|Tom Through the Looking-Glass
It was just over three hours later that Chakotay arrived at the quarters he shared with Tom. He stepped through the doors and into the living area. The lights were low and all was quiet. He crossed quietly to the bedroom expecting to find Tom still sleeping, but the bed was empty. 'Perhaps he's gone to the Mess Hall,' Chakotay thought as he removed his clothes. 'He'll probably be back soon.' He ordered the computer to wake him in three hours, then lay down under the covers and fell asleep almost instantly.
He slept soundly, only waking at the sound of the alarm. He awoke slowly and stretched his arm over to Tom's side of the bed, but it was still empty. He was disappointed, but he had to get back to the bridge. He took a quick shower, dressed, and made his way there.
"Commander," Janeway addressed him as he took his seat. "You look a little more rested."
"Yes, I am. Thank you. What's our status?" he asked, leaning back in his seat.
"All clear at the moment. We did pick up five ships on long range sensors about two hours ago, but we increased our speed and they didn't pursue. I'd still like to clear this area of space as quickly as we can, though."
"As they didn't pursue, perhaps we've left their 'territory'," Chakotay suggested.
"That's what I'm hoping," Janeway replied. "If we don't run into any more trouble within the next three hours, then I'd like to get the crew back to normal shifts."
Chakotay nodded. "I'll work out the roster. If you don't need me on the bridge for the moment, I'll take care of it in my office."
"That's fine, Commander. I'll let you know if you're needed here."
Chakotay left, and went to his office. It took him almost an hour and a half to juggle the crew into some semblance of normalcy. When he returned to the bridge, everything was still calm. He gave Janeway the roster for her inspection as he retook his seat.
"This looks fine, Commander. If our luck holds, we'll implement it in ninety minutes."
It did hold and Voyager began the task of getting back to normal. As Chakotay was now off duty, he decided to go back to his cabin and change out of his uniform. He walked in to find his quarters still deserted. He looked around to see if Tom had left him a message anywhere, but there was nothing.
"Chakotay to Paris," he called as he hit his comm badge. There was no answer. He tried again, with the same result, then frowned as he wondered where Tom was.
"Computer. Locate Lieutenant Paris," he commanded.
"Lieutenant Paris is not on board Voyager," came the reply.
Chakotay was shaken. What had happened? "Computer. What time did Lieutenant Paris leave Voyager?" he asked with trepidation.
"Lieutenant Paris left Voyager at 1307 hours."
'That was almost nine hours ago. Just after Janeway sent him to rest,' Chakotay thought. "Computer. Is there a transport registered for that time?"
"Negative," the female voice replied.
"Chakotay to Janeway," he called, his voice shaking as he sat down heavily on the couch.
"Janeway here. Is everything okay, Commander?"
"No." He took a deep breath. "Tom's gone."
"What do you mean, 'gone'?" Janeway sounded puzzled.
"He's not on the ship," Chakotay said anxiously.
Janeway could hear the fear in his voice. "Where are you, Chakotay?" she asked.
"My quarters," he managed to reply.
"Stay put. Tuvok and I will be right there."
Tom lay on the ground, feeling groggy and confused. He knew he'd been asleep, but he wasn't sure for how long. He was still exhausted from the long duty shifts, and it was interfering with his ability to think clearly. What had happened?
He sat up slowly, his eyes closed. His head hurt as he struggled to recall the events that had led to this situation. He remembered being in the bedroom and the sudden flash of blue light, then the sensation of falling. He opened his eyes slowly and took in his surroundings, wondering where he was as it was pretty obvious he was no longer on Voyager.
It was almost dark, but he could see he was in a clearing in the midst of a forest. There was a large boulder behind him with stones scattered around it. In front of him, a track led towards the trees. A slight breeze rustled the leaves, but otherwise there was silence. Tom looked up and saw stars shining brightly in the cloudless sky. He realized then how cold he was, and wrapped his arms around himself to try to retain some warmth.
'What do I do?' he thought. 'How do I get back to Voyager?' He tried his comm badge, to no avail. "Where are you, Cha? Help me. Please," he said softly, his mind in a whirl.
He sat still a while longer but the cold was starting to permeate his bones. He decided there was nothing else for it but to head for the trees. He warily set off down the track, the silence eerie around him.
Just beyond the nearest trees, he came across a patch of thick bushes with broad leaves. He pulled the branches apart and scrambled into the interior. It was warmer there, a thick layer of leaves around and beneath him, insulating him from the cold outside. He curled into a ball, intending to sleep until daylight. Perhaps then he could figure out what to do.
Chakotay sat, his mind numb. They could find no trace of Tom. They had run every scan they could think of and drawn a blank. They could find no evidence of alien intervention and no-one had any theories that were plausible.
