he said, trying
to keep the tone light. But the truth was, he really felt
a need to have "family night" tonight, for some
reason. Maybe it was just harder these days to leave for an
away mission, now that he was leaving a family behind whenever
he left the ship. That carefree Tom Paris of the past was
long behind him. And he wouldn't have it any other way.
try to be there," said B'Elanna. "But we're trying
like hell to get this ablative armor working properly. It
keeps giving us problems, for some reason we haven't figured
out yet, and the Captain keeps checking in for updates."
understand that," he said, truly sympathizing with her.
"And I know we still don't know where we are, or how
to get back to Earth yet, but we're all doing the best we
And the last thing I want is for us to be attacked by those
Sernaix ships again, without being ready for them," she
said, consulting her PADD and punching more data into the
want the same thing, B'Elanna. I want to get this ship back
to the Alpha Quadrant, too. But ignoring everything else around
us while we try to figure out more about the Sernaix or what
we're doing here, isn't right either."
not ignoring you and Miral, Tom. I just have other priorities
right now," she said.
know, but Miral and I are only asking for an hour or so of
your time," said Tom. "Can't Vorik or Nicoletti
handle things for that long? I mean, maybe Harry was right."
he said 'maybe it's the journey,' when the Captain was trying
to decide whether to listen to Admiral Janeway and use the
Borg technology to get us home. Maybe he was right. Maybe
all of life is about the journey, and not about actually reaching
a particular goal or place. Maybe this is really what it's
stopped what she was doing and looked at her husband. His
woeful tone of voice hadn't been lost on her, though she mentally
berated herself for not noticing his mood before now. She
sighed, and then took a deep breath and slowly grinned at
Tom. "Maybe you're right. Tell you what, Flyboy. Outside
of a red alert, I'll be there for dinner tonight. Deal?"
"Deal," he said. "And I'll even take care of
the dishes so you can get right back to your old musty engine
beg your pardon, but this engine room is practically new with
all the repair work that's been done to it, and it's definitely
not musty!" She crossed her arms over her chest, and
enjoyed seeing the much more relaxed look on her husband's
face. "Now, let me get back to work so I can actually
keep my word about tonight."
leaving right now!" He quickly kissed his wife's cheek
and was off, moving through the Engineering doors and into
the corridor, with the pep returning to his step once more.
But this time he didn't even notice it.
turned back to her console. She had a lot of work to do in
the next few hours, in order to make that dinner date. She
paused a moment anyway, and thought about how difficult it
was to juggle everything. Before Tom, there was only her,
and she'd often spent hour upon hour in Engineering. But that
was different, she reflected. Sometimes she'd spent those
hours here because it was necessary, and sometimes she did
it just because there hadn't been anything else to do, and
it kept her from being lonely.
when she and Tom were married, for the first time she had
to think of someone other than just herself. They both had
demanding jobs on Voyager, and were summoned from their quarters
in the middle of the night on many occasions. Then just when
they'd nearly adjusted to being a couple, Miral had come along.
And now finding the time to do everything and be everywhere
was even more difficult yet.
smiled slowly. Things might be more difficult in some ways,
she thought, but they were well worth it.
this was all a part of it, she thought suddenly. Maybe this
was the way it was for everyone, not just she and Tom. Maybe
every set of new parents went through this fear of not being
good enough, this fear of being only adequate at best for
their child. Yes, maybe it was actually normal to feel this
glanced at the chronometer across the way. Damn, time always
seemed to work against her every time she needed it to work
with her. She didn't have time to stand around and think about
parental behavior today. She turned back to her console and
decided to pursue that line of thinking later, when there
was more time. She had work to do now.
B'Elanna stopped again, and thought about when she and Harry
had first met Azuma and the other Caprijens. She thought about
how the Keeper had extricated her memories of childhood, and
then later, the worst memory of her life.
a shiver go up her spine when she thought of how it had felt
to go back in time to the last big argument she'd had with
her mother just before B'Elanna left for Starfleet Academy.
That argument was still fresh in her mind after all these
years. And reliving it just recently had made the hurt so
real, all over again. She could still recall every word they'd
thrown at each other, and she knew she would never forget
that part of her life as long as she lived. She never had,
and she never would.
had wanted to go back to change things, to make it right the
second time around, but Harry had followed her back there
and helped her to realize that it wasn't proper to go back
to right those old wrongs. No matter what had happened in
the past, it was her past, and she had to live with it. Changing
something so simple as an argument might have long repercussions
in the future - the future that she already shared with her
husband and her daughter.
shivered again. She had wanted to change that moment with
her mother so badly, and had very nearly done so, without
considering the consequences of her actions. If she had lost
her husband and child as a result of those actions, she would
never have been able to live with herself afterwards.
you all right, Lieutenant Torres?"
turned to see Vorik standing next to her. "I'm fine,
Vorik," she said. "I guess I was just daydreaming.
Let's see if we can get that modification ready to go in about
half an hour."
Lieutenant," said Vorik, and moved off again.
Maybe tonight she'd tell Tom more about her experience on
Caprijen. He knew a little about it, but it was something
she'd not felt like discussing much since it had happened.
And she knew Harry hadn't said anything about it. But tonight
there might be some time to actually sit and share her experience
with her husband.
smiled and turned back to her work. It would be good to be
with her family tonight.
was humming an aria in Sickbay, and meticulously putting instruments
away into their proper places. There had been an earlier onslaught
of ailing crewmembers with sprains or splinters, and one case
of indigestion from Chell's latest recipe, but that seemed
to be all the excitement for today. Frankly, the Doctor didn't
mind having a bit of time to himself just now since he had
so much to do. He had to make sure Sickbay was in pristine
condition since he was going to be out all day tomorrow on
an away mission.
thought of it brought a smile to the Doctor's lips as he painstakingly
put away several empty vials nearby. He'd brought them out
earlier to begin a new experiment, which was now being put
on hold until he returned from the away mission.
the task at hand, the Doctor began to look toward the Sickbay
doors. He desperately wanted to tell someone about his new
assignment. It wasn't a top-secret mission or anything of
the sort, and he was at liberty to tell others about it, but
at present there was no one to talk to. He sighed. When he
really wanted someone around, there was no one. When he was
in the middle of something important, crewmen came through
the doors in droves.
he thought. He was going to be an important part of tomorrow's
mission, and that was what he needed to concentrate on right
now. He tried to turn his thoughts to the list of items he
might need for the shuttle trip to Ayrethia. He headed toward
his office to consult his PADD, when the doors to Sickbay
opened and Seven of Nine entered.
smiled. "Seven! What a nice surprise!"
of Nine nodded slightly. The Doctor seemed to be in a refreshingly
exuberant mood today. "Doctor," she said, greeting
him. "Lieutenant Kim suggested that I try to determine
why your program malfunctioned the other day, since he is
busy with other duties." She moved toward the central
display console and began to key in commands.
a wonderful idea, Seven," said the Doctor. "It was
the strangest thing. I still don't remember what happened.
At first I was certain that someone had tampered with my subroutines,
but Lieutenant Kim found nothing to support that theory. He
said that my memory buffer was filled with garbled information,
but it didn't seem to be the result of an act of vandalism."
have isolated the corrupt information in your subroutines,
Doctor. I will now analyze the data. Please remain still."
stopped moving and remained standing several feet away from
Seven. "I'm glad you're here, Seven. It's a good idea
to have my program functioning at peak efficiency as soon
I mean is, it would be a good thing to have it functioning
properly quickly, since I am going on an away mission tomorrow
morning." The Doctor couldn't help the bit of pride evident
in his vocal pattern. It was, after all, a rare thing for
him to be chosen as part of an away mission, particularly
a diplomatic one. There was no apparent need for a physician
on tomorrow's excursion, but the Doctor had been asked specifically
by the Captain if he could accompany Lieutenant Paris tomorrow.
Of course, he was flattered, but he would also have the opportunity
to test his diplomatic skills - skills that he had worked
hard to develop these past few years.
am aware that Lieutenant Paris is currently forming an Away
Team, but I was unaware that you are a part of it, Doctor."
I am, Seven," he said, smiling. "The Captain herself
came to see me earlier, and asked if I could spare the time
from my medical duties tomorrow in order to be a part of the
mission." He smiled broadly, as Seven glanced quickly
around sickbay, and then threw the glance in the Doctor's
know it doesn't seem very busy in here right now," continued
the Doctor, understanding the meaning behind Seven's glances.
"However, this is the first break I've had in days."
course, Doctor. Please remain still," said Seven, her
fingers flying over the keypad on the console in front of
realized he was moving around again and forced himself to
stop walking and quit fidgeting. He just wasn't good at being
still. "I'm pleased that the Captain is treating me with
the same respect she shows other senior staff members,"
he said. "Sometimes, when I begin to think that she forgets
I'm even here, she proves me wrong," he continued, beaming.
"In fact, Seven, this mission will be very important
for me, you know. It's a chance to be more than just a hologram,
more than just a well-trained and resourceful physician. It
is a chance to be
glanced at the Doctor quickly, thinking that perhaps his program
was malfunctioning again. But she immediately realized he
was simply searching his database for the appropriate word
to express his thoughts. She glanced at her console once more.
"Yes, Doctor?" Sometimes when dealing with the Doctor,
it was best to appear interested in what he was saying in
order to accomplish the task at hand.
person," he stated. "It is a chance to be a person."
He stopped, the enormity of what he'd just said hitting him
for the first time. "A person," he repeated softly.
"Seven, did you hear that? For perhaps the first time,
I am being treated as a person."
do not think you have been treated as less than a person in
the past, Doctor," said Seven, continuing to work.
but this is different, Seven. I'm being sent into this situation,
not as a doctor, but as a person, as a diplomatic representative
of this ship, of Voyager."
sure you will perform your duties well," said Seven,
obviously not understanding the reason for the Doctor's exuberance.
Paris and I will be visiting the Ayrethans," continued
the Doctor, "along with two of Commander Tuvok's security
officers. This will, of course, be my first opportunity to
see the Ayrethans interact in their environment, and to interact
with them. This can be very helpful in understanding any species
and their culture."
had paused, and seemed to be expecting a response from her.
"Indeed," replied Seven.
have two things to accomplish on tomorrow's mission,"
he said smugly. "Engineering is in need of additional
minerals from the planet's surface, and the Ayrethans have
generously agreed to give them to us, which is why we're taking
a shuttle instead of simply beaming down to the planet. And,"
he paused for effect, "we have been invited to dine with
the Ayrethans! Seven! Do you realize what this means?"
Seven looked up quickly, but the Doctor didn't seem to require
an answer to his question, so she continued with her work.
didn't notice. He was simply glad to have an audience. "This
means that we will have an incredible opportunity to study
them - and perhaps find out more about our own dilemma."
dilemma, Doctor?" asked Seven.
we really inside a Bubble universe? And if so, why? How did
we get here?"
subspace mine left by the Borg
" began Seven.
yes, I know. But there are more unanswered questions than
ones with answers, Seven. For example, how do we get out of
here, and where will we be if we do leave? How long have we
really been here? In our time, months have passed, but if
this is a Bubble universe, does that mean that time outside
the Bubble has stopped, has stood still?" He paused a
moment, but then considered other things aloud. "Who
is responsible for this Bubble universe? Do the Ayrethans
know? Can they tell us more than they've done thus far?"
is my understanding that the Ayrethans are not forthcoming
in divulging information, Doctor," said Seven of Nine.
is true, Seven. But it is also one reason Mr. Paris and I
are going down to the planet tomorrow. The Captain said she
needs a fresh perspective of the Ayrethans and their culture,
and that perhaps Mr. Paris and I can bring that back to her.
