Onca

From crime@acs.bu.edu Sat Feb 17 10:34:09 1996
Date: Sat, 17 Feb 1996 09:42:06 -0500 (EST)
From: mary self
To: David Tremel
Cc: mary self
Subject: The Onca

Disclaimers: The characters belong to Paramount; however, Mylaa and the story
are my creations. Further, this story and the other two in
this trilogy are based upon B. Antrim’s story,
`Paris Nocturne’.

The Onca
Part I of The Onca and the Nightingale

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1995

The sound of phaser fire had stopped and the footsteps and voices had
dissipated into nothingness. Cautiously, Mylaa emerged from her hiding place
and tripped over a fallen support beam. Rubbing her shin, she listened.
All was quiet.
“Father?” she whispered. “Mother? Rykal? Can you hear me?”
She stood up, and hands stretched out in front of her to prevent another
fall, she gingerly eased her way through the debris which had once been her
room on the ship. Reaching the door, she found the override panel and pulled
the release. The heat and smoke from the outer corridor choked her.
The ship’s fire suppression was off-line.
*I must make it to the bridge; the others may be too hurt. It’s up to me
to get help.* Coughing on the thick smoke, she began her slow crawl along the
corridor that led to the bridge.

The bridge or what was left of it was in total disarray. Many of the
support beams had fallen and those that hadn’t, buckled and groaned under the
increased weight they now bore. Smoke and sparks issued forth from what had
been the helm and operations control panels.
Straightening up, she blindly ran her right hand along the port wall until
her fingers encountered the over-heated communications relay. The flesh on
her fingertips was seared as soon as she touched it, and instinctively, she
placed the throbbing digits in her mouth. Removing them a brief second later
and using a much lighter touch, she felt her way along the upper portion of the
panel until she found the correct touchpad. Pushing it, she heard the distress
call activate; then nursing her burnt fingers as best she could, she began
searching for her crewmates and waiting for help to arrive.

*******************************************************************************

“Commander, I am receiving an automated distress call,” Tuvok’s
eyes narrowed slightly. “Bearing two-one-eight mark four-five.”
“Chakotay to Janeway.”
“Go ahead, Commander.”
“Captain, we have picked up a distress call. Should we alter course
to investigate?” Chakotay waited patiently, even though he already knew what
her reply would be.
“Affirmative, Commander. I’m on my way.” Captain Janeway deactivated
her viewer. *Those reports would have to wait; besides,* she though as she
exited her quarters. *Star Fleet may not see them for another seventy-odd
years, a few more hours delay couldn’t make that much difference.*

“Status report, Commander,” Janeway requested as she stepped onto the
bridge.
“We are continuing to receive the signal, Captain. At Warp 3, we
should be within sensor range in three hours.”
“Increase to Warp 5, Mr Paris,” the Captain ordered as she took her
seat. “If there are injured people out there, every minute may count.”
“Aye, Captain. Warp 5, it is,” the young Lieutenant’s eyes
brightened as he felt his adrenaline began to pump a bit faster. The Captain
didn’t want to waste any time, and in the back of his head, a little bird told
him she was right.

*******************************************************************************

“We’re coming into sensor range now, Captain,” Lt. Paris advised.
“I’m reading a small, disabled transport vessel directly ahead.”
“Reduce to impulse. On screen,” commanded Janeway, standing.
“Hail them, Mr. Tuvok.”
“No response. Sensors indicate heavy damage,” responded her
security chief. “The vessel appears to have been subjected to an attack
of unknown origin.”
“Are there any other ships in the area?” Janeway asked, a mixture of
caution and concern creeping into her voice.
“Negative. Long range sensors detect no other ships. However, an
ion trail does exist, bearing one-eight-one mark three, and” Tuvok paused.
“Its composition conforms to that of ships belonging to the Kazon Nistrum.
It would be logical to conclude tha they may have been the source of
the attack.”
“Kazon?!” the Captain’s eyes turned from her Security Chief to the
tiny vessel on the viewscreen. “Are there any life signs on board?”
“Affirmative, Captain. Life support is at minimal levels. However,
considering the amount of damage the ship has sustained, I cannot guarantee
that this will remain the case much longer.”
“Maintain long range scans, Mr Tuvok. I want to know the instant any
other ship enters this sector. Commander Chakotay, are we within transporter
range?”
“Entering range now, Captain.”
“Take a small away team over to rescue survivors. And Commander,”
Chakotay turned to face her. “Maintain constant contact with the ship.”
The First Officer nodded. “Kim, Torres, you’re with me. Chakotay
to Kes.”
“Kes here, Commander,” came the soft-spoken reply.
“Meet us in transporter room two. We have a severly damaged vessel
with life signs and may need medical assistance.”
“On my way,” Kes grabbed a medical tricorder and field kit.
Then throwing the doctor a look of anxious excitement, she ran out of sickbay.

“Janeway to Transporter Room Two.”
“Transporter Room. Go ahead, Captain.”
“Ensign Keeling, maintain a transporter lock on our away team. At the
first hint of trouble, I want them off that ship.”
“Understood,” responded the ensign, looking up as the away team
entered the room.

