|Lost and Found
The late afternoon sun was pouring in through the large window above the table, its golden rays bathing Tom in welcome warmth as he sat, idly sipping at the drink Telsesh had given him earlier. He was lost in his thoughts until a soft noise made him look up, and he saw Telsesh returning to the room, a serious expression on the Nahldarian's face. "What did you find out?" Tom asked apprehensively as he placed his glass on the table. "Did your contact have any more information?"
Telsesh took a deep breath, then sighed as he sat down on a chair opposite Tom. "Yes," he confirmed. "I have found out more. But not all of it is good, I'm afraid." He studied Tom's suddenly pale face for a moment. "Chayelah is in a poor way - he needs immediate medical attention, but he is no longer Kenthah's captive."
Tom closed his eyes, his chest tightening painfully. "He's been freed? Your men got him away from Kenthah?" he asked shakily, grasping at the good news.
"Yes, Temospah, your Chayelah is free. My friends will bring him here shortly."
"But what about his injuries?" Tom questioned, looking anxiously at the Nahldarian. "You said he needs medical attention, how's he going to get that here?"
"There is more to this house than there appears to be," Telsesh said softly. "There is adequate equipment here to treat Chayelah, so do not worry too much. We will repair his injuries."
Tom sat silently for a moment, staring vacantly out of the window at the garden beyond. "How long before he gets here?" he asked quietly, turning to face Telsesh. "And *how* will he get here? Will they bring him by shuttle, transporter, or what?"
Telsesh shook his head. "Transporters are not an option; I do not have them at my disposal. My friends will take Chayelah by shuttle to a building a few minutes flight time from here, then transfer him to a different form of transport. There is another way into this house, and they will use that."
"What way, Telsesh?" Tom queried, frowning. "This building is surrounded by grassland; the only way to get here without using a transporter would appear to be by air."
"Yes, that is how it seems," Telsesh replied, nodding. "But there is a less obvious way." He shifted forward in his chair, and smiled. "As you know, I am going to return your ship's stolen parts to you...."
"You have them?" Tom interrupted.
Telsesh shook his head. "Not yet. But I will have them soon. They will arrive with Chayelah. But that is not what I was trying to explain."
"I'm sorry. Tell me what you were going to say."
Telsesh smiled. "Very well. I will begin again. As I said before, I am going to return the parts to you. But, what you do not know is that this will not be the first time I have gone against Kenthah. Fortunately for me, I have always been successful in keeping my dealings hidden, but as a precaution, I had this house equipped with an escape route. Today, it will be used as an alternate means of entry." He sat back a little, and smiled more brightly. "There is an underground passageway that connects this house to the building where my friends will land with Chayelah. He will be brought here via that."
Tom gave a small relieved laugh and shook his head. "You've planned everything really well," he remarked with a smile of his own. He felt far more relaxed now that he knew exactly how Chakotay was going to get there, and that the older man's injuries could be treated. "It must have cost a fortune to have a tunnel that length constructed, though," he commented a moment later. "And how did you get the engineers and other workers to keep quiet about it?"
"I am afraid there are some things that I cannot tell you," Telsesh replied, apologetically. "But it is lucky for you and your Chayelah that the construction workers *did* keep quiet, is it not?"
"Yeah. Very lucky," Tom replied, picking his glass back up. He took a sip of the sweet liquid it contained, then gave a soft sigh. "Thank you, Telsesh," he said seriously. "I don't know what I would have done without your help. I wouldn't have had a clue about where to start looking for Chayelah, let alone freeing him afterwards. So, thank you."
Telsesh bowed his head slightly. "You are most welcome, Temospah. And I will be the one thanking you when I receive my payment for the return of your ship's components."
Tom snorted. "Yeah, I guess you will," he grinned. "But you deserve it. And I won't be the only one who thinks so. Everyone on Voyager will be happy to have the parts back because it means we can resume our journey home. And they'll be doubly pleased to have Chayelah back."
"He's that well liked?"