She said that perhaps we will also be more successful in getting
information from them than anyone else has had to date, including
the Captain and Commander Chakotay." He smiled. "Mr.
Paris was previously on Ayrethia, of course, but only for
a short period of time. Evidently, he had to return to Voyager
with Icheb for some reason or other. And, according to the
Captain, it just so happens that both myself and Mr. Paris
can afford to take the time off from our usual duties tomorrow
and supervise the away mission. It seems that Voyager needs
more 'medical' attention than her crew at the moment."
can both you and Lieutenant Paris be in charge of the away
mission, Doctor?" asked Seven.
Seven, Mr. Paris is the Away Team leader. I am his second
in command." He smiled at her, and Seven turned back
to her console.
the Doctor thought of something and became alarmed. "Seven!
My matrix is still functioning properly, isn't it? I mean,
I will still be able to consume food and beverages during
our meal with the Ayrethans tomorrow, won't I?"
course, Doctor. None of your subroutines have sustained damage.
You also have not lost any of your evolved programming. All
that has changed is that a few hours of memory has gone from
your buffer, from one time frame, one day. It is also probable
that it happened when the inertial dampers went off-line."
can't you fix it?" asked the Doctor. "Can't you
un-garble the information that Lieutenant Kim found, and do
something?" He was not content to lose any part of a
day from his memory banks. It could be very important information,
after all. In fact, it could be break-through information
of some kind. He was constantly working on very important
experiments. What if he'd found something vital? He began
to pace, as Seven of Nine continued to scan the data.
I am unable to repair the corrupted data in your memory buffer
at this time," said Seven.
What do you mean you can't repair it?" His voice sounded
frantic, he knew, but he suddenly felt so vulnerable.
have made a copy of your corrupted buffer, Doctor. I will
run another diagnostic in the morning while you are on your
away mission. But do not worry, the missing day will not affect
your ability to function properly as a diplomat tomorrow."
grimaced. Seven just didn't understand. "But why can't
you run the diagnostic now?" He really tried not to whine.
must report for duty in Engineering. I have been asked to
assist with the repairs to the ablative armor," she said,
shutting down the console in front of her and turning to the
I understand completely. My program takes second place to
the ablative armor," he said sarcastically, and started
toward his office.
Seven?" He turned to her.
luck on your mission tomorrow. I am pleased that you are being
utilized to your full capacity."
smiled at her. "I thought you didn't believe in luck,
his words. "Perhaps my logic was flawed."
what way?" he asked.
considered luck to be a thing," she said. "And perhaps
it is not a thing at all, but the presence of good wishes
you're right, Seven," said the Doctor softly. "Thank
you for your good wishes."
of Nine nodded toward the Doctor, then turned and exited Sickbay.
pushed down the handle on the old-fashioned toaster that Tom
had replicated some time ago. Why he thought toasted bread
tasted better out of this thing than a plain old replicator
was beyond her understanding, but that was just one of the
things she didn't understand about her husband. His idea of
fun was often different from hers, too, but at least they
were going to teach Miral about a variety of interests.
and smiled. Tom was holding Miral and feeding her milk from
a bottle that the Doctor had rigged. The Doctor had also taught
Tom how to use a sample of B'Elanna's DNA to replicate an
exact duplicate of her breast milk. She sighed. These little
technological advances made life so much easier. Now she didn't
have to be present every time Miral needed feeding. Her daddy
could take care of her meals as often as her mommy, and they
could both bond with their daughter.
popped up from the toaster, and B'Elanna put it on Tom's plate.
"Dinner's ready, Poppa," she said, as she carried
both their plates to the small table at the other side of
the room. She moved the cradle closer, and Tom carried a sleeping
Miral over and gently placed her in the bed.
at that," said B'Elanna softly, "She's getting so
big." They both stared down at the sleeping form. "This
is one piece of furniture we can get rid of soon. She's almost
outgrown it already." She touched the cradle gently,
her daughter's first bed.
the next piece will be bigger," said Tom. They both looked
around the living quarters that seemed to get smaller and
smaller. B'Elanna sighed, and then they sat down at the table
you going to eat more than that?" asked Tom, eyeing the
salad in front of B'Elanna.
is a huge salad, Tom, and I have lots of good things in here
to eat. I won't starve. Promise." She grinned at him.
"I wasn't in the mood for meat and potatoes today."
don't knock it. It's good for you! I don't know where Chell
came up with this, but it tastes great, too. And, keep in
mind we're back on replicator rations now, so I'm actually
conserving rations and eating well, all at the same time!"
watched Tom eat heartily. "Sounds like you're one of
the happiest members of Voyager's crew these days."
"Yeah, I guess I am. Sometimes I find myself feeling
bad for feeling so good."
grinned at him. "I know what you mean. I'm working as
hard as I can to get Voyager home again, just like everybody
else, but I guess I'm not doing it for the same reason they
are." They were both quiet for a moment. "Maybe
it really is the journey, you know."
eyes met across the table, and Tom put down his fork and reached
over and covered his wife's hand with his. "You seem
quiet tonight, B'Elanna. Is anything the matter?"
just tired," she said, removing her hand gently and continuing
to eat her salad. "I guess I thought I'd repaired these
engines for the last time, and I'm still trying to adjust
to the thought that we're lost again, too."
you're working too hard. The Doctor
Doctor said I'm fine, Tom. I'm as healthy as I was before
I gave birth to Miral. In fact, I'm feeling so good I could
beat you at a game of Parrises Squares, hands down,"
she said with a glint in her eyes.
you've only beat me at that game twice in seven
years, B'Elanna," said Tom easily. "I don't think
you should get your hopes up about beating me again any time
beg your pardon?" she asked.
he asked innocently.
my hopes up? Get my hopes up?" She leaned forward conspiratorially.
"Tell you what, Captain Proton, you find a babysitter
for tomorrow night and reserve a holodeck for us, and I'll
show you that I'm in better shape than before I had Miral."
"Oh? You really think so?"
Don't I look all right?" she asked.
what that tone of voice meant anywhere. "Hey, you look
great! Just great, B'Elanna! But that's not the point."
get us some holodeck time and I'll show you what the point
is," she said sweetly.
a deal," he said, smiling. Getting some time alone with
B'Elanna was becoming more and more difficult to do.
she said, smiling back at him with that gleam in her eyes
that said he'd better be ready to play the best game of Parrises
Squares he'd ever played in his life.
he said suddenly, gently, and again covered her hand with
his. She looked up. "I love you," he said. "I
mean, I really love you, and Miral." B'Elanna was quiet,
watching her husband search for the words he was trying to
say. "I never thought I'd have this, you know. A family,
someone who cares about me." He looked squarely into
B'Elanna's eyes. "A wife who loves me for who I am, and
not for who I might have been if I hadn't messed it all up."
He took a deep breath. "I never thought I'd find you."
felt the moisture gather in her eyes. She covered his hand
with her free one. "Tom
I think I'm going to mess this up, somehow," he said,
pushing on to tell her all of it. "I keep thinking I'm
going to do or say something wrong, and I'll lose you. Or,
maybe this is all just a big dream and I'll wake up one day,
on Voyager, three years after we got lost in the Delta Quadrant."
He felt the tears gather in his eyes and tried to lighten
the mood. "And I'll walk down the corridor and turn the
corner and run right into the head of Engineering. And she'll
call me a p'tak and slug me in the arm."
smiled. "Well, I wouldn't worry about that first part,
but don't think you're too good to be called a p'tak now and
then." They looked into each other's eyes and shared
I don't think I'm good enough for you," he said simply.
sometimes I walk into these quarters after putting in a day's
work in Engineering, and I'm surprised all over again when
I see you there, holding Miral in your arms on the couch.
And I look at the toys and baby things scattered all over
the place, and I wonder how I got so lucky." She paused
and swallowed the lump in her throat. "And other times,
I'll think about you and Miral during the day, and I'll convince
myself that when I do get back to my quarters neither of you
will be here. I start to wonder if it's just something I dreamed
of during the day to keep from feeling so lonely." Her
voice was nearly a whisper now, but Tom heard every word she
said. "And then I see you, and everything's all right
again." Her voice started to break.
and pulled her into his arms. So she felt this way, too. He
took a deep calming breath. Maybe he wasn't so nuts after
she said, pulling back so she could look up at him. "Since
Miral was born, I've felt insecure about being a good mother
to her, but I always know that you're here to compensate for
any of my shortcomings."
I need to say this." She took a deep breath. "When
I was on Caprijen with Harry, the Keeper sent me back to when
my mother and I had our last big fight." Tom nodded.
She'd told him that much. "I wanted so much to go after
my mother, to change what had happened, to fix things between
us. And I would have, Tom
I would have done it, with
no regard for the time line." She paused. "But then
I thought of you and Miral. By changing that one moment in
time, that one moment of my past, it might have had repercussions
where you and I, and Miral, are concerned. I might not have
joined the Maquis, I might not have been on Chakotay's ship
when the Caretaker beamed it to the Delta Quadrant. I might
not have met you."
wouldn't be together, and we wouldn't have Miral," said
and forced a grin. "So I guess I'm just going to have
to continue to live with the memories of that last argument
with my mother, and make sure it doesn't happen that way between
Miral and me."
back. "Maybe it's the journey."
Harry's words hit both of them squarely. "Maybe it's
the journey," she whispered. "And maybe we're both
just feeling normal things, things that other couples feel,
too. I mean, there was just me to take care of for so long,
and then there was you and me for such a short time, and now
there's Miral, too."
know. It's overwhelming sometimes," said Tom. B'Elanna
nodded. "But," he grinned, "I wouldn't change
it for anything."
anything?" she asked.
anything," he whispered. He leaned down and kissed her
gently. "Come on, let's eat. The Engineering staff will
be wondering where their chief is, and I don't want to be
responsible for keeping her away.
and they both sat and began to finish their meal. "So,
tell me about this away mission you're going on tomorrow,"
she said, changing the subject.
Doc and I are leading an Away Team down to Ayrethia first
thing in the morning. Our first priority is getting those
minerals you need."
me to update that list before you leave," she said, automatically
switching into Engineering mode, and thinking of something
else she could use that the planet had in abundance.
but we're leaving at 0600."
Wait, did you say the Doctor is going with you?"
Captain asked if I minded if the Doc tagged along. I don't
think she can spare too many other people right now. Besides,
he's always wanting to get off the ship, and the Sernaix haven't
been around lately."
know that Harry and Seven's been working on his buffer to
see if they can retrieve the information he lost when the
dampers went off-line."
that I know of, but it was only the information from that
one day. He'll function just fine tomorrow."
said Tom. "I don't need anyone along who doesn't know
how to conduct himself on an away mission," he added,
thinking of Icheb.
wouldn't worry about the Doc," she said, pushing her
plate back. "And now, I'm going to take you up on your
offer to take care of these dishes. I have to get back."