The coughing began as soon as they materialized on the bridge.
“Fire suppression is off-line. Life support circuits are overloading,”
reported Lt. B’Elanna Torres, screaming to be heard over the ship’s din.
“I’ll try to correct the breakdown and stabilize the power couplings.” She
headed towards what remained of the engineering and operations station.
The others began scanning the immediate area. Through the smoke, Kes
and Chakotay spotted a body sprawled next to what had been the helm.
Hurriedly, they picked their way over the debris-strewn room. As they knelt
down, Kes ran the tricorder’s scanner overt the humanoid’s head and neck.
“He’s dead, Commander,” she replied tonelessly. “Probably as the
result of the console’s explosion.”
Chakotay shook his head sympathetically. “Okay, let’s spread out,”
he ordered, rising from his crouch. “Someone on this ship is alive and we’ve
got to find him. Keep a close eye on radiation levels as you scan; the
engine’s containment field may have been damaged. And,” he paused. “If you
get into trouble, don’t wait; request emergency transport immediately.”
“I’m picking up a life sign over this way,” Ensign Kim called as he
headed down the main corridor. “It appears to be coming from one of the rooms
up ahead.”
“Good work, Ensign,” the older man replied. “You take the rooms on the
right, and I’ll take the ones on the left.”
Running their tricorders up and down in every doorway, they scanned
each room, until finally Kim signalled, “They’re in here!”
Through the haze, Harry could see a figure crouched on the floor by
another body. Two beams hanging down at 45 degree angles separated them from
the doorway where he stood. Cautiously, he moved forward into the room.
At the sound of his approach, the seated being’s head turned. The face
belonged to a young humanoid female, possibly in her mid to late twenties, Kim
guessed, although the dirt and soot hid most of her features.
“They are all dead,” she said in a flat voice. “All of them.”
“C’mon then, we’ve got to get you out of here. Can you stand?”
“Y-yes,” the reply seemed unsure.
“Here, hold on to me,” said Harry gently helping the girl to her feet.
“Kim to Chakotay.”
“Go ahead.”
“I’ve got the only survivor, Commander. I don’t think she’s hurt, but
she may be in shock.”
“Acknowledged. Chakotay to Voyager.”
“Voyager here,” Janeway answered, her professional demeanor belying
her concern for the away team.
“Request transport of Kes, Ensign Kim and the survivor directly to
sickbay. Lt. Torres and I will stay here and try to stabilize the ship’s
systems; if we are successful, we may be able to determine what happened.”
“Agreed. Janeway to Sickbay. Activate emergency medical holographic
program.”
The Doctor looked up from his console. “I’m already on, Captain, and
am awaiting my new patient.”
“Very well. Ensign Keeling, three to transport to sickbay.”
“Acknowledged,” came the reply, waiting for her command.
“Energize.”

******************************************************************************

“Computer, open medical file on patient, Mylaa Tana,” the Doctor
lowered his voice. His patient was finally resting on the bio-bed in the
adjoining room, and he had no wish to alter this situation any more than
he had to.
“Follow-up report. Patient has suffered from the usual effects of
smoke inhalation with corresponding irritation to the mucous membranes around
the eyes, the nasal passages, and the throat. Additionally, patient has
received minor cuts and burns to the face, neck, arms, and legs with second
degree burns on the fingertips of the right hand. All damaged tissues are
resonding well to treatment and I expect a full recovery.
“Psychology, the patient has experienced the nightmares which commonly
occur among humanoids in response to a tragedy. However, I expect these too,
to diminish over time.
“Further examination reveals the patient’s blindness to have originated
at birth. It would appear that a missing nucleoprotein in the optical nerves
prevented the development of the necessary neural-visual pathways, resulting
in a complete deprivation of vision. It would be interesting to see if dermal
neural regeneration could be modified to-,”
The Doctor broke off; a sound from the other room told him that his
patient either was beginning to awaken or was having another nightmare. Which- ever it was, he rose to investigate.

*******************************************************************************

“Ready to leave?” Kes queried.
“Absolutely,” replied Mylaa.
It had been five days since she was brought on board by Ensign
Kim. Since that time, the Doctor noted, her wounds had completely healed, and
it seemed that she had started to accept the death of her family. He had even
been pleasantly annoyed when she had gotten up on her own and started to
explore sickbay, knocking a few instruments and PADDs off his desk in the
process. Smiling to himself, he remembered the look of puzzlement and
disbelief on her face when he had explained that he was only a hologram,
not a *real* doctor. *And now, she had a whole new ship about which to learn,*
he thought watching the sickbay doors hiss shut behind her.

“Ensign Kim and Lt. Torres moved your instrument into your quarters,”
said Kes as she led Mylaa down the corridor. “It had been damaged, but with
Kim’s knowledge and a little guesswork, they repaired it as best they could.”
“I must remember to thank them; with my family gone, the aleel is all
I really have left.” Mylaa stopped. “You said, `Kim’s knowledge’. Is Harry
a musician?”
“He plays an old Earth instrument called a clarinet. He used some of
his replicator rations to make one; he says it reminds him of home.”
“I would like to hear him play sometime. It would be nice to accompany
someone again,” Mylaa stated simply, a wistful look creeping over her face.
Kes knew she was thinking of her brother, whose body now lay in the
stasis room with those of her mother, father, uncle and two cousins. She
patted the taller girl’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“I’m sure Harry would love to play with you. In fact, I think he is
giving a performance tomorrow evening at Sandrine’s.”
“Sandrine’s?”
“Yes, it’s a holographic program of Tom Paris’, which he modeled after
a bar back on Earth. It is quite a popular program among the members of the
crew. Deck 8,” requested Kes as they stepped into the turbolift.