"Where are you, Tom?" Chakotay whispered in the emptiness of his quarters. "Please come back to me. I love you." Tears ran silently down his cheeks as he wondered what he could do.
Janeway had promised they would re-check everything to ensure that nothing had been over-looked, but she had decided it would be too dangerous for Voyager to retrace her path. Even if Tom had been lost in that region of space, they couldn't go back for the sake of one man, not when it could mean losing the lives of everyone on board. They would continue their efforts to find Tom, but they would maintain their present course away from the pirate ships.
Chakotay sighed and rubbed his hand across his eyes. He was on duty again in six hours time. How he was going to keep his mind on his job, he didn't know. He lay down on the couch, not wanting to go to the too big and empty bed, and closed his eyes. He slept fitfully, visions of Tom, lost and helpless, plaguing his dreams.
It had been two days since Tom had unexpectedly arrived in this alien world, and he was no nearer to figuring out how to get home. He had wandered through the forest, hungry and alone, no closer to a solution. He had hoped to find evidence of civilisation, but had found nothing so far. He had no food, and even if he found anything that looked edible, he had no way to tell if it was poisonous. He decided it would be best to go without for now. The stream he had found had a few fish-like creatures swimming in it, so he had taken a chance that the water would be safe. He had taken a good drink a few hours ago and still felt okay, so hopefully the water wasn't toxic.
He thought that if he followed the stream, then perhaps he would find intelligent life. He couldn't go far during the main part of the day as the sun was blinding and his eyes hurt with the brightness. He walked as far as he could in the early morning, then retreated into the trees until late afternoon, when he once again followed the course of the stream. He didn't know how far he had travelled, but he kept going, hoping against hope that he would find help.
The sun had almost set now, and Tom could feel the air starting to chill. He knew it was time to take shelter before he started to feel the effects of the cold. He stopped and looked towards the trees, searching for a suitable resting place. He spotted some large bushes at the base of a tree and walked wearily towards them.
Something hit his neck, and his hand flew up automatically. His fingers closed around a needle-like object and he pulled it out, wincing. His vision began to blur, but before he lost consciousness he was aware of his clothes being tugged at and torn. Then blackness descended, and he passed out.
It was two days later that he came to, although he had no way of knowing how much time had passed. He awoke to find himself inside a very small, but sturdy, cage. It was so small that he was hunched over, his knees bent up to his chin. He shivered, and looking at his body, discovered he was naked. He took in as much of his surroundings as he could and surmised that he was deep in the forest.
At first he thought he'd been left there alone, but as his eyes adjusted to the low light level caused by the lateness of the day and the canopy of the trees, he noticed movement about thirty feet away. There were several humanoids present, leaning against the trees. Tom couldn't make out their features clearly as they blended well with their surroundings, but they looked to be about five feet tall, their skin dark with a greenish tint. Their hair was a similar colour, and most of them had it tied back. They were all naked.
Tom caught sight of several spears standing upright against one of the trees and he shivered again, frightened now as well as cold. He didn't know how he was going to get out of this, or even if it was possible. He closed his eyes tightly but couldn't prevent his tears escaping as his thoughts drifted to Chakotay. How was the big man handling his disappearance? Did he feel as alone as Tom felt? Was he as frightened? Tom sobbed quietly, his mind repeating one phrase over and over. 'Please, Cha. Please find me. Please.'
As Tom sat lost in his fear and misery, he was unaware of the figure approaching him. Without warning, a hand shot through the bars of the cage and roughly grabbed his hair. He shouted out in his panic, but could do no more as his assailant was behind him. Even if he could turn, he had no way of fighting back. His head was yanked back against the bars, and he felt a blade slice through his hair, uncomfortably close to his scalp. He shouted again, but quickly fell silent when the alien held the vicious-looking blade to his throat. Tom closed his eyes and tried desperately to stop his fear from overwhelming him. He stayed as still as he could, until a few moments later he sensed the blade being withdrawn. He kept his eyes shut a while longer, trying to blot out the hopelessness of his situation.
It was when he felt a sharp pain in his side that his eyes flew open to face his attacker. A youngish looking male stood next to the cage, a long pointed stick in his hand. He looked at Tom, sneering silently before jabbing the stick once more into Tom's side. Tom was vaguely aware that none of the aliens had yet made a sound. He tried to shuffle the few inches to the other side of the cage, but the alien just grinned and prodded harder. Tom wanted to cry out in his pain but he forced himself to remain quiet, hoping that with the lack of a response, his tormentor would lose interest. After two more hard stabs, the alien spat at Tom and walked away.
Another male crept towards Tom from the opposite side, and started a similar assault; stabbing at him mercilessly before eventually wandering off, apparently bored. It happened again and again, until all the group had taken a turn at attacking him. Then, as one, weapons in hand, they walked silently off into the forest.