She stood and looked at the sleeping baby in the cradle. "Mommy
will be back soon," she whispered.
his wife aside and kissed her gently. "Don't work too
late," he said into her hair as he hugged her.
won't." She moved toward the door, but then turned back
again. "Hey, Helmboy." Tom turned. "You be
careful tomorrow. Don't forget you've got a family to get
"I won't forget."
grinned back, then left their quarters for Engineering.
walked into the shuttle bay with his personal gear in a pack.
He'd already checked the shuttle for supplies earlier this
morning. Ensigns Mahoney and Abernathy were already present
and had started loading their supplies onboard the shuttle.
gentlemen," Tom called out as he moved to the front of
the shuttle to begin pre-launch checks.
Lieutenant," called Mahoney, and a slightly less enthusiastic
greeting followed from Ensign Abernathy.
not happy about the early wake-up call, Abernathy?" called
really hate 0600 duty, Lieutenant," called Abernathy.
"I'm a night person."
all these years, Ensign?" chided Tom. "Seems to
me you'd get used to it by now."
the shuttle bay doors opened and the Doctor entered, wearing
his mobile emitter and carrying his own small pack. He smiled
broadly and climbed aboard the shuttle. "Good morning,
everyone," he called out.
Doc," said Tom. The other two greeted the Doctor, as
glad I'm not late," said the Doctor, taking his seat
just behind Tom. "Lieutenant Kim came into Sickbay earlier,
complaining of pain in his right arm."
asked Tom, as he signed off on the final flight plan.
evidently he played too much pool in Sandrines last night."
said Tom. "Well, B'Elanna had to go back to work after
dinner, and Naomi Wildman asked if she could sit with Miral
for awhile. So, I dragged ole' Harry out for a game of pool."
game?" scoffed the Doctor. "According to Lieutenant
Kim, you beat him six games out of six." The two security
crewmen grinned in the back of the shuttle. It was refreshing
to see the Doctor treat Lieutenant Paris the same way he treated
not difficult to do, Doc," said Tom. "And we were
only there a couple of hours. I had to relieve Naomi and get
ready for our mission this morning."
games, Lieutenant," said the Doctor again, hoping to
make a point.
but six wins over Harry does not even begin to match one win
over the Captain," said Tom absently.
Captain? That is what this is about, beating the Captain at
pool?" asked the Doctor, incredulously.
wrong with that, Doc? It'll happen eventually."
will not happen, Lieutenant," replied the Doctor smugly.
"The Captain is the best pool player on Voyager."
Tom turned to the Doctor, all ears. "What do you know
that I don't?"
Just that you will not win. Others have tried, and no one
has succeeded," said the Doctor."
it's a dream I have, Doc," said Tom, turning back to
the front. "And we all live for our dreams, don't we?
There. All ready to launch," he said, completing his
instrument readings. He turned to the back. "You two
said both ensigns simultaneously.
right. Here we go," said Tom. He slapped his combadge.
"Lieutenant Paris to the bridge."
Lieutenant," replied Captain Janeway.
ready to go," said Tom.
Have a good trip, gentlemen," said the Captain, as she
closed the comlink. The shuttle bay doors slowly slid open.
piloted the shuttlecraft out of the shuttle bay and set his
coordinates for Ayrethia.
an uneventful flight to the surface, Tom set the shuttle down.
The coordinates given to him earlier by one of the Ayrethans
settled them onto a nice, flat area of land.
Team left the shuttle and entered the bright daylight that
was prevalent on Ayrethia. Everyone shaded his eyes except
for the Doctor. Bright sunlight didn't bother his holomatrix.
plant-life surrounded them, and large flowers of every hue
and size imaginable, was only meters in front of them. Large
boulders seemed to sprout from the ground. The Doctor was
amazed. Tom had seen it before, but it was a still a stunning
site to see again. He turned his attention to the two Ayrethans
who were walking towards them.
noticed that the Ayrethans were at least six feet tall, and
had dark eyes, but it was their emerald green skin that fascinated
day," said Tom, and held out his hand, palm forward,
with his fingers bent slightly. Both Ayrethans smiled and
imitated the gesture. The Doctor watched intently and then
did the same, as did the two security officers behind him.
The Ayrethans seemed pleased.
day to you all, and welcome to the eternal home of the Ayrethans.
I am Toram," said the first Ayrethan. "And this
is Hamus. We received your earlier request for supplies, Lieutenant
Paris, and took the liberty of sending others ahead of us
to begin gathering them together."
great, thank you," said Tom.
are most welcome, Lieutenant Paris of Voyager," replied
the others. "This is the Doctor, our ship's chief medical
officer," said Tom, nodding in the Doctor's direction,
and this is Ensign Mahoney, and Ensign Abernathy, two members
of our security team."
was unnecessary to bring security personnel with you to our
peaceful planet, Lieutenant Paris," said Hamus. His voice
was deeper than Toram's, but just as peaceful-sounding.'
just our custom," said Tom amicably. "Our chief
of security insists on sending a security detail when he's
not with us, and our Captain allows him to be a bit over-protective."
course, Lieutenant Paris. Please, come this way," replied
Toram, and both he and Hamus moved slightly ahead of the Away
Team, and began to walk down a well-trod path. "We are
to meet the excavators at a cavern approximately two hundred
the others followed the two Ayrethans down the path and listened
to them tell about their sacred land. The Doctor was very
interested in Ayrethan culture and asked many questions, but
Toram seemed to prefer explaining Ayrethan history to his
guests, including legends about the stone pillars. He graciously
side-stepped most of the Doctor's questions and brought the
conversation back to his storytelling at every opportunity.
this," said Toram, "is the entrance to the cavern,
where the excavating is being done for your minerals. Three
of the items on your Chief Engineer's list are present here.
The fourth, which has a similarity to zinc, is not found on
Ayrethia, but we have substituted something which will perform
effectively for your needs."
you for your efforts," said Tom. He and the three other
Voyager crewmembers and the two Ayrethans stood above the
cavern and watched below as a handful of Ayrethan workers
went inside the excavation site, which looked like a large
cave, to get the minerals, and then returned to the open area
again to stack them onto four rudimentary carts.
a mental note. The PADD in his hand contained the only evidence
of a fourth component, lithium, being added to the list. B'Elanna
had given the PADD to him just as he was leaving for the shuttle
bay earlier this morning. Yet, Tom quickly surveyed the piles
below and knew without doubt that the latest addition to the
list was being piled neatly below them.
is rather interesting, Mr. Paris," said the Doctor in
a low voice next to him. "I wasn't aware that we needed
added it to her wish-list this morning," said Tom. "Evidently
our supply is getting low, with all the hits from the Sernaix
we've been taking lately." The Doctor gave him a questioning
look, but Tom ignored it.
see," replied the Doctor, and Tom was glad the Doc had
taken the hint not to continue that line of thinking just
is great, Toram and Hamus," said Tom. "This looks
like more than enough of each mineral. Our Engineering department
will be pleased, and so will our Captain."
said Hamus. "We are aware of your needs, and have endeavored
to supply additional supplies of each." He seemed to
give a silent signal to the Ayrethans below, and they suddenly
stopped bringing minerals out of the excavation site and readied
the carts for ground transfer.
are ready to transport them to your shuttle now," said
Toram, turning and leading the way.
he said 'transport'," whispered Mahoney to Abernathy,
"I don't think he meant by using transporters."
like they're going to move all of it on those carts,"
agreed Abernathy, in a low voice.
followed the group above back to the shuttle. They were strong
and quick, and within two hours the contents of Tom's list
were packed onto the shuttle. Tom knew of nothing that would
please his wife more than the shuttle full of the minerals
he was bringing back.
we appreciate all that you've done for us," said Tom.
is our honor," replied Toram, with a slight bow of his
have had several encounters with people who, unlike the Ayrethans,
seem to exist only to fight, and are not peaceable. They attack
without provocation," said Tom.
are peaceable," said Toram.
and we're glad of that," said Tom. "But we're also
confused by many of the things going on around us. For example
are excavation masters," said Hamus.
you certainly know what you're doing," agreed Tom. "We
didn't expect to need all these minerals only a short time
ago. We were on our way home to the Alpha Quadrant when there
was an explosion and we were thrown
here. And since we
don't know where 'here' is, we thought maybe you could shed
some light on that for us."
Elders know a great deal more than us about what exists and
what does not," said Hamus.
agreed Toram. "The Elders are the most knowledgeable
of our people. They will be joining you for the midday meal."
said Tom. "Thank you."
it is time to join them," said Hamus. He and Toram began
to move down the main pathway, and Tom and the rest of the
Away Team followed them.
Paris," whispered the Doctor, moving along side Tom,
"don't you find it odd that they don't have the answer
to a single question regarding our whereabouts?" asked
the Doctor in a low voice, as they followed the two Ayrethans
in front of them.
much surprises me anymore," said Tom. "But I could
sure use some lunch. How about you, Doc?"
Mr. Paris. I'm looking forward to it," said the Doctor
sarcastically. "It isn't important that we know where
we are, how we got here, and why, let's just have lunch."
down, Doc," said Tom. "The Elders will be joining
us for the midday meal. It'll be interesting to see if they
can answer some of our questions."
if they give us the same sort of non-answer answers, Lieutenant,
where do we go from here?"
don't know, Doc," said Tom. "I just don't know."
Janeway made her way through the doors to Engineering and
looked around for her chief engineer. B'Elanna was in the
back corner, running a diagnostic on a panel unit while Vorik
stood near her, holding Miral stiffly in his arms. For the
moment, Miral seemed perfectly content to stare at the Vulcan
while he held her.
see that Engineering is in good hands," said the Captain,
with a smile on her face.
turned. "Sorry, Captain," she said, nodding toward
Miral. "Something needed my attention here, and one Wildman
is in class and the other one is on duty. And my husband is
on an away mission. I didn't know what else to do but bring
all right, B'Elanna," said Captain Janeway, taking Miral
from Vorik, and grinning at her. Even though Vulcans didn't
exhibit emotion, she swore she could detect his relief nonetheless.
"And I do understand your dilemma. How are things going
wish I could say 'fine' Captain. I think we have it figured
out, but the reconfiguration is going to take some time."
She looked at Miral and sighed.
Commander Chakotay has the Bridge for the duration of alpha
shift, and I'm on my way to my quarters to finish some reports.