Moments later, they stood outside Mylaa’s new quarters. It took a few
tries, but with help from the Ocampan, she soon mastered the door controls
and they entered. A brief tour ensued; then at her request, Kes sat down
while Mylaa explored the rooms on her own, asking questions about the
replicator, the desk monitor, the bathroom, even the view.
“Kes, I want to thank you for all the help you’ve given me, but I’d
really like to be alone for a little while.” Mylaa settled into a
nearby chair.
The pretty Ocampan smiled. “I’m glad I could help, but are you sure
you’ll be okay?” Kes voice reflected a genuine concern for her new friend.
The change in tone did not go unnoticed. “I’ll be fine; besides you
still have to show me where that cafeteria is that your friend, Neelix, runs.
A few hours from now I know I’ll be hungry.”
“Alright,” Kes rose to go. “I’ll come back at 1800 hours to take you
to dinner, but if you need anything before then, promise you’ll page me through
your commbadge.”
“I will; I promise,” Mylaa replied as she heard the door swish open
and closed.
Rising from her chair, she made her way over to where her instrument
had been left. It resembled a large synthesizer with four keyboards and a
voice-controlled computer. Sitting down on a stool which Harry had left by it,
Mylaa raised her hands and began to inventory the damage that the attack and
subsequent repair efforts had done.
As she played, a smile settled on her lips. *They repaired it well,*
she thought, ending her performance in mid-note. “And now, Mylaa, my dear,”
she said out loud. “You have an entire ship to memorize. Computer, begin
describing the Federation vessel, Voyager, deck by deck, all sections.”

*******************************************************************************

“Ready for Sandrine’s?” Kes called out as she stepped into
Mylaa’s quarters.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” Mylaa replied, coming out of the bathroom,
brushing her shoulder-length dark hair.
“Then let’s go,” Kes proffered an elbow and led Mylaa’s free hand to
it. She frowned, *Was it her imagination or did her friend look a little tired
around the eyes?*
Mylaa placed her hairbrush on a nearby table, and the two exited the
room, heading for the holodeck.

The sounds were different, and yet familiar. *I guess no matter where
you go,* thought Mylaa. *All bars have the same noises and smells.*
Harry Kim had been preparing to make a bank shot into the far left
corner pocket when the two girls entered. He raised up and stood still for a
minute, watching them cross to the bar.
“Hey, Harry,” Tom teased, his back to the entrance. “I’m not getting
any younger.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Harry bent down, drew his stick back and shot. The cue
ball flew across the table completely missing the ball that he had been aiming
at; hitting the two bumpers instead, it came to rest right behind Paris’ 15.
“Bad luck, old buddy,” Paris empathized. “But here is where you lose
the game. Hey, Harry, where-”
Kim walked past Tom, absent-mindedly handing the older man his stick.
Paris turned to follow the Ensign with his gaze.
*So that’s the Kera’anian female we brought on board,* Tom thought.
He knew that Harry had visited her a couple of times in sickbay, but this was
the first time that he, Paris, had seen her. *She’s attractive,* he
automatically observed. *Not pretty, but attractive. Nice figure,too.* He
turned back to the table; he’d let Harry have his chance first if he was
interested. *You can never tell with Harry.*

“Hello, Mylaa. It’s-”
“Harry!” Mylaa’s face lit up. “Kes tells me that you will be playing
a, ah-”
“Clarinet,” prompted Kes.
“A clarinet, here, tonight. I was hoping that since you and Lt. Torres
repaired my aleel so well, that we might, um, `join forces’ as it were and see
what happens when music from the Alpha and Delta quadrants combine.”
“Sounds great,” Harry enthused. “Perhaps after I play, you could
give us a sample of your music and then we could `join forces’, as you say.”
“That would be wonderful, but my aleel is back in my room.”
“No problem. I have it’s specs on file; we’ll just have the computer
create a replica here on the holodeck.”
Mylaa shook her head. “Amazing. I don’t think that I will ever get
used to this holographic technology. By the way, is Lt. Torres here?
I haven’t thanked her yet for all the work she did repairing my instrument.”
Harry smiled. “B’Elanna is at a table in the corner; she always comes
to hear me play,” he explained. “Come on, I’ll introduce you. Please excuse
us, Kes.”
“Oh, don’t mind me,” the pretty Ocampan laughed. “I think I’ll wander
over to the pool table and see if Neelix can succeed in snookering Mr. Tuvok
another time.”
Harry took Mylaa’s elbow and steered her over to where the half-Klingon
waited patiently. Introductions were made as the two sat down.
“I’ve been meaning to thank you,” Mylaa began.
“Oh, think nothing of it,” B’Elanna interrupted lightly. “Harry is
the one who did nost of the work because I know absolutely nothing about music
or musical instruments.”
“Still,” Mylaa insisted. “It means a lot to me to be able to sit down
and play. With my family gone,I-,” she broke off, irritated at the tremor
creeping into her voice.
Her companions exchanged nervous glances. “Can I get you something
to drink?” Harry asked forcing excessive cheer into his voice.
Mylaa stubbornly shook off her despair. “What do you recommend?”
“Well, since this is a French bar, how about trying something called
wine?” suggested B’Elanna.
“I’m game,” Mylaa smiled.
“Be right back,” Harry rose and made his way over to the bar. A few
minutes later, he returned. “Try this,” he said placing the chilled glass in
her hand. “Sandrine, the owner of this establishment, assures me that this is
an excellent introductory wine, not too sweet, not too dry. Just light and
flavorful.”
Mylaa took a sip. “Well, it’s different; I’ll say that. A bit like
Ankardian melon water, but I-,” Mylaa turned her head. “Who just came in?”
B’Elanna grinned. “It’s show-time, Harry; the Captain just came in.
Harry has to wait for her to show up,” she explained. “She’s one of his
biggest fans.”
Tom stood up on a chair. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! May I have your
attention, please!”
“Who’s that?”
“That voice belongs to our best pilot, Lt. Tom Paris,” whispered
B’Elanna. “And believe me, he thinks he is our best pilot. Handsome,
arrogant and a real pig when it comes to women. Harry says there is a lot
more to him than that, and he may be right. It is true that Tom has had his
rough patches, but what you hear now is the side that Tom normally
shows everyone.”
Mylaa nodded her understanding. Her cousin, Taekar, had been the same
way. Tough and brash on the outside, but occasionally, if you were lucky, you
would get a peek at a softer inside.
Tom continued. “Allow me to present the Alpha quadrant’s clarinet
virtuoso, Voyager’s own-”
“Oh, sit down,” Harry broke in, raising the instrument to his lips.
Shrugging good-naturedly, Tom stepped off the chair and headed over to
the bar where Ricki, his holographic significant other, stood.