Tom found himself shaking uncontrollably. He wrapped his arms tightly around his knees and willed himself to calm down. It took a long while, but eventually his body quieted and his mind shut itself down. He fell asleep, numb with shock.
When he awoke hours later, sunlight was filtering through the trees, and, as far as he could tell, he was alone. His muscles were cramped and hurting so he tried to stretch, but there just wasn't enough room. His sides still hurt, and when he put his hands to them, he found they were caked with dried blood. He reached up to the back of his head to find a large chunk of his hair had been cut away, but he was otherwise unhurt there.
Looking closely at the bars of the cage for the first time, he discovered they were made of a very hard type of wood. He tried shaking them repeatedly, kicking them and hitting them with his hands, using every ounce of strength he still possessed, but they held firm. He noticed that the cage door opened by sliding upwards, but it had been securely fastened with metal bands around the top and bottom. Tom concluded that there was no way out without help.
He crouched there in his tiny prison, hungry, thirsty, frightened and in pain, awaiting with dread, his captors' return. They never came back.
"Chakotay, it's been six days now. I'm sorry, but it really is time to accept that Tom has gone," Janeway said firmly. "We have no clues as to what happened, and we've run out of options. There's nothing else we can do. As I've already told you twice before, the investigation into Tom's disappearance is now closed."
"He's got to be somewhere, and he needs our help. We've got to find him. We've got to keep looking!" Chakotay demanded, his ire and desperation rising rapidly.
"No, Commander. My decision is final. I'm as upset as you are, but it's over. There will be no more investigation." she stated again, her arms folded across her chest.
"That's what you think," Chakotay barked angrily as he stormed out of the ready room and onto the bridge, totally oblivious to the scrutiny of the crew.
Janeway followed quickly behind him. "Commander, return to my ready room. Now," she insisted, her face pale with anger and annoyance.
"Why?" Chakotay asked, glaring at her. "So that you can tell me again how you intend to abandon Tom? I don't think so!"
"Commander, I will not tolerate this kind of behavior," Janeway warned, her voice louder now.
"And I won't tolerate *you* giving up on Tom Paris," Chakotay shouted back, any control he'd had left completely gone now. "If it was Seven, it would be a different story, wouldn't it? You'd never give up on *her*. You'd be leading the rescue, consequences be damned!"
"That's enough! I will *not* be changing my decision." Janeway exclaimed loudly and emphatically as she stared directly at him.
"Then, fuck you!" Chakotay seethed as he turned abruptly away from her and strode off the bridge.
A few minutes later, Chakotay was standing alone, and disconsolate, in his quarters, the stress of the last six days clearly evident as tears rolled freely down his face. He sank down on the couch, his head in his hands, as he felt his heart breaking into innumerable pieces. "Tom," he sobbed plaintively. "Where are you?"
He lifted his head and looked around the room with tear-filled eyes. Tom's vids were on the shelf next to a picture of him and Chakotay, and Tom's few ornaments were arranged nearby. There was also a bowl that still contained some of the fruit they'd bought on Yartis.
Chakotay rose slowly from the couch and walked to the bedroom, opening the closet door. Tom's clothes were there, intermingled with his own. With a shaking hand, he reached for Tom's dark blue shirt, his favourite, and ran his fingers gently down the sleeve. "You can't be gone, Tom," he said softly. "I need you."
He sighed heavily as he sat down on the bed. His roving gaze fell on the sphere sitting on the cabinet, and he remembered Tom's joy at buying it. The thought brought a faint smile to his face, and he stood up to take a closer look at Tom's purchase.
He frowned slightly as he saw the 'marble' was missing. He looked around on the floor, but it was nowhere to be seen. Returning his gaze to the sphere, he noticed the glow coming from the blue crystal on it's base and was drawn to touch it. As he did, he was surrounded by a flash of blue light from the mirror. He suddenly felt himself falling and closed his eyes until the sensation passed. When he eventually opened them again and looked around him, he didn't have a clue where he was, but he knew for certain that this was where he would find Tom.
Just as Chakotay's finger was touching the crystal, Janeway and Tuvok arrived outside his cabin door. Janeway pressed the chime, but received no answer. She tried again, with the same response. Giving an exasperated sigh, the Captain hit her comm badge. "Janeway to Chakotay," she said, irritably, but was greeted with silence.
"Computer, locate Commander Chakotay," she snapped as she stared at the closed cabin door.
"Commander Chakotay is not on board Voyager," the computer answered dispassionately.
Shock and disbelief flooded through Janeway, and she stood in the corridor, stunned. Her First Officer and her Senior Pilot were both gone. What was she supposed to do now? She hadn't been able to find one officer, how was she going to find two?