If you'd like, I can take Miral with me and keep her until
you're finished here," said the Captain.
managed not to show her surprise at the Captain's offer. "I
appreciate that, Captain, but I'm not so sure Miral will continue
to be this well behaved."
all right, Lieutenant. I'll take my chances," she said,
holding the baby and actually cooing to her. "If it's
all right with you," she added quickly.
sure, Captain, that's fine with me if you're sure it's okay
with you." B'Elanna could just imagine Miral screaming
loudly the entire time she was with the Captain.
be fine, B'Elanna, don't you worry." Kathryn Janeway
saw the look on her chief engineer's face, and knew what it
meant. She moved a bit closer to B'Elanna and said in a low
voice, "And if she cries and screams, I promise not to
hold it against you."
grinned. "Understood, Captain." She managed to take
a deep breath. "And thanks."
thanks needed. I need my ship in order, and this way I can
spend some quality time with the youngest member of my crew
and allow her mother time to repair my refractive shielding
at the same time," said the Captain.
right then," said B'Elanna. The Captain was taking matters
into her own hands, and B'Elanna felt a lot better about that.
ask T'Pel to help me get the necessary items from your quarters,"
said Captain Janeway.
might regret this, Captain," said B'Elanna quickly. "I
mean, Miral isn't always this quiet." She noticed that
Miral seemed awfully taken with the Captain, and wondered
not for the first time what it was about Kathryn Janeway that
captivated people. She sighed. She had been captivated by
her, too, and still was. She didn't know of anyone else who
could've commanded a starship for over seven years without
time off, and still manage to care for the people aboard it.
sure we'll get along just fine. Carry on, Lieutenant,"
said Captain Janeway, as she exited Engineering, grinning
at the baby in her arms.
and Miral entered the Captain's quarters exactly half an hour
later, after a brief stop in the mess hall, where Kathryn
assured Chell that it wasn't his cooking that was keeping
her away, it was the work that still needed to be done.
heard through the grapevine that Chell had been lamenting
about the fact that the Captain didn't seem to stop into the
mess hall quite as often as when Neelix was head chef, and
she'd felt the need to take a quick moment to assure him that
he was doing a great job.
sighed. Sometimes being captain meant tending to all the little
details that needed to be done, as well as the big ones. When
she temporarily forgot that the crew needed their Captain's
personal reassurances from time to time, she had Chakotay
to remind her of those things. Thankfully, Chakotay was well
tuned in to the rest of the crew.
looked down at the sleeping baby in her arms, and then glanced
around her quarters for Miral's bassinet. She had contacted
Tuvok's wife, T'Pel, and asked her to bring Miral's small
bassinet and a few toys and a bottle of milk from the Paris's
replicator to her quarters. Evidently, T'Pel had already done
that and gone back to her own quarters. Kathryn saw the bassinet
up near the viewport, and the basket of toys near it.
the sleeping Miral and managed to pull the bassinet from the
viewport area and down near her desk. She gently put Miral
inside it. "My, but you're getting to be such a big girl,"
she said softly to the sleeping form in front of her. "It's
difficult to believe you're nearly five months old,"
she whispered, and realized her voice was close to breaking.
"You're not going to be able to fit into this thing a
month from now."
Janeway took a deep breath and moved away from the bassinet
to look out the viewport. Five months. It had been five months
since their near-return home. Five months since the Borg mine
blew Voyager back to Hell. Maybe this wasn't the Delta Quadrant,
but it was close enough. If only they knew where Hell was
then moved back down to her desk to get some work done. As
she pulled her computer screen toward her and grabbed a PADD
from her desk, she chanced a glance at Miral.
began to make soft crying noises, and the Captain put down
her PADD and moved to the bassinet again. After a moment,
the soft noises became more pronounced and Kathryn picked
the baby up and held her close. "Shhhh
said. "It's all right, Sweetheart, your mommy is busy
doing her job in Engineering. But you're with the Captain
now, and we'll be fine together until she comes for you. We'll
be just fine."
whimpered a bit longer, but then suddenly stared at Captain
Janeway, and the tears stopped.
that's a good girl, Miral," said the Captain. "Let's
you and I take a look at what's in that toy box, shall we?"
took Miral to the couch and sat her in the corner of it. She
propped her up with cushions so Miral would be comfortable
and safe, and then brought the toy box up from the floor and
began to take out the soft colorful toys inside it, one by
one. She lifted a small pink stuffed one to her face and smelled
it. It smelled like a newborn baby. In fact, all of the toys
smelled like Miral, fresh and new.
took a deep breath. To hell with the dozens of reports on
her desk. Maybe this is what she really needed - some downtime
away from the reports, the crew, the constant questions (mostly
her own) about where they were. Time away from thinking about
when they would get home again. She just needed some time
away from it all, time to think.
Miral grinned her mommy's grin at Captain Janeway. And the
Captain smiled back.
some time away from the Sernaix, the Inryeth and the Ayrethans
was just what she needed. Yes, maybe a nice break from it
all would help her to re-evaluate their situation from a new
held a stuffed dog out in front of Miral, who squealed gleefully
and batted it with her hand, Captain Janeway couldn't help
but hope that Tom Paris and the Doctor were having more luck
at getting information from the Ayrethans than she and Chakotay
had gleaned earlier.
now," said Hamus to Tom and the rest of the Away Team,
"it is nearly time for our midday meal. Speaker Mateth
will be joining the table today," he added in a way that
made Tom think this wasn't an everyday occurrence.
the other three members of his Away Team followed the two
Ayrethans into what Tom thought must be the main gathering
place, or Town Square of sorts. Four large tables were placed
in the center area. Plates and eating utensils were already
on the table, as was the food. Long slender glasses held a
sky-blue colored liquid. The Elders and the Youngers were
gathering quickly, and sitting at what must be their usual
said Hamus, gesturing toward an area at the outermost table.
"This is your eating-place. It has been an honor to assist
you with your needs today." And then Hamus and Toram
nodded once at the Voyager crew, and were gone.
were four place settings in front of them, and the Voyager
crewmembers sat to eat. The Doctor glanced at the blue beverage
in front of him and wondered what atrocity this race had come
up with to challenge the delicate digestive organs of humans.
Well, today there were three of them sitting next to him,
willing to give it a try. He sighed. Thankfully, he was a
gifted medical practitioner and had often been able to find
a cure for ailments that neither he nor any other Voyager
crewmember had seen before. He was also grateful that Lieutenant
Kim had made certain that his holomatrix would be able to
sustain a variety of solids and liquids without it interfering
with his program.
around. All the Ayrethans had settled down for the meal. The
only empty places at the table were the six that were directly
in front of the Voyager crew. Just then, six Elders entered
the arena and walked single-file to the vacant chairs, and
the Elder across from him as Speaker Mateth. The rest he didn't
know. "Speaker Mateth," he said, rising and making
the gesture of greeting that seemed to be expected by the
Ayrethan people. The other three crewmembers rose from their
chairs and imitated the gesture.
Mateth seemed pleased, and nodded silently. Tom and the others
resumed their place at the table.
is a pleasure to have you join us for our midday meal,"
said Speaker Mateth, and then he introduced the other five
Elders at the table with him to the Voyager crew.
the pleasantries were exchanged, Speaker Mateth reached for
a slice of what Tom thought was bread. As soon as the Speaker
did this, others around the tables began to reach for food,
and eat, and speak to each other in soft tones.
noted that the soft green hues of the Ayrethans' skin glowed
brighter from time to time, and then dimmed. It seemed to
happen whenever they were experiencing differing emotions.
you for the invitation to join you for the midday meal, Speaker,"
said Tom. "We also appreciate your generosity in sharing
your planet's minerals with us."
it is our pleasure. Our planet is rich in minerals and ore.
And it is rare that we have visitors."
I remember you mentioned that before, when our Captain was
here," replied Tom, reaching for the bread.
Captain. I must apologize again that I was not able to spend
more time with her when she visited our eternal home. But
I have received a very nice appreciation note from her, saying
she enjoyed her stay with us."
enjoyed visiting Ayrethia very much," said Tom, and all
six Elders before him looked pleased. "Tell me, Speaker,
are you aware of another race who resembles the Ayrethans
a great deal in appearance, but exist some distance from here?"
was sudden near-silence among the Ayrethans, but Speaker Mateth
didn't seem bothered at all by Tom's question. He continued
to pour more liquid into his glass from a glass pitcher. "Many
races are similar in appearance, Lieutenant Paris from Voyager."
that's true, Speaker, but often we find that races who have
a lot in common are actually distant relations." He paused,
but no one else seemed to have anything to say. "In this
case, we recently met a race called the Inryeth, who seem
very much like yourselves, except for their technological
technological means does not guarantee any race superiority,
nor does it guarantee success in battles against enemies,"
said the Speaker.
very true," said Tom. He could see that they weren't
getting anywhere fast in this conversation. Maybe the Ayrethans
didn't like to answer direct questions, but Tom was absolutely
sure they knew more than they were saying. "But do you
know of the Inryeth?" Tom didn't like pushing the point,
but he didn't have the several days it might otherwise take
to get an answer. He just hoped the Ayrethans would attribute
his eagerness for answers to a quirk of his race.
around the tables seemed to go on for a long time. Finally,
Speaker Mateth put his eating instruments down and looked
across the table at Tom. His greenish hue had increased only
slightly. "Lieutenant Paris of Voyager, we are aware
of the race you mention. The Inryeth were once members of
the Ayrethan race. This was a very long time ago, what you
would call hundreds of years ago, however, and no Ayrethan
before you today has known the Inryeth." He paused briefly.
"The Inryeth sect broke away from the Ayrethans because
of a difference of opinion, and we are no longer affiliated
in any way. Therefore, I cannot answer other questions you
might have about them." He picked up his instruments
and began to eat again, closing the subject. Others around
them began to eat again, too, and to speak softly.
his mouth to ask more, but then closed it again. He didn't
want to upset Speaker Mateth, and it was obvious that in the
Speaker's mind the subject was closed for the day.
must say," said the Doctor, "that this liquid refreshment
refreshing. May I ask what it is?" Tom
silently thanked the Doctor for the quick change of subject.
is a selected blend of the genu and fontanu plants that grow
near the water," said the Speaker. "It is a favorite
drink of the Ayrethans. We will be pleased to send the recipe
along with some of the fresh plants back to your ship's kitchen."
you, Speaker. I'm certain it will be enjoyed by our entire
crew," said the Doctor, with a smile on his face. There
was no telling what Chell would do with this dry, bitter-tasting
concoction. The only thing that could possibly make it worse
would be the addition of Leola Root extract. The Doctor nearly
cringed at the thought. Sometimes he almost regretted asking
that his taste sensations be made to evolve.
one other thing no one seems to be able to shed any light
on for us," said Tom as lightly as he could manage.
Youngers of our race have pursued specialized interests,"
said Speaker Mateth. "They are conversant about their
areas of expertise," he said.
understand," said Tom. This was another of those non-answer
answers he was getting used to from the Ayrethans. "But
Voyager and our crew were lost in the Delta Quadrant for seven
years, and then we found a way home, back to the Alpha Quadrant."
He paused, but once again, no one said anything. "But
just as we made it back, a mine blew our ship out of that
universe, and here." Again, all was quiet. "We're
just not sure where 'here' is," he said.
places in time are relative to those who reside in them,"
said the Speaker.
said the Doctor, jumping into the conversation, "where
is this place in time, Speaker? What do you call it?"
was suddenly quiet at the tables again. "Why, this is
the present," said Speaker Mateth, and continued to eat.