Tom nodded. "Yeah. He's the most respected man on the ship; a really good and honourable person. We couldn't have a better First Officer."
"It sounds as though he is a very valuable member of your crew," Telsesh remarked, smiling. "I am glad to be of help in returning him to you."
Tom smiled back, then finished his drink. "When will Chayelah arrive here? Do you know?" he asked, putting the empty glass down on the table.
"I expect him to be here within the hour," Telsesh replied, getting up. He gestured to the door that led to the paved area outside. "Come, Temospah, let us sit in the garden. It is a beautiful afternoon, and we should enjoy it. You have told me a little about Chayelah, and now I would like to hear about you. Let us sit outside and talk."
"What I saw of your ship was wonderful," Telsesh remarked, smiling at Tom from his seat on the terrace. "And the way you have spoken about her for the last twenty minutes has me intrigued. Travelling on Voyager must be an incredible experience."
"Yeah, it is," Tom agreed quickly. "She's the best ship I've ever flown."
Telsesh looked surprised. "You pilot her?" he asked.
Tom nodded. "Yeah," he confirmed. "And I couldn't wish for a better job. I've been obsessed with flying since I was a kid, so when the Captain gave me the position of Chief Pilot, I was stunned."
"You must be a very talented man, Temospah," Telsesh commented. "And an asset to your ship." He looked thoughtful. "Your First Officer recognised me from my visit to Voyager, but did I meet *you* then? You look nothing like the people who were present; the way your appearance has been altered, from your own species to mine, is most convincing. If I did not know better, I would not suspect you of being anything other than Nahldarian."
"Our Doctor did a very good job," Tom said, nodding. "But, yes, I was there. You were sitting next to Chakotay, and I was the other side of him."
"Chakotay?" Telsesh queried. "I do not know that name, my friend. Unless... Do you mean Chayelah? Is 'Chakotay' his given name? If it is, then I am pleased to finally know the name of at least one of the people I am helping. It makes me feel that I am trusted."
"Yeah, I suppose it would," Tom said thoughtfully. "I know what it's like to not be trusted." He came to a decision. "My real name's Tom Paris," he informed the Nahldarian. "And you were right, Chayelah and Chakotay *are* the same person."
Telsesh smiled brightly. "Thank you, Tom Paris. Your trust in me has made me very happy. And thank you, also, for a most informative chat." He stood up then, and patted Tom on the shoulder. "Let us see if your Chakotay has arrived yet. Come with me," he instructed.
Tom stood, and Telsesh led him back inside the house, across the room that they'd sat in before, through the kitchen area, and then into a short corridor. There was a door at the end which Tom presumed would open on to another room, but when Telsesh touched the silver panel on the wall beside it, it slid back to reveal that it concealed a lift. Stepping inside, Telsesh tapped at another control panel. The lift door closed, then they began to move. The descent was smooth and rapid, and less than ten seconds later, they emerged into another passageway.
"How far below the surface are we?" Tom asked as they left the lift and Telsesh ushered him along the brightly-lit corridor.
Telsesh stopped as another door slid open in the wall to his right. "In here, Tom Paris," he said, ignoring Tom's question, and instead, directing him into a sparsely furnished room. He pointed to a chair that was situated next to a low bed. "Sit there," he ordered.
Tom frowned, but sat down. "Where are you going?" he asked as Telsesh started walking towards the door.
The Nahldarian turned around and smiled. "I am going to get your Chakotay for you, Tom Paris," he informed him. "I will be right back."
"He's here?" Tom questioned as Telsesh reached the door. "How do you know? You haven't contacted anyone."
"No. Because I had no need to," Telsesh replied, grinning. "You are a fool, Tom Paris. A real fool." The Nahldarian laughed, and walked out, the door sliding shut behind him.
Tom crossed the room quickly, and stood in front of the closed door. It was then that he suddenly became aware of the similarity between this room and the one which he'd occupied not so long ago - white walls, no windows, but more importantly, a door that he couldn't open. The colour drained from his face as his situation became clear - he was Telsesh' prisoner. He had walked into a trap.