Chakotay carefully took in his surroundings, looking for any signs of Tom. He had already tried his comm badge to no avail. He scrutinized the track in front of him, noticing where the dirt had been scuffed up, and as he looked closer, he found a clear imprint of a shoe heel. Chakotay knew Tom had been wearing regulation shoes, the same as his own, so he pressed his heel into the ground next to the print, and discovered they were the same. Chakotay breathed a sigh of relief, as he now knew without a doubt that Tom had been here.
The sun was quite low in the sky and Chakotay knew there wouldn't be too much daylight left. He decided to follow Tom's trail until it became too dark to see. He found Tom's first refuge quickly and nodded to himself in approval, knowing he would be sleeping someplace similar soon. He stopped there a moment and listened. It was strangely quiet here, he thought, there was no bird-song, or any other noise for that matter. He checked the ground around him, finding another shoe-print that pointed down the track, and he resumed his search for Tom.
It was an hour later that Chakotay had to stop, the darkness too great for him to see the tracks now, and it was getting cold. Large bushes, just off to his left, would be his resting place tonight. He scrambled into the middle of them and sank down into the pile of dead leaves that littered the ground. He thought of Tom, and prayed that he was safe and well. "I'm going to find you soon, Tom," he whispered into the loneliness of the night. "*I* haven't given up on you, and I never will." He closed his eyes, breathing slowly as he forced himself to sleep.
The next morning, he awoke early. The first rays of light were just starting to break through the trees as he crawled out from his sleeping place. After stretching his aching limbs, and brushing the leaves from his clothes, he resumed his quest for Tom.
The trail wasn't too difficult to follow now that it was light again. The soft ground retained impressions well, and Chakotay hurried hopefully onwards.
By mid-day the sun was very bright, but Chakotay didn't want to stop, even though the glare was hurting. He picked a large leaf to hold above his eyes as a shield against the light. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it would let him continue his search for now.
He lasted about an hour longer before he finally had to take a break from the sun, and he moved to sit in the shade of some large trees. He decided to rest until his eyes were less sore, then track again for another hour or so before resting again. He would carry on in this fashion, until the light level dropped, he decided.
By the time the sun was setting again, he had reached the stream. Tom's tracks led down to the waters edge, and Chakotay could clearly see where he had knelt down. As Tom had done, Chakotay decided to chance that the water was safe to drink. He washed his tired face, then looked around for somewhere to sleep, eventually settling into some bushes, once again praying for Tom's safety. He hadn't found Tom yet, but he consoled himself with the thought that he was one day closer to doing so.
For five hours the next morning, Chakotay followed Tom's trail along the edge of the stream. He was just contemplating taking a rest, when he caught sight of something red at the base of a nearby tree. He walked quickly towards it and picked it up. His blood ran cold as he realised he was holding part of a Starfleet uniform. Checking the ground, he noticed Tom's tracks a short distance away, leading to a group of bushes. He followed them and stopped dead, noting, with horror, the signs of a struggle. There were prints of many naked feet, and evidence of something heavy having lain there.
Chakotay closed his eyes as fear washed through him. With great effort, he willed himself to remain calm, knowing it would be too dangerous to let panic overtake him. He needed his wits about him if he wanted to avoid being detected by Tom's assailants.
He took a few deep breaths, then looked around. He noted that the footprints led into the forest, so he warily followed them. He had only gone about a hundred yards before he found the tattered remains of Tom's jacket thrown carelessly into a bush. His eyes filled with tears as he picked it up, and he sank to his knees. He held the material to his face and cried silently, his mind frantically seeking an explanation other than the obvious one. Tom couldn't be dead, he told himself over and over, he couldn't be.
Eventually, Chakotay shakily got to his feet, his mind made up. He slowly rubbed his hands across his eyes to clear them. "I'm going to find you, Tom," he vowed. "No matter what."
He set off determinedly, tracking the footprints through the trees. The sun wasn't as blinding in here, so he pushed himself to take advantage of that fact. He knew he wouldn't stop until darkness made it necessary.
He ploughed on, and by late afternoon he was deep in the forest. A slight breeze rustled the leaves, and, in the light filtering through the canopy above him, Chakotay saw something swinging from a low branch. He went to grasp it, but stopped, his arm frozen in mid-reach as he suddenly recognised what it was; a clump of Tom's hair tied round with twine.
He felt sick, his stomach churning, and he cried out in anguish as he stumbled blindly through the trees and into a small clearing. Through bleary eyes, he saw what looked to be a crate, and his feet automatically took him towards it. He could see there was something inside, but it wasn't until he'd taken a few more steps that he realised what it was, and, in a state of shock and disbelief, he stared at the pitiful sight before him.
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