Fragments, Part Four


By Tommyhawk1@AOL.COM

*
The grueling hours of work that followed were enough to begin to let Paris put the entire time-slipping ordeal behind him. The tedium of running circuits and hooking in wires and attaching gel-packs were enough to let him forget these other places, which obligingly fell into the parvenu of dreams.
*
God, though that last universe was attractive. His friends all healthy and with him. Here, he had to get used to the idea of so many deaths--Janeway, Harry and B'Elanna. Guess that would make Tuvok the new First Officer. Well, Tuvok was a competent man.
*
"Tom?" came Chakotay's voice.
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"Yes, Chakotay?"
*
"Let's take a break." he said. "You've been at this for nearly twelve hours."
*
Tom got up and his body told him Chakotay was right. "Uhh!" He pressed his hands to his back and then stretched. "Okay. This station is nearly operational. At this point, I really do need to wait for those two guys to finish up in the Jeffrey's tube so I can crawl in myself." Tom gestured at a double pair of legs protruding from a nearby hatch. "How long will you guys be?" he asked them.
*
A voice answered. "Another two hours, at least."
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"I want your opinions on how to fill in the breaches in our bridge crew." Chakotay persisted.
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"Sure." Tom yawned. "Let's get something to eat while we're at it."
*
In the mess hall, they took their picks of Neelix's dishes and carried them over to a table. Tom sat down. "Well, Tuvok gets First Officer, of course."
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"Yes." Chakotay seemed unconcerned. "And Seven of Nine for Chief of Engineering, that's also obvious."
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"Which leaves us figuring out who to put into...Harry's position at Ops."
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Tom sobered. "God, it still hasn't sunk in yet. We get through so many scrapes with our crew intact, and then get blasted by a...a mistake."
*
"It nearly cost us you, as well." Chakotay said. "We'll get supplies from the Cartilians which will arrive in another four hours' time, and can use them to repair the hull breach."
*
"Good." Tom said. "I keep looking out at that big hole in front of us, and every time something floats by, I have to stop and make sure it's not a body. It never is, thank God."
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"You saw your own body and it doesn't seem to bother you as much." Chakotay pointed out.
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"Oh." Tom waved his fork airily. "That place felt wrong from the very beginning. Like even at first look, I knew it wasn't my own future."
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"You felt more at home in that other place?" Chakotay cocked an eyebrow.
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"Well, it's certainly more fun than this place." Paris threw the conversational ploy right back at him.
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"You nearly stayed in that other place this last time." Chakotay said. "How would you have felt being stuck like that, being a ghost and watching the two of us in a relationship?"
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"Oh, I wasn't just watching this last time." Paris said. "I was participating, sort of. Kind of like I was riding around in my own head. Seeing, hearing, feeling everything that other Paris did."
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"How was it?" Chakotay said very carefully.
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Paris considered it. "Good. For that Paris, anyway. He was really happy with you. Very much in love. I could feel it, even while he was sucking on your big toe."
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That startled Chakotay. "Sucking on my big toe?"
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"They were making love." Paris said. Somehow he couldn't bring himself to look Chakotay in the eye, now that he'd said it. And why the hell had he said it? "And the other me was being...creative."
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"Sounds like it." Chakotay said and they both paid total attention to their food. After a fairly long silence, Chakotay cleared his throat, added, "Sounds like fun."
*
"Oh, it was." Paris agreed. He did look up now. "I think that if I had to pick among all the universes to be in, the ones that I've seen, that may be the one I would pick. That me is so damned happy. His life is...well, all settled. He's found who he's looking for and ready to settle into it, and just..just be happy the rest of his life."
*
"I can understand that." Chakotay said.
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Seize the moment! "Chakotay, this is not something I thought I would ever ask you." Paris said quickly. "But...well, is there any...any chance that...?"
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"I was wondering the same thing." Chakotay said softly. "But let's get this ship back in order and back on track, first. Maybe then, we'll...have time to consider this." He stood up and his voice returned to its neutral-official tones. "Give some thought to the Ops station. While you're waiting for the crew to finish with the Jeffries tube, I suggest you take a nap. Be back on the bridge by...." Chakotay looked at the clock. "1900 hours."