The others continued to eat again as well.
the Doctor shared a glance, and Tom said, "Whose present
ours, of course. And now, it's yours as well," said the
Speaker. Evidently, he was the only one who was to speak directly
to the Voyager crew during the meal.
indications aboard our ship suggest that we're in some sort
of Time Bubble," said Tom. "But we don't know more,
like why it exists, or where, and how do we get out of it
and return home." Tom's comment was followed by silence,
of course, but he noticed that the Speaker didn't deny the
idea of a Time Bubble. "Do you know how we can get home,
Speaker?" asked Tom bluntly. As he expected, everyone
quietly stopped eating again.
is the eternal home of the Ayrethans, Lieutenant Paris of
Voyager, and now it is the eternal home of Voyager, as well,"
said Speaker Mateth easily.
we didn't choose this to be our eternal home, Speaker,"
did we, but it has been chosen well for us," said the
Why did he feel as though they were talking in circles? "Speaker,
I don't know how it was chosen for you, or why, but we have
to get Voyager back home again, back to the Alpha Quadrant.
There has to be a way out of this Bubble, but no one else
we've encountered will tell us how to get out. No one else
seems to know anything about this Bubble."
a Younger Ayrethan called Sokmal jumped up from the table.
He was seated four chairs away from Speaker Mateth and had
heard every word spoken since the meal had begun. "No
one else will tell you about the Bubble because they know
nothing about it! They only know that they exist here. Our
god created it to stop the evil goddess from controlling the
galaxy," he blurted out.
Sokmal!" said Speaker Mateth harshly. His greenish hue
actually glowed a couple of shades darker, but only momentarily.
"You will leave the table of the midday meal," he
said, suddenly calm again.
at the table remained quiet, as Sokmal left the table and
walked down the central path and out of sight. The Doctor
noted that the general glow of the green skin tones around
the table was much darker green now. Only the Elders' skin
tones remained normal in color.
sat back from the table, obviously having finished eating.
The others at the tables began to clear plates and paraphernalia
from their own place settings, and then moved single file
down the main path in front of them. A moment later, ten Youngers
appeared from another path and began to take away the empty
plates in front of the Elders and the Voyager crewmen.
others were gone, only the six Elders and the four members
of the Away Team remained. Speaker Mateth spoke. "I must
apologize for the outburst of the Younger," he said.
"The Time Bubble is something we are not at liberty to
discuss. We Elders recognize the value of silence, but the
Youngers often forget the lessons learned by others."
learned from mistakes made in the past?" asked Tom.
other generations of Ayrethans, long before their time."
that he would find out no more information today, and he didn't
want to offend the Elders by trying to continue a conversation
that was so obviously finished. "I want to thank you,
Speaker, as well as the other Elders present, for sharing
your midday meal with us."
has been our honor, Lieutenant Paris of Voyager," said
Speaker Mateth. "And now, Elder Ipthar will take you
for a brief tour of our gardens and through our holy grounds,
before you return to your ship. The other three members of
your crew have not had an opportunity to see these things
for themselves, and I'm certain they will find the walk a
rewarding experience." He nodded toward the Elder to
his right, who in turn nodded once toward the Voyager crew.
The Elders stood, and so did the Voyager crewmen. "I
shall meet you again at your shuttlecraft prior to your leave-taking,"
you," said Tom. The other Elders, including Speaker Mateth,
nodded once and then left, single-file, down the primary path
through what Tom again thought of as the Town Square. The
only Ayrethan left with them was Elder Ipthar.
am certain you are anxious to see our holy land," said
Ipthar. He had a low, calm voice that seemed to be a trait
the Elders shared.
yes!" said the Doctor. "I've heard a great deal
about your holy land!" And he fell into step alongside
Tom had already seen the gardens and the holy land briefly,
the walk would be good for them all after the huge meal of
whatever it was they'd just eaten. Whatever it was, it had
ensigns followed, bringing up the rear of the group. The food
had been good, even though the blue liquid in their glasses
had been a bit strange. The walk would be intriguing, but
they were more than happy to follow behind and let Lieutenant
Paris and the Doctor do the talking. The Lieutenant had proved
that these Ayrethans just weren't easy to talk to.
was staring at the monitor on her desk in her quarters. The
same figures, the same information. It didn't change no matter
how many times she recalculated and reconfigured the data.
then turned her attentions to the sleeping baby beside her
desk, in the bassinet that was nearly too small for her. She
couldn't help but smile.
her door chime rang. "Come," she called out.
Chakotay entered the Captain's quarters, and moved instinctively
to the area in front of her desk, where he knew he would find
her. He held several PADDs in his hand and deposited them
on her desk, next to her computer.
he said in greeting. "Here is all the updated information
regarding our location from the various workstations on Voyager
from the past twelve hours."
see," she said amicably. "And have you reviewed
he said. "I just received them all within the hour, and
I knew you'd want to see them right away."
Chakotay, she thought to herself. She looked at the pile of
PADDs. "I might need some help in deciphering them later,"
I'll be here," he said. "But I see you already have
assistance." His eyes shone as he looked over at Miral.
simply babysitting while her mother repairs my refractive
shielding," said the Captain.
understand, Captain," said her first officer, grinning
gave him one of her famous "watch it, mister" looks,
and decided to ignore the humorous glint in her first officer's
eyes. "So tell me, Commander," she said, leaning
forward, "even though you haven't had time to read all
these PADDs, what seems to be the overall conclusion?"
"No one can conclude anything definite."
see," she said.
don't sound surprised, Captain."
not. Have you heard from the Away Team?" she asked.
recently, but they were due to have a midday meal on the planet,
which is the primary meal of the Ayrethans. The team isn't
expected to check in for another couple of hours yet,"
just hope they come away with something better than we did,
Chakotay," she said wistfully. "Sit. I'll get us
some coffee." She gestured to the chair in front of her
desk, then moved up to the replicator.
sat in front of her desk and stared at a sleeping Miral Paris,
as the Captain ordered coffee for them both.
seems to be comfortable," he said, as Captain Janeway
returned with two steaming mugs.
knows she's in the Captain's quarters," she said. "And
she feels safe with me," she added slyly, as she took
can understand that," said Chakotay, still smiling.
a moment, Kathryn looked at him suddenly, the light banter
put aside for now. "Are we being careful enough, Chakotay?"
she asked. "Should we be concerned that our primary pilot
and the Doctor are on the planet's surface with only two of
Tuvok's security officers, and no further backup?"
don't think there's cause to become alarmed, Kathryn,"
said Chakotay. "Give them time. From what we know about
the Ayrethans, everything takes more time than you and I are
accustomed to." She nodded. Chakotay took a moment to
consider. "I don't recall your ever asking me for an
opinion on something like this in the past, Kathryn,"
he said in a tone that was more Chakotay than the ship's first
at him over the rim of her coffee cup. "I'm trying to
make some changes in my character," she said, and a small
grin played about her lips.
grinned back. "Don't change it too much, Kathryn,"
he said softly.
looked at him quickly, touched by his comment and his tone.
But now was not the time to acknowledge it, she reminded herself.
They still had a crew to get home, and that should be their
constant focus. She sighed as her gaze took in the stack of
PADDs in front of her.
you been eating properly, Captain?" asked Chakotay, changing
the course of the conversation amicably.
Her thoughts had certainly been wandering.
Food. Have you been eating lately?"
course," she said, and picked up the first PADD on top
of the pile. "You really meant what you said about helping
me out with these?"
ignored her. "How about dinner tonight?"
heavily for his benefit. "Chakotay, I have a great deal
of work to do."
still have to eat," he said. "Besides, if you have
dinner with me tonight, I'll not question you again about
whether you're eating properly or not."
she said, knowing him better than to believe that.
for at least two days," he said.
but when you suggest dinner, you mean an evening meal - as
in, the entire evening. That's what we do, eat and drink the
entire evening. And if we plan a working dinner, we rarely
get around to doing the 'working' part."
"But we have good intentions."
her head and grinned, even though she tried not to give in.
Suddenly, Miral whimpered in her bassinet, to Kathryn's left.
She immediately leaned over and stroked the baby's cheek gently.
it's all right, Sweetheart," she whispered.
"You're just fine. You go back to sleep." Kathryn
tugged the blanket up another inch and adjusted the pink bunny
next to Miral.
watched Kathryn intently. Who would have thought Kathryn Janeway,
the fearless Captain of Voyager, would be so taken with Miral?
He'd watched her hold the baby and smile and coo at her on
several occasions, and he found it endearing and enjoyable
to watch. He also found it very interesting that Miral truly
did seem to know she was safe with the Captain. "So,
how about it, Kathryn?"
what did you say?" She turned back to him, now that Miral
had gone back to sleep.
He knew she had been in another galaxy only a moment ago.
we've shared several meals lately. Haven't I consumed enough
food for you to know that I'm not starving to death?"
he said. "If you recall, Captain, all of those meals
were interrupted or cut short in some way. We haven't had
a quiet reflective evening in a long time."
we still ate." What he said was true, though. They hadn't
really taken time off-duty to just relax and talk. That was
often when they did their best strategizing, too.
never once got to dessert and coffee," he reminded her.
"True." She paused and looked at him. "What
you said about our not taking the time for a quiet evening
is true, too. I can't recall the last time we just relaxed
together for a bit." He didn't respond, but met her gaze
evenly. "Tell you what," she said, lightening the
mood. "I'll eat the dinner if I don't have to cook it."
thought never entered my mind, Captain," he said, with
a slight grimace for her benefit. She laughed. "Dinner's
on me," he said.
replicator rations?" she asked.
for the coffee and dessert," he said. "I'll cook
"I was hoping you would say that. I haven't had a nice
home-cooked meal in a long time." And she hadn't - not
since the last time he'd cooked for them. She was suddenly
very grateful that she and Chakotay couldn't read each other's
thoughts anymore. The memory of those awful few moments when
they were inside the cavern on Ayrethia came to mind, and
she nearly shivered. She forced the unpleasant memory away.
then, if there's nothing else at the moment, Captain,"
he said, standing. "I'll be happy to take a few of those
PADDs back with me and summarize them for you."
grinned and handed him half of them. "I was hoping you
would say that, too," she said and stood.
nodded and moved toward the door. He turned. "Nineteen
hundred hours. My quarters."
be there," she said. "Shall I bring anything?"
an appetite," he said, grinning.
can manage that. See you then," she said, as her first
officer exited onto the Bridge.
stood for another moment, thinking about how easily they had
managed to slip back into their camaraderie of the past. In
fact, it hadn't happened consciously at all, and the entire
conversation had been comfortable, enjoyable. And she knew
it had been the same for Chakotay. They certainly knew each
other well enough for her to be sure of that much.
had been very comfortable. And maybe even better than that.
what is this called?" asked the Doctor, pointing to a
vivid orange and yellow palm-like plant that towered above
the Elder, looked at the plant and nodded. "This is a
medicinal plant," he said. "It is used for treating
several ailments of our race."
said the Doctor. "What sort of ailments is it used for?"
am not a medical practitioner, Doctor of Voyager, and I cannot
answer that. But we nurture this plant-life, and many others
like it, as well."
truly seemed to be enjoying himself, mused Tom. And Epthar
seemed to be more forthcoming with information than most other
Ayrethans, but Tom also knew they hadn't really tested him
on important information.
are a proud people," Ipthar was saying.
certainly have every right to be," said the Doctor, as
the group continued through the holy gardens.
Lieutenant," said Ensign Mahoney in a low voice.
and waited until Mahoney caught up with him. "What is
it?" he asked, as they continued to walk behind the others
who were slightly ahead of them.
you think we'll ever find out what's going on, and where we
are?" asked Mahoney.