Harry played four short songs, and then stopped. Walking over to
where Mylaa sat, he took her hand and led her back to the center of the
informal stage.
“As you all know,” he said giving her hand a gentle squeeze. “Due to
unfortunate circumstances, Mylaa Tana has temporarily joined our crew. She is
also a musician and has agreed to give us a sample of some Delta quadrant
music. Computer, access file, Kim/aleel/1, and generate an holographic
replica with stool one meter to my left.”
“Oh gods,” Tom moaned to Sandrine. “We have no idea if she can play
or what that monstrosity sounds like. Give me another glass of burgundy;
I have the feeling I may need it.”
Mylaa raised her hands and began to play. Her first song seemed to
share a kinship with ancient Arabian and Risan seduction music, exotic and
passionate.
“Not bad,” Tom grudgingly muttered into his glass. Then, he froze.
Over Mylaa, he heard the song of his animal guide, but the sound, instead
of coming from above or from his shoulder as it usually did, came from directly
behind him. He swung around towards the stage and saw it. A tiny nightin-
gale perched on the stranger’s shoulder, her song blending with Mylaa’s
until they became one voice. At that point, she abruptly vanished.
Stunned, Tom sat there for a moment, his mouth slightly agape; then
closing it, he rose and began making his way toward the stage.
“Tommy, where are you going?” Ricki’s normally teasing tone took on
all the characteristics of a nagging whine.
“Computer, delete character, Ricki,” Tom ordered.
“Well, of all the-,” Ricki never finished the sentence.
Moving to the front row, he snagged a chair and turned it around so the
back faced the stage. Sitting down, he folded his arms across the top of the
chair-back, and placed his chin upon them, mesmerized by what he saw and heard.

*******************************************************************************

Mylaa sighed and leaned against the short room divider that separated the
bed from the seating area in her quarters. It had been a good evening.
Harry had played beautifully, and even though he didn’t know the songs, he
had broken in at just the right moment to accompany her. Besides, performing
tonight had been cathartic; all the pent-up anger, sorrow, and despair
of the past few days finding release through the music. Only the fear
remained. The fear that had made her want to stay at Sandrine’s; the fear
that had made her hesitate before letting go of Harry’s arm when they had
reached her door; the fear that now would not let her take the few steps
separating where she stood from the waiting bed.
“I need the rest,” she told herself, trying to sound resolute. But her
legs would not obey her commands. They and the rest of her knew that while
she might drop off to sleep, after a time, the dreams would come.
Since leaving sickbay and the ever-present doctor, they had gotten worse.
The noises, the crashing and grinding of metal, the deafening explosions and
then the unfamiliar footsteps and harsh voices. They always walked and stood
right by where she was hiding, just as they had in real life, but in her
dreams, they found her, unseen hands opening the hatchway and reaching
for her.
Maybe she wouldn’t go to sleep just yet. Maybe she could find her way to
the holodeck and re-engage this Tom Paris’ program. Harry had told her how
and what program it was on the way back to her room. The real trick was
finding the holodeck. She knew the turbolift was to the left as you exited
her quarters, and about, oh, twenty paces down the corridor on the right.
*Wait a minute. Kes said the computer monitored the crews’ positions through
the commbadges. Maybe by asking the right questions, I can use the computer
to orient myself in relation to the holodeck.*
“Anyway, even if I get lost, it’s still better than sleeping,” she said
to herself, as she stepped out of her quarters and turned to the left.

Sandrine’s was empty except for a few of the usual holographic
characters.Tom sat at the piano, his fingers idly stroking the keys, but his
mind wasn’t on the music. It kept returning to earlier in the evening when he
had heard Mylaa play. He had wanted to talk to her after the “show” ended,
but for the first time in his life in that situation, he hadn’t known what
to say.
*Hi, I’m Tom Paris, and my animal guide told me that we should get to
know one another. Yeah, right.* He didn’t need anyone to tell him what a
lousy pick-up line that was, even if it was true. She would’ve either thought
he was crazy or laughed in his face. Probably both. And she and Harry had
seemed pretty cozy. They had played well together, and Harry *had* left
with her.
*Damn!* Tom’s hands slammed down on the keys. Harry was his best
friend, but that didn’t stop a wave of jealousy from washing over Tom.
*I should have been the one she sat and talked with after the
performance. I should have been the one who walked her back to her quarters.
I should be the one in her quarters-.* He stopped and shook his head.
He didn’t want to think about it.
“Well, I can’t change things now,” he muttered to himself. ” So, I
might as well play.”