*
"Yes, sir." Paris said. As he watched his new Captain walking away, he felt a big silly smile on his face. It had been there quite some time. And it wouldn't go away. It felt wonderful.
*
He went to his quarters and lay down. Eighty minutes of slumber, which would probably have to do him for God knows how long. He intended to make the most of it.
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Lay there and watched the world recede into darkness.
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And then he was back on the blasted Voyager. Sat up, looked around. Where was he?
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Oh, no! He felt his skin. Dry, withered. His hand, skeletal and shriveled by vacuum.
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He was in vacuum, had been in vacuum all this time. It was cold, cold!
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He was a zombie. Moving about, but feeling very emotionally undetached.
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Trapped here. For how long?
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Find out the time. If this stretch of corridor had power enough for lights, he could tap into the computer and find out what time it was. Any computer's temporal circuitry had independent batteries. All he needed was enough power to trigger the read-out.
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His fingers were stiff and uncooperative. It took him fifteen minutes or longer to wire the circuits from a door panel. Doors had a very simple chronometer in them, to let them automatically lock at certain hours should its occupant desire.
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He finally was able to trigger the read-out.
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The display was a month in the future. Shit, this was a future timeline, after all.
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Still could be an alternate, though, Tom, he told himself. Harry's body, after all. You picked up his hand, remember? No Harry in my timeline, not any longer. Harry is dead.
*
The darkness returned, and it was very welcome. Voices yammered at him again. Dr. Shudan, he told himself, you didn't fix things after all!
*
Wondered where he was going next. It took a rather long time.
*
And he was lying next to Chakotay. Was his alternate asleep? He wasn't doing anything, just sitting up in bed and looking over at the sleeping form. His body told him that they were both nude, he was partially lying over Chakotay, and Chakotay's balls were pressed against his upper leg.
*
Looked at that strong form, that well-built chest. Well, this Tom was madly in love, he could touch it, couldn't he?
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Reached out and touched that chest, and surprised to see he was doing it himself. He was in control this time.
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Chakotay roused and looked up at him, smiled. "Is it time to get up?" he asked.
*
Paris turned and looked at the chronometer. 0630. "Nope. We still have an hour to go." he said, stalling for time, to think! He controlled this voice! He controlled this body! What the hell should he do? He knew this universe was an alternate. Ask for help? Warn about the other universe he kept seeing, where they were presumably all dead? But which future was that, this one's or his own?
*
Chakotay's arms were around him and Chakotay's lips were pressing against his. Damn, it was tempting to just give in, enjoy this! But it wouldn't be right...
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He pushed Chakotay away, got out of bed. The big guy looked hurt. "Tom, what's wrong?"
*
"Uh, Chakotay, this is kind of difficult to explain. I'm not this universe's Tom Paris. I'm...I'm an alternate, which has somehow gotten dumped into your Tom Paris' body. He's still in here, sleeping maybe, but me, this me, is from another universe."
*
Chakotay was puzzled. "Is this for real?" He got up, as well.
*
"It's not a game, Chakotay." Paris said. "I...I was riding along on one of your...escapades before. I was just a passenger that time, this time I'm in control. This is only temporary, I only have a few minutes. But right now, I have got to use this time to be sure of a few things. Then I'll fade away and your Tom Paris will be right back again."
*
"Very well." Chakotay rose to the occasion. Odder things had happened in the last five years. "What can we do to help you?"
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"First, I need to know the date. Computer, what is the date?"
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"Stardate 45389.2."
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"Shit. Six months into the future. For me, anyway. Chakotay, do you recall the Cartilian Alliance? What happened there?"
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"Of course." Chakotay said. "Tom, you had this...this gut feeling that we had to stop the ship, and we did. A good thing, because we launched a probe and it was blasted a few million kilometers in front of us by that array."
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"An alternate." Paris sighed. "Lucky you. In my timeline, I didn't have a hunch, we didn't stop, and the Cartilian defensive array blasted Voyager. It cost us Captain Janeway, Harry and B'Elanna, and nearly killed me, as well. The Cartilians used their cure on me, which has me slipping around in time like now, ever since. Except they thought they'd cured me this last time. And one future vision, which I just got through visiting, has this entire ship thoroughly dead." Paris shuddered. "God, I was dead. Somehow I...reanimated my own corpse and found out it was one month into the future. Except it has to be an alternate, because Harry's body was also on that ship. It was cold, so damned cold, being dead."
*
Paris found himself shaking. God, the next time, what would happen the next time he visited that dead ship? Alive but dead again? Or just plain dead?
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Chakotay's arms went around him. "Tom, stop thinking about it. You're here now."
*
"Yeah, but I...I may have to go back again." Paris said. "Chakotay, what if next time, I don't make it? Every time I end up more involved with the other universe. What if next time, I'm stuck for good, really stuck? Dead stuck?"
*
"When you get back to the Cartilians, tell them. Get their help. They aren't a cruel people, just very xenophobic. Refused to even deal with us directly. We had to go around their sector of space."
*
"Did they, now?" Paris said, thinking hard. "But they're very helpful to us. Even bringing up new supplies to help us fix Voyager."
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"You said this sort of thing after your warning about the Cartilian Alliance." Chakotay said.
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"Huh?" Paris looked up at him, confused at the change in the conversation.
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"Right after that warning, you were delirious for several hours. Seven of Nine had to use Borg technology, to affix your timelines, she called it. You talked about these alternate universes back then, remember?"
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"You're asking the wrong Tom Paris." Paris said. "I'm from six months ago. Except...except maybe I did visit that timeline. I was in Sickbay and Seven of Nine was there and the Captain, and they'd said I was delirious."
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"You were. You seemed fine, then you weren't again. Seven of Nine had to put you right back under her machines again."
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"Yeah!" Paris said. "That was me, the wrong me, in that body. And I'm back again, six months in the future. Did I say anything else?"
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"No." Chakotay said. "After the second treatment, you were fine. Until today."
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"I have got to think about this." Paris said. "But after I get back to my own universe. Things are too screwed up right now."
*
Paris sat on the bed, and so did Chakotay. Paris looked over at the big, nude body, at his own. "Six months." he asked. "If I am from the same base time-line after all, when did you and I get together?"
*
"Right after the Cartilians." Chakotay said. "You sort of started chasing me. I always did wonder just why. Not that I mind. It's turned out so well."
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"Yeah." Paris said. "Uh, I have to ask a rather embarrassing question. Do you remember the first time I sucked your big toe?"
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"How would I forget that?" Chakotay smiled.
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"When I came up to you, you were working on duty rosters, do you remember that?"
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Chakotay thought. "No, I was reviewing old files from the computer when you walked up. Captain wanted to talk about crew assignments and duties, and I was reviewing past duty rosters and ship's performance. Trying to figure out which person did best in which job."
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"Oh." Paris said. "That explains that. I took it as meaning that I was in an alternate."
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"Then you kissed my neck, and I had to sort of wing it with her, instead." Chakotay said.
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"Well, this ought to be my last intrusion into your life." Paris said. "I just want to say, that time I was riding along as a passenger? I felt everything the other me felt."
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"Yes?"
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"He loves you. He really, really loves you." Paris said.
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Chakotay smiled. "I never doubted it."
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"Enough to make me think about chasing you when I get back."
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"Oh!" Chakotay said. "And that explains that, too."
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Paris felt the darkening. "I'm leaving now." he said quickly. "Good-bye."
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"Good-bye, Tom." Chakotay said.
*
Tom jerked awake as the alarm went off. A dream? No way! He slapped the bedside comm unit. "Dr. Shudan, please."
*
The screen lit up. "Yes, Mister Paris?"
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"Dr. Shudan, I need to speak with you right away."
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"Certainly."
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"I'll be right over." Tom got up and got dressed. He had the answer to what the Cartilians could do to make up for their attack on Voyager.
*
He had all the pieces of the puzzle now. All he had to do was reassemble these fragments back into a unified whole.
*

END OF PART FOUR
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Comments? Suggestions? Complaints?
E-mail me at Tommyhawk1@AOL.COM

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Fragments, Part Five