I do," said Tom. "But like everything else, it just
takes some time to figure it all out."
sighed. "I wish I could look at it the way you do, Lieutenant.
But I just want to get home."
and looked at Mahoney. "Don't feel bad for wanting to
get home, Pete. You have a family on Earth. All of my family
is on Voyager, so I have the luxury of being a patient man."
Lieutenant. Thanks," said Pete Mahoney. Tom nodded, and
moved ahead to catch up with the Doctor and Ipthar, and Ensign
Abernathy. Mahoney shook his head silently. Lieutenant Paris
didn't seem to recognize Admiral Paris as being a part of
his family. Then again, if Admiral Paris was his own dad,
he was sure he'd feel the same way.
other race," the Doctor said, "called themselves
the Iryneth. They
of Voyager," said the Elder, stopping suddenly. "There
are many races here, in this time. The Ayrethans prefer a
solitary existence, and we keep our own counsel. As was told
to you by Speaker Mateth, this other race was once a part
of us. They are now only a part of our past. The differences
between us could not be met with peace, once upon this time
long ago, and so they advanced their weaponry and their ways
of travel, and went off to fight the enemy."
enemy?" asked Tom.
paused. "There are enemies you have yet to know, Lieutenant
Paris of Voyager. But there is one that you have already known.
They are also the enemy of our race, an enemy we prefer not
to challenge. But we will assist you in any way we can in
your dealings with them."
giving us the minerals we need to repair our ship," said
course. Your people are good and your Captain is fair, but
you are largely a humanoid race. This enemy isn't kind to
mean the Sernaix," said Tom.
must continue our journey through the holy gardens,"
said Ipthar, turning to go. "It is nearly time to return
you to your vessel."
said Tom. "Elder, it is very important for us to know
more about the Time Bubble." Ipthar's skin glowed brighter
for a moment, but then returned to its natural emerald color
you were told before, it is not something we are at will to
discuss," said Ipthar.
we need to know is how to leave here, how to get back to the
Alpha Quadrant," said Tom.
regarded Tom Paris for a long moment. He seemed to be making
his mind up about something, but he finally broke the silence.
"Your ship will not leave this place, and this time,
Lieutenant Paris. This time has existed for over 100,000 of
your Earth years. No one who is here is able to leave. That
would result in a threat to this time's future."
only the gist of what Ipthar said, but he put the words into
the back of his mind to consider later. Right now, he had
to find out what he could. "But we did leave here, Ipthar.
Voyager did leave the Bubble, but briefly. We broke through
to some other place, some other time, but then we were pulled
back here, to this time, by a subspace rift."
color glowed three shades brighter for a brief moment, but
returned to its normal color within seconds. His voice, however,
was suddenly higher in tone and his vocal countenance was
erratic. "You are mistaken. Your findings are inaccurate.
No one escapes here." He paused and his voice returned
to its normal range, and the tone was soft and soothing once
more. "You experienced an illusion, and your readings
have given you incorrect information, Lieutenant Paris of
the Doctor exchanged a quick look. Tom saw that the Doctor
didn't believe Elder Ipthar any more than he did. "The
readings on our entire ship couldn't have been wrong, Elder,"
said Tom quietly, but firmly. And he looked Ipthar in the
eye as he spoke.
had regained his stance. "No one has ever left here.
It would never be allowed. To do so would go against the very
grain of Fate, Lieutenant Paris, and that is something never
to be tested. This time, and this place, is now the eternal
home of Captain Janeway and Voyager. Your Captain must learn
to accept her Fate, and the Fate of her people. She must understand
that these are the cards she has been dealt, as you might
say, and be satisfied that she has no choice but to follow
the path Fate has chosen for her."
All of this mumbo jumbo was making him tired. "Ipthar,
I appreciate your thoughts, but Captain Janeway isn't one
to accept the cards that someone else has dealt her."
time," said Ipthar calmly, "she has no choice."
slowly. Ipthar took this as either agreement or understanding,
and resumed his course down the path ahead of them. After
a moment, the Doctor turned to follow him. Tom nodded for
Ensigns Mahoney and Abernathy to follow the others.
fell into step behind the group, he began to mull over the
confusing conversation he'd just had with Ipthar. Finally,
he decided to just let it go for now. He'd give Captain Janeway
the few tidbits of information he'd gotten today and let her
take it from there. If anyone could make sense of it, she
all, this wouldn't be the first time Captain Janeway had been
told she had no other choice.
walked with purpose to the Captain's ready room door. He stopped
in the corridor outside the rear entrance, and looked around
to be sure no one saw him hesitate. What if she said "no"
to his request? Icheb suddenly realized how much he wanted
this. He took a deep breath and rang the door chime.
said the Captain immediately. Icheb felt his heart beat erratically
for a moment. This was a very unfamiliar feeling, but one
he knew he would have to investigate further at a later time.
looked up and was surprised to see Icheb standing uncertainly
before her. She smiled and stood from her desk. "Icheb,"
she said in greeting.
apologize if I have interrupted you from your work, Captain,"
said Icheb, in his best manner.
I could use a break. Would you like to sit down?" She
gestured to a chair in front of her desk.
swallowed hard. "No, Captain. I will only need two minutes
of your time."
Janeway nodded. "I understand," she said, leaning
back against the edge of her desk. "What can I do for
I request permission to take piloting lessons from Lieutenant
for something else, but Icheb seemed to have nothing else
to say. "I see," she said.
if you grant my request, I will make certain that my additional
studies do not interfere with my duties," he said. "My
current studies are all up to date, and my knowledge has been
rated in the top point five per cent of others in the first
year class at Starfleet Academy," he said, taking a deep
I'm not concerned about that. You've exhibited a fine work
ethic, and have certainly maintained your studies." She
paused. "Choosing a definite field isn't something a
cadet, or would-be cadet, would normally do this early,"
she said. "Are you certain you want to pursue this course?"
Captain," he said. "I wish to study under Lieutenant
Paris and then try out for Nova Squadron my second year at
the Academy. Lieutenant Paris said that most people are not
accomplished enough to be accepted into the Squadron until
their second attempt to make the team. However, with Lieutenant
Paris's teachings, I intend to make the Nova Squadron on my
wouldn't be concerned with what might or might not happen
that far down the road, Icheb," she said gently. "Things
change, and sometimes people change." That was certainly
true, she reflected.
does Seven think about this?" she asked.
of Nine has been busy with other duties, and has not had sufficient
time to spend with me on my course requirements recently.
Therefore, at Commander Chakotay's suggestion, I began to
consider other avenues that I find
Once he would have thought that interesting was irrelevant,
sprang a thought to the back of his mind.
see," said Janeway once more.
am certain that I want to study piloting, and to one day become
a Starfleet pilot. I will devote myself to my studies so that
someday I will be a great pilot, like Tom Paris," said
Icheb, with great admiration in his voice.
smiled. "I'm sure Mr. Paris will be flattered,"
she said. There was a day she would've bet a month's worth
of replicator rations against this scenario.
Chakotay asked me to speak with Lieutenant Paris about instructing
me in piloting. I have done that, and he has agreed to help
me in my piloting studies. In fact, he has given me basic
holo-simulations which I have mastered. Now Commander Chakotay
says I must have your approval before he can schedule shuttle
time for us," said Icheb.
see," she said again, feeling like the proverbial broken
record. Nevertheless, this was Icheb's time to talk and not
we schedule shuttle time, Captain?" asked Icheb.
sure you want to do this, Icheb?"
Captain," said Icheb.
you will do as Lieutenant Paris instructs you, without question?"
Captain," replied Icheb.
Janeway nodded thoughtfully. "Then, turn your attentions
to learning everything you can about shuttlecrafts, Icheb.
Read Voyager's database, and study every schematic you can
find. And when Mr. Paris is finished with his current mission
and the reporting of it, we'll see how things stand. Perhaps
he can take you out for a flying lesson or two in a real shuttlecraft,
as long as you stay close to Voyager."
Ma'am!" said Icheb. "I mean, yes, Captain."
and chose to ignore his over-exuberance. "This ship is
on constant alert for the Sernaix, Icheb. I can't take a chance
that they will appear from nowhere and you two will be off
somewhere away from the ship. If I say it's all right to take
a shuttle out of the shuttle bay for a bit of practice, you'll
stay close by?"
Captain," he replied.
a sigh for Icheb's benefit. "I'll take your request into
consideration then. I'll speak with Mr. Paris and with Commander
Chakotay, and if we're all in agreement, I'll grant your request.
Captain!" Icheb sounded a bit more eager than he intended,
but right now all that mattered was that, unless something
unexpected happened, he was going to get to fly a shuttlecraft!
Dismissed," said the Captain, standing and maintaining
her Captain's facade.
you, Captain," said Icheb, and immediately left her ready
smiled and chuckled to herself. Icheb was a fine student.
With guidance and a few more years to mature, he would no
doubt be a fine pilot, too. She chuckled again, thinking of
Icheb's obvious admiration for Tom. Lieutenant Tom Paris,
a man who had matured a great deal himself in recent years,
had shown that he was well deserving of some respect.
had obviously been successful in nudging Icheb, too, she mused.
She made a mental note to congratulate Chakotay for doing
such a fine job in speaking with Icheb in the first place.
turned back to her desk, and took stock of all the work she
had yet to do. But she had a smile on her face as she thought
about the conversation she'd just had with Icheb.
it truly was about the journey, she thought suddenly, remembering
Harry's words from another time, and another place.
the Elder, brought Tom Paris and the rest of the Away Team
full circle, and back to their shuttle. It sat loaded with
the minerals they'd gotten that morning, and Tom knew that
no matter what else they did or did not learn today, at least
they'd been successful in getting plenty of supplies to keep
B'Elanna happy in Engineering for awhile.
group walked up to the shuttle, Speaker Mateth and two other
Elders entered the clearing from a separate pathway.
Tom Paris," greeted Speaker Mateth, "I see that
you and your crew are ready to return to your ship."
Speaker, we are," said Tom, noting that Speaker Mateth
and another Elder known as Nethma, whom he'd met at the midday
meal, had coincidentally entered the clearing precisely as
Elder Ipthar led their group into it. "Thank you for
your hospitality today," said Tom. Speaker Mateth nodded.
noticed the dark blue lilies several meters from them, and
remembered the little girl with the flower. These lilies were
the same ones he'd seen near the little girl who was in his
strange dreamlike trance when he and B'Elanna had visited
the planet earlier, and the flash of light had enveloped him.
"Excuse me, Speaker," said Tom, "but what are
those flowers called?" He pointed across the way at the
turned to look. "Those are sacred flowers," said
the Speaker. "They are called Eternal Hermionnes. Why
do you ask?"
curious," said Tom. He hadn't thought of these flowers
again, and they unnerved him more than he might have expected.
When the others just stared at him, Tom tried to explain.