Determined to put Mylaa out of his mind, Tom had become so absorbed in
his music that he didn’t hear the holodeck doors open. Sandrine, however, saw
Mylaa enter, and she emerged from behind the bar to guide the girl to a stool.
Mylaa ordered wine, and sat quietly for awhile listening to the strong
tenor voice rolling out soft, passionate-sounding lyrics. Finally, curiosity
overcame her; turning to Sandrine, she whispered, “Who is singing?”
“It is my poor, sweet Thomas,” replied the hologram. “Sometimes he
comes in here when he is troubled and cannot sleep.”
Mylaa stood and quietly moved in the direction of the voice.
Spreading her arms out in front of her, she searched for and found a chair
almost directly behind the young pilot.
Minutes passed and one song blended with another carrying Mylaa along
on their strange melodies. Swept away, she added her own clear voice to his,
imitating the music rather than attempting the unfamiliar lyrics.
The effect on Tom was electric. Crashing his hands disonantly on the
keys, he spun around; surprise and anger etched on his face.
“Please don’t stop playing on my account,” pleaded the alien, sensing
her intrusion. “It was quite lovely.”
“What are you doing here? How did you get here? Who brought you?”
Tom’s eyes narrowed as he searched the bar for another non-holographic entity.
“No one brought me.” Her head tilted proudly upward. “I found my own
way here, but please play some more. Your voice is so expressive, and so is
the instrument you-”
“It’s called a piano,” Tom broke in impatiently. “It’s an old
Earth instrument.”
“A pi-an-o,” Mylaa recited the word carefully. “It sound in some way
like my aleel.”
“Looks a bit like it, too; only one keyboard, though, and no
computer.” Tom’s voice softened. He shouldn’t be irritated at her; she
couldn’t have known she was interrupting his private therapy session.
*Besides,* he smiled. *If she is here alone, that means the table is still
open.*
“Here give me your hand,” he said stretching out his own. He guided
her over to the old upright, setting her down on the chair. Then, taking her
hands in his, he placed them on the keys.
After a few aborted attempts, Mylaa began to squeeze out a basic
melody from the piano, using her voice to aid the song along. Tom sat back
and listened, a look of contentment spreading over his face. Suddenly, she
stopped playing.
“I am so sorry. I have not only invaded your private moment; I have
completely taken it over.” Blushing with embarassemnt, she rose and headed
for the door.
Tom stepped in her way, grabbing both her arms just above the wrists.
Hearing her voice again had made him more determined than ever.
“Won’t you at least allow me one dance before you go?” His voice was
husky with emotion.
“Dance? I don’t-”
“Shhh. Stand just as you are. Put this hand on my shoulder, like so,
and I’ll take the other in my hand, like so. Then just sway with the music;
don’t worry, I’ll lead. Computer, play a selection of slow jazz from mid-
twentieth century Earth.”
Pulling the young woman into his arms, he noted that her height was
just right, and the sturdiness emanating from her slight limbs surprised him.
Harry had told him how she had crawled over almost the entire ship
seeking out each member of her family, but still, he hadn’t expected this.

Many dances later, Mylaa’s eyelids became heavy. She felt warm and
safe in this Earthling’s arms, and the sleep that she had been running from
began to overtake her.
Tom, too, had started to note a sluggishness in her movements, and
twice her head had drooped down until it rested against his chest.
“Perhaps we should call it a night,” he suggested. He didn’t want
to, but this was her first real night out since coming aboard. “Here, I’ll
walk you back to your room. Computer, end program. No,” he insisted over
her groggy protestations. “You’re tired; you need sleep.”
They walked in silence along the corridors of the ship with Mylaa
becoming more awake with every step. The fear was kicking in, and by the
time they had reached her quarters, sleep was the furtherest thing from
her mind. Nervously, she fumbled with the touchpad for the door.
“Here, let me.” Tom pressed the access button which opened the door
with a gentle hiss.
Mylaa stood in the doorway. She couldn’t go any farther, her body
rooted where she stood. She opened her mouth to bravely say good-night, but
the words remained trapped in her throat. Mistaking her hesitancy as an
intimate hint, Tom grasped her hand to bring it to his lips; as he did so, a
look of concern came to his face. Her hand was cold and quivering; in fact,
her whole body trembling. Pulling her into the room and calling for lights,
he clasped her tightly to him, stifling the tremors with his own body.
As her shaking subsided, Mylaa realized where she was and what had
happened. Embarassed, she tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her, at
least not until he had some answers.
“They are just nightmares,” she replied, trying to sound dismissive.
“Silly, childish nightmares. The Doctor said they would pass with time.”
“Nightmares can be as bad or worse than reality,” Tom observed.
“Tell you what. Why don’t you go get ready for bed, and I’ll sit right here
until you’re asleep. I’ll even hold your hand if you want,” he suggested,
teasingly.
“Yes, I’d appreciate that.” Mylaa pulled away and headed for the
bathroom. If any other male had said that to her, she would’ve laughed off
the clumsy seduction attempt. But somehow, in spite of what B’elanna thought,
she trusted this Lt. Paris to do only what he said.
While she was in the bathroom, Tom crossed over to the food replicator.
“Warm milk,” her requested. “Account of Paris, Thomas Eugene.” Replicator
rations were sacred to him, as they were to all on board, but this time he
thought an exception was called for.
“Ready.” Mylaa emerged wearing navy blue pajama bottoms and a white
knee-length top.
*Gods, she is attractive.* He shook his head. *Thomas, old man, get
a hold of yourself; you’re on a mission of mercy.* “Here drink this.” He
crossed the room, holding out the mug of milk. “It’s an old Earth folk remedy,
guaranteed to make you relax.”
Mylaa drank the warm liquid. The taste was soft and soothing. She
handed the cup back to him, “Thanks, it was just what I needed.”
“No problem. Now, let’s get you tucked in. Computer, sleep mode,”
Paris called softly as he pulled the covers over her. “And I’ll stay right
here until I’m sure you are asleep. I promise,” he added, settling back into
a nearby chair.
Mylaa closed her eyes and yawned. “I guess I didn’t realize just how
tired I was. Thank you,” she murmured drowsily.
“Sleep well,” came the reply.