For several minutes, Tom stood unmoving, then finally, in a daze, he slowly wandered to the bed and collapsed on it, completely stunned by the turn of events. He was still trying to come to terms with what had happened when the door opened again, and he looked up to see Telsesh and another man carrying Chakotay into the room. Without conscious thought, Tom stood up and started walking forwards, his hand moving to where a phaser had been concealed along with his tricorder.
"Do not bother. It is not there," Telsesh announced as they unceremoniously dropped Chakotay on to the floor just inside the door. Tom's fingers had just confirmed the truth of Telsesh' statement as a third man appeared with a bowl of water and a cloth, both of which he placed next to the unconscious Commander. "Clean him up, Tom Paris," Telsesh ordered, pointing at Chakotay. "Your Captain will not want him back in that state."
Tom hurried to Chakotay's side, quickly bending down to check his condition. His fingers moved to Chakotay's neck, and found his pulse. It was a little weak, but steady. "Why?" Tom asked angrily, looking up at Telsesh. "Why the *fuck* did you do this? I don't understand."
Telsesh laughed, and gestured for his companions to leave the room. "I needed information, Tom Paris, and I got it. Although, not from your Chakotay - he refused to tell me anything. He wouldn't even disclose his real name. But you, my friend, you told me all I needed to know." He laughed again. "Trust is such a wonderful thing," he commented as he went out the door. "And so much easier on my knuckles," he added as it closed behind him.
Tom could hear Telsesh' continued laughter as the Nahldarian walked away down the corridor, but he tuned it out, and turned his attention to the man lying in front of him.
Chakotay was a mess. From his cut and grazed face, right down to the abrasions on his ankles, his almost naked body was covered in dark mauve bruises. His hair, which was matted with dried blood, covered the top half of his face, and as Tom gently pushed the strands away, he found that Chakotay's eyes were red and swollen. "What the hell did they need to do this for?" Tom wondered again. Carefully, he slipped his arms beneath Chakotay's abused body, and then picked the Commander up and carried him the short distance to the bed, putting him down gently before going back to collect the bowl and cloth.
Patiently, and with infinite care, Tom dabbed at the cuts on Chakotay's forehead, removing the blood and inspecting the damage. He gave a small sigh of relief as he found it wasn't quite as bad as he'd feared; most of the blood had come from one gash that was hidden in Chakotay's hair, and was already healing, the rest from small cuts and grazes. Tom rinsed out the rag, his gaze wandering over the angry-looking marks that had been left on Chakotay's chest and stomach, and he shook his head. What exactly was the situation? Had Kenthah ever held Chakotay captive, or had Telsesh had him all along? Whose authority had allowed the gentle man lying in front of him to be treated the way he had? With another sigh, this time of frustration, Tom gave up on his thoughts, and returned to bathing Chakotay's wounds; he was too concerned with Chakotay's immediate welfare to be able to work through exactly what had happened - he would have to leave it until later.
The minutes passed as Tom continued to clean Chakotay up. There was no towel, so he removed his shirt, and used that to pat the Commander dry. When he was finished, there was no trace of blood left anywhere except on the stained cloth and in the discoloured water. Deciding that he should make Chakotay more comfortable, Tom gently manoeuvred the Commander's boxers-clad body beneath the bedcovers. As he adjusted the blanket, Chakotay stirred.
"Chakotay? Can you hear me?" Tom asked softly. He cupped Chakotay's face in his hands. "Chakotay?"
Chakotay's eyes flickered open as far as the swelling would allow them to, and he tried to focus on the man leaning over him. Everything was blurred at first, but after a moment his vision cleared and he recognised the Lieutenant. He coughed, wincing as his muscles protested the action, then spoke, his voice a rasping whisper. "Why, Tom?" he asked sadly. "Why did you do it?" Not waiting for an answer, Chakotay looked away, his eyes dull and almost lifeless as he rolled over and faced the wall.
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