"I saw them once before, when I was on your planet. And
after I did, I experienced a
well, it was a dream-like
dream?" asked Speaker Mateth, and Tom saw that all the
Elders seemed very interested. "Well, yes, I guess it
was a dream," said Tom. "It was nothing special,
just a quick snapshot of a little girl with a flower. That's
seems that many of our crew are experiencing strange dreams,
Speaker," said the Doctor. "I've had several crewmen
visit me in the middle of the night lately, asking for sleeping
this so?" asked the Speaker, and Elders Ipthar and Nethma
exchanged a look that was not lost on Tom Paris.
me, Doctor of Voyager," said Speaker Mateth, "but
what sort of dreams are your crewmembers experiencing?"
the usual sort mostly," said the Doctor, happy to be
asked his opinion. "But I will admit, there has been
an awful lot of them lately, and my patients claim that the
dreams are very different from ones they've had before. In
fact, more crew members have complained of having odd and
very lifelike dreams than ever before." The Doctor frowned,
pulling together all the recent episodes in his memory banks.
do you ask, Speaker?" said Tom.
Mateth paused a moment before answering. "We believe
dreams are windows to the 'nula,' which is what you call a
soul. When our people have these
a 'dahtelnula' or a meditation, to decipher them. We also
believe these dreams should be given strong considerations.
They often have very real reasons for existing." Here,
Speaker Mateth paused again. He looked to Elder Nethma for
what seemed to be an agreement to speak further.
a moment, the Speaker continued. "Lieutenant and Doctor
of Voyager, a few of us, the eldest of the Elders, are on
occasion able to see flashes of main timelines, or that which
you would call the future. But we know them as our knowledge
of what is to come, in our present. We call them 'Visions'
because they show us what to expect, or they tell us of something
we should consider."
saying that you can see the future? You know what will happen
next?" asked Tom.
rare, and treasured, occasions, yes," answered Speaker
this is not something we share with our Youngers," said
Elder Nethma quickly. "They do not experience these visions,
and are not told of ours."
you are a telepathic race, aren't you?" asked Tom. It
was evidently time for truths to be told.
Younger are aware of our telepathic abilities," said
Speaker Mateth, "and many of them possess these abilities
already. However, they do not experience the Visions."
and if a Younger experiences a Vision," continued Ipthar,
"he is told about them then, but not before, and not
ever if he does not experience one himself."
frowned. "Our Commander Tuvok experienced one of these
'Visions' as well," he said. "The engineers who
were with him at the time said he experienced a slight increase
in chroniton radiation. However, his readings were within
normal range by the time he reached Sickbay."
might suggest to your Commander Tuvok of Voyager that he make
use of a dahtelnula," said Elder Ipthar.
Tuvok meditates enough as it is," said the Doctor, sarcastically.
in, since the Elders didn't seem to understand the Doctor's
tone. "Speaker Mateth, is there a way to know what these
Visions mean?" he asked.
Vision is meant only for the individual who has it,"
said the Speaker. "There is a message there, but whether
or not the one who has the Vision heeds the word is entirely
up to him. And now," he said, changing the subject, "It
is time for you to return to your ship and your Captain."
He gestured toward the shuttle.
they were being told their time was up, in a nice way, of
course. There would be no more information from the Ayrethans
today, if anyone could even consider that anything they'd
gotten was actual information. "Thank you again,"
said Tom, as he gave the standard greeting, which also served
as farewell. The rest of Tom's Away Team gave the farewell
hand sign, as well. And then the Voyager Away Team members
climbed aboard the shuttle and prepared it for takeoff.
Ayrethan Elders stood together on the ground and watched as
the shuttlecraft lifted from the ground and headed back to
Voyager. Speaker Mateth sighed deeply. "Now it can go
either way," he said gravely, more to himself than to
that's all they said?" asked the Captain, from her position
near the viewport in the Briefing Room.
Chakotay was seated at the conference table, as was Commander
Tuvok and the four members of the Away Team to Ayrethia.
sighed. "That's all I can remember, Captain," he
said. "Can any of you add anything else?" he asked
the Doctor and Ensigns Abernathy and Mahoney.
shook their heads. "No," said the Doctor, "and
we were together for nearly the entire time, Captain. I believe
the four of us have pieced together the day's events as succinctly
Janeway smiled, but she was tired, and what she'd just heard
hadn't done much to lighten her spirits. "And I'm sure
you will all be just as detailed in your reports," she
said, out of habit.
course, Captain," said the Doctor, already beginning
to compose his in his head.
he really said that I have no other choice, Tom?" she
right, Captain," he said.
I've been told that before," she said to no one in particular.
"And I not only don't like that answer, I don't accept
just what I told him," said Tom, grinning. This was definitely
the Captain speaking.
right then, you're dismissed," she said to the four crewmen.
As they started for the door, she called "Mr. Paris,
I need a moment."
and waited for the others to leave the room, and stood silently
by until the door closed behind them. Commanders Chakotay
and Tuvok remained in their seats. Tom stepped forward. "Captain?"
Paris, Icheb has requested that you teach him the finer points
of flying shuttlecraft." Tom tried not to grin. "Do
you believe you're up to it, Lieutenant, with being a new
father and all?"
Ma'am," he said.
considered. "It's not always easy, you know, being someone's
Icheb looks up to you. He wants to be like you." Tom
didn't know quite how to respond, and so he didn't. "Mr.
Captain?" He looked across the room and into her eyes.
and teach Icheb how to pilot. Be firm, but be fair. Do not
allow him to do only what needs to be done, but also that
which should be done."
Ma'am," he said softly.
moved closer to where Tom stood in the back of the room. "Teach
him to be half the pilot you are, and I'll be happy."
the lump in his throat. "Thank you, Captain. I'll do
that," he said.
Dismissed," she said, and as Tom quickly exited the Briefing
Room, she moved back toward the front, and nearer to Chakotay
and Tuvok. "So, gentlemen, have we learned anything new
today?" she asked.
more of the same, Captain," said Chakotay. "The
Ayrethans like to talk in circles."
is true," said Tuvok. "However, we do know that
they acknowledge this as a Bubble Universe and that they have
further knowledge of how it came to be."
said the Captain, considering his words. "And they seem
to know the Sernaix well enough."
they accept the Inyreth as part of their heritage," said
she said. "I don't know if I believe in these Visions,"
she added, and Chakotay and Tuvok shared a glance. They were
much more spiritual than their scientific-minded Captain.
"But right now, I'm more interested in this place,"
she continued. "Where are we in relation to everyone
else? And how do we get home
" she said softly.
This always seemed to be the question she needed answered.
the Captain turned to her two Commanders. "Let's think
about all we've learned today. In the morning we'll read the
reports from the Away Team to see if they've recalled anything
further." They both nodded. "Dismissed," she
said, as she turned back toward the viewport yet again. Commander
Chakotay and Commander Tuvok left the Briefing Room together,
and entered the Bridge to continue their duties.
I have no choice, do I? We'll just see about that," she
whispered to her reflection in front of her.
Janeway rang Commander Chakotay's door chime at precisely
nineteen hundred hours. They'd both worked a long shift, and
she'd barely had time to take a bath and change into a fresh
called Chakotay, and Captain Janeway came into his quarters.
around. It had been awhile since she was last here, but it
still felt familiar, and inviting. "It's only me,"
she called out.
came into the room and smiled. "Just checking the dinner,"
smells delicious," she said, closing her eyes and inhaling
the wonderful aroma.
it'll be ready in a few minutes," he said, crossing to
the bottle of wine he had left open to breathe on the table
across the way. He poured them each a glass.
she said, after taking a drink from the glass he'd handed
her. "Just how many bottles of this wine do you have
left in that hiding place of yours anyway?" she asked.
"Hopefully, as many as we'll ever need," he said,
taking a drink as well, and thinking about how Icheb was the
only other person who knew for sure. And there was certainly
no question that Icheb would never tell.
back. She hoped they didn't need too many more bottles before
they reached home again. Kathryn moved to the couch across
the room, and sat back comfortably. It was good to let down
her hair, so to speak, and talk frankly about their situation
with the one person she could actually relax and do that with.
"Do you have any new revelations?" she asked.
she said. "The Sernaix, the Ayrethans."
you, I'm convinced the Ayrethans know the Sernaix," he
said. "How they know each other, and what their relationship
is, or was, I don't know. We may never know."
But I think we have to continue trying to find out,"
she said. "There's something there that we're missing.
And the answer could supply us with a missing part of our
true," he agreed. "But I think there are more important
things we need to know first."
as?" she asked.
we are, and how we got here," he said.
"And why we're here
how did we get out, and what
pulled us back in again
you don't believe it was our imaginations, either," he
'illusion' I think is the word you're looking for," she
said. "And no, I most certainly do not believe that story.
You still have the Maquis phaser you found on the planet,
so you tell me: Is that phaser an illusion?"
a deep breath. "No, it's real," he said, sitting
in a chair opposite her.
why do you think they want us to believe it isn't, that our
experience outside this universe was an illusion?" she
asked, leaning toward him.
"They want us to stop thinking about leaving here,"
he said. "They want us to accept this as our eternal
home." They looked at each other.
she said. "And I'm supposed to accept the cards I'm dealt."
grinned and shook his head. "Kathryn, if you accepted
the cards you were dealt, we'd all have settled on some planet
back in the Delta Quadrant years ago."
going to get us home again, Chakotay," she said softly,
and he turned to her. He knew the look on her face well.
will, Kathryn, of that I have no doubt." He stood and
went to check on their dinner, and Kathryn thought about how
good it was to share her thoughts with Chakotay. She put her
head back against the couch and closed her eyes. She'd missed
these quiet evenings they used to share so often.
be damned if she lost them again.
was still busy writing his report on the events of the day
when Seven of Nine entered Sickbay. He saw her from his office
window, and went out to greet her. "Seven, hello!"
Doctor," she said.
so glad you're here! I had a wonderful time on the away mission
today. Lieutenant Paris
I am here to continue working on your memory buffer,"
she said, moving automatically to Sickbay's central terminal.
wonderful news, Seven, but I'm just finishing my report on
our mission for the Captain. Perhaps you'd like to look it
over?" He just couldn't help but be proud of his part
in today's venture. It was true that Lieutenant Paris had
been in charge of the mission, and that the Doctor had not
been vital to its success, but his report would show his contribution
nonetheless. And he was extremely proud of it.
may complete that as soon as we have recovered the missing
part of your program."
the missing part, Seven?" asked the Doctor, suddenly
intrigued. "Are you saying that you've had success in
discovering how we can repair my program and recover the missing
hours from my database?"
have an idea which I believe will work, Doctor. I suggest
we take a copy of your matrix from yesterday morning, before
the new data was created and then deleted. Then we will also
make a copy of your current program, delete today's events
from it, and overlap the two copies. We may find the gap in
two copies of my program and overlay them?" asked the
Doctor. "Do you really think this will work?"
I have discovered a 'wall' of unknown origin within your program.
This wall appears to be separating yesterday's newly-acquired
information from your original memory vortex."
use that term for lack of a better one, Doctor," said
Seven, continuing to work the console in front of her. "When
we are able to discover the exact location of this wall, we
can then determine a way to eradicate it from your program."
felt a strange sort of emotional sensation.
you all right, Doctor?" asked Seven, noticing the newer
sensations in his program buffer displayed on the screen in
front of her.
suppose so, Seven," said the Doctor slowly. "I just
understand, Doctor," she said with an unusual note of
empathy in her voice. "But please try to put those
for the time being. Your program is undamaged. We must find
the reason for your loss of data, and perhaps we can restore
nodded. "I hope so, Seven. Just tell me what you need
me to do."
carried his tray away from the food counter and over toward
the tables in the Mess hall. None of the dishes had looked
particularly appetizing, but then again after seven years
in the Delta Quadrant, and just as Neelix's dishes were starting
to look inviting, they were all having to adjust to Chell's
up and saw Samantha Wildman sitting alone and staring at a
PADD in her hand as she ate.
if I join you?" asked Tom.