Almost as soon as he had closed his eyes, Tom was in the rainforest.
He was walking along the now familiar trail as the nightingale flew beside
him, sometimes resting on a branch, sometimes lighting on his shoulder.
At first, she had come to him almost nightly, and though the frequency of her
visits were less now, he still looked forward to them. Eventually, he came to
a log covered with soft moss, and as always, he sat there and listened to her
song. But her song was different somehow tonight, and he saw why.
Moving towards them through the trees, came a large cat-like creature.
It was as big as the now-extinct tiger, but with the solid, tawny-colored coat
of a puma. At a distance of about four meters, the big cat stopped, sat down,
and stared at both man and bird. Incredibly, the nightigale took flight
toward the unfamiliar animal, and circled its head from a safe distance,
chirping a greeting. The cat followed the bird warily with its hazel eyes
before nodding a reply. With that, the bird landed on the feline’s head and
burst into song. When the song stopped, the cat looked sadly at Tom, opening
its mouth. Tom braced himself for a mighty roar, but the sound that emerged
was no roar. It was a terror-filled shriek for help.
Tom bolted up in the chair. Looking around, he realized it had not
been the cat that had shrieked. It was Mylaa.
She was sitting up in bed, her arms striking out against some
invisible attacker. Kneeling on the bed, he caught her arms and hugged her
to him. He patted her head and called to her gently, telling her everything
was all right. Soon her screaming stopped and her body became wracked by
sobbing gasps for breath.
Feeling her tears soaking into his uniform, Tom rocked the frightened
woman back and forth, alternately, sushing and stroking her hair. Presently,
the sobs stopped and the regular breathing of sleep took over. Easing her
back down onto the pillow, he noticed that she still clung to his jacket.
Cradling her head in one arm, he slipped his boots off with his free hand and
stretched out beside her.

*******************************************************************************

Hours, it seemed more like days, later, Mylaa woke up. She felt calm and
safe, unlike the previous mornings. Then she realized why; she was not alone.
An unfamiliar arm draped across her waist; another lay under her head; and
someone’s rhythmic breathing blew gently across the back of her neck. As she
became more fully awake, memories of the whole evening flooded back; the
dancing, the nightmares, Tom’s soothing ministrations. Embarrassed,but
unwilling to disturb her late-night savior, she tried to ease herself from
under his arm and get out of bed.
Tom’s arm instinctively tightened around her waist. “Leaving so soon?”
he purred, not yet fully realizing where he was.
Mylaa laughed. *He must be having some dream.* “I beg your pardon?”
The sound of her voice jerked Tom back to reality. “I-ah-I mean are you
getting up now? Computer,” he called, not giving her a chance to reply.
“What time is it?”
“It is 0610,” chirped the voice.
*Damn. Less than an hour before his shift began. So much for a
leisurely breakfast with her.*
“Yow,” Mylaa exclaimed, bolting out of the bed. “Harry’s picking me up
for breakfast in twenty minutes. I’ve got to get ready.” She paused,
embarrassed by the events of the previous night. “Tom, thank you for staying
with me. I-I hope my dream didn’t make you lose too much sleep.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, pulling on his boots. “I’ve been there
before myself. Anyway, if you’re okay, I’d better leave or we both might have
some interesting explaining to do to a certain Ensign. Will I see at
Sandrine’s again tonight?’
“Perhaps,” Mylaa replied cooly, his continued presence adding to the
level of humiliation she was feeling.
“I hope so. You know,” he paused at the door. “Maybe you should talk
to someone, like the Doc or Commander Chakotay about your dreams. They might
be able to help you deal with them better.”
She stiffened. Counseling, her humiliation was now complete, wasn’t it
enough that she had been more helpless than a two year old last night?
“I don’t need any help,” she spat. ” I just need some time.”
“Alright, alright, it was just a suggestion,” Tom backpedaled
defensively. “You don’t have to follow it. I just thought you might need to
talk. Forget I said anything.” He felt his temper rising. *What the hell,
did you say wrong now, Tommy boy?* He touched the door release. The door
swished open and he exited, standing for a minute outside her room. *Well,
your big mouth has done it once again. But all I said was- Oh gods, Dad was
right. I’ll never learn.* Head down, he headed for turbolift.
Mylaa stood there alone for a minute, regretting her harsh words. She
hadn’t meant to be rude; it was just, well, her own sense of self-esteem. Ever
since she was little, she had taken pride in being able to do things for her-
self; things others took for granted. She had learned the aleel, learned to
cook; she had even learned to operate some of the systems on her family’s ship.
Hadn’t she been the one who had evaded the attackers; hadn’t she been the one
to send the distress call? And now, to find herself reduced to a quivering
mass in a stranger’s arms; no, the humiliation was just too much.
Shaking herself out of her reverie, Mylaa called for the time.
“It is now 0615.”
*Oh moons of Kera’an! Fifteen minutes.* And she just knew that Harry
was the type to be punctual.

“I’m glad you could join me this morning,” smiled Harry as they entered
the mess. “Well, actually whether I’m glad or not depends on what Neelix had
created. I try to keep an open mind about other cultures, but some of the
things Neelix has whipped up have really pushed me to the limits of
experimentation.”
Mylaa giggled. She had known many Talaxians to pride themselves on their
culinary skills only to inadvertantly cause outbreaks of food poisoning among
their closest friends.
“Good morning, my dear,” a cheerful voice said. “It’s so good to see
you again.” A chubby hand grasped her own. “I am Neelix, the ship’s cook and
morale officer. I heard you play last night, and in honor of your performance,
I have prepared a few Kera’anian dishes. Let’s see, there is some broiled ree,
and some warmed kalak topped with dama root of course, and some edis, and,”
he paused for emphasis. “The piece de resistance, thesau made with raw gue.
Unfortunately, we had no intara spleen; so I substituted raw gue instead.
I think you will find the results very surprising.” He chuckled proudly, while
Harry felt his stomach do a 180 degree roll.
*Surprising was probably not the word for it.* But thanking the kindly
Talaxian, Mylaa inwardly closed her eyes and accepted a portion of all
four dishes.
As she and Harry joined B’elanna at a table, Mylaa whispered, “I think
perhaps I should count myself lucky that I can’t see what I’m about to eat.”
B’elanna and Harry both laughed. “That’s why I’m sticking with toast
and coffee this morning,” said B’elanna.
A few minutes into their meal, the door slid open and in ran Paris,
muttering “excuse mes” to any crewmates unfortunate to be in his way.
“Lieutenant!” Neelix exclaimed. “You’re just in time to try-”
“No time,” Tom said as he grabbed a muffin and a glass of juice. “Gotta
go; I’m running late,” he cried, bolting toward the door.
“Hey To-,” Harry called out. Turning to Torres, he asked, “What’s
with him?”
“Who knows?” shrugged the engineer. “Maybe he had another late night
with Jenny Delaney. Although, I don’t remember seeing her at the bar last
night. Whoops. Hey, he’s right; c’mon, Harry, or we’ll be late,too.”
“You two go on,” Mylaa said. “I think I’m going to try to teach our
chef how to really cook kalak and edis. I would hate for you and the rest of
the ship to think that this is the kind of food my home world has to offer.”
Rising, she made her way towards the improvised kitchen, undaunted by the
challenging diplomatic task that lay before her.

*******************************************************************************

Tom lay on his bed, his hands folded behind his head, and stared up at
the ceiling. Sandrine’s had once again been packed, and Mylaa’s and Harry’s
performance had seemed even more incredible than usual.
It had been more than a week since their “night together”. Since then,
they hadn’t spoken five words to each other, and it seemed to him that she was
almost always with someone, usually Harry, whenever he saw her.
For two or three nights, he had stayed at Sandrine’s after everyone
had gone in the hopes that she might come back, but after an hour or so of
waiting, he had grown impatient and left. A few times, he had even found
himself outside her quarters, but something always stopped him from pressing
the chime.
His animal guide had counseled patience, and in his heart, Tom knew
she was right. *The time will come soon enough.* He closed his eyes; he
could use another walk in the forest.

Tom didn’t know how long he had been sitting on the log, the
nightingale perched on his shoulder; when suddenly he saw it again. A big
cat-like creature moving cautiously toward him through the trees. This time,
though, he didn’t wait for it to sit down.
Leaping out of bed, he hurriedly pulled on his uniform and boots.
Whether it was his animal guide or simply instinct, Tom didn’t know, but
something told him the time had come. Mylaa needed him.
Racing along the corridor, he halted at her door, and pushed
the chime. There was no answer, and the door was locked. Making quick use of
his prison skills, Tom overrode the lock and entered the room.
It was dark. Calling for fifty percent lights, he crossed the empty
room to check the bed. It, too, was empty, although the covers showed signs
of a struggle. The sheet had been pulled out and lay in a crumpled heap in
the middle of the bed; the pillow sat discarded on the floor close to her
commbadge, which had fallen off the nightstand. Worried, Tom looked in the
bathroom. *Nothing. Damn, where could she-* Turning, he once again,
scanned the seating area. A tiny piece of blue material poked around the
corner of a chair opposite him. Traversing the room, he peered behind it.
Mylaa sat on the floor, her knees drawn up to her chest, her arms
wrapped defensively around her legs. Her breathing was quick and quiet.
Not realizing the extent of her terror, Tom knelt down and placed a
hand gently on one knee. Her right fist lashed out connecting squarely with
the left side of his lower jaw. Caught by surprise, he crashed down heavily
on his right side; as she scrambled away, he reached out, grabbing her ankle
with his left hand. Screaming, she kicked free of his grasp and crawled to
the center of the room. There, he tackled her again.
Surprised by her strength and fighting instinct, it took him longer
than he would have thought necessary to subdue her. Finally, after
successfully and unsuccessfully fending off many of her blows, he managed to
pin her arms and legs. Then calling her name over and over, he slowly brought
her back from whatever dream-hell she had been trapped in.
As she started to cry, he released her limbs and drew her into his
arms. And they sat there on the floor for several minutes; her clinging to
him, him calming her as best he could.
When the tears stopped, Tom lifted her gently and carried her to the
bed. “Wait here,” he instructed softly, picking up the pillow and spreading
the sheet over her. “I’ll be right back.”
Disappearing into the bathroom, he came back with a glass of cool
water and a warm moist towel. “Drink,” he ordered, placing the cup in her
hand, and she did so gratefully. Then removing the cup from her hands to the
nightstand, he took the cloth and began to bathe the drying tears from
her face.
Too exhausted to protest or even ask how he had gotten into her room,
Mylaa muttered a weak “thank you” before sinking back down on to the pillow.
“And now,” Tom stated, placing the cloth next to the glass. “You
and I are going to have a little talk.”
*Talk?!* The last she wanted to do was talk. Her head was throbbing
and despite the water, her throat still ached.
“You need help, whether the idea appeals to you or not,” he continued.
“Look, for the longest time I thought I could handle all my problems by
myself, too, but now I know better.”
“You?” Mylaa rasped. “Except for being a long way from home, I really
haven’t heard of too many problems on this ship.”
“My nightmares began before I was placed on Voyager,” Tom said
quietly. And with that he began to tell her everything. He held nothing
back. His father, Caldik Prime, the trial, prison, it all came tumbling out,
even the Banean fiasco and Durst’s death at the hands of the Viddions.
Mylaa lay there and listened. She didn’t say a word; she couldn’t.
She had no idea what to say or where to start. Sitting up, she reached a
sympathetic had out to touch his cheek. Feeling him flinch, she ran her
fingers lightly along his jaw and felt the swelling that was beginning to
appear as a bluish-purple bruise.
“Oh Tom, I am so, so sorry.”
Catching her hand in his, he attempted to staunch her rising tide of
tears. “Don’t worry about it. No permanent damage done.” He pushed her
shoulders towards the pillow. “Now lie back down.”
As he pulled away, she grabbed his arm.
“Don’t worry.” He gave a short, sympathetic laugh. “I’m just going
to take my boots off. I promise I won’t leave you alone.”

*******************************************************************************

Towards the morning, Mylaa woke. She had spent the entire night
cradled in Tom’s arms. For a few minutes, she lay still with her cheek
pressed against his uniform, listening to his heartbeat. Then, reaching up,
she gently ran her fingertips over his cheek and jaw tracing the damage her
fist had done. He stirred and caught her fingers in his hand bringing them
to his lips. *There was a bond between them now whether she knew it yet
or not.*
“Tom?”
“Yes?”
“What you told me last night, does Commander Chakotay know all that?”
“Most of it. Actually, only the Captain knows the full story, and now
you do,too. Both the Doctor and the Commander, though, helped me acknowledge
and deal with my memories.”
“Do you think-could you,” she screwed up her courage. “Ask him
to help me?”
Tom squeezed her hand. “I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to. Why
don’t you meet me for lunch and I’ll tell you what he advised. Right now,”
he pulled away from her. “I’ve got to go or I’ll be late for my shift.”
“Tom?” Mylaa choked out as he headed for the door. “I – I don’t
know how – to thank you.”
A rakish grin spread across his face. “See you at lunch.”

After dinner, Tom and Mylaa stood outside the door to Chakotay’s
quarters. The Commander had joined them at lunch to explain what an animal
guide was and what Mylaa could expect at the ritual.
*Even if it doesn’t work,* she thought. *It sounds intriguing, and
I owe it to Tom to at least give it a try.*
Unconsciously, her hand tightened around Paris’ arm. Smiling, he gave
it a reassuring pat before pressing the chime.
“Come.”
The door opened and they stepped inside.
“Mylaa,” the older man rose to greet them. “I’m so glad you came.
I was afraid after lunch you might have second thoughts.”
“During dinner, she did,” broke in Tom, grinning. “but I talked her
out of them.”
“That’s not true,” Mylaa protested. “I’ll admit I’m nervous. But I
am too intrigued by your ritual not to at least attemtpt it.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear it. An open mind often leads to an open
heart. Now if you just come sit down over here, we’ll get started.” Chakotay
took her hand from Paris’ arm and led her over to a cushion by the coffee
table. “I’ll call you when we are through, Mr. Paris.”
“Can’t he stay?” Mylaa turned questioningly toward the Commander.
Chakotay frowned, “I’m not sure that is a good idea. Communication
with your spirit guide is a very private thing. Personal circumstances are
revealed and in rare cases, the guide may be offended by the presence
of others.”
“It’s okay,” Tom reassured. “You’ll be fine.”
“Please.”
The Indian shrugged. “Very well. You can sit over there,” he said,
motioning to a chair opposite the table.
“Now Mylaa. I know you’re nervous; so take a few deep breaths and try
to relax. Good. Now give me your hand. Right or left, it doesn’t matter,
and I’m going to place it on the akoonah. No, don’t tense up. Relax.
That’s it,” he encouraged.
He took a deep breath, himself before continuing.
“Akoo-cheemoya. We are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers.
We are far from the bones of our people. . . Now, I want you to think of a time
when you were most at peace with yourself, and the first animal you encounter
will be your guide.”
Mylaa concentrated. A warm wind stirred her hair, bringing with it the
sweet smell of Celorian roses. The school year had ended and she was spending
vacation with her grandparents. The warmth of Kera’an’s twin suns beat down
upon her uplifted face as she sat on the steps of the veranda. Heavy, padded
footsteps came up the path and stopped to the left of her. Whatever the
animal was, it was big, and fear made her hesitate to touch it. But she knew
she had to. The animal’s fur was warm and thick, but not long. A deep
rhythmic rumble came from deep within the animal’s chest. It was like the purr
of her grandparents’ umok only louder and more powerful.
*What are you?*
*An onca,* the animal purred. *Touch me; I will not harm you.*
Mylaa’s exploratory hands ran lightly over the animal. Starting at the
muzzle, she felt the long, drooping whiskers, the cool nose, the sharp teeth.
It’s paws were larger than her hand, and it legs were strong and thickly
muscled. When she was done, the animal’s big head gave her a prodding nudge.
She took a deep breath. *I need to know what happened on the ship.
I can’t go on not knowing; I have been so afraid.”
The large cat’s tail curled around her, as it snuggled up to her
shoulder. Through purrs and low growls, he told her of the attack and why,
she, alone, survived. At the end, the onca cleaned her tear-streaked face
with his tongue, while overhead a bird twittered with concern. Laying down
beside each other, Mylaa took solace in the deep melodic rumbling beneath the
animal’s flank. Slowly, both the purring and twittering faded away and in a
few moments, she realized that she was back on Voyager in the Commander’s
quarters. Someone was holding her and stroking her hair. She felt like she
had been gone only a short while, but the dried tears on her face
said otherwise.
“Are you okay?” Tom asked, feeling her stir in his arms.
“Better,” she sniffed, tilting her face upward, towards his voice.
He glanced at Chakotay, who nodded in agreement.

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