Wildman looked up and smiled. "Not at all, Lieutenant,"
she said, putting her PADD down beside her tray. "This
is a welcome change from reading data."
"It seems that everyone has a PADD in hand anymore,"
he said, pushing the blue thing on his plate over to the side.
"It's no wonder all the data looks the same. We don't
take the time to process what we're reading."
"So, are you suggesting we ask the Captain to let us
slow down our research a bit?"
Are you kidding?" said Tom. "I never suggested anything
of the sort. Whatever the Captain wants, she gets, as far
as I'm concerned."
"I agree. We all want to know where we are and how to
get home again. And no one's working harder than the Captain
at finding out."
said Tom. "Do you know what this is, by the way?"
he asked, pointing to a pink and white star-shaped object.
don't know, but it tastes good. Sort of like pasta,"
it. It did taste like pasta. "Sam, I've been meaning
to ask you something."
have you managed to care for Naomi, plus do your job all these
do you mean 'how' have I managed it, Tom?" she asked.
"I just did. That's what a parent does. You just manage
to do it somehow. Even when you feel overwhelmed, inadequate,
overly emotional, you still get it all done."
"Yeah, well, so far it's all getting done. But every
morning I wake up and wonder if everything will get done today."
it will, Tom. Every day you'll somehow manage to get it all
done once more, and you'll feel exhausted. But that night,
when you kiss your daughter good-night and look at the calm
peaceful look on her face, and you know that she's happy,
you'll smile and know that it was all worth it. And it will
be worth it again tomorrow," said Samantha.
you were all alone, Sam. I have B'Elanna to share the responsibilities
with. How did you do it alone when Naomi was just a baby?"
was quiet for a moment, but the look on her face told Tom
she was surprised at his question. "I never felt alone,
Tom. Not once. I always had you and B'Elanna and the Captain
and Commander Chakotay and Neelix, and so very many others
on this ship to help me. Naomi has grown up with the entire
Voyager crew as her mentors, and as her family. And I'm so
grateful to all of you, Tom." Samantha Wildman looked
down into her cup of coffee for a moment. "I'll always
be grateful for that," she said softly.
quiet, and considered her words. "I guess in a way Naomi
has belonged to all of us," he said.
so does Miral. She has some great people on board Voyager
to aspire to," she said, smiling. "Tom, don't worry."
what?" he asked, trying the green thing on his plate.
a good parent."
up. "Is it that obvious?" he asked.
again. "You and B'Elanna are both having normal healthy
feelings, I'd imagine. You're wondering if you're good enough
parents to Miral, are you giving her enough of your time,
are you caring for her properly. There are a thousand questions
you're probably asking yourself every day."
right about that," said Tom.
asked myself those questions everyday, too. And sometimes
I still do," she said. "By the way, didn't you grab
a glass of this blue drink?"
at her glass and saw the same light blue drink he'd had earlier
on Ayrethia. "Uh, no." His stomach suddenly cringed
as he recalled the bitter taste.
really good," said Sam.
is?" asked Tom incredulously.
it's great. You should try it," she said, and then drained
her glass and stood. "Don't worry, Tom. What you're feeling
is perfectly normal, and even healthy. I'll see you later,
Lieutenant," she said grinning, and then she was gone.
a deep breath. Okay, maybe these thoughts he was having really
were just normal ones. He suddenly felt better than he had
felt good enough to take a bite of the thing that looked like
Leola Root Pie.
stand still, Doctor," said Seven yet again.
stopped where he'd been pacing. He took a deep breath and
folded his arms across his chest. When he suddenly realized
how much he reminded himself of impatient humans aboard the
ship, he immediately unfolded his arms and tried to recapture
what he thought of as his professional demeanor. "Anything,
Seven?" he asked, trying to sound calm.
this 'wall' is in your holomatrix. I believe I have devised
a way to 'knock it down' so that your memory buffer will be
restored to its full capacity."
wonderful, Seven!" said the Doctor, moving toward Seven's
console to look for himself.
know, I know. Stand still," he huffed, again stopping
and folding his arms across his chest. But this time he didn't
must take you off-line for one full minute in order to revitalize
your program, Doctor."
you are reinitialized, you will hopefully have regained your
full memory," said Seven, entering more data into the
console in front of her.
asked the Doctor. "Did you say
" he began,
as he shimmered out of existence. Seven sighed. Sometimes
the Doctor could become easily agitated.
a full minute, Seven punched a button on the console. "Computer,
activate the Emergency Medical Hologram," she said.
shimmered into his full existence, and in the same spot he'd
stood a minute before. "Please state the nature
he began. "Oh. Never mind. Seven
" he started
to say, and then his eyes became wider and he stopped and
looked at Seven of Nine. "I remember," he said slowly.
do you remember, Doctor?" asked Seven, moving from behind
the console to the Doctor.
experiment. I was conducting an experiment on the Sernaix
blood sample." He struggled to remember. "I decided
to test the bio-electrical energy emanating from the cellular
mitochondria, so I retrieved a Sernaix artifact from Engineering."
am surprised that Lieutenant Torres would allow you to take
a Sernaix artifact from Engineering, Doctor," said Seven,
she didn't actually, Seven. I
just took it." He
managed to look ashamed for a brief moment. "And then
I brought it here. It was a small black box
he remembered that he still had the box, and left Seven alone
while he went into his office and pulled it out of a drawer
in his desk. When he returned, he handed it to Seven. "This
is it, Seven," he said excitedly. "This is the box
I was doing the experiment on."
I didn't find it interesting at all," scoffed the Doctor.
"I had barely begun the experiment when
that's all I remember. The next thing I recall is someone
telling me the dampers had gone off-line, and I was completely
unaware of it." He thought for a moment. "At first
I thought someone had tampered with my program. I contacted
Mr. Kim and then cleaned up the Sernaix blood samples and
put the black box away while I waited for him to come to Sick
Bay to run a diagnostic on my program."
you do not recall anything about the tests you ran on this
box?" asked Seven.
Strange." The Doctor was perplexed. Maybe there really
was a problem with his program.
of Nine took the box with her to the console she'd been working
on earlier. She keyed information in to the console, and then
ran a diagnostic on the box.
is it, Seven?" he asked.
is no ordinary box, Doctor. It is an interlink node, similar
to the one used by the Borg to connect drones to the hive
said the Doctor. "But how can that be, Seven? And why
didn't I detect that?"
believe you did detect it, Doctor. However you are unaware
that you did because your memory buffer stops at that point,"
she said, again working the console in front of her and reading
sighed. "So we've hit another 'wall' then?"
Doctor. Your memory simply stops there, and then it begins
again when you were treating Ensign Siddik's metatarsal fracture."
he said, remembering that he had asked her if she'd damaged
her metatarsal by playing hoverball on the holodeck. "You
mean there's no memory between those two moments in time,
Seven?" he asked.
There is a gap of six minutes, Doctor," said Seven.
don't understand," said the Doctor.
believe I do, Doctor," said Seven. "If the Sernaix
interface device works using the same theory as the Borg interface
device, you and I might be able to retrace your actions and
discover the reason your program shut down entirely for six
let's start with the Sernaix blood sample, Seven. I cleaned
up the dried blood with the sonic cleaner when I couldn't
recall why I'd been working with it, but it might be possible
to retrieve some of it from the cleaner's filter."
and Seven began to retrace the Doctor's footsteps in hopes
of discovering the reason for the six minutes of lost time
in the Doctor's database.
Icheb," said Tom. "The Captain tells me you're going
to enroll in the flight program at Starfleet when we get home."
Sir," said Icheb. "I want to be a pilot."
personally, I think that's great," said Tom.
nothing quite like the feel of being in control of a starship.
You know, Icheb, when we left Federation space, the Voyager
was a brand new Intrepid class starship, with upgrades that
was the first of its kind," said Tom, with a wistfulness
in his voice that was lost on his young student.
you were the Captain's pilot when you reached the Badlands
and were pulled into the Delta Quadrant, Lieutenant?"
no Icheb. I was just along for the ride at first. I didn't
become Voyager's pilot until after we reached the Delta Quadrant.
But that's a long story, Icheb," said Tom. And one he
didn't care to recall very often.
the Captain realized you were the best pilot she had and put
you at the helm," said Icheb, and Tom detected the admiration
in Icheb's voice.
well, it was something like that," said Tom. He sure
didn't intend to talk about that today. "Just concentrate
on what you're doing there."
course, Lieutenant," said Icheb, as he brought the shuttle
around. "Icheb to the Bridge," he said after activating
his com badge.
Icheb," said the Captain's voice.
are approaching Voyager," he said.
We'll be expecting you," said Captain Janeway, as she
nodded toward Harry to open the shuttle bay doors. "Safe
landing, gentlemen," she said, then disconnected her
com link and grinned over at Chakotay.
brought the shuttle in to dock and shut the engine down. He
did a quick post-flight check, and then he and Tom exited
the shuttle and battened it down before leaving the shuttle
bay and heading down the corridor. "Lieutenant?"
was wondering if you would teach me to play pool one day."
I didn't know you had an interest in the game, Icheb,"
find it intriguing, Lieutenant," said Icheb. "And
I hear that, next to the Captain, you're the best pool play
even though he knew Icheb meant it as a compliment. It seemed
that everyone on board ship now knew about the Captain beating
him again the other night. But then he smiled. Maybe by teaching
Icheb to play, he'd get a little more practice in himself.
And then one day he'd ask the Captain for a rematch. Tom smiled.
One day he would beat the Captain. He just had to. "Icheb,
let's get a few more flying lessons under our belt, and then
we'll start on pool lessons," he said, and clapped Icheb
on the shoulder.
Sir," said Icheb, and smiled.
right now, Icheb, I have a wife and baby to get home to,"
night, Lieutenant, and thank you for the flying lesson,"
welcome, Icheb. You did a great job," said Tom, and Icheb
smiled then continued on his way down the corridor.
the turbolift to the appropriate deck, and two minutes later
he was walking down the corridor toward his and B'Elanna's
quarters. He was humming a song and consulting a PADD in his
hand. As he turned the corner, he nearly bumped into Ensign
Siddik. He apologized, and continued on his way.
it occurred to Tom that Ensign Siddik had given him the same
look that others had been giving him lately. It was a look
that said how odd it was that he was so happy, while others
were still concerned about getting back home again.
He knew that people were hurting, and that most people had
families to get back home to. He would do everything he could
to help Voyager get home again, but he wasn't going to pretend
that he wasn't happy in the meantime. He had a wonderful wife
who kept him on his toes and gave his life meaning, and he
had a beautiful little girl whose daddy loved her with all
had a lot to get home to this evening, and his home was right
here on Voyager. And it had been for a very long time. Voyager's
pilot was making the most of the journey.
to himself as he entered his quarters, and